Outcast Silver Raiders is a new tabletop RPG with a bloody, demonic bent and any eye towards introducing new groups to old-school roleplay. It also intentionally leans in to the trumped-up version of games peddled during the moral panic of the late 20th century.
Currently crowdfunding on Kickstarter, Outcast Silver Raiders is the creation of designer Isaac VanDuyn, with illustrations by Kim Diaz Holm and calligraphy and maps from Lex Rocket. It’s an OSR title at its core - a streamlined, agile RPG that focuses more on player skill in dangerous situations than high fantasy storytelling. VanDuyn says the three-book core set has been written to introduce a new audience to a different style of tabletop play while still offering compelling experiences for genre veterans.
Perhaps the most compelling piece of Outcast Silver Raiders’ pitch, at least on first blush, is its worldbuilding. Gritty, low fantasy settings aren’t exactly novel in this hobby, but VanDuyn’s team took inspiration from the insults, exaggerations and misnomers wielded by politicians and ostensibly concerned parents during the Satanic Panic. During the '70s and '80s, several US political groups pushed the narrative that Dungeons & Dragons and its ilk were directly teaching young children how to summon evil spirits, perform grisly rituals and indulge in decidedly un-Christian behaviour.
This was never true - and mostly served as an attention ploy by moral absolutists on the Right - but VanDuyn saw it as an opportunity to create an RPG that did include highly detailed ritual “derived from Goetian Wiccan and hermetic magical traditions,” according to the campaign page. Magic in The Mythic North - where Outcast Silver Raiders takes place - is rare and feared, along with those who harness its power. Thus, the 20 demonic rituals players can learn and cast require massive amounts of preparation, effort and skill, and it’ll likely earn them a notorious reputation among the smallfolk.
Life in The Mythic North is bleak and oppressive, and the game takes an extremely critical stance on medieval power structures' propping up both the church and the monarchy. It made life for the peasantry hell, but player characters are neither the downtrodden nor the rulers - they exist outside both laws and common morality. How that plays out will be up to each individual group.
The rules powering stories told within this roll-above system come down to three dice: d20s for attacks, d10s for saving throws and d6s for skill and ability checks. Player characters default to the classic triad of warrior, sorcerer and rogue, and each of these have a unique mechanical identity and purpose within the party. VanDuyn said isolating dice use not only gives the game a specific identity but helps newer players grok the rules faster.
The campaign is funding the creation of three base books. The Player’s Guide will break down class traits and how each plays on the table, while the Referee’s Guide contains an introduction to OSR-style play along with a chunky section on rituals, how to implement them and tables for unleashing mayhem when they go awry. Apparently the information found here can serve as an introductory to real-world magic practices. There’s also a guide on creating and filling the world with legendary artefacts and a handy conversion guide for translating more contemporary classes and backgrounds from D&D 5E and its ilk.
The Mythic North campaign setting book is the largest of the trio by far at 320 pages. It details the world and the ten fully realized settlements dotting the Scotland-inspired landscape. There are 50 maps, several hexcrawls and 88 unique encounters that’ll serve as the tentpoles of any larger campaigns, all illustrated in Diaz Holm’s harsh and gripping black-and-red style. The artists has made a career designing metal album covers and associated art, which lends Outcast Silver Raiders’ portrayal - both inside the books and on their triptych covers - an air of uncaring brutality.
OSR games have a penchant for indulging in awful, dirty worlds (just look at Mörk Borg, arguably the msot popular of the bunch in recent memory), but Outcast Silver Raiders does attempt to distinguish itself through the magic system. The genre has also become something of an indie darling, so building bridges to the more mainstream tabletop crowd is a smart move.
Outcast Silver Raiders’ Kickstarter campaign will run through December 5th, and backers can lock down a digital PDF or physical set of the books, plus a regional map. VanDuyn claims the writing and layout are mostly done and so currently expects the game to ship in October of 2023, though digital copies will be made available sooner.