I back a lot of games (and other things) on Kickstarter and IndieGoGo. Like, hundreds. And I’ve been very rarely disappointed—a few are way behind schedule, and a few others are almost certainly not going to happen, but that’s ok, because that’s the nature of crowdfunding—so there aren’t that many that are out of the running. If anything, I’m most disappointed at the ones that I was interested in but never funded.
But this is supposed to be about the opposite end of the spectrum: those crowdfunded games that stand out as being exceptionally good. First, two honorable mentions, games that I’m very pleased I backed and helped make happen just because they scratch a personal itch. I’ve loved everything that Anna Kreider has done because it is both quality and makes me think. So when she proposed a game that tries to grab all the good bits of the Tenra Bansho Zero setting, while addressing the unfortunate consequences that the original glosses over, I was sold. What I’ve read of The Ruined Empire so far doesn’t disappoint.
The other is World of Calidar, just because flying ships are awesome, and I still have a fond memories of the “Voyages of the Princess Ark”.
But, generally speaking, what gets me to back a game is for it to be something new. I want to see mechanics I’ve never seen before, or original settings, or new viewpoints. And so most of the games I’m most glad I backed are games that did that, with a particular emphasis on viewpoints of or from other cultures—games like Ryuutama, Shadows of Esteren, Golden Sky Stories, Spears of the Dawn, Symbaroum, and New Fire.
Among these, the one that I’m most proud to have helped make happen is Ehdrigohr. I knew when I was backing it that it was a “native American D&D“—that is, a game that is middling-high fantasy, but based on cultural tropes and assumptions of Native American peoples rather than Europeans. But the game I received turned out to be so much more. Superficially, the game setting actually draws on indigenous cultures from around the world (to my eyes, other than several culture groups of North America, the most obvious sources are Polynesia and Australia, but I’m sure there are other references I’m forgetting or echoes that I don’t recognize). But the author, who is Native American, also did an amazing thing: he incorporated non-Western enculturation into the structure of the game, as well as the setting. There is a wonderful metatextual thread where the storytelling of the players parallels the stories of the characters, and where story is, in and of itself, a valuable commodity and important goal for the characters, in subtly different ways to how the players will most likely value it. As you play this game, both the rules and the setting will be subtly pushing you to embrace new ways of thought, more aligned with other cultures (assuming you’re thoroughly enculturated in Western culture, that is).
I’ve only played it once, and don’t have it in front of me to reference, so I’m going to stop there lest I accidentally misrepresent it. Go check out the review linked above, or the creator’s page. Or, better yet, go check out the game itself! While I’ve seen many RPGs that try to give either a faithful or a fantasy version of a non-Western culture, this may be the first one that embodies the non-Western values at all levels of the game, not just the setting. And it’s a really great game, too—it’s not didactic or boring in the least!