Zinequest started less than a week ago, and since then there’s been over 100 rpg projects launched, most of them zines. The impressive part to me is simply how many of them look good. I don’t even remotely have the money to back all the ones I want. The thing that really concerns me though is I know of at least 2 projects coming in the next week that are must back for me, suggesting there’s another dozen+ that I don’t know about that I will want. Plus Glitch and The Hero’s Journey just finished funding in the last week, and the Trophy RPG is still ongoing. For context 3 more zines launched WHILE I was writing this.
In the meantime I have everything in excel comparing pdf and physical price points and trying to decide what I can or cant afford. Its stress and joy in reasonably formatted tables. Below is a snapshot of where I’m currently at, likely to change later today, definitely to change by the end of zinequest.
Everything in this list matches my taste so perfectly I had to back it. I can’t say they’re better executed than the rest of the things I’ll mention, but they are certainly better for me.
Tempting Tephra by Michael Lombardi
Backing at: $7
“Tempting Tephra is a ten-page zine of random tables, including magic items, rumors, events, people, and places, each table with its own spread. The table entries are all examples of gameable lore for the Pentola setting, a world where magic suffuses everything and what people do and believe changes them. This zine serves as a sampling of that world for use at your own table.”
Even if useful tables from a vetted designer wasn’t enough, Michael is running this project entirely to have money to back other zines. My kickstarter activity is just him backing everything. Good cause.
Decuma by Golden Lasso Games
Backing at: $25
“Decuma is “the R&D for your RPG”: a tarot-inspired card game that helps the GM and their players collaboratively create all the important details for their campaign, including key locations, character connections, and setting conflicts. Plus, Decuma can be paired with any tabletop RPG setting or system, including D&D, Savage Worlds, Powered by the Apocalypse, Pathfinder, and more—so you never have to worry about compatibility.”
Not a zine! The one type of GMless game I consistently love is worldbuilding games. The Quiet Year. Companions Tale. This seems like a great addition to that subgenre and it looks beautiful to boot.
Beak, Feather, & Bone: A Map-Labeling RPG by Tyler Crumrine
Backing at: $10
“Beak, Feather, & Bone is a collaborative worldbuilding tool as well as a competitive map-labeling RPG. Starting with an unlabeled city map, players are assigned community roles before taking turns claiming and describing locations. Players draw from a standard 52-card deck to determine a building’s purpose and then describe its beak (reputation), feather (appearance), and bone (interior). As buildings are claimed, a narrative for the town and its inhabitants emerges, including major NPCs and shifting power-dynamics. “
Is it lazy to quote myself? Because most everything I said about Decuma applies here. More please.
The Waking of Willowby Hall by Ben Milton
Backing at: $15
“The Waking of Willowby Hall is a dense, highly interactive RPG adventure set in a ruined manor beset by a rampaging giant, roving bands of restless dead, and a very angry goose.”
I know Ben’s taste in rpg adventures because I watch his youtube channel. I’ve played Knave and Maze Rats and I’ve seen his 1 page adventures. I have supreme confidence this will be competent at worst, and likely quite excellent.
Lost Roads by Ary Ramsy
Backed at: $12
“Lost Roads is a fantasy role playing game that follows migrants on their journey through a harsh, unforgiving world. Humans, once rich with magic and resources, exploited nature beyond its means. Modern society collapsed, falling to a pre-medieval level of technology. Pockets of civilization now huddle within barren and twisted landscapes, connected by the Lost Roads—defunct, reclaimed pathways.”
I love the art, I love the concept, it has a really great team working on it, and if I’m being honest finding hope in the face of the collapse of civilization is kinda my big mood right now.
Pariah by by Sofinho
Backed at: $11
“PSYCHEDELIC NEOLITHIC ANIMIST OLD SCHOOL ROLE PLAY
PARIAH is a zine that will enable you to set up and run a tabletop RPG pitching a band of outcast humans against a dangerous, primeval world of malevolent magic and capricious spirits… all in an A5 zine format produced for Zine Quest 2020.”
