The act of creation is often described as an exercise of catharsis, giving the artist an avenue for exploring - and perhaps understanding - some of their complicated emotions. Wizardman: Queer and Chaos explicitly navigates that landscape through a free tabletop RPG in the style Runequest and White Wolf games.
The first title from indie designer Braden Hansen of Ante’s Company Publishing, Wizardman: Queer and Chaos is a 58-page collection of worldbuilding, rules and personal illustrations - all of it shot through with an earnest attempt to capture what he describes as a “a power fantasy for the person I used to be.” It's a memoir on person's journey to reconcile their place in society through an unabashedly queer tabletop RPG.
“Wizards are individuals who, for one reason or another, have suffered through tragedy. They’ve been broken, torn apart by the world and left to pick up the pieces of themselves,” he writes. “But among the shards of who they were, they’ve found something new; a terrible power, unlimited in potential. Unlimited in consequence. Magic.”
In the world of The Sphere, wizards unlock their magic as a byproduct of traumatic experience - though not everyone will come out the other side as a practitioner. Which, as Hansen explains might be for the best, as wizards are subject to ostracism at best and outright hostility and violence from most civilisations at worst.
Designing a player’s wizard eschews conventional classes in favour of specialties linked to one of the system’s seven stats - strength, finesse, vigour, academics, wisdom, composure and charisma. For example, a player may choose etiquette, firearms, politics and survival to create a former member of the upper crust now forced to hunt their own food to survive.
Despite its themes, spellcasting is left broadly undefined in a mechanical sense. The text wants players and GMs to explore the limitless potential of magic but also its staggering cost, trusting the group’s desire to roleplay to trump seeking out a “min/maxed” build.
“Wizards are intended to be, quite bluntly, a band of assholes and losers,” reads the section on character creation. “They’re survivors- they’ve seen the worst the world has had to offer, and they are fresh out the other end, shaking their mighty fist at God for how He has slighted them. Others are victims- they fear the pain that has laid its lashes into their skin, and desperately want to cower and hide from it. Most of the time, they’re both.”
It can be difficult to parse the digital sourcebook for Wizardman: Queer and Chaos. Information is largely conveyed through prose and the occasional stat block, and it lacks a table of context for quick reference. This makes reading it as you would some more contemporary RPGs a little daunting. That said, Hansen approaches the themes of his work with an earnestness and subtle poeticism that shines through any formatting quibbles. It’s worth the read, especially given its price tag of, well, free.
Wizardman: Queer and Chaos can be found on the Ante’s Company Publishing Itch.io page, where both the core text and character sheets are available to download.