Kickstarters We Like: Revolutionaries

Revolutionaries promotional art

American gamers—like all Americans, really—have been soaking in the folklore and history of the Revolutionary War all their lives. The struggle for independence is so suffused in our culture that it often takes profound study to separate the folklore from the history. It was an exciting time in the North American colonies, full of spies and secret missions—and the world’s mightiest military force against a literally rag-tag bunch of partisans who were often more elusive than effective.

The setting features small groups from all walks of life, bound together by a common goal. The dramatic stakes are high. The historical setting details are abundant. Yet for some reason, the Revolutionary War gets short shrift in gaming, with a few memorable wargames but not much else.

Enter the kickstarter for Revolutionaries—American War of Independence RPG. The crowdfunding campaign launched July 4 (of course), and $30 plus shipping gets you the boxed version of the game. Thirty bucks!

I’m honestly not sure how they’re making that price point work, because the game looks sharp, and the pedigree of the designers is top notch. It’s a big team, but I’ll highlight two names of interest to grognards like me: managing director Mark Rein•Hagen (he still uses the dot, right?), designer of seminal stuff like Ars Magica and Vampire: The Masquerade, and creative director C.A. Suleiman, who’s contributed to a ton of D&D and World of Darkness books (full disclosure: I think we may have contributed to some of the same 3E D&D books back in the day).

The game wisely focuses on the “secret history” of the Revolutionary War, using the real-life Culper ring as the inspiration for the default protagonists. (RPGs tend to work better with strong defaults for who the PCs are and what they’re doing.) If you wanted, I imagine you should nudge the game into the horrific (it’s New England, after all, home of Lovecraft and King) or magical (maybe into Seventh Son territory).

The other reason I’m enchanted with Revolutionaries is that the PCs are going to be fighting against an unjust authority. That’s something I think a lot of RPGs have lost along the way. In most games and in most genres, the PCs are agents of the lawful authorities—maybe technically independent, maybe not. The patron, boss, or other authority figure tells the PCs about a threat to the home society, and the PCs go out and quash it.

I for one am tired of that. I want more stories about sticking it to The Man. Early RPGs were replete with those sorts of adventure setups, but now they’re the exception, not the rule.

Side note: I realize this sounds like a Trump thing, but it’s been nibbling away at me for a good five years now. Not that I don’t have feelings about politics! But this ain’t about that. It’s more that I worry gamers are getting too heavy a diet of “agents of lawful authority,” and on balance it’s more fun and more dramatic to be the righteous underdogs, blowing stuff up in the name of freedom.

That’s why I’m all in on Revolutionaries (and why my own writing tends to have the PCs as rebels). You’ve got until August 1 to join the Kickstarter campaign, though it wouldn’t shock me if you saw a retail release for this game at some point, too.

Editorial Comments: Monster Mausoleum

Dave and Stacey collaborate using Google Drive and make liberal use of the commenting feature. This blog series pulls out some of those comment threads, either because they amused us or because we think they’re interesting from a game design back-and-forth perspective.

“Any attacks made against creatures hostile to the huecuva within the aura have advantage, while attacks made by creatures hostile to the huecuva within the aura have advantage.”
Stacey: I adjusted this language to be clearer. Is it okay?
David: Yes, but you could also be simpler: “The huecuva and all creatures within 30 feet of it, whether friendly or not, gain advantage on all attack rolls.”
Stacey: Okay, see but you’re reading it wrong. That’s not what it says.

“stunned for 1d4 rounds”
Dave: This is so much better than the axe attack that the draugr should do nothing but slam attacks, then use the axe to carve up a stunned party into filets for dinner. Something like the knockback that the chieftain has would be better.
Stacey: What if I beef up the other attack and make the stun only one round?
Stacey: I meant for greataxe to be 10 anyway. Also, everything in parentheses I’m going to recheck.
Stacey: Oh, or what if they just have disadvantage for 1d4 rounds?
David: That would work.

“261 (18d20 + 72)”
Stacey: Isn’t 18 x the con bonus 108?
Dave: Yeah, good catch. I must have changed the Con later, probably to make the poison DC more appropriate.
Stacey: We should change the 72 to 108, though, right?
Dave: It already is.
Dave: …because I changed it after I saw that.

“1d10 x 100 ft.”
Dave: I multiplied all these by 100 rather than 10, because you don’t want a 10 ft. teleport—anticlimactic.
Dave: If that’s too much, consider 1d4 x 100.
Stacey: I was just gonna say that. Okay.
Stacey: I originally thought the point was just to fuck with them by moving them around the room, not to effectively remove a player from the fight.

Kickstarters We Like: Air Deck

If you travel a lot and like to play cards, you’ve probably gone through your share of decks. Paper cards wear out pretty easily, and with all the jostling that comes along with travel, it’s only a matter of time before you spill something on them. And even if you can avoid that, it takes up a lot of room in your pocket.

What I like about the Air Deck is particularly the way it’s compact. Usually, if you can find a smaller deck of cards, they’re made for people with tiny hands and perfect eyes—they hold a regular card shape, but at a fraction of the size, making them harder to hold. These, on the other hand, are of normal length, making them just as easy to hold as an average-sized card; it balances in your hand just as well, but is narrower for ease of transportation. In fact, the narrow design might in fact make it even easier to hold onto than wider cards—and easier for solitaire on an airplane tray table. The typeface is also nice and bold, so you don’t have to bring along a magnifying glass just to ready your compact cards.

Waterproofing and durability also make great design choices. Losing a beverage is annoying enough, but when you spill it onto your card game, it’s twice as disappointing. As someone who can manage to drop the most important of items into the most toxic of shit, I always appreciate durability—and in this case, the ability to wash the cards as well.

