As many of you know, I am an avid fan of Kickstarter and Crowdfunding in general, especially when it comes to tabletop roleplaying games (TTRPGs). My collection of TTRPGs has exploded over the last three years, between print-on-demand services such as Drive Thru RPG and crowdfunding projects. That said, it hasn’t all been wine & roses along the way, with a few projects being… troublesome, you might say.
Let’s talk about one such crowdfunding project, specifically “Urban Shadows Second Edition“.
Now I have spoken at length about my issues with US2E on the “Loot Mechanics” podcast, so I’ll just summarize them here: Magpie Games launched this Kickstarter project in October 2020, with it funding on November 19th, 2020. Like many other KS projects during the Pandemic era, they suffered many delays in development, as well as having to pull staff from this game in order to help solve shipping issues with another of their games launched on Kickstarter at one point. But despite stating that they hired more staff to work on US2E, and were pulling all teams to help get the game finished and delivered to backers, development remains at a snail’s pace. Furthermore, questioning the development of the game on their KS page resulted in at least Yours Truly being silenced, via their refunding me my pledge, which I never asked for.
In even shorter terms, shenanigans are afoot at Magpie, and not in a good way.
Now then, as I said, I already spoke my piece on this topic on our podcast some time ago, so why do I mention it here? Well, I was looking at my Kickstarter page the other day, looking at all of the projects I have backed, and something struck me – Just how many games I have backed on KS since US2E got funded, and have already delivered to the backers. This isn’t talking about supplements and so forth, just full TTRPGs, mind you… The list, it turns out, is rather long.
Let’s take a look, shall we?
First we have “Babes in the Wood, 2nd Edition” (funded on February 6th, 2021). A fine little ‘Powered by the Apocalypse’ TTRPG (like US2E), smaller in scope than US2E, but still delivered in a reasonable timeframe.
“Fantasy World” (May 10th, 2021) was admittedly later than I would have hoped, and suffered some issues with printing and shipping, but I still have it in my hot little hands now.
Then we have “Ironsworn: Starforged” (May 26th, 2021). This was an extensive project, run primarily by one person, the inimitable Shawn Tomkin. He managed to get this project out to backers in record time, although he is still working on a stretch goal… a full other game, using the ‘Ironsworn’ variant of PbtA… because he’s awesome like that.
“The Awfully Cheerful Engine” (June 18th, 2021) took a bit to get to backers, but only the print versions, really. I backed the Omnibus edition, which was all six or so of the games in the ACE collection (did I mention it was more than one game, all using the same game system?), all in one, big book.
Now then, “Court of Blades” (May 21st, 2021) was admittedly a bit late to deliver to backers, if I recall correctly. Then again, most KS projects during the last three years have not been able to meet their delivery goals, so I wasn’t bothered by this. Also, CoB was produced by a team of two people, and that includes managing all of the shipping straight from their home garage!
“Carbon Grey” (September 3rd, 2021) is a beautifully produced TTRPG, which arrived in a reasonable timeframe. This included a bunch of physical stretch goals, which are getting to be a rarity anymore, unless your project ends up being wildly delayed.
Now this one, admittedly, isn’t really fair: “GURPS Girl Genius RPG” (November 8th, 2021). You see, it was completely written and ready for release shortly after the game was funded. This KS project basically paid for the print run of the game, and was a way to advertise it to the tabletop community. But since it indeed was funded, printed, and delivered while US2E remains in Development Hell, I felt it was necessary to mention it.
“Fluxfall Horizon” (December 1st, 2021) is yet another PbtA TTRPG (I like me some PbtA games!), and like “Starforged” before it, a project run by one person. While this is an admittedly smaller game than US2E in scope, well, I actually have this game in my possession, and it funded fully a year after US2E, with a much smaller team.
Then we have “Fallen RPG” (November 29th, 2021), which is a very small TTRPG when it comes to page count, but again, also a small team that worked on it. This is a theme you’ll see recurring as we continue on this discussion, actually. Full games, some smaller in size, and others with larger page-counts, created by small teams… and yet delivered in a reasonable timeframe. The important thing here is that these games all funded well after US2E did.
