Niflheim: Bones & Ruins – Now on Kickstarter >>>
Every good GM has one goal in mind come game night: make the experience exciting, memorable, and fun. There are so many effective story-telling strategies one can use to meet these goals, but for me none are more exciting or immersive than miniatures. While the theater of the mind will always play a huge part in TTRPGs, there’s something visceral about seeing a physical manifestation of the danger facing your character. Those of you who’ve sat digging through bins of minis for just the right one know what I’m talking about. So before we jump into the RPGs themselves, let’s make sure that your miniatures game is fully kitted out.
The Niflheim Kickstarter campaign takes advantage of the recent proliferation of high-quality 3D printers to offer amazing looking miniatures cheaply via pre-supported STL files. This series of miniatures is back-to-back bangers. Making skeletons exciting isn’t always easy since they all pretty much look the same, but this undead horde stands out thanks to really dynamic poses and lots of dangly, fleshy details. The base pledge (€29) is predominately skeletal undead, but the numerous stretch goals that have already been unlocked have added some amazing terrain.
Speaking of terrain, there’s a lot of it. Really. Thanks to the available add-ons, there’so much that I can’t even scratch the surface in this article. Need a crumbling tower? Done. A whole-ass fort? Got it. Wilderness terrain? Take your pick.
Oh, and if you’re looking for monster other than the undead, they’ve got you covered as well.
Maa – Kickstarter >>>
Now that you’ve got your minis covered, let’s look at some RPGs.
What happens when an artist, an art critic, and a LARP designer make a game? Apparently you get Maa, one of the most intriguing and outré games I’ve ever heard of.
The premise of the game is fairly standard. Humans have left behind a pollution-ravaged planet and headed underground. After thousands of years sans humans, the earth has regenerated completely and is now home to strange and wonderful new creatures. So of course, humans come slinking back to this reformed paradise. The first to arrive are Scouts, presumably the players, sent to explore the new world above. But will humans begin their destructive cycle again, or will they too be changed by the bizarre new world?
While few details are known about the game, its “genetics” what make it quite fascinating. Aside from maybe his Grimm Gallery exhibition, artist Matthew Day Jackson’s work does not scream “Roleplaying Game”. In the same vein, it’s interesting to speculate on what art critic Tom Morton has brought to the table. Game designer Juhana Petterson does bring some serious game design credentials albeit in an unconventional way. Despite having worked on a few mainstream projects like Vampire: The Masquerade, Petterson’s focus if more about using RPG’s to create highly collaborative experiences rather than an opportunity to roll some dice. An example would be his diceless freeform RPG Chernobyl Mon Amour about finding love in a radioactive post apocalypse. Maa apparently does have dice but they’re…spherical? So how they are used is anyone’s guess. Pay attention to this one if you are bored with more mainstream RPGs and want something truly different.
Overisles – Kickstarter >>>
Like Maa before it, Overisles is an RPG with communication at its heart. But whereas Maa seems to focus on communication for the sake of collaboration, Overisle is a bit more overt in that it wants to help people learn to communicate directly by introducing young players to the basics of both British and American Sign Language.
The sequel to Inspirisles, Overisles again casts the players as Pendragons, teenage descendants of Arthur and Guinevere with special powers. They must use those powers to defend a floating island chain called The Nests, home of creatures known as Glow, from wyrms and corrupted Glow who have frightened away the sacred Nimbus bird matriarch.
Inspirisles introduced the spellcasting system known as Shaping which has players using Sign Language to cast spells and solve puzzles. Overisles keeps this system but builds on it by introducing Feathering. Feathering is a way for characters to speak to the fledgling Nimbus’ left behind and gain their trust, allowing them to fly between the floating islands. Like Shaping, Feathering also incorporates Sign Language, allowing the characters to transcend the language barrier between themselves and the Nimbus. So not only is this another very different facet of what RPGs can be, but it is also a very clever way to get kids and teens to consider other points of view and communication styles they might otherwise never encounter.
Vermin 2047 – Gamefound >>>
Vermin 2047 might be a little closer to a traditional RPG, but it is still a far cry from your standard vanilla fantasy setting. In this darkly beautiful post-apocalyptic world, humans have been replaced by vicious and hardy vermin as apex predators. With the Earth’s resources depleted and deadly creatures lurking among the ashes of humanity, characters will have to work closely to stay alive.
The game puts a lot of emphasis on shared resources by using the brand-new TOTEM system. This system recognizes the Party as its own entity with shared resources, so players are stronger together than apart. The dice rolling further emphasizes the idea of the collective by using dice pools. Players needing to make a skill check will roll a pool of d10s based on the value of specific Traits, aiming for a number between 3 and 10 depending on the check’s difficulty. Players can add to their pool by using Skills and Specialties, although this will drain the characters and leave them exhausted. If the player rolls at least one success, then the action is a success. More successes further enhance the outcome, but a roll with no success means the outcome is a total failure and probably means some horrible, skittering thing has eaten you.
Galefire 5E – Kickstarter >>>
In case the previous games gave the wrong impression, I see absolutely nothing wrong with the classic D20 system. However, it is nice when someone comes along with content that is completely new and original for it, letting it run wild a bit. Galefire from creator Michael Rookard seems to do just that.
The Galefire campaign is set on the world of Talinoth, a planet that has just thrown off the yoke of the tentacled Enslavers (also known as definitely-not-copyrighted-mind-flayers), Demons, and elemental Archons. Without their oppressive rule, huge advances were made which apparently led to ton of rad-looking air ships. But after a cataclysmic event involving the planet’s Galefire core, chaos is once again the disaster du jour. Galefire is everywhere, and everyone wants to get some. So fire up your airship, kit out your crew, and get some Galefire!
Hopefully you’re printing new character sheets, warming up your dice in preparation for these games.
Next week, inspired by Maa and Overisles, I’ll be shining a light on some upcoming games that are pushing the boundaries of the tabletop format in some really exciting ways.
by Zane Messina