The Air Deck seems like it’d solve a lot of the most common travel deck problems, so if you frequently travel with cards, consider supporting this Kickstarter! You can grab a black or white deck for 10 euros (roughly $11), and it runs until July 2.

GM Improv: Coming Up with Names on the Fly

The great secret about improvisation is that it isn’t just an in-the-moment burst of creativity. Improvisation often has its roots in preparation and practice. Just as an improvising musician knows the proper key and chord structure, an improvising GM should have a sense of the narrative and setting. That’s where our GM Improv series comes in.

Fantasy Name Generators

A list of elf names from Fantasy Name Generators.

There you are, running a game for your friends, and they go off-script (according to your genius plans). Now they’re wandering around the tavern, talking to every nameless NPC—except they can’t be nameless anymore! What do you do?

While someone working in a science fiction or modern setting could just keep a standard baby book handy (or a baby-naming database, for that matter), that’s harder when you’re running a fantasy game—whether D&D or another system—where even the humans have names you’re unlikely to hear out on the street. One way to work around this is to simply keep a list of fantasy names near you, but you’ll still have to spend time creating that before one of your sessions—don’t you already have enough to do?

Keeping a name generator at your fingertips is a great way to quickly and easily solve this dilemma. My favorite online name generator is probably Fantasy Name Generators, because it’s pretty robust. You can find almost anything you’re looking for—not only can you generate fantasy names for just about any fantasy race you can think of, but you can also generate real names from nearly any place around the globe. Not looking for a character name at all? You can generate potion names, continent names, river names, and even company names. You’ll get a list to choose from, and if you don’t like any of them, just ask for a new list. It’s really easy.

If you’re looking for a specific cultural slant, Dave often recommends Kate Monk’s Onomastikon. While Fantasy Name Generators uses a concatenation style to generate names, Kate Monk’s Onomastikon pulls authentic (if perhaps obscure) names. It all comes down to what you’re looking for in a generator—and, frankly, in a name.

When I use a name generator, what I really prefer to do is use the generator itself as inspiration. I go through a few different generated lists, and eventually sort of mix and match words, switch up letters, and generally create a kind of word stew until I come up with something I like. That’s fun if you have a little extra time, but if you’re sitting there at the table under pressure of the clock, there’s nothing at all wrong with just picking a name straight off the generator. That’s really what it’s there for.

How do you like to deal with the sudden need for names? Do you prefer to keep a pre-developed list on hand or use a name generator? Do you have a favorite name generator that you depend on? Let us know in the comments!

Kickstarters We Like: Inspiration

Inspiration Card GameI was wandering around Kickstarter’s game section the other day (like ya do), and I found a game called Inspiration. It’s quite a simple game, but I think that’s one of the draws—it’s a sweet little game that you don’t have to sit around and explain for 20 minutes before you can get started. All you have to do is tell a story.

You take three art cards and a subject card that contains a single word, and you have thirty seconds to connect all of these elements into something cohesive and compelling. The player who tells the best story (making the best use of their respective cards) gets a point, and the first player to three points wins.

This is great not only if you just love making up great, quick stories, but also if you’re playing with kids (though you may want to consider easing up the time constraint with significantly younger players). Many young kids love telling stories anyway.

As a writer, I see another advantage as well—even if you’re not playing the game, you can lay out three art cards and a subject card and just use that as a writing prompt.

If this sounds like the kind of thing you’re into, go check out Inspiration! The campaign runs until June 13, and for $25 you get the base game and some exclusive-to-Kickstarter art cards, so don’t miss out!

Editorial Comments: Pristine City 5E D&D Conversion

Dave and Stacey collaborate using Google Drive and make liberal use of the commenting feature. This blog series pulls out some of those comment threads, either because they amused us or because we think they’re interesting from a game design back-and-forth perspective.

“A mohrg is using Marar’s body.”
Dave: This implies that Marar was a serial killer in life. Just so we’re aware…
Stacey: She was a war hero. Is that close enough? Surely killed lots of things. Or we could use something else.
Stacey: I feel like that’s information I maybe should have had a conversion ago.
David: Pathfinder said that “warmongering soldiers” can become mohrgs. D&D, not so much. I say let her be a serial killer; the proverbial “bad officer.”
Stacey: But she talks to the PCs and gives them cool info. How can she do that and be a huge dick?
David: “Let me tell you about the Thunderaxes, Clarice…”

“The walls in the great cavern that contains the city are smooth granite, difficult to climb (DC 20 Athletics check), and almost featureless.”
Dave: “Strength (Athletics)” and a possible parentheses nest.
Stacey: You said that you DIDN’T want to nest parentheses.
Dave: I don’t. For some reason I thought adding parentheses here would create a nesting situation. It doesn’t, though. I guess I have no idea what I was thinking.
Stacey: Well, it would have, but I reworded it because I assumed you were being crazy.

“Identifying the smoke as coming from a fire requires a DC @@ Wisdom (Perception) check.”
Dave: “Make a Wisdom (Perception) check.”
[Rolls.] “I get a 22.”
“The smoke is definitely coming from a fire.”
[Throws pizza at DM.]
Stacey: I learned it from watching Pathfinder.

“scorching ray”
Stacey: I didn’t see an equivalent for searing light (searing smite didn’t look quite right), so I changed it to also be scorching ray. Feel free to change it.
Dave: I want it to be typed damage, though, so there’s some way the PCs can mitigate it. Or a save. Or something. I’ll loop back on this.
Stacey: Isn’t it fire damage? I can just put it in there. The spell says fire damage.
Dave: Perfect.

“1 gp per laborer per day”
Dave: Another cost thing we’ll want to reality-check against the equipment chapter of the Player’s Handbook. I mean, not reality, but…