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the last survival checks of your mightiest heroes: rules-lite RPG starting with your death saving throws, & you play to find your fate

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About this project

Listen up, heroes:

Remember. You are your classic epic hero party. Lousy with magic weapons. Buckling with treasure. Songs of lore & plunder echoing down your great halls --

Suddenly stripped, cast into a wilderness you cannot escape!


You are a Hero. You have a Heroic Silhouette. You have a Weapon. You… don’t have much else.

You have each other?

You’re lost in a magical wilderness which will not let you leave. No teleportation spell is strong enough. No navigating or pleading with your gods will do. You’re stuck. And everything is going to hell.

Nature is erupting. Magic rends the fabric of reality whenever it damn well pleases.

Roll your death saving throws first. 

Keep it secret. Only you know what's going to happen to you. 

What do you & your party do? How long do you last?

When do you reveal your fate?

Playthru with Zack Garth of Heart Points!:

Podcast Interview with Wobblies & Wizards:

Hero Catastrophe is:

a table top role playing game by mark kennedy

splash image illustration above by ben fox

developed using polymorph (9th level games), a rules-lite, no math system in Nat Mesnard’s TTRPG writing & publishing workshop hosted by Catapult.

Inspired also by games & systems like powered by the apocalypse’s dungeon world & the expansion perilous wilds, avery alder’s dream askew, the history channel’s reality tv show alone, jacques lecoq’s journey of the neutral mask, & the inescapable hegemon of dungeons & dragons

The system:

Polymorph uses 4-sided, 6-sided, 8-sided, and 10-sided dice.

In Hero Catastrophe, each dice represents a different weapon.

There are 4 moves, with each dice/weapon being "best" at one of the moves: Manifest, Manipulate, Master, & Muster.

You also can choose from 5 different Heroic Silhouettes. Bard. Rogue. Warrior. Mage. Druid. They give you special moves and chances for you to earn Luck Points and turn failures into success.

When the game starts, you roll your death saving throws in secret: they determine how your story will end, what fate number you roll to add juicy details to your successes and failures, and when it's your turn to steer the narrative camera. 

Your fellow players know THEIR fates, but not everyone else's, and you play to find out how everything falls apart.

The setting:

Instead of a traditional Game Master, this game uses a shared character sheet called The Wild to introduce catastrophes to our heroes the MOMENT they set foot in this magical wilderness. As you make moves and inevitably run out of luck, the chaos mounts, and soon you will have to figure out how to end your story.

My goal:

This isn't my first time making a game, but it is my first time making a game for print!

During the lockdown phase of the pandemic, I started working for a virtual teambuilding company and created a Zoom game for small teams to play in groups called War of the Wizards.

I had a blast running that game. I've made original theatre & dance works for 15+ years, but facilitating something where others got to bring their own creativity into group storytelling scratched all my favourite itches, without the necessary physical stage, costumes, elaborate casting process, gatekeeping of abilities and identities and physical appearances. Role playing games, like Dungeon World and Dungeons & Dragons, which I'd been introduced to just a few years prior, have lit me up ever since.

But we all know gathering a crew to play D&D is hard. The rules can be complicated and the resources overwhelming, especially for the uninitiated. It can be challenging to do a ton of set-up work for just a one-shot experience where the story feels thin and unsatisfying.

Nat Mesnard's TTRPG Writing & Publishing course at Catapult exposed me to other ways to build collaborative storytelling games, and my imagination gravitated quickly to the high drama excitement of epic tragic stories, my fascination with survival reality TV shows, our evolving climate crisis, and the very simple way Polymorph empowered my players to make fun, silly, and emotionally impactful decisions, quickly, when testing this game. Every time I've played in testing this game the group has discovered touching moments naturally!

So I'm eager to bring it to the world. My work is usually much more ephemeral.

I've never designed something for print before. Or worked directly with an illustrator. Or worked with an editor of my text in this way. Or a layout designer.

I get to do all those things -- with your help.

Stretch Goals:

$1500 - We do everything in colour! This is the biggest goal for me, because while I LOVE black and white for the drama it can evoke, my illustrator Ben Fox and I got VERY excited about the colour palate and what could be possible with this level. It's just more expensive to design, to print, etc. But at this level I'll grow my engagement with Ben from a few items to decorate corners of my game to more elaborate depictions of characters and them in action. It's a medium-level of design, but it'll really bring the game to life for players.

$3000 - We'll do full illustrations and a deeper & more dynamic layout with 2 pre-made sample characters & sample gameplay scripts so you can see what it's like to play.

$5000 - All of the above, plus 5 additional alternate versions of the Wild Sheet & Catastrophe tables, 5 additional character classes ("Heroic Silhouettes"), and 2 additional scenarios, all illustrated and expertly designed.

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