Click through and look at the cover art. But for serious. Creative, clever, strange, its exactly what I’m looking for. Feels like it was written for me. Plus, Alone in the Labyrinth is a wonderful blog, so I know the writing will be good.
Dream World Mercenaries by Haiduc
Backed at: $10
“Dream World Mercenaries is for 3-4 players willing to dive into dreams to gather information and plant thoughts at the risk of never waking up, in this inception inspired rpg. This game allows its players to engage a character’s subconscious in a very intimate way through the bending and twisting of an environment deeply embedded with symbols and connections that we rarely get to explore. Often we seek to find reality and a truth in the fictional stories we tell and we feel bound by gravity to the worlds we describe. This game does not forgo reality but it does invites you to question it. In this game, players will be maneuvering around a shifting landscape that will react to your incursion in its routines.”
Its Inception the rpg, and the art looks good. My guess is that will either sell it to you or make you completely uninterested. I clicked back while the $10 option was still available.
Dungeons & Dilemmas by Jesse Burneko
Backed at: $40
“Dungeons & Dilemmas is a collection of system agnostic techniques for designing dungeon-based adventures that engage the players on an emotional and ethical level. The presented process approaches dungeons as their own unique narrative structure, and the encounters within them as moral puzzles.”
Using dungeons as emotional metaphors is a great idea, and I’m always fascinated by how people think about adventure design. Honestly, what put me over the edge was how low the price of a session with the author was. A good friend and I decided to go in on it together.
Not Pretty but Wonderful: Designers in Conversation by Joe DeSimone
Backed at: $50
“Firstly, it’s a book. It’s not a game. But it’s a book about games and the people who make them. Every $75 raised will secure one interview with one designer. I will meet up with them at a convention somewhere in the world and then spend up to $50 on alcohol, food, or caffeine for them. They will consume it in a sitting, and then we will chat for an hour or so. I will record this and then I will transcribe it. You will get to read what comes out of their mouth.”
So…. complaining about money but dropping $50 on a single project…Look, what happened was I thought it would be funny if I just had Joe yell at Humza 3 times “Wheres the godamned Legacy of the Bieth book” because here he is promoting all these awesome writers and humbly saying “I don’t know why people even listen to me, I just sit in the back” and he’s clearly lying. Like, read his blog. He’s a great writer with fantastic ideas and I want to see that kickstarter drop and I want to back it BAD. But no book. Anyways, joke. But then Joe and Humza were like “great idea!” and I couldn’t back down from that. So here we are. I may* still go down to a more reasonable backer level because have you seen the rest of this post, but we shall see. Original tweet for posterity.
These are currently undergoing the table test. They all look good and match my taste, but will I actually use them at the table? The other part is I REALLY prefer physical copies if I can get them. It’s likely I’ll buy most of these and the choice is really print vs pdf instead of back or not.
Space Seeds: Science Fiction RPG Encounters by Thomas Deeny
“Space Seeds contains encounters and adventure seeds for use with most science fiction roleplaying games: Star Wars, Firefly, Star Trek Adventures, The Expanse, Coriolis, Traveller, Bulldogs!, Starfinder, Alien, vs. EMPIRE, Dune, Stars Without Number – it is simple to drop a planet or situation from Space Seeds to any of these games.”
The graphic design seems good and it could be useful in Mothership, Alien, Offworlders, etc.
The Great Soul Train Robbery by Alexi Sargeant
“The Great Soul Train Robbery is a tabletop roleplaying game for 2–6 players and 1 gamemaster about Desperados robbing the train to Hell.
Spin an allegorical Weird Western yarn as your sharpshooters, fiddlers, homesteader widows, and other Desperados attempt a Hellish train heist. Will you claim your prize from the train, or be overcome, damned, or broken by the heist?”
It’s clearly well tested, it has an actual play video, it looks fun. The rules are easy and intuitive. I don’t play many westerns though, and I don’t know if this will change that.
