Roleplaying Games Library Acquisition 2021-2022

Posted on January 17th, 2023 by Tyler Stefanich

In the 2021-2022 academic year, the Game Lab set out to expand its Library collection of Tabletop Roleplaying Games (RPGs). We acquired 88 RPGs, including game systems, standalone games, zine compilations, and modules or adventure books. Additionally, we acquired 11 Cyberpunk roleplaying games after interest from the Cyberpunk and Discontents seminar; 9 solo roleplaying games, to get an idea of this RPG form we were less familiar with; and 1 indie tabletop strategy game, Deepest Valley, colored-pencil illustrated by its designer and writer Caspar Dudarec.

Our goal in collecting these games was not to collect the largest, most famous, or historically important RPGs, instead we hoped to collect games that we felt exemplified the Lab’s goals of fostering aesthetic, formal, and political experimentation in games and would introduce students to the breadth of possibilities and potentialities in tabletop RPGs as a medium today.

  • Gamebook. Arc by Momatoes. Cover features a painterly scene of of a sea, a burning volcano, and full moon. Expressionist text over the image reads Arc in both black and white.
    Arc by Momatoes
  • Game book and game map. Beyond the Borderlands by Alex Damaceno. Book cover shows sunset over a white castle. Next it is a pen and ink fantasy map on worn looking paper.
    Beyond the Borderlands by Alex Damaceno
  • Gamebook. Witchburner by Luka Rejec. Shows a a person carrying a sword. Their face is shadow. A bonfire behind them obscures the silhouette of a person tied to a stake within the inferno.
    Witchburner by Luka Rejec
  • Game book. Haunted Almanac by Nate Treme. Cover shows a cartoony fantasy castle and hooded skeleton in door-shaped frame
    Haunted Almanac by Nate Treme

We focused on acquiring games made by individual game makers—where all writing, designing, and illustrating is all done by a single person. These games include Beyond the Borderlands by Alex Damaceno; Arc by Momatoes, Witchburner by Luka Rejec; and Haunted Almanac, a collection of many games and adventures by the prolific individual game maker Nate Treme (Highland Paranormal Society).

  • Game book cover: The Tragedy that Begot Ternwillow by Sean Richer, illustrated by Chin Fong. A woman in an elegant white dress stands in a junkyard, a mech stands on the horizon.
    The Tragedy that Begot Ternwillow by Sean Richer, illustrated by Chin Fong
  • Game book Cover. Picket Line Tango by Emily Weiss, illustrated by Roque Romero. Two blue abstract woodcut figures look at each other in profile. One holds a knife behind their back.
    Picket Line Tango by Emily Weiss, illustrated by Roque Romero
  • Game book cover: Where the Wheat Grows Tall by Camila Greer and Evlyn Moreau. Gold lineart on green paper, shows a pattern of wheat enclosing a circle framed image of a cicada statue in a wheat field.
    Where the Wheat Grows Tall by Camila Greer and Evlyn Moreau
  • Gamebook cover: Mörk Borg by Pelle Nilsson and Johan Nohr. A horned skeleton with bloody sword and shield on a bright yellow background with agreesive black brush painted text breaking of the book cover's edge.
    Mörk Borg by Pelle Nilsson and Johan Nohr
  • Eleven Game zines: A Thousand Thousand Islands Zines by Zedeck Siew and Munkao. Covers are various flat and faded pastel colors with black lineart in the center.
    A Thousand Thousand Islands Zines by Zedeck Siew and Munkao
  • Game book cover and materials folder: Silent Titans by Patrick Stuart, Illustrated by Dirk Detweiler Leichty. Cover features isometric illustrations of strange machines and places.
    Silent Titans by Patrick Stuart, Illustrated by Dirk Detweiler Leichty
  • Game zine Cover and handout: Black Knights Illustrated by David Hoskins with writing by Luke Gearing. Cover shows a baroque knight helmet printed in flat black in with red eyes and a red plume. The handout shows a tank tracked mechanical dragon breathing fire. Also in two color black and red.
    Black Knights Illustrated by David Hoskins with writing by Luke Gearing

Similarly, we also focused on games that were the product of close collaboration between a single writer and artist, where the artist’s aesthetic can come to the forefront and color the game and its world. These games include, Zedeck Siew and Munkao’s A Thousand Thousand Islands, Camila Greer and Evlyn Moreau’s Where the Wheat Grows Tall, Pelle Nilsson and Johan Nohr’s Mörk Borg, Luke Gearing and David Hoskins Troika zine Black Knights, Patrick Stuart’s Silent Titans illustrated by Dirk Detweiler Leichty, Emily Weiss’s Mothership module Picket Line Tango illustrated by Roque Romero, and Sean Richer’s Troika module The Tragedy that Begot Ternwillow illustrated by Chin Fong.

  • A game boxed set: Mausritter by Isaac Williams. Box, book, GM screen feature images of adventuring mice in perilous woodland.
    Mausritter boxed set by Isaac Williams
  • Four game zines: The Seed by Kelvin Green, Mouth Brood by Amanda Lee Franck, Eat the Rich by Ambika Kirkland, and Cabin Risotto Fever by Spaghetti Quester
    Manifestus Omnivorous adventures
  • Two Game zines: Altnyc 88 and Free Willy by Pontus Björlin. Both a risograph printed. Altnyc shows three gansters in front a grafittied subway train, one has an elephant head. Free willy shows a hairmetal looking guy on racing bike with a paisley suit and m-16.
    Altnyc 88 and Free Willy by Pontus Björlin

All of the rpgs we collected for the library are printed books. Some serve as interesting examples of printing techniques and production, for example, Pontus Björlin’s risograph printed ALTNYC88, Games Omnivorous’ lavish boxset for Issac Williams’ Mausritter, and Games Omnivorous’ Manifestus Omnivorous adventure series where they partner with a single illustrator/game maker printing the adventures in two colors. Many iterations of the lab’s Game Design Workshop class focus on making physical games. It’s useful to have many examples of physical game production, especially those produced by independent makers or smaller presses.

