Every now and then I try to squeeze in reviews of Kickstarters and other new products that have caught my eye. I don’t have the time to do as many of these as I would like, but every now and then the stars collide in just the right way.

Today I have six products and two charitable fundraisers to tell you about – in as much detail as I can squeeze in, time-wise – which won’t be as much as usual, due to the sheer number of products.

Originz – The Superpowered Card Game by Flavor Faction Studio

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We start with something that isn’t an RPG at all, but which could be used as a tool in a superhero RPG in many different ways, from quick creation of characters when you’re in a rush, to training your imagination, to trying out character ideas in advance to constructing them using your RPGs’ rules system, to simply functioning as a warm-up to get everyone in the mood.

It is actually a card game for 2-8 players in which each player becomes a superhero or villain, building additional abilities and variants onto their basic nature in what they hope will be a winning combination and then attacking each other. Additional cards offer tactical advantages and setbacks. The basic pledge gets you 264+ cards (there have been some additions unlocked as stretch goals). Character abilities are themed according to that basic nature, as you can see from the promo illustration below.

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There’s a lot to like about Originz which is why they were the first product that I reached out to when this article became inevitable.

The game itself reeks of flavor, and the opinions of backers have already served to tweak the design of various game elements. They offer free shipping to anywhere in the world. The basic backing package is surprisingly affordable. And there’s a healthy emphasis on fun – without which, there’s really no point in playing, is there?

You can download the 16-page pre-production rule book from their Kickstarter page, which is another nice touch.

This game has already hit its’ funding target and started unlocking stretch goals. As I write this, there are still three days to go, but by the time you read it, that will be two days or less – so if you are interested, check out their kickstarter page quickly.

Click on either of the block-bordered images above or this link to visit their kickstarter page, where you can also view a demo of play.

ERA The Consortium – A Universe Of Expansions by Shades of Vengeance

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I gushed about ERA: The Consortium in A New ERA and other products to empty your wallet back in February. The concept, the scope, the production values, the fundraising approach, and that specific fundraising campaign, all got big ticks from me.

It seems that a lot of people shared my opinion, as that campaign was a huge success.

Well, they’re back, with this fundraising campaign for a massive 18 expansions for simultaneous release.

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On the agenda are psionics, cargo trading rules, information expansions on sub-factions within the Resistance, and an explanation of what really happened in a confused part of the game-system’s integrated background, source books for each of the races, and more!

And, once again, there are nice touches – such as assuming that people might already have the core books, and offering backer bundles both with and without them included.

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Production values haven’t dropped, either. In fact, they don’t get much better – they would need to invent some way of animating the images on a printed page, or something like that, in order for that to happen! I want to especially call out little touches like the graphic below as being two steps above and beyond what you usually see.

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This project has just crossed the threshold of being 100% funded with 30 full days to go, and at that rate they may need to add more stretch goals – the highest target they have listed is only 3 and 1/3 times the sum they have already raised in a little over three days. Even with the notorious mid-campaign funding slump, they should get over that line fairly handily.

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So look: either I continue to gush – to the point where I won’t get to the other products & campaigns that I want to mention – or I simply send you to their kickstarter page. Click on this link or any of the images with the blue borders above.

Terrain Flatpacks by Mobilscape Adventures

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Thick, heavy rulebooks. Page after page of notes. Perhaps a laptop. Dice. Miniatures. Terrain tiles. Have you noticed your gaming bag or bags getting heavier and heavier over the last few years?

A new company, Mobilscape Adventures, certainly have. One of the guys involved is an experienced set designer who knows how they do it for TV, movies, and stage, and thought that employing the same flat-pack techniques might work for RPGs.

Double-sided art, as is fairly standard, assemble with clips, and designed to integrate as the story progresses, for example moving from forest to town.

Their starter pack is just US$20 and provides many of the set decoration pieces you might require: 4 Trees, 4 2×6 Trail/River Tiles 2 2×2 Trail River Tiles, 4 Doors, 5 Fences, 4 Barricade/Walls, 1 Gate, 2 Tents, 1 Well, 3 Chests, 8 Crates, 6 Counter Tokens, 6 Effect Markers, 3 Tree Stumps, 2 Trail Signs, 2 Campfires, 6 Bushes, 6 Rocks, and 30 mounting clips.

