The choice is yours
Crowdfunding campaigns not only give creators the opportunity to bring their projects to life, they are powerful new ways for the players of tabletop games to decide what is worth their time and money.
Backing a game on Kickstarter or Indiegogo is as much about the creators as it is about the players. Our power as consumers and creatives has never been bigger. It’s not about having a say in how stuff is made but what sort of thing you want to invest yourself and your group in!
Beyond the obvious
The tabletop hobby is vast and offers lots of possibilities for exploring different genres and game types. It doesn’t matter if you are more of a board game player or someone who enjoys adventures of pen and paper, the simple fact is that you indulge in a pastime that is as rich as it is varied.
Gateway game such as Forbidden Island are quick to learn and fun to play, for novice as well as experienced gamers
Despite this obvious statement, the majority of gamers choose to stay by the edge of the forest rather than dare venture into it. We are also familiar with our self-proclaimed “non-gamer” friends or relatives. They know about Monopoly and Trivial Pursuit but get super nervous when you suggest playing something new. More experienced gamers know that the games they play have varying levels of accessibility and difficulty, be it in their rules or because they embrace a high-end concept. Yet, there are plenty of so-called “gateway” games that are way easier to play than the old-favourites. They only require a few minutes of explaining before everyone around the table realizes that there really is nothing to it.
As far as role-playing games go, it’s quite a bit more difficult to bring in new players, unless they have themselves already developed a certain curiosity towards the TTRPG concept. I have written about this before, and the fact remains that tabletop RPGs are nothing like what you imagine before playing them for the first time! But once you dive in, there is almost always no turning back. They offer something no other games do, and experiencing that level of fun, playing through a story that everyone is a part of and contributes to, is what makes them special.
Yet, it seems that the majority of players will discover the hobby through one game only and shy away from trying to play another. Depending where you live geographically, certain games will be more dominant within the local tabletop landscape.
The Dark Eye was one of the most popular games in many European countries and its 5th Edition is now available in North America thanks to a successful crowdfunding campaign
In North America, the 5th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons is the one TTRPG most people indulge in. It has definitely played a huge part in the resurgence of the hobby and is still the biggest contributor in terms of bringing it to the mainstream. To be fair, it’s an astonishingly good system that not only is great for the kind of adventures it champions, but it is also very versatile. Personally, I find there is a lot to love in D&D 5E. In a way, it’s not entirely surprising gamers are somewhat reluctant to try anything else. But they would be wrong not to.
More than the ruleset and how we resolve situations in TTRPG, the stories we live, tell and are a part of during a game session are what should always take centre stage. And for different types of stories, we need different types of systems. Tabletop role-playing is so much more than just D&D. High Fantasy is not a type of game either, it’s a setting that basically gives you an idea of what to expect from the world you play in and the rules that govern it: mystical creatures, magic, sword fighting and medieval technology and societies. You can make it darker, grittier or bright and hopeful, it’s really up to your personal taste.
What mostly defines one’s experience with the game is the type of stories you tell as a group and how they relate to your sensibilities. What resonates with you? What makes something feel fulfilling and rewarding? Dungeons & Dragons does a fabulous job at letting you play high fantasy adventures filled with action, lots of magic, dragons, dungeon crawling and treasure hunting. It’s easy to make it more combat centric, to add mystery or to focus on storytelling and character development. But what if you’re looking for other types of adventures, where political intrigue is in the foreground? Or a survival horror type game? What if you’d rather play as 12 year olds on bikes caught up in high concept sci-fi mysteries? Or as a group of bounty hunters in space? Maybe you would prefer being a 1920’s antiques dealer meeting up with a private investigator and a university professor to unravel mind-blowing cosmic horrors? Or people from different factions looking to survive in a brutal post-apocalyptic world?
Don’t look for excuses
There are countless other TTRPGs out there that excel at telling a different type of story, it’s only a matter of knowing where to look and backing the games that are right for you and your group. Before I go on, I would like to point out that learning a new system should never be what stops you from trying out other games. The aim of the hobby is not to master the rules, it’s to have fun while using them. It’s a group effort, not a skill you learn to become a rules lawyer. So, focus on the storytelling and you’ll find that playing a variety of games is way more fun than sticking to just one. It will allow you to enjoy your main game even more when you do play it.
Making games is hard and getting one published is even harder. The majority of the industry’s most renowned publishers, such as Chaosium, Fria Ligan and Ulysses Spielen, are much smaller than one would imagine. Often they are simply small tight knit teams of super creative designers and artists, and they do not enjoy the backing of large investors. Yet, these creators have never had as much opportunity to get their games made as today and we, as consumers, have never had this much power to support them. What I would like to do now is look at the different ways you can back the types of games you want to play.
