Zine Quest: Week One

For those of you not aware, having escaped the deluge of zines launching this past week with your wallets intact, there’s actually a pretty big spectacle occurring over on Kickstarter. February is host to a special event, Zine Quest, where Kickstarter has encouraged RPG designers to embrace the fruitful zine format and produce single-color RPG zines all month long.

As you can imagine, it gets dangerous to your debit card. I am here to make that worse, because I can’t suffer alone. Here is a roundup of zines whose campaigns launched this week, which I personally find interesting. Anything I’ve already backed with my own money will be marked accordingly, for purposes of disclosure. These are presented in no particular order besides vaguely the order that Kickstarter shows them to me as I dig through their active campaigns. Check these zines out and see if any are of interest to you!

  • The Lesser Key to the Celestial Legion – Donn Stroud, who you probably know as the genius behind the Dead Planet module for Mothership or possibly as the guy on the Drink Spin Run podcast, is also the mind behind this awesome DCC zine for clerics, religious orders, deities, and arcane spiritual secrets. I backed this at the $19 mark pretty much the same minute it went live. (edit: I looked, and I am shamefully backer #91 here. I’m sorry, Donn.)
  • GMDK’s Demon Collective – Four horror adventures (suitable for OSR D&D if you like) written, illustrated, and edited by transgender and nonbinary creators including two of my favorite people in DIY RPG stuff right now, Fiona Maeve Geist and Mabel Harper. Mabel is a pretty big chunk of why I even decided to talk about RPG stuff on the internet; her Blog Full Of Demons is one of my favorite things on the internet and she says it’s gonna come out of hibernation soon. I am backer #4 on this, at the $12 level, so I literally backed this the minute it went live.
  • Mothership: A Pound of Flesh – This campaign is for the new Mothership module by Sean McCoy, Chance Phillips, and Donn Stroud (alphabetically listed, sorry Donn). Mothership is one of the best things to come out of RPGs in the last few years. I have reviews coming, but in the meantime, don’t worry about it and just buy this so you can see what visual design should be like. I am backer #8 on this at the $21 level so you know exactly how I feel about it.
  • TOME – This campaign is actually for two zines, and you can pick one, the other, or both. I sided with TOME because it seemed more immediately useful to me even though the other zine looks stunningly pretty. TOME has got a little bit of everything for fantasy D&D, including NPCs, magic items, worldbuilding roll tables, dungeon and overworld maps, etc. Can’t beat that; with some imagination it could be a campaign all by itself. I am backer #28, at the $15 level, on this one.
  • Miseries & Misfortunes – A B/X hack for 17th century Europe, centered on France. This is actually a revised version of a popular zine from 2015, and the author seems to have gone all-in on adding additional subsystems to really remake Moldvay’s D&D in his own image for this project. Pretty cool stuff, and OSR compatible out of the box. I haven’t backed this one yet.
  • Creature Feature Quarterly, Vol. 1 – An OSR-compatible collection of 13 new monsters including paper minis and VTT tokens for your preferred means of playing D&D with weirdos on the internet. I haven’t backed this one yet.
  • Silver Swords RPG Fanzine – This one is a little out of the scope of the OSR, but it might be curious for some. Though it is covering 5E and Hero Kids – and, thanks to stretch goals, at least some OSR-compatible monsters – it is attempting to do so in the style of Alarums and Excursions and other old-school amateur zines that shaped the early landscape of RPGs. Possibly good for your nostalgia. I haven’t backed this one yet.
  • Delayed Blast Gamemaster #1 – This appears to be mostly system-agnostic dungeon crawling supplement with monsters, spellbooks, shields, potions, locations, hooks, and more for your dungeon adventures. This one is a very short duration Kickstarter and ends soon – it has, however, unlocked all of its stretch goals and promises to be 48 pages in length! I have backed this one as a PDF-only backer in order to try to stave off the hemorrhaging of my wallet.