It’s at the higher pledge levels that things start to get interesting. $40 gets you the Dungeon Pack plus starter pack. More set decoration pieces, these suited specifically to exploring the underground world that is ubiquitous in D&D / Pathfinder. $70 adds the House Pack – two 2-story houses plus interior dressings. $100 adds the Tower Pack – everything you need to create two multi-level watchtowers plus still more set decorations. And $180 gets you double of everything.

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What’s really nice is the fact that you can add selectively – so if you decide that the dungeon kit isn’t really something you need, but you want the village houses, you can add them to your basic pack pledge.

Best of all, they are intended to be a lot lighter to transport from place to place, and quick to assemble when you get there.

Free shipping within the US completes the package.

This campaign is a little behind the funding curve at the moment, with quite a long road to reach the funding goal, but they still have more than three weeks to get there.

Without knowing the ins-and-outs of how their decisions were made, I think that perhaps they would have been better off with a smaller goal for just the village set, with the basic pack as an add-on, then follow that with a separate fundraising campaign for the tower, perhaps with the dungeon kit as a stretch goal and the basic pack as an add-on once again. The smaller targets and increased focus on the offerings that really stand out, might have had better winds of fortune. But you can’t fault them for enthusiasm!

So check out what they have to offer by clicking on either of the red-bordered images above or clicking on this link and show them a little love!

Ice Caverns & Terrain Accessories by Legendary Realms

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The weight you save with the Flatpacks might occasionally get used with this gorgeous translucent Ice Cavern terrain.

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Also included are some accessories that will also be cast in the translucent resin – the images shown below are of production models.

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These might look fragile, but resin can be just-about indestructible so long as you don’t do something silly like hitting it with a sledgehammer.

And, because it’s translucent, you can add to the variations available by placing different dungeon tiles underneath – water, rock, whatever (or simple colored or white cardboard) – just as you can see hints of the brown cloth through them in the image above.

I’m really not aware of anything even vaguely similar on the market, so this is definitely worth thinking about. The fundraising campaign has just crossed the halfway-there mark with 21 days to go. I would expect them to get across the line handily, though stretch goals might be out of reach without a big increase in backing.

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You can take a closer look by clicking on any of the images with the light-blue bordered images above, or by clicking on this link.

NITE Team 4 – Military Hacking RPG by Alice & Smith

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This is a bit of a ringer, being an RPG computer game. NITE Team 4 is a military hacking/cyberwarfare game in which you are a new recruit to a covert hacking cell who oppose various black hat groups and hostile states in various missions that have been crafted from leaked NSA documents. The realism promised by foundations in actual espionage tradecraft is a key selling point.

My primary interest in this project is what lessons I could learn to then apply to more traditional pen-and-paper games. But immersive plotlines and a story-based orientation with a little action on the side certainly makes for an intriguing prospect beyond that.

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Release will take place through Steam for PC and Mac.

This campaign took just 24 hours to achieve 50% of their funding goal, and are now approaching the 70% mark. With 33 days still to run on the campaign, it’s almost certain at this point to make target. If you’re interested, click on either of the silver-bordered images above or follow this link.

Voyage of Fortune’s Star — a 7th Sea cRPG by Stewart Wieck (founder of White Wolf)

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As with the other projects I’m discussing, I contacted the games producers for permission to use their campaign’s artwork, but – for a change – I got no reply. The above is a piece of (nice) generic clip art sourced from Pixabay, licensed under CC0.

The success of the campaign for 7th Sea 2nd Edition (the most highly-funded RPG of all time on Kickstarter) was certain to attract other projects to what was firmly established as a game franchise in the process. The first of those that I am aware of is this computer-based RPG.

Pirate-based computer RPGs have a long and often-successful history, stretching all the way back to “Pirates!” on the Commodore-64 in my case. You primarily play the captain of a ship named the Fortune’s Star. A combination of dialogue-based RPG and swashbuckling action is reminiscent of many other games and a proven-successful formula.