Zine-O-Map by David Glass
“I’m a freelance cartographer and editor in the tabletop roleplaying game community. I heard about Zine Quest 2 and thought it would be fun to try to get something together, so a couple of months ago I started drawing a set of maps I could include in a booklet. Zine-o-Map will include 34 maps that fit on the 8.5×5.5-inch pages required by the Zine Quest guidelines and 1 centerfold map that spans the full 8.5×11-inch paper. That’s 35 maps (37 if you want to count the covers) for your roleplaying adventures, done in an OSR-style.”
It’s a bunch of good looking dungeon maps. I LOVE dungeon maps. I just don’t know if I need a stack of dungeon maps right now. If you do don’t hesitate and just click the buy button.
The Company by Logan Dean
“The Company is a corporate survival horror RPG about capitalistic meddling and greed set against a backdrop of industrial disaster. Players take on the roles of specialists in the Wuhan-Baxter Corporations ARC division, a private emergency response and containment unit. W-B ARC teams are deployed to company holdings under duress in order to assess and contain any situation without alerting local or national authorities. As the company is on the cutting edge of technology in virtually every industry, its holdings are…varied. ARC teams face the aftermath of company experiments gone wrong, unstable constructs breaking down and creatures both otherworldly and manufactured being turned loose. “
This looks like it’s done. It has a video with layout, the art seems decent, it has a clear sense of itself.
Deadly Garden: Plant Monsters for 5E by Paige Connelly
“Deadly Garden: Plant Monsters for 5E is a collection of 13 brand new monsters to introduce to your players for Fifth Edition. Each Monster has a graphite drawing, small biography and stat block ready to fight players on battlefields. “
I wants it. It looks pretty, plant monsters hits my aesthetic bullseye. I’m not running 5e right now and I don’t know when I’m going to next but stat conversion isn’t that hard.
“The Adventurer’s Guide to the Yol’Najj Forest is a system agnostic adventure location for your fantasy table top adventures. Within you’ll find a guidebook that highlights important forest locations, creatures, npcs, quests and gear in sweet sweet zine format! “
It a system neutral location based adventure with faction play. This is exactly my jam. Plus Zeshio is cool people.
The Artefact by Jack Harrison
“The Artefact is a 28-page RPG zine of legendary items & transient heroes for one player, designed for contemplative solo play.”
Its a world building solo game via item creation. Unique as far as I know, and clever to boot.
safe & sound by Livelygold
“In this zine, you’ll find special places for your heroes to use when they need to lay low or enjoy some downtime. These range from seedy dens filled with cool tunes to an extraplanar study run by an incorporeal lich, each with their own quests to send your party on. All of the content for this zine was specifically developed for Zine Quest – pretty cool, huh?”
Useful system neutral locations with pretty maps built around a theme I dont see super often.
Butchery by D G Chapman
“BUTCHERY is a set of rules and tools for tabletop roleplaying in a liquorice fantasy setting inspired by the monster-hunting intrigue and action of The Witcher and Monster Hunter, the twisted fairytales of Angela Carter and the ecological storytelling of Hayao Miyazaki.”
It references Angela Carter and thats too clever a hook by far for me. I have something of an obsession right now with fairy tales, and this is scratching that itch.
Terror of the Stratosfiend 2 by Sean Christopher Charles Richer
“Portals and warp gates have been opening all over the earth and giant aliens have been pouring out. Players will quickly find out that some of their own have been aliens the whole time, and that humans from distant stars have also shown up to help quell the madness. The setting is meant to be both an add-on to any DCC (Dungeon Crawl Classics) session the Judge and players would be running; adding a splash of tentacles. It’s also being built to be a standalone setting where tentacles and sorcery would be the focus.”
I have the first one. Its absolutely off the wall and its fun. Bonkers. Satellite gods and planetary Lovecraftian monsters willing to offer spells for just a small bit of worship. The only reason I haven’t backed yet is the riso print version is $30 and thats not cheap. Probably worth it, but gives me pause.