  • Belonging outside Belonging Games
  • Mothership first and third party zines.
  • Troika Sphere's and Core Book

In lab classes in the past, students have made their own roleplaying games by hacking existing game systems. Though game and system design is important at the lab, we emphasize how it can be used as a medium for expression or polemical points of view. Often basing game works on existing rules system allows creators to arrive quickly at the parts of game making most integral to what they want to express. As such, we also collected some indie RPG systems that have open licenses and large communities making modules, modifications, and hacks based on them, such as: Avery Alder and Benjamin Rosenbaum’s Dream Askew / Dream Apart, two games for the Dice-less Belonging Outside Belonging(BoB) system and a guide to designing with it, as well as Possum Creaks BoB based game Wanderhome. For Melsonian Art Council’s plane-hopping weird-fantasy game Troika!, we acquired a wide array of first-and-third party spheres, like Watts’s Werewolves of Wallstreet, Jakob Magbanua’s Prime Apes, and Evey Lockhart’s Very Pretty Paleozoic Pals: Permian Nations. For Tuesday Knight Games’ Sci-fi Horror RPG Mothership we also acquired many adventures and supplements like Anodyne Printwares’ Inferno Trilogy and Rimwise, an in-setting zine published by Anxietywizard.

  • Knock! Issues 1 and 2
  • A spread from Jared Sinclair's Anti-Sisyphus
  • Habitition of the Stone Giant Lord by Tim Hutchins
  • In Play: Issue 1: Cyberpunk by the FKR Collective
  • A spread from d36 by Chris Bisette
  • Three issues of Micah Anderson's Penicillin

We also acquired many RPG zines and collections. Some speak to specific RPG design theories, communities or subcultures, such as The Merry Mushmen’s Knock!, a lavishly designed and illustrated compilation of Old School Roleplaying content and blogposts; Jared Sinclair’s obtuse, surreal, and insightful musings against game design and around play in Anti-Sisyphus; or Habitition of the Stone Giant Lord, a compilation of found dungeons made by teenagers in the early years of Dungeons & Dragons and edited by Tim Hutchings. Others compile the work of many creators, like Micah Anderson’s Penicillin zine, Chris Bisette’s d36, or the FKR (Free Kriegspiel) Collective’s rules-less community made zine In Play.

  • Sean Richer's Crapland books and zines
  • A spread from Tim Hutchings' Thousand Year Old Vampire
  • A spread featuring Munkao's Illustrations
  • A spread from So You've Been Thrown Down a Well
  • A spread from Fire on the Velvet Horizon

Many of these rpgs serve as strong examples of aesthetic experimentation in tabletop RPGs, see for example, Sean Richer’s angsty yellow and black scrawl in the suburban malaise inspired troika sphere Crapland, Munkao’s realist and research based line art renderings of southeast asia-inspired fantasy folk at rest in A Thousand Thousand Islands, Scrap Princess’s frenzied mixed media monsters in Fire on the Velvet Horizon, Madeleine Ember’s black and orange ancient greek earthenware inspired illustrations for So You’ve Been Thrown Down a Well, or Tim Hutchings’ found photography scrapbook collage in Thousand Year Old Vampire

  • Putrescence Regnant
  • Putrescence Regnant unfolded
  • Lay on Hands by Alfred Valley with cut and fold coin spinning pullout
  • Fruit of Law by Eli Sietz
  • .dungeon by John Battle and Pregame Lobby zines

Others incorporate different media or activities into tabletop games and expand what parts of life can be incorporated into the game. See for example: Putrescence Regnant, a vinyl record / bog crawl adventure for Mörk Borg; Alfred Valley’s post-apocalyptic solo RPG Lay on Hands that uses coin spinning to generate random results; Eli Sietz’s Fruit of Law, a storytelling game of world and law creation where players are prompted by cutting up and eating a pomegranate; or John Battle’s .dungeon, a fantasy game where players are paying people playing an MMO, where to learn spells as a wizard the player must mark-up their favorite book, where their animal companion must be based on their own pet, and where their own tattoos or piercings power their sorcerers spells.

  • Bunker Issues 1 and 2
  • Homebound by Aaron Lim
  • Shadow of Mogg by Leyline Press
  • Karanduun by Joaquin Kyle Saavedra

Many of these games also expand what games are thought to be about, broadening the politics, experiences, and perspectives games can address. See for example, Michael Pisano and Matthew Kopel’s Bunker, where the forces arrayed against the players are based on the realities of climate collapse, Aaron Lim’s Homebound, an anthology of games that deal with home, leaving, and the immigrant experience, Leyline Press’ Shadow of Mogg a dystopian post-brexit RPG about a society dwelling in the London Underground with voting-based game mechanics, or Joaquin Kyle Saavedra’s Karanduun, a game of dismantling deific oppressors inspired by Filipino folklore and myth. 

All of these RPGs and many others not directly mentioned can be found, examined, or played in the Game Lab and lab members and students can view PDF versions of all of the collected games on the Game Lab library site. We hope that these games give a wide look at what is being made in the realm of indie RPGs and can serve as objects of study, inspiration, examination, and critique.

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