Old Gods of Appalachia RPG contends with dark powers in the mountain region’s alternate past
Gather ‘round for a story, family.
Add alt-history fiction podcasts to the list of media enjoying tabletop RPG adaptations, as Old Gods of Appalachia has blown past its initial crowdfunding goal for a book set in its world of eldritch horrors, witchcraft and spooky narratives.
The Kickstarter campaign is nearing the seven-figure mark after less than a week, which might not come as a surprise to any listener and fan (who refer to each other as the Family). The Old Gods of Appalachia podcast is the creation of Cam Collins and Steve Shell - along with plenty of other writers and artists - and tells anthology stories set in an alternate Appalachian Mountains where old, old evils sleep beneath the mountains and the mysterious forces who ensure they don’t wake up.
Its stories are often directly inspired by real-world events, such as a disastrous mining collapse caused by the company’s negligence or an invasive railroad that brought greedy men into communities with far too little to give. The podcast isn’t precious about its disdain for industrial capitalism’s indelible marks on the towns and hollers of Appalachia, and many of its characters turn to that evil out of fear, desperation and naivety.
The tabletop RPG, designed by Shanna Germain, will use the Cypher system as its mechanical backbone and is being published by Monte Cook Games - makers of Numenera, Invisible Sun and the general Cypher System Handbook. For the unfamiliar, Cypher structures any conflict - combat, social or physical feat - with a rated challenge determined by the Game Master. Players can use their skills, equipment and Effort to reduce that challenge before rolling a 20-sided die to determine whether or not they succeed.
Characters in OGoA are defined by a simple, but definitive, statement. The quick-look uses the example of Ruth, who is a Skeptical Fighter who Defends What Matters. Each part alludes to a class-like approach to the rules of the game as well as how that individual moves throughout the world. Each character boasts three stats - Might, Speed and Intellect - that define both the GM’s challenges and how player characters might overcome them.
Speaking of defending what matters, adventures in OGoA seem to revolve around the hunting down of otherworldly and impossible creatures, called haints (a word from the Gullah and Geechee culture), before they cause irreparable harm to the people and land. Keeping with the podcast’s tradition of evil using wayward individuals as its pawns, expect nothing to be as straightforward as show up, kill thing and collect loot. The game wants to reward curiosity and empathy while also putting players in positions where they must make tough choices.
The Appalachian Mountains region is vast and encompasses many cultures and backgrounds, especially during the early 20th century. The descendents of European settlers and recently freed African slaves intermingled with indigenous peoples to create a tapestry of folklore, belief and tradition that could vary from town to town. The campaign says in its FAQ that the team will be consulting sensitivity readers whenever possible to assure the representation of these cultures meets their players’ standards. Dicebreaker has reached out to Monte Cook Games for more information about this process.
The Old Gods of Appalachia RPG core book will contain everything a group needs to play, including lore primers for the region, a bestiary and an undefined number of adventures - Cypher system games are meant to inspire homebrew campaigns. Backers can grab a physical copy of the book for $70, while a digital edition costs $25. Shipping is expected to begin in March 2023.
The Old Gods of Appalachia RPG Kickstarter campaign runs through May 6th.
Edit: The article has been updated to provide appropriate historical context for the word "haint".