  • Gamma Zine, Issue #1 – This one is for old school first edition Gamma World! I was hype for that just because who else remembers old Gamma World? This one looks to be about 16+ pages in length and includes an interview with James A. Ward thanks to some successful stretch goals. Time is also running out on this brief-duration Kickstarter campaign. I backed this one as a POD (at cost) backer.
  • The Grind – “A Wicked Dope Torchbearer RPG Zine” is a pretty great self-description from Mordite Press. The pledge levels are pretty steep – no cheap PDF option – but the quality and style look great. I haven’t backed this as I don’t play Torchbearer and I need that $10 minimum backing pledge for all the stuff I do play.
  • Mini-Dungeon Monthly – This one is ostensibly for 5E D&D, but it has dungeons fully laid out for it, and if OSR people can’t find a way to make infinitely simpler monster statblocks out of the provided 5E statblocks then we have truly lost our way. It’s a dollar for the PDF backer tier, so I backed it.
  • Hexagram #1 – There’s a sizable overlap of OSR players and people hyped for the return of The Fantasy Trip by Steve Jackson Games, so I am making note of this one as a zine that could be of interest to the community at large. It’s trying to invoke an old school style, too, in terms of presentation. I have not backed this one yet.
  • What Happened At Wyvern Rock – This is wild. A zine about incorporating classic spacemen from distant stars (the Greys, for example) into your fantasy worlds. The author is hewing towards d20-ish system agnostic with tips and instructions for reskinning or other incorporation into whatever you play. Pretty cute. I have not backed this one yet.
  • Patchwork World RPG Zine Set – Step into an alternate campaign for D&D based on Baroque-Romantic aesthetics. It’s a collection of several zines which combine into being a complete campaign setting, where the world has ended and broken apart (again, through the lens of a Baroque-Romantic folkloric fantasy story) and now is an amalgam of chunks combined together by a princess. It has an interesting outer-space-but-not vibe. I haven’t backed this one yet.
  • A Rasp of Sand – This bills itself as a “roguelike tabletop RPG experience” and is based on Ben Milton’s OSR-adjacent Knave ruleset. As Knave is more-or-less compatible with OSR stuff without much tinkering, you can plug this into your preferred B/X clone or whatever it is you play without effort. It’s got a sizeable bestiary of 50+ monsters, several pregenerated rooms, numerous items, and rules for becoming a horrific sea mutant. Pretty neat! I backed this at the $5 PDF level.
  • The Compleat Beastman – This author likes beastmen. A lot. This author is super stoked on centaurs, minotaurs, you name it. The first issue – purely about centaurs and their immediate cousins like the donkeytaur – is ready to go, according to the campaign text, and is looking for art funding. But why stop there? The author also gives us several stretch goals for additional issues. There is a long, very imaginative list of other beastmen that the zine may incorporate as it gets funded, which I encourage you to browse if only for the sheer inspiration of it. Constrictormen! Meroctopodes! Tapirtaurs! I have not backed this one yet.
  • Harrowings from the Rime – This is attempting to be OSR-compatible (though they say they’re also including their own rules-lite system The Epic of Dreams) and focuses on arctic fantasy horror. It aims to include a bestiary of the arctic wastes, fiction, a boss monster/villain character, a treasure table of some kind, a hexmap survival scenario for OSR games, an ice labyrinth adventure borrowed from an unreleased space fantasy setting for OSR games, and a mummy’s keep adventure based on random tables for OSR games. They mention the OSR a lot in this campaign, alongside the words storytelling and drama and also their own rules-lite system, so it’s hard to figure out what’s-what, exactly. I have not backed this yet.

Of course, this is just a brief selection of OSR and maybe-of-interest-specifically-to-dungeon-crawling-OSR-people zines. There’s a ton of zine projects happening. I cannot, and have not even attempted to, list them all. You can click here for a Kickstarter search for the word “zine” if you wanna track down the other stuff that’s launching.

I know for certain several other RPG zine projects will be launching later on in February – this is only the first week of Zine Quest! – so I will do another one of these next weekend summarizing new stuff I have found that may be of interest. Check back next weekend!

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