Sinister Red by Rudy Mangual
“Sinister Red is a point-crawl adventure across a coagulated sea of blood. Adventurers will explore an ominous island with a skeletal coast. Traverse strange and deadly caves. Explore a blasted city and ascend a tower of mirrored glass. “
I love point crawls. This seems to have a ton of content for 24 pages. Saying Slumbering Ursine Dunes is inspiration goes a long way with me.
Green Dawn Mall by Come Martin
“GREEN DAWN MALL is a tabletop RPG in which you play teenagers who wander into an endless, distorted mall, in search of their lost friend. The further you go, the stranger things get. Will you be able to find them and get back to the real world unscathed?”
This is facing the table test right now, because if this was my primary style of play it would be backed already. It looks beautiful. It looks finished. It looks professional. If the description of this game is remotely interesting to you you should put this at the very top of your list.
A Touch of Glamour by Mahar Abrera Mangahas
“A Touch of Glamour is game about fey creatures in a modern world, trying to escape from human beings who would exploit them for their magic. The game is Powered by the Apocalypse. “
On the Shoulders of Colossus by John
“Shadow of the Colossus is a game that is deeply personal to us. In our years in the TTRPG scene we’ve seen the plethora of talk surrounding the game and the most frequently asked question, “how do we do *that* in our game at home?””
Fight giant monsters in a fantasy world is a great premise for a zine.
Hunters in Death by Gothridge Manor
“This is a glimpse into how I run a campaign. I’ve run games for over 41 years, and like every game master in existence, I’ve created my own rules and mechanics. I provide a list of these rules/mechanics to provide a sense of immersion particular to the Komor Forest. Then you’ll find Hounds Head, a place for the party to get information, get henchmen, get supplies, sell stuff, and rest until their next adventure. Then what follows is an array of adventures. The adventures aren’t meant to be played in any order. While the adventures are separate there are connections between some of them. Within the adventures there are new magic items, new spells, new monsters, and new artifacts. And any old school gaming zine wouldn’t be complete without random tables. Yeah, it’s got some of those. “
Looks like a really competent OSR zine by someone with a lot of table experience. Not quite my aesthetic of choice.
Richter: The Rotting City by Ember + Ash
“Richter: The Rotting City introduces dewy-eyed adventurers to Richter: an elderly, seaside metropolis, rotting morally & physically as it is slowly swallowed by the marsh. The cause of The Rot is a debate for philosophers – both natural and metaphysical – but its effects are both pernicious and dramatic. It is a monstrous transformation. It takes the worst of the city and corrupts it further. It consumes whole neighborhoods, making them unfit for habitation. On the plus-side, plenty of treasure and unusual resources are left behind in these ruined locations, ripe for the taking by those daring and desperate enough to try.”
It’s a city location book for the setting of the Trophy RPG, although technically it can be used in other settings. 2 things give me pause. First, I hate buying a softcover when theres a hardcover available. Classic fomo but I’d be lying if I didn’t say it. Second, Trophy is still running its campaign on kickstarter right now. I’m a backer for all 3 books, and dropping $140 plus shipping on a thing I haven’t played yet gives me a lot of pause. Not a dealbreaker, and completely separate from the excellent people working on this. I just really with I had the final version of Trophy in hand when this launched.
Cobwebs by Exalted Funeral
“COBWEBS is a 3-5 player GM-less RPG that tells stories of reluctant investigators uncovering terrifying conspiracies and getting far more than they bargained for. It combines elements of noir, horror, and science fiction to create a uniquely haunting mystery built collaboratively. If you enjoy podcasts like Limetown and Tanis, comics like Mind MGMT, or movies like Under The Silver Lake and Mute-you’re in the right place. “
Oh this hurts. Cobwebs launched right before zinequest. It hits a lot of my favorite genre tags and Cecil Howe is involved. I can’t say that I’m much of a fanboy for too many people, but if I am a fanboy for someone, its Cecil. BUT. Its not my preferred style of game. I just don’t know if this will actually get played. It looks real real pretty though. The timing, it burns!
