AiRaiMB is a anime-inspired PbtA game that lets you craft your own appropriately over-the-top anime Moves to teach your character. It is a lot more freeform than most PbtA games, but if you want to get into the weeds of move design, I think this would be a great game to try out!
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If Not Us, Then Who? is a game about transforming teenage hero shows. Think Power Rangers, Sailor Moon, or Animorphs. It is unique in that it is more about the narrative structure of this kind of show than individual actions.
The episode-structure prompts that Riley has written are spectacular, and really evocative. Get ready to play though holiday episodes, bottle episodes, crossover eps, and more!
This game is just begging to be hacked to play through some other types of procedural show! Also the villain of your story can be “Yule Lads,” so you know this is a great game.
Riley’s flagship game is Interstitial: Our Hearts Intertwined. On the surface it is a PbtA game inspired by Kingdom Hearts, but underneath that is some of the most interesting and complex interpersonal mechanics I’ve ever seen.
Interstitial takes the interpersonal mechanics built into a lot of PbtA (Example: History/Hx in Apocalypse World and Bonds in Dungeon World) and pumps them way up. In Interstitial, characters generate “Links” with other PC’s and NPC’s. Links correspond to the four relationship stats: Light, Dark, Mastery, and Heart. Players spend most of the game generating and using these links.
Despite there being mechanics for fighting and questing, it’s really the gamification of relationships that shines. I think this game is representative of some of the wild places PbtA games are going in the future!
Queer Messes is an interesting, emotional game about queer teens approaching a change in their friendship. It reminds me a lot of my friend group spending time together as high school drew to a close. Luckily we held ourselves together, and stayed close. Will you do the same, or will you sever strings?
The Rake is a nightmare inducing game of fire and blood. It is a larp for 3+ people, in which unwitting teenagers summon a murderous monster during a sleepover. This game seems like it would be an absolute blast to play. It is reminiscent of the childhood game Redrum, and it takes place in a dark home with a lot of matches.
You should certainly give The Rake a read. If you have ever wanted to be a creeping, lumbering monster, hunting your friends in the dark, then this is the game for you.
Jay’s writing is focused on interpersonal connection, queerness, and lights shining in the darkness. They are a great example of how independent designers are innovating!
Games for Lost People is the perfect example of these themes. It is as much an essay on fear, friendship, and mental illness as anything else. They are games to play when reality leans in too close.
"How to Build a Magic Forest" stands out to me as the most whimsically interesting game to actually play in this collection. Over the course of many years you will paint symbols on trees, until you have created something mystical.
For a more serious game from the collection, “Play this instead of Killing Yrself” challenges you to wander in the face of grave pain. It is a compelling read.
Past the quite funny self-referential humor, JaRPG is a pleasant little game about dating, insecurity, and identity. Make some less-than-aspirational characters, grab some snacks, and date your friends.
This game naturally splits people into two camps: People who know things about seemingly important mid-twentieth century plays, and people like me.
Godot is a joyfully confusing game about saying inane things to your friends with varying inflection until you start to imagine the things you are saying make sense. The premise is simple, say things from a list until you don't want to anymore. Godot feels like a gamified version of the "Who's On First" gag, a real smattering of simple prose made clever by the circumstance. I'm sure I'm largely missing the point of this game, but I still like it.
Have you ever read someone's writing and instantly realized that they are far smarter than you, and that is a good thing? Jared's essay A Quick Primer In Goblin Cosmology For Non-Goblins did that to me right away. This is the most intricately wild bit of academic fiction that I have ever seen. I don't want to spoil it for you, but the essay gets into the mathematics, numerology, and religious symbolism of a goblin society. It's inspired by the thoughts of Epidiah Ravachol, so you know it is good.
Time to do a mini postmortem for my game!
I wrote House & Home for Mapemounde. It is a game about building a house, and filling it with life. I used my own experience of what home is to inform the themes and story. It is also inspired by various movies and shows about family, both found and natural: The Haunting of Hill House, El Orfanato, The Shining, Stand by Me, and IT.
House & Home is an asymmetric, gm-less blueprint drawing game for four or more players. It is intended to run about 1.5 hours, and it deals thematically with the creation, maintenance, and rebuilding of familial relationships. The story is divided into 5 chapters, in which the players will separate themselves into the roles of Parents and Children. The majority of gameplay is focused on freeform roleplaying scenes with specific, quirky rules that modify a central blueprint, representing the home you are building. This fits nicely with "A game in which the map portions belong to different ages", as the Parents and the Children are tasked with drawing different portions of the map.
I was really happy with how the game turned out. I am obsessed with small games with specific rules, and I think I made up some interesting mechanics to make House & Home a creative experience. My favorite mechanic is for the Children's portion of the Fill Empty Spaces chapter, in which the players are tasked with "Working together, invent an elaborate game that you play together in your new home. Write a list of rules for your game, the more specific and pedantic, the better." The players roleplay a scene in which they play the game they just made up, and are encouraged to shout over each other to establish narrative canon (against common RPG wisdom). I think this is just such a playful scene that reminds me of actual childhood games I played.