The game will be released (if funding succeeds) as a digital release as well as the more traditional boxed-game format. Versions are being developed for PC, Mac, and Linux. The digital release will be through Steam and be DRM-free. Unlike some computer games, it is planned to be available in English, Italian, French, German and Spanish languages, possibly more.

This goes beyond a mere licensing agreement; some of the add-ons on offer include ‘gold’ doubloons and custom dice for use with the TTRPG.

One of the more interesting offerings is the Buried Treasure add-on, available both as a digital-only or physical reward:

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“Every other month for twelve months following the release of Voyage of Fortune’s Star we’ll create a treasure map and a story hook regarding how Anzolo Zorzi comes into possession of the map. Follow the map and clues in-game to discover bonus loot and additional game encounters. The physical version of this reward is a special leather scroll case (each one unique) in which we’ll ship six sheets of parchment on which you may print the map that you receive digitally.”

Obviously, these are included as a means of extending the gameplay of the cRPG, but my mind immediately flashed to the potential usage of the physical versions and story hook in the TTRPG. Simply have the PCs experience the story hook to get the map into their possession, then decide where to take the story from there. High-quality game props with associated plot hooks, in other words.

Support for this fundraiser seemed quite sluggish when it first came to my attention, about 2 weeks ago, and I had grave doubts that it would reach target. Since then, support seems to have surged, and it is now just past the 25% mark, courtesy of 991 backers, with 21 days to go. That makes success-or-failure a line-ball proposition by my rough estimates. Kicktraq is even more pessimistic, but showed no signs of the surge that I mentioned, so all hope is not lost.

If you want to back the project, or just take a look at the images that I wasn’t given permission to show you, click on this link or on the pirate flag above; you may decide it’s worth a swashbuckling stab at the heart of Fate, a quixotic gesture in defiance of the odds.

I just hope the lack of response doesn’t mean that the project has been written off as a lost cause. If no-one else, those 991 backers deserve better.

24 Hours to help Thomas Dance

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Daniel Vale is organizing a sponsored 24 hour Dungeons and Dragons session to help raise money to support a young boy called Thomas with Cerebral Palsy.

The goal is to raise enough money to help him get SDR (Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy) surgery, which would greatly increase his chances of walking, running – and dancing; hence the name of the fundraising. This would cost a total of £75,000 with surgery, physiotherapy and aftercare, so he has his work cut out for him.

The stream will take place on Saturday 19th November 2016 from 12pm midday (GMT) until the following Sunday 20th November 2016 12pm midday (GMT) on a dedicated Twitch stream.

Daniel will be the GM for the entire 24 hours and has recruited players for the game, which is organized into six 4-hour blocks (give or take; as every GM knows, adventures sometimes run over-time and sometimes run short, so the planned times are a guideline only).

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The schedule is:

  • Midday-4PM GMT: “The Beginning” (5th level characters)
  • 4PM-8PM GMT: “Strange Goings On…” (1st level characters)
  • 8PM-Midnight GMT: “Treasure Hunters” (10th level characters)
  • Midnight to 4AM GMT: “Finding Knowledge” (3rd level characters)
  • 4AM – 8AM GMT: “A Bad Discovery” (7th level characters)
  • 8AM-Noon GMT: “Champions of Vanderuum” (15th & 3rd level characters)

Vanderuum is the fantasy world in which these adventures all take place, complete with elves, orcs, magic, monsters and dungeons. The map is of part of that world, while the image relates to the adventure in some fashion still to be revealed.

Play can be watched live through a twitch stream. While the players will have to decide how they will solve problems, as is the case with any RPG, donations during the stream will help or hinder the players through donation rewards. There are also stretch goals up to £2500 (and possibly higher if things go well!)

Anything donated will be greatly appreciated and will help a child to gain more independence. If you can’t donate then you can help the campaign by raising awareness and hopefully attracting others who can, and who would not be in “virtual attendance” to do so without your publicity. So tweet, share, and promote the event to as many people as you can!

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The twitter account for the fundraiser is https://twitter.com/24hourtohelptom or click on the image to the left (which is a variation of the actual profile avatar – I added the twitter bird). Follow and RT it, especially as the day draws closer.

