Quite a few tabletop games cross my virtual desk that, in a perfect world, would get a full spotlight here on Dicebreaker. The small press and solo creator space is a bumper crop of fresh design ideas for those who know where to look, which is the main thrust of this possibly recurring feature I’ve tentatively dubbed the “Dicebreaker Dicebag” - a collection of small games and interesting projects that might have slipped under your radar.
Seeing as the Spookiest Day is almost upon us, many of the tabletop RPGs and adventures in this inaugural Dicebag entry have various levels of scares ranging from ‘imagine a lil wizard hat on a frog’ to literal slasher film come to life. But before we descend into the chills and thrills zone, there’s one odd title in the bunch that might excite those looking for long campaigns full of love, violence and a refreshingly different fantasy vibe.
Gubat Banwa has been mentioned before on Dicebreaker as part of charity bundles and IGDN’s 2023 Groundbreaker Awards (where it won Best Setting), but it’s now crowdfunding a full physical, hardcover edition through Kickstarter after a couple years in open development. Designed by Joaquin Kyle Saavedra, Gubat Banwa combines the action and tactics of martial arts and the narrative of melodramatic war dramas, all set in Southeast Asia’s myriad islands and the rich tapestry of Filipino culture and folklore.
Players take on the role of Kadungganan warriors, larger-than-life figures whose relationships are complex and messy in that enemies-to-lovers, “can love bloom on the battlefield?” fashion. Political intrigue, familial drama, blood feuds and bitter childhood rivalries all play out on a grand stage of clashing blades and ideaology.
The art team, led by Dyl Briones, have created a striking and colourful aesthetic for Gubat Banwa that’s equal parts modern anime, traditional techniques and evocative fantasy landscapes. You can read more about the grid-based tactical combat on its Kickstarter campaign page, which takes heavy inspiration from Final Fantasy Tactics, Shin Megami Tensei and real-world martial art traditions.
Hark! Says The Frog Magus
This system-agnostic dungeon delve is for all the frog lovers out there. Hark! Says The Frog Magus is a new edition of an amphibian-themed adventure designed by Sinta Posadas and published by Dinoberry Press (Dinocar, TKTK). At more than 50 pages, this zine sends players into the depths of an ancient, probably still dead mudfish seeking something called The Fish Eye Gem. Under its adorable exterior lies a serious dungeon crawl that would fit perfectly into a campaign of Mausritter, as long as you don’t mind things getting a little moist.
Hark! Says The Frog Magus’ physical edition has received new layout, art and editing by Julie-Anne Muñoz and Nevyn Holmes, respectively, and all of the map artwork was provided by Fernando Salvaterra. A physical edition is available to purchase on Dinoberry Press’ website, while the digital version lives on Itch.io.
Death Sentence describes itself as a slasher film by-way-of a tabletop RPG one-shot, and each player controls two or three characters that will more than likely meet a grisly, gruesome end before the evening wraps up. Narrative action, which is designed to feel like a 3-act film, resolves using a dice pool of six-sided dice augmented by character traits and three core stats - Wit, Cool and Guts.
As the tension mounts and the Threat (zombies, Ghostface killers, fungus people, etc.) push players towards the bring, their Panic score ratchets and interferes with critical dice rolls. In response, players can take advantage of Drama points to either increase their dice roll or rethrow bad results by leaning into that character’s explicit Flaws. Perfect as an alternative to rewatching Scream or one of the Saw films yet again, Death Sentence is available on designer Leo Andrade’s Itch.io page.
The Bloom is an adventure for Goblin Archive’s Liminal Horror RPG that takes place in the intentionally sleepy, out-of-the-way town of Coldwater. Something old and evil lurks beneath the placid waters of Coldwater’s namesake lake, and it might just be related to the campers that keep disappearing from the nearby summer camp - though residents don’t like to talk about that. The Bloom is dripping with Friday the 13th vibes, along with that vaguely eldritch, uncanny dread that suffuses Twin Peaks and the Alan Wake video game.
This adventure can be slotted into an existing campaign of another system with a little bit of work or run as a one-shot experience using the tables and procedures designed by creator Josh Domanski. A Doom Clock will progress as players explore the sandbox environs surrounding Coldwater, and they may not find the town exactly the same as they left it upon subsequent visits. Intentionally deadly with body horror trigger warnings, The Bloom will pull unwary investigators into its frigid depths. Find the full adventure in print on publisher Space Penguin Inc.’s website or digitally on Goblin Archive’s Itch.io page.
Elements of Procedure
Directly inspired by the 1980s British science fiction series Sapphire & Steel, Elements of Procedure tasks players to mend rifts in time by travelling through interdimensional space in the guise of timeless Operatives. Now something beyond mortal humans, Operatives shed their former lives and connections and ostensibly only care about preserving the flow of time and causality.
In reality, players will need to carefully balance their four core moves, Cut, Carat, Clarity and Colour, and their associated clocks - the more a player uses one move, the more powerful it becomes. However, once a clock fills, that player and another agent will need to reset by directly revisiting their memories and dumping the clock back to zero. Elements of Procedure is steeped in investigative roleplay and action, but is also tinged with an interest in the connections between people who have forsaken their past lives for a cause. Find the full game on Cave of Monster’s Itch.io page.
Mörk Borg supplements have this uncanny habit of taking on a life of their own - from the recent Pirate Borg to the DuckTales-inspired Dukk Borg. One of the most recent efforts, The Molt, is a 120-page hardcover setting from Brian Colin, co-creator of Vast Grimm, set in a world beset by a horror unleashed from the stolen eggs of an ancient, terrible god. The book can run completely on its own or combined with an ongoing game of Mörk Borg if players want to switch the vibes from the original’s dour, Swedish doom metal to something with a lot more screaming, fiery magma and dinosaur-shaped terrors.
The Molt carries the same art punk-forward aesthetic that treats its layout and physical design with the same creative weight as the rules and mechanics. Reading the book is as much of an experience as playing through the world that Colin and his team have created. It’s certainly not going to be everyone’s cuppa tea, but those who revel in loud, passionate presentations - along with clay sculpts of lizard beasts - will find plenty to love. The Molt is currently running a Kickstarter campaign for both a physical and digital edition of the full sourcebook.
Solo horror RPG Ritual dabbles in a practice that might ruffle the feathers of actual witches and other practitioners by folding somatic and actual ritual practice into its narrative of warding the player against an encroaching force known only as KING. Players will use tarot cards, cloth, candles and other components while sitting alone in the dark, reciting incantations to protect themselves from demonic incursion.
Creator Corey Davies warns that Ritual intentionally evokes feelings of dread, isolation and the threat of something otherworldly taking over your body. Some might baulk at intentionally beseeching a demonic entity - even fictionally - but Davies points to Hereditary, The Silt Verses and the Changeling television series as excellent examples of the horror potential when players experience the occult in a controlled and consciously designed setting. Ritual is currently running a Kickstarter campaign for both a physical and digital zine version.
What if you attended a poorly implemented VTuber convention where prominent online influencers, streamers and celebrities began dying of mysterious causes, one by one? Wouldn’t that be just the worst? But at least it would save you from the embarrassment of being seen at this three-day disaster they’re calling VibeCon.
Created by Weird Age Games, VKILLER is a horror-comedy one-shot RPG that locks players in the social hell of a nightmarish convention where they must survive aggressive, awful fans, a poorly constructed zipline, and the potentially murderous intent of host VTuber Heartful Hadaly. A digital copy is available for free on Weird Age Games’ Itch.io page.