May’s first Gaming Shelf is an expanded edition of the usual column, which is incredibly appropriate considering the author we’re spotlighting, Tim Hutchings, has recently published a game that is over 1,200 pages long. In addition to Hutchings’ work, we’ve got a quintet of new releases and a pretty large list of other news items, so stick around to the end!
Creator Spotlight: Tim Hutchings
Tim Hutchings established himself as an indie design force with the 2020 release of Thousand Year Old Vampire, a solo journaling game where you follow a journal full of prompts while managing pools of traits that include Memories, Resources, and Skills. A lonesome, wistful game, Thousand Year Old Vampire explores the ravages of time on the undead, and the presentation of the game is wonderfully evocative, made of collages and pages full of pastiched illustrations and scraps of paper. The game won three Ennies, and a sequel (tentatively titled So You Met A Thousand Year Old Vampire) is currently in the works. I think it’s also important to note, for the sake of understanding the kind of guy Hutchings is, that he signs off his emails “high fives, tim” which is, frankly, delightful.
Apollo 47 is Hutchings’ newest game, and while the game itself is, in print, about 12 pages, the full Technical Handbook (available via DriveThruRPG’s print on demand service) is one thousand times bigger, sitting at 1,200 pages, where literally 99% of this book is reproduced NASA documents intended as story prompts. It is, in Hutchings’ words, “an absurd folly of a game,” and while I agree, I love it. I love absurdity, I love chatter, I love Apollo 47.
The premise is simple, and it starts within an alternate timeline where by 1986 the USA has achieved 46 moon-landing missions. Between a group of 2-6 people, one of you is an astronaut attempting to fix small, mundane problems, and the others are the non-stop mission control radio chatter in your ear. Lending itself to the comedy of the mundane and absurd, this game is Office Space but you’re actually in space, making Apollo 47 an in-game experiment about creating tension within mundane observational humour and jargon.
New Releases: Here There Be Monsters, Rebels of the Outlaw Wastes, Fear the Taste of Blood, Heartswood, Primal Quest
If this absolutely sick art by Lino Arruda doesn’t immeidately make you want to purchase wendi yu’s here, there, be monsters! nothing I say is going to change that. But this game “is a rules-lite response to monster-hunting media from the point of view of the monsters,” said yu in an email. “It’s a love letter and a middle finger to stuff like Hellboy and the BPRD, the SCP Foundation, the Men in Black, the Laundry Files series, the World of Darkness games, and the Urban Fantasy genre in general. It is an explicitly queer, antifascist and anticapitalist game about the monstrous and the weird, in any flavour you want, not as something to be feared, but to be cherished and protected.”
The interior of this game is also really wonderfully made, filled with neon colours, bold illustrations, and details that really make this a work of art. Players create the Other as a character who is fighting against a world that wants to use, abuse, or annihilate you. It uses tags to create characters and includes a ton of tables to help spark creativity in the moment.
Rebels of the Outlaw Wastes, written by Michael Addison and Banana Chan and published by Nerdy Pup Games, is a gonzo-apocalyptic game that takes inspiration from media like Tank Girl, the My Chemical Romance album Danger Days, and Kipo and the Wonderbeasts. Utilising a skill progression track that is meant to be marked up with stickers, Outlaw Wastes really embraces some of the absurdity of its premise in the execution of the game itself. Sure, this is an ashcan release, but I found the concept incredibly well-realised, the unique play system is tightly designed, and the art absolutely blew me away. I cannot over-emphasise how much you need to pick this one up immediately.
In Fear the Taste of Blood, characters take on different aspects of creature feature stories, playing the setting, the monster, or the survivors, using both dice and cards to determine both damage done and add flavour to the campaign.
A short game, The Heartswood by Grant Howitt is a psychological exploration of heartbreak, where players take on different aspects of a person’s psyche after a split between you and your romantic partner.
Described as “stone and sorcery,” Diego Nogueira’s Primal Quest takes you to the land before time, mashing up prehistoric humans and dinosaurs to explore an extreme and brutal world. The game utilises a streamlined D6 dice pool mechanic and includes some amazing illustrations and a fantastic hexmap adventure. Check out Cave of our Peoples for a ready-to-play Primal Quest adventure.
Crowdfunding: We Deal in Lead, Far Horizons’ Guide to Cults, Lunar Echoes
“We Deal in Lead is a dark fantasy Western RPG by Colin Le Sueur for one or more players. Streamlined rules, fast character creation, and gameplay built on exploration and player choice… Set in a strange post-apocalyptic world eerily close to ours, where the borders of time and space wear thin, you are Gunslingers, mythic champions holding off the forces of chaos with lead and grit.”
“The Far Horizons Guide to Cults is a collection of cults, conspiracies, strange religions, and other mysterious organisations that can act as allies, antagonists, or simply set dressing for just about any tabletop roleplaying game out there. It’s being created by a talented group of writers, editors, designers, and artists to provide a resource for anyone creating, modifying, or filling out a setting.”
“The Sustainable Gaming Forum is itchfunding to raise funds to create a print run of our new Solarpunk game, Lunar Echoes. Lunar Echos is a GM-less TTRPG where you guide your characters on adventures around the future moon of Panga, a moon that has been split into two worlds: the Human and the Wild.”
In Other News:
- Led by Huetopia and Sebastian Yūe, the Hue Shift Jam invites all designers to hack a game by a member of the Huetopia community, which spotlights BIPOC game designers. There’s also an itch bundle of members’ games to support the jam.
- Monster Care Squad has just released the full book as a digital ruleset, which not only rules, but looks amazing
- A really rather incredibly article on Procedural, Bespoke, and Improvised content in Roleplaying Game Sessions by Juhana Pettersson.
- Different Trouble is now available to purchase after a successful crowdfunding campaign.
- Like mechs? Like games about mechs? Check out the Get in the Robot Bundle on itch and snag 35 games for $US20 ($28), or if you want a little more budget-friendly option, 20 for $US5 ($7).
- Fully funded, but still going, The Hard Lessons is a great reflection on the relationship between teachers and students.
- Game designer Sahoni Atkins describes his design sensibilities with regards to his superhero game, Exceptionals.
- You can now preorder Academies of the Arcane.
- Ariadne’s Ribbon is an incredible blog post about labyrinths, game design, and structure.
Want more Gizmodo news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel and Star Wars releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about House of the Dragon and Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.