The twitch stream is https://www.twitch.tv/helpthomastodance or click on the image below (another one that I’ve manipulated to provide a visual mnemonic by adding a variation on the twitch logo).

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You can also donate directly in advance at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/24hourtohelpthomas via the TreeOfLife charity at JustGiving.

RA Whipple Relocation fund

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Richard “R. A.” Whipple is a 49-year-old Canadian ex-gamer and writer living isolated in Poland. He and his family are in dire need of assistance. They have no family; no government; and no employer Support.

Before he and his wife decided he would attempt to write, R.A. had been seeking a job for 15 years without success. He has tried everything, even volunteering without payment in hopes of earning a paid position, without success.

Stress and poor living led to untreatable diabetes, a nervous breakdown and severe clinical depression.

His wife, Aneta, is a veteran marketer with Toyota but has not had a single raise in her salary during the 18 years she has been with the firm, and has had no serious job offers despite seeking new employment.

They have worked like slaves and survived unimaginable stress; cannot earn enough to eat regularly or clothe themselves. Unable to afford rent, they are lucky to live in a small one-room apartment where black mold grows on the walls.

The only connection the Canadian government wants with its expatriates (Canadians living abroad) is to collect income tax. They cannot vote, cannot simply ask for a list of Canadians in our host country to meet or with whom to do business, and they cannot present themselves, penniless, and ask to be deported back home.

Expatriates can buy government documents for themselves and their children, and applications for immigration for their wives, but are granted no special status from the government.

R.A. could return to Canada alone, breaking up his family, but he has no reason to have any confidence that doing so would enhance their chances of survival or that he would ever have any prospect of being reunited with them; his chances of ever meeting the requirements to sponsor his family would be nil.

Bootstrapping

In desperation, he has turned to writing as a way of earning his way out, and has even had some limited interest in seeing the manuscript from a small publisher. No advance money, but enough encouragement to keep going. But even this is fraught with difficulty.

You or I can do research just by hopping on the internet. R.A. Can barely manage to get onto Twitter. There is no convenient English library at hand, and research materials might was well be made of solid gold, they would be no more inaccessible locked in a treasure vault.

Part of the problem is that his full story reads like a scam. While those work by playing on people’s credulity and appealing to their emotions, and people are rightly hostile toward them, their are nuggets of reality embedded in such stories because that is how the scammers get people to care enough to pledge their wealth. R.A. is not a scammer, he is one of those unfortunates whose stories the scammers imitate.

R.A. and his family have been trapped by circumstances that none of them anticipated, and with which they have struggled alone for far too long.

How you can help

His few friends and contacts have done what they can, including organizing a fundraising campaign on Richard’s behalf. A small portion of the target would be enough to enable Richard to buy the reference materials that he needs to continue writing in hopes of bootstrapping himself out of difficulty.

A slightly larger portion would enable a more modern computer, some new clothing, and some decent food for a period of time. Should one or more angels intervene and the full target of $34,000 be achieved, it would fund all the necessary paperwork and airfares for the family to emigrate to Canada; provide food, lodging, and fund an intensive job-search for a month; and at least give them hope for the future.

Richard is now growing desperate, and beginning to despair. To date, the fundraising campaign has managed to raise only US$800, and while he is extremely grateful for the assistance and generosity that he has received, he also knows that it is not enough.

I harbor no illusions that the readership of Campaign Mastery can provide the entirety of the funds needed. That would take about US$2.50 from every visitor the site receives in the course of a month – and some don’t have even that to spare. But if everyone who reads this appeal could pledge a dollar or two, and get two or three others to do likewise, it could be easily achieved.

One less soft drink the next time you sit down to game, and persuading the others in the group to do likewise, would be a solid start – 600 GMs, 4 players each (average), about $1.50 each, adds up to $4,500. Think about that for a moment. Id we could all do that eight times between now and Christmas, we could give R.A. the best possible Christmas present: a new start.

If you can help, even just a little, please pledge something to Richard’s relocation fundraising campaign by clicking on this link or on the photograph of Richard and his daughter above.

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