In my excel sheet there are 81 on this list. Even pretending these are all zines(which they’re not) and they cost $10 each(which they don’t) thats $810 I can’t justify or afford. I want to talk about a small subset of these that caught my eye, because they could be perfect for you. I didn’t back them either because:
- I don’t think I’ll get them to the table
- I know someone who might run them that already backed it
- I know they’ll have wide availability later and I can wait
If its not on this list it doesn’t mean its not worth backing. I just don’t want to write 80 blurbs. On with the show.
Best Left Buried: The Zinequest Quartet by SoulMuppet Publishing
“Best Left Buried is a fantasy horror rules light RPG where monster are scary and the players are scared. Following two successful Kickstarters in 2019, Beneath The Missing Sea and A Doom To Speak, the SoulMuppet Publishing team have partnered with a new set of writers to produce FOUR new zine length Best Left Buried adventures as part of Zinequest 2.”
Jelly may actually murder me. Here’s the deal. I have a Doom to Speak and I haven’t run it yet. This has already funded. It WILL be available later, either as add ons of the next kickstarter bundle or on Exalted Funeral. Unlike a lot of other projects on here that may or may not be limited run, this will not go out of print for long. I will buy this at some point, most likely in the next year. I just can’t afford it right now. This may be because I recently bought Nightmares Underneath 2E and Esoteric Enterprises recently, but I’m not one to cast blame.
The Beloved Underbelly by Philippe Ricard
“The Beloved Underbelly is a network of tunnels where anything goes—here where petty law cannot penetrate, entrepreneurs run wild with a royal buffet’s worth of dubious tactics. Open yourself up to all that the Underbelly has to offer: free real estate, the American dream, and constant physical and mental conflict.”
Dish Pit Wizards by Blake M. Stone
“Dish Pit Witches is designed to be played with 2-5 players and a GM. Players need only 2d6, a pencil, and paper. It is a narrative-heavy, combat-free game that follows the lives of employees in a restaurant setting. You aren’t playing as the chefs or the waiters — no, that’d be much too glamorous. Perhaps you’ll be an exhausted busser, a perpetually-drenched dishwasher, a harried host, or a long-suffering sommelier. The game tracks time in a way that allows for short, modular play sessions (one session = one in-game day), with downtime taking place at the end of each session.”
Willow by Shane Walsh
“It is a modular town that can be dropped into your campaign. Its fully formed and flavorful. It focuses on game-able content and being easy to use at the table. It is graphic and art heavy and utilizes a lot of random tables to make it easier for GMs to run in a pinch. “
Moonsailors by Annamyriah de Jong
“Moonsailors is a GM-less, one-session game for 3-5 players where solitary travelers drift among the stars, each looking for something that they may or may not find. As you explore, the other players will help you tell your story by asking prompting questions. Will you open the door you hear sounds behind? How does the heat of the planet feel on your skin? What do you do if the ground starts cracking beneath your feet? What do you pick off the menu?”
Ten People You Meet in the Undergarden by Skullboy
“Ten People You Meet in the Undergarden is an RPG zine set in a new TROIKA! sphere, The Undergarden. It’s presented as ten encounters with strange folk you might have while adventuring in the land beyond the Copper Door. It’s witty, whimsical and weird. It’s the kind of place you might find by accident and then get lost in for a year and a day. A place where the talking cat you just met might be politely robbing you of your name, but in the same interaction giving you a quest to get it back.”
Sagas of the Sea Peoples by Fraser Ronald
“Sagas of the Sea Peoples is a tabletop roleplaying game set in the Late Bronze Age Collapse. The characters are leaders of the Sea Peoples, seeking better lives, struggling against innumerable enemies, and facing the fall of the civilizations in which they were born.”