Old fashion shopping is still the best way to get a game. You can do this by going to a brick and mortar bookstore, comic book shop or specialized hobby store. Look around, ask around, there are many ways to find the right game you want to be playing next or alongside other ones.
If in-store shopping isn’t possible where you are at the moment, many stores organize curb side pick-ups or home deliveries. Check with them and support your local stores as much as possible.
Online shopping has never been easier. To help you decide on what game is right for you, read customer reviews or look for exhaustive online reviews on websites such as unpossiblejourneys.com and strangeassembly.com or peruse some of my previous blog posts before deciding on what game to get. You can find hard physical copies in most big outlets, and if digital is more your thing, go to https://www.drivethrurpg.com to buy PDFs from major or independent publishers.
Now this is a great way to support indie developers and publishers who are looking to get physical editions of their games made. It is also one of the best ways to make your voice heard. Let the world know that “this is a game I want to play!”. For a good decade, websites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo have been the one major way board game designers have gotten their creations produced and into the hands of players worldwide. Some of the biggest crowdfunded success stories include Scythe, Gloomhaven and Kingdom Death: Monster. It seems that nowadays, Kickstarter has become the single best way to publish a board game.
Tabletop role-playing games have followed suit, even though they are part of a smaller niche market. When a game like the second edition of The One Ring Role-Playing Game - set in the world of J.R.R. Tolkien - is supported by over 16,000 backers pledging more that 2 million US dollars, it’s fair to conclude that there is more to TTRPGs than just D&D. There are plenty of other examples like the most recent one I just mentioned, some as massive in scope and others much smaller but just as important for everyone involved. At the end of last year, I was lucky enough to be involved in contributing cartographic art to a 5E supplement by Action Fiction, a small indie publisher that makes amazing and super creative content. They were able to reach their fans and make tons of new ones by funding 550% over their set goal.
Before backing a creator in this manner, it’s good to understand that crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo are not stores, even though their campaigns offer a way to purchase a product. The main idea behind backing a project is that you are empowering people to make their dream come true. If all goes well, you get something in return. There is always a finite chance for disaster to strike and you might not get what you were hoping to get. Backing the right horse is not just about picking the game you would like to see get made, you have to take other factors into consideration such as the creator’s reputation, the type of project and how attainable their production goal is. Nonetheless it is becoming easier to avoid dodgy projects as both creators and facilitators are working to minimize the risks involved.
More importantly, when you back a project, you are choosing with a very precise intent, rather than just picking up what lies on the shelf of a store. The decision making process seems more thoughtful and less impulsive. By seeking funding this way, creators will often be able to produce additional copies of their games to sell to a distributor, a store chain or local sellers. The other option they have, of course, is to sell their stock online, directly through their website. Crowdfunding is a fantastic way for creators to say “Hey, we want to make this game and this is why we think it’s great!” and for players to respond “That looks like the type of thing I want to play”.
Supporting game designers and publishers can also be done in simpler ways. The best example I have of such an instance is Degenesis by Six More Vodka. Last year, they made their entire game, a Primal Punk RPG as they describe it, free to play. You can download all the rulebooks and supplements for this unique and formidable post-apocalyptic game for absolutely nothing, leaving you the choice to donate as much as you want or feel the product is worth.
This rather unique approach can be found across the web from a variety of creators who will often put a “pay what you want” option on the purchase of some of their products. This is just another great way of making your voice heard as a player.
Not taking sides
The tabletop role-playing hobby is not one that has ever benefited from its community taking sides. If anything the current new era of TTRPGs has taught us is that more games is better and diversity is best. D&D benefits from its community indulging in other systems and players enjoy it more if they also try their hand at other games that handle their premise to the fullest.
You started playing because you wanted to become an adventurer. What’s stopping you to continue on that path? Be bold and adventurous. Sure, get that new official Ravenloft supplement or the Candlekeep Mysteries book when they release, but also look into backing the latest cross system supplements being funded on Kickstarter for your home-brew campaign, run a one-shot adventure from one of the many free Starter Sets available online from other publishers, download Degenesis and give the creators a little something if you play their free game. As a player, you can also do things that cost nothing at all: talk about the games you would like to try or promote the designers, writers and artists you admire in the TTRPG community. Sharing is the best way you can support this hobby, and never forget that the choice is always yours and yours only.
Wouter F. Goedkoop is a multi-faceted designer, artist, cartographer and storyteller who, after living across Europe decided to find his home in Nova Scotia where he lives with his wife and kids. He helps people and companies connect with their audience in meaningful ways by telling relevant and impactful stories. For commissions and freelance inquiries, please use the form on the contact page.