FINALLY I can play Don Karnage: Wild Skies
An Action/drama tabletop RPG soaring over a war-torn Europe…
Kickstarter ending 10/31/15
Short and sweet: “Wild Skies” is the first in, ideally, a series of tabletop role-playing games, set in an alternate-history, anthropomorphic world. The concept: World War I never really ended, it just slowly shifted toward a series of unstable national alliances, restless nations, and conflicting loyalties. A world where your allegiance to your comrades-in-arms is worth more than your ties to queen and country. It’s a Dieselpunk universe, where everybody’s got crude oil stains in their pelts that aren’t ever going to come out, and you can bet that even Granny knows her way around a 3/4-inch pinckney flange.
The single best quote in the video, that really summarizes the world for me, is “In russia, the Bear Tsar officially rules from his flying palace…”
I’m joking a bit with the title of this article, but it does seem like a darker version of the “Tailspin” world, where private agents loosely contracted by governments can skirmish with air pirates, and the occasional Gentleman Adventurer who hasn’t quite realized the Age of Empire is in the past can strike off looking for the Hollow Earth in Nazi-held Antarctica…
Okay, so it’s not World War II yet, but one of the planned supplements is set in Antarctica, and if you don’t address the serious issue of Nazi hollow earth theories you are seriously missing a beat in your alternative histories.
And, of course, there are animals–30+species to play with, each with their own tailored abilities.
Interestingly, Wild Skies is not a furry project, it’s an entry into an anthro world from the tabletop gamer community. Unlike the recently successful WWII Ponies game “Roan,” these folks are gamers first, fuzzy animal fans second (if at all). In some ways this is a very Good Thing. The writers have credits in the Tabletop RPG hobbistry (don’t know what they are, but hey), and the artists I recognize from Palladium’s “RIFTS” games and other tabletop properties (see the galleries for Chuck Walton, Mike Mumah, Brian Manning, and Amy Ashbaugh for a sense of their quality).
This creates some odd little “dings” for me when going through their project. Using animals as shorthand for human stereotypes and qualities is old hat for the furry fandom, it’s kind of what we do, and it’s not really a new thing, but furry gaming is so very niche…there’s an odd little disconnect in the writing of the project (“Who better to outfox the authorities than a fox? What about an elephant bouncer who never forgets a face?”) that sets the project apart from standard furry games (our fandom wouldn’t think this was unusual, that’s what we expect, it’s unstated!)
The art—and there’s not a lot of it available, unfortunately—has a feel of old-school gaming. It looks like a lot of the artists involved have worked for Palladium projects, a company that hasn’t evolved since its 1980s origins. There’s a look to their product and art that’s unmistakable. In an industry that’s gone slick, glossy, and airbrushed, they’ll stick with their line art, thanks. I’m overstating it, but I wish I could have a comparison point…well, look at this google search of Palladium Art (which is probably weighted toward The Good Stuff) vs HC SVNT DRACONES. Gaming is high design these days, and this product feels a bit like something from when I was in high school (and, statistically, most furries weren’t born…)
The mechanics sound interesting, a minimal set of rules for cinematic resolution, “percentile dice +1d6 to 5d6 for skills vs. a target range.” Straightforward, and the pure randomness of the percentile dice will lend itself toward cinematic, rather than realistic, rules (more randomness, less smooth bell curve).
I wish we had more art, there’s only a few pieces. I like the setting, it sounds like a rewarding read. The development team has their Quick Start Guide ready to go if the campaign is successful, which seems a little backward—put that sucker out and show how awesome you are, and see if that helps the money come in.
From a kickstarter perspective, the low goal of $8000 makes me nervous, I know that’s not enough to publish a book, even using Palladium’s remarkably cheap-ass publication methods as a model. On the other paw, they’ve got some ideas that I DO like–a “social stretch goal” (more species for more backers, even if those backers are only pledging $1; releasing materials based on retweets and facebook “likes.” That’s neat, it gives a sense of participation and community-building.
Anyway, I’m a little on the fence on this one. It’s outside the fandom, which in many ways is good, in-fandom games tend to have really rough rule sets and a simulationist feel that’s out of place in the new, rules-light-character-heavy indie gaming world. But there’s just not much to go on, it’s a new company, and they’re playing with their cards close to their chest. We’ll see.
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