Speaking of which… “CY_BORG” (December 1st, 2021) is very much akin to a ‘full’ game like “Urban Shadows Second Edition” will be, and it came out in frankly record time. Created by a small team, the biggest problem I recall from its project was delivery of the printed items, and that was due to a bad distributor here in North America.
“Be Seeing You” (December 1st, 2021) was yet another kickass TTRPG, with a small team behind it, and delivered in a reasonable timeframe. I absolutely adore this game!
Another game I absolutely love is “Things That Go Squeak In The Night!” (December 10th, 2021). It is a smaller project than some here in scope, but they delivered a beautiful book, and it’s loads of fun.
I seem to have backed a lot of projects roughly one year after US2E… “Thrilling Adventures!” (December 1st, 2021) is another PbtA game that was delivered early, if I do recall. If it wasn’t early, it certainly seemed to arrive in record time.
And then we have “Hell Night” (January 22nd, 2022). What can I say about this fine project, run by one man, and delivered in a very reasonable timeframe, all things considered? Maybe my opinion of what is actually ‘reasonable’ is a bit skewed by obscenely late projects like “Perilous Roleplaying Game” and “Urban Shadows 2E”? At least I can say that “Perilous” eventually did deliver, albeit not to every backer, as of yet.
“Orc Borg” (March 3rd, 2022) is one of many derivative games from the “Mörk Borg” family that I have backed through Crowdfunding, and while on the smaller side for page count, it is a fantastic product… and I actually have it on my shelf.
Were there some issues with the “Pirate Borg” (March 31st, 2022) project? Yes. Is it in backers’ hands? Absolutely. In fact, the game is actually going live to the public on September 19th, which is “International Talk Like A Pirate” Day!
“Blade Runner” (May 26th,, 2022) may not seem like a very fair game to include on this list, as it comes from Free League, a well-established publishing house. Then again, Magpie Games is considered a well-established publishing house, so…
The same goes for “Dragonbane” (September 22nd, 2022), really. Another fine product from Free League”, delivered in a reasonable timeframe. Yes, I know that hasn’t always been the case, but that was mostly due to bad distributors, when you get right down to it. Nevertheless, still funded and delivered in a reasonable amount of time.
Finally, let’s talk about “Cities Without Number” (February 28th, 2023). This fine project was run by a very small team, and delivered not only on-time… they were six months early! Yes, I guess that means the time for ‘Pandemic Era’ excuses has indeed come to an end, hasn’t it?
Now then, I’d like to mention briefly one other game: “Thirsty Sword Lesbians” (November 12th, 2020). This PbtA game from Evil Hat funded just one week prior to US2E did, so while it doesn’t fit the exact model from this discussion, I feel it is worth mentioning for a couple of reasons. First of all, TSL is comparable to US2E in both scope and when their crowdfunding project launched. This means that not only are these two games extremely similar (both PbtA games, of similar page count, with similarly sized teams behind them), they both had roughly the same amount of time to deliver their games to backers.
Where they differ is in one, major way: Since Evil Hat got “Thirsty Sword Lesbians” funded, they not only delivered on that game, they also crowdfunded an expansion for it (“Advanced Lovers & Lesbians” funded on November 23rd, 2021), which has also been delivered to backers. I might also mention that Evil Hat has also crowdfunded and delivered the TTRPG “Apocalypse Keys” since then, but I didn’t back that particular game, and it might have been an unrelated team working on it, I really couldn’t say.
So, what is the point here? Well, all of these projects faced their own challenges along the way, and yet – while in many cases having way less time to work with than Magpie has with US2E – still managed to deliver to backers. Everyone has had to deal with COVID delays of various sorts, printing issues, distributor calamities, and in some cases with much smaller teams and with less resources than Magpie has. Yet here we are, with all of these games on my shelves, and “Urban Shadows Second Edition” still being developed.
I’ll let you be the judge as to what this all means. Personally, I think it means I’ve spent way too much money on KS projects, but that’s just me.