Kickstarter Alert: New Fire, an Aztec-inspired RPG

Kickstarter Alert: New Fire, an Aztec-inspired RPG

Kwaytlachtli of the Screaming One Warrior House
Kwaytlachtli of the Screaming One Warrior House

With 10 days left to go, I’d like to make everyone aware of the upcoming game New Fire, currently being funded through a successful but so far fairly low-key Kickstarter campaign. Most readers of the blog are probably familiar with Kickstarter through Scott Taylor’s great posts on the subject. New Fire has their game fully designed, but is seeking Kickstarter support in order to fund professional-level artwork for the product.

They’ve hit their $3,000 goal and their $6,000 stretch goal, so they’ll be releasing full-color versions of their core rulebook and are currently in the process of getting together a second stretch goal. At low levels, you can purchase a PDF copy of the book, but at higher backing levels there are hardcopy books available, as well as T-shirts, and even some design a Landmark or village for the campaign setting. (The backer goal to help design a god is, unfortunately, sold out.)

I spoke with the game’s creator, Jason Caminsky, and after the conversation was even more excited about the prospect of this game. There are three things which really make it stand out for me.

Original Aztec-inspired setting

I always like games that are a bit outside of the box and I’ve never played any RPG based on Aztec or other Mesoamerican concepts. Though this is a fantasy game and not a historical one, the setting world of Semanawak is drawn from a society that I’m less familiar with and which I look forward to exploring. For years RPGs have adopted “exotic” settings, but they’ve typically been built around the historical models of either China or the Arabic world, so this is a great change of pace. Plus, the artist elements that can be derived from this setting are truly stunning, meaning that the book itself will be enjoyable to read and just look at.

Storytelling-based mechanic

Caminsky has developed his own “Sunstone system” which is a storytelling-based dice mechanic, which he’s developed over the last two-and-a-half years as he developed the game. As Caminsky said in our conversation, “The dice rolls are mostly to sort out who’s turn it is to tell the story…. One of the big pitfalls to avoid when playing it is to avoid too many rolls. The core idea is: If everybody is happy with how things are progressing purely through roleplay, there’s no need to make any rolls. The only time that’s really necessary is when there’s a difference of opinion about how the story should go or who should take charge of it. That’s what the dice rolling is meant to determine.” Their Kickstarter page goes into a bit further detail. I’m practically salivating to see how this mechanic plays out in an actual game session:

Sunstone uses dice rolls to resolve Challenges, but these rolls don’t determine success or failure–instead, they determine who gets to narrate the outcome and decide where the story goes next. So long as their narration is judged plausible by the group, Players are free to use their own sense of drama to create whatever situations they wish to experience. Stories emerge not from a blind sequence of successes and failures, but from the different viewpoints of those participating.

What makes the Sunstone system truly unique, however, is that narrative control is a matter of degree. In many storytelling games, narrative control is absolute–you either get narrative control or you don’t. That is not the case with New Fire. There are instead four outcomes for a Challenge in Sunstone:

  • Player A gets complete narrative control
  • Player A narrates but must honor a Condition set by Player B
  • Player B narrates but must honor a Condition set by Player A
  • Player B gets complete narrative control

Profession-based system

I’m personally always a fan of “profession” based character creation systems, especially when you have 4 professions available in the starting game and one of them is Merchant! Merchant-style classes are, in my opinion, highly under-utilized for player characters, and I find them a lot of fun in roleplaying games, because they typically require more storytelling interaction than combat interaction. As someone who typically plays inventors, crafters, and the like, I’m looking forward to seeing how this class functions. You can keep your scheming, shape-shifting Nahual sorcerers!

If these elements all sound interesting to you, check out the New Fire Kickstarter page and consider backing the project. You have 10 days left and they’re in the process of adding even more stretch goals, I believe.

Update: New Stretch Goal (morning of 5/22)

Jason just added a new stretch goal to the project:

If we can raise $10,000, everyone who contributes $15 or more will get a free PDF of the Journey of the Dead supplement as soon as it comes out.

The Journey of the Dead supplement is explained on the project’s main page:

The New Fire Journey of the Dead supplement, a book with rules for how to run games set not in Semanawak, but in the Land of the Fleshless, the Underworld. Death is not the end, but rather the beginning of yet another journey. The dead travel through a dark and gloomy land full of skeletons and monsters, facing trials and challenges and ultimately seeking the lowest level of the Underworld, the place where they meet Nakoyomiketl, god of the dead. If they have enough light left within them, they may pass and join with the Sun as it travels through each night. If not, Nakoyomiketl devours them.

Saknitay, Priestess of Ilwikakalko
Saknitay, Priestess of Ilwikakalko
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Wild Ape

Legend of the Five Rings (L5R) has been one of the few successful Fantasy RPGs outside the popular Tolkienesque worlds. I’d like to see a colorful Meso American RPG become popular.

I’ve played GURPs Aztec but the trouble I had was the same I had with L5R. The religion and background is alien and it takes several sessions of patient players to understand the culture before playing. I wasn’t successful with GURPS but I was with L5R. What helped is Alderac Entertainment wrote some great fluff (Way of the Scorpion) and had several books in a series that helped. Once the group read the novels and background they were hooked. Otherwise it will play like a Dark Ages Europe game with katana or in this case Atlatl.

The concept looks cool and I’m glad they are using a lot of art. I hope they write a lot of good fluff so that players get into the midset of the Aztecs. It could work.

Great post. It sparked my curiosity.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x