Saturday, September 9, 2017

A Tale of Two Kickstarters

OK, so check this out. We've got two superhero-themed RPG Kickstarters, launched within day of each other. I backed one of them. I think a little examination would be instructive. 

Kickstarter Number One: Superhero 2044

So, first, we have Superhero 2044. Now, this is a reboot, if you will, of the game first published in 1977, apparently the first professionally produced supers RPG, predating TSR's Marvel Superheroes. I never played (or even heard of, weirdly) Superhero 2044, but I love me some supers gaming, so I checked out this Kickstarter when it came across my feed. 

Well, anyway, when the first version did. See, it was launched with a goal of $100,000 (since it included miniatures) and...didn't take off like a shot, let's say. So the creator decided to cancel it and relaunched without the minis, just creating the book. Solid strategy, first go-round might have been too ambitious. So he relaunches...with a goal of $100. 

OK, look. Kickstarter is not a store, and yes, some folks (creators and backers) treat it that way. But if all that's standing between you and publishing a huge book (I don't see a page count on the KS page, but frankly the wall of text is a little hard to parse) is a fucking c-note, then, like, borrow a hundred bucks from a buddy and publish that puppy yourself. 

But that weird decision, and the horrible format of the KS text, and the just all-over-the-map artwork taken from multiple sources aren't the problem. Here's the problem. 


That's a screengrab from the RPG Kickstarter News Facebook group. The commenter (Mark Thompson) is the KS creator, who apparently bought the rights to Superhero 2044 from the original creator. The context here is that the person he's talking to raise the question of whether he was legally allowed to use the word "superhero" (since it's held as a trademark by Marvel and DC), and to use characters like "Thor" and "Black Panther" in the context of being superheroes (since, although "Thor" as the god of thunder is unlikely to be trademarked, "Thor" in this particular context might well raise an eyebrow). Thompson had similar questions raised on his initial Kickstarter, and responded similarly: 


Now, I'm not a lawyer. There's interesting discussion revolving around the trademark that Marvel and DC hold on the word "superhero", how it's applied, whether it can or has been successfully defended - I don't know and I don't much care. That alone probably wouldn't compel me not to back a Kickstarter. The disrespect shown to backers and to just random folks asking questions, though, that very much would put me off (and did). And that's before we get into use ableist slurs. 

Kickstarter Number Two: Metahumans Rising Redux

This one came to my notice yesterday when a friend backed it. It's called "Redux," I think, because the creators launched it once before and weren't successful. It looks like a supers game - there's very little info about the system on the KS page, which isn't a red flag per se but it's definitely a strike against. The artwork, though, is lovely, features some POC and some women, and the goal seems reasonable for what they're doing. 

This, to me, is what Kickstarter is meant to do - help creators who want to get a project off the ground and can do (or commission) the work but don't have the cash to make it happen. So, shit yeah, I backed this one. And I don't know, maybe it crashes and burns, or doesn't fund, or it funds and the product is meh. I don't know, but I'm willing to give it a shot, because more games is better than fewer games, and I like superheroes. 

And also because when I asked what the system was like, I got this response: 


See? Not hard to be respectful.