Candlelight by Gabriel Robinson
“Candlelight is a role playing game about the restless spirits of treasure hunters reckoning with their dark past and seeking hope in a haunted forest that wants to trap them there. It is a one-shot, rules-light game, focusing on collaborative and thematic storytelling and is designed to be flexible in how you bring it to the table”
Negundo by Delacannon
“Negundo is an anagram for Dungeon, but it is also a zine of a mutant nature with the ability to regenerate itself with every copy. There is no equal duplicate of the zine since it is procedurally generated. Negundo is also the name of a black and ashy land, a place where the clouds swirl ominously over a tower made of bones.”
Fruit of Law by Eli Seitz
“Fruit of Law is inspired by the Jewish folk tale that all pomegranates have 613 seeds which represent the 613 commandments in the Torah. The game explores what it means to write the text that will establish the moral fiber of future society. The players take on the roles of elders working with and against each other to set down rules for future generations. The central mechanic involves a physical pomegranate that is consumed during play.”
Mage Against the Machine by Jordan
“In Mage Against The Machine you take on the roll of time-travelling wizards attempting to stop the robot apocalypse. You will travel back to the moments in your lives you have the most connection to in the hopes of finding the events that set in motion the destruction of civilization. But meddling with reality comes at a cost. Each time you use your magic to alter the world you generate anomalies, push too hard and the things you care about most may no longer exist in the present.”
The Social Dreadwork by Percern Studios
“The Social Dreadwork is a resource for introducing powerful corporations into your campaign setting. This series of guides, handouts, and templates will introduce your characters to the corporate machine and give them the tools to interact with and dismantle it.”
Mew-tants! by Aled Lawlor
“Mew-Tants! is a zine RPG where everyone is a cat; but not just a normal cat, a cat with super powers. But other than the superpowers mostly just a normal cat.
Explore the neighbourhood, rescue stranded cats from trees, and take down the ‘nip and kibble dealers. Anything is possible when you’re a Mew-Tant! Again except using things that require thumbs, you are still a cat.”
The Gællæffa Guide to Troika! by Brian Ericson
“Thus! The Gællæffa Guide to Troika!, a feast for your eyes, a playbook compiled from the hyperbolic imaginings of powerful mages, heroic knights, swaggering Springfolk, and vile Saskir. Make the mundane of this mystical world extraordinary as you explore The Golden Steppe, leap across the red roofs of Karavale, or attempt to hide from the terrible Tax Collectors of Squall.”
Beneath the Glass and Steel by Michael Wenman
“It is designed to be an in-game artifact for characters to look through, offering them perspectives on people they might meet, communities they might interact with, jobs they might engage, and a range of other topics that might improve their chances of survival in a dangerous sprawling city where life is cheap and the corporations are powerful. “
Gamma Zine Issue 2 by Thom Wilson
“Do you still play Gamma World or another post-apocalyptic, science fiction RPG? Do you wish there was more material for the games you play? Well, your wish has been granted: a 36-page fanzine for your post-apocalyptic game campaign or reading pleasure! In the second issue of Gamma Zine, you’ll find three short adventures, new mutated monsters, lost and forgotten tech, and more.”
Passage of the Living by James Widdowson
“This zine will take players on a journey into a land of the never-dying, a dungeon where the worst fate in most adventures may seem like the greatest mercy. Players will have to navigate a starved, hostile land, where their minds will prove their greatest weapon for their survival.”
Corsairs by Giles Pritchard
“You are a Corsair, nothing more than a pirate to the navies of the Empires that battle over the floating islands, but to independent islands like Teboa, you are a bulwark against the machinations of power hungry sovereigns.”
Rock & Roll – A Musical RPG Zine by Ethan Thibault
“ROCK & ROLL is a musical role-playing game about making the band of your dreams with your friends and experiencing all the highs and lows of life on-stage and off. Write music, play gigs, grow your fanbase, and see the world — no musical talent required.”
So there you have it. Some awesome zines I think are worth taking the time to look at, some of which I’ve already spent money on. I will likely do a follow up post at the end of zinequest with the final tally of money spent and regrets earned. Happy zinequest everyone!
UPDATE: I initially was writing blurbs for all of these but thats insanity and I am not a good enough writer to make “this looks awesome but its not for me because money” interesting for the 15th time.