A game of climate crisis and eco-insurrection
A game of climate crisis and eco-insurrection
RECLAIMER: A Game of Climate Crisis and Eco-Insurrection, is a science fiction tabletop role-playing game about saving humanity from a climate-related extinction event being ushered in by oligarchs and technocrats building massive space arks to flee the environmental ruin they created.
In Reclaimer, players play as members of Ecotage, the militant vanguard of the Reclamation, a global movement to save a dying planet and avoid an extinction that is only a few years away. While Reclamation efforts (e.g. dismantling toxic industries, healing biomes, sequestering carbon, etc.) are happening all over the world with urgency, there remain powerful hold-outs who threaten the cause: the Embarkers.
The Embarkers are powerful moguls and magnates who have rejected the Reclamation and seek to flee the planet on arks: colossal generational star-ships design to carry a very small and privileged portion of the global population to the nearest inhabitable planet. To ensure they have the material resources, personnel expertise, and technological advances required to survive the long journey, the Embarkers are directing their arks to harvest whatever they can with aggression and abandon. Not only are they laying siege to platform cities, ziggurat-shaped arcologies, and other population centers for resources and technology, but they are also