Surprisingly, I didn't steal any mechanics from Avery Alder (one of my favorite game designers, and map-game expert). I've used The Quiet Year as an inspiration for other games before, but this is more of a take on Vincent Baker's Mobile Frame Zero: Firebrands, relying on modular (if sequential) minigames to tell a whole story.
My only regret is I ran out of time to do a final pass of polishing and playtesting. I also was really strapped on time for art and layout. That said, I think the bones of the game are beautiful, and I plan on releasing an updated version of the game as soon as judging is finished. I hope you all like reading House & Home! It can be found here: https://blooperly.itch.io/house-and-home
Ah I had like the opposite experience as you justinquirit. My writing schedule had me booked until the last few days of the jam. I'm really happy with my idea, and how the bones of my game turned out, but I could have used more time for polish/art/layout. Can't wait to read your entries!
I'm trying to put the finishing touches on my game text. I won't get the chance to do art or much layout before the deadline. Are we allowed to update our entries over the next couple days for that kind of thing?
Rev Your Engines does away with the war and murder of the mecha genre and instead frames mechs in an even more terrifying arena: competitive children’s sports. The game cites Gundam Build Fighters and Yu-Gi-Oh as inspirations, but I can’t help but think of it as essentially a Battlebots RPG. You play as two teenage rivals, each certain that they can pilot their miniature mechs straight to the top. This is a game about the emotional drama and personal conflict that is sparked by competition, and uses an absurd combination of tic-tac-toe and flashbacks to simulate your favorite competitive anime.
A horror game built on a grim secret, An Orb centers around the story of a group of murderous automata hunting their prey in some baleful hellscape. The strength of An Orb lies in its bleak characterization—despite being nearly perfect killing machines, the Orbs are plague with fragments of memory. How would an inhuman construct handle human emotion? Do you suppress your malfunctions and pursue your prey, or peer inward to where the memories lie? Dream and purpose collide, and there is no happy ending. Be warned, only the GM should read the entirety of the rules!
When you are enclosed in a high-tech suit of metal armor and wield the most advanced weaponry your society has to offer, it can be easy to feel comfortable. MONOLOCK is an incredibly atmospheric jenga-based RPG that does away with this feeling of safety. You are vulnerable, you are prey, and you can’t even see the thing stalking you through the skies. The rules are a bit cryptic, but they do a good job of evoking a hotshot mech team fleeing from something far too powerful to face. MONOLOCK is reminiscent of another well known jenga-based RPG, Dread, with some additional powers and limitations to give it a more tactical feel.
Ghost Squadron plays with your memories, and forces you to watch as your character succumbs to their military form. You are a digital clone occupying a mechanical shell, made for war, but clinging still to the shreds of the person you used to be. As you go on missions you will begin to accrue memory glitches, and if you aren’t careful you will completely lose your past. Ghost Squadron plays with the brilliant resolution mechanics of Psi*Run, where every roll is likely to fail on some front, and you are forced to choose how this failure effects you.
Have you ever wanted to slam two RPG’s together, just to see what happens? Emotional Mech Game Jam Rising makes this dream a reality and lets you lay the groundwork before you play another mech game from the jam. This game puts you in the shoes of the engineers and scientists designing the mechs that will be used in the coming war. Make bold technological leaps, wrestle with bureaucracy, and create the most interesting robot you can. The storyline may not fit as a prequel to every game in the jam, but it is a good way to extend the smaller games for a full session of play.
Virtuous Service is a hack of Caroline Hobbs’ Downfall with a unique twist: instead of playing separate characters observing the collapse of their society you embody a single war machine. This embodiment is split into three facets that function both in tandem and opposition—The Machine, The Pilot, and The Revenant. As the game progresses, The Pilot fights a war from within The Machine, and is slowly consumed by The Revenant. A very personal take on the traditional societal-level stakes of Downfall. The game is less about why we would fight a war, and more about what it takes from us.
Rider's Last Rites is the Emotional Mecha Jam game that runs the most risk of serious emotional bleed. Its story is raw, and has to do with putting yourself in-character as people who must mourn the loss of a friend, and make an end-of-life decision for their mech. Do you take the utilitarian path and tear Rider’s mech apart for scrap, or do you honor her wishes and send them into the afterlife together? Either way, Rider’s Last Rites is a heart-wrenching game that’s perfect for when you want to explore somber choices with people you trust. There are no resolution mechanics, and no dice to help you make the decision. It’s completely in your hands.
The Junkyard is one of the most interesting games in the jam, and probably one of the more light-hearted. You play as a bunch of kids wandering a scrapyard, running from adults, and pilfering the remains of a mech to rebuild it in your hideout. All along you mirror the story of the kids with the fate of the mech and its previous pilot. There is something really intriguing about tying a tale of war machines to the imagination of children. Your session could range from a hilarious romp to a compelling story of loss and perseverance. What will you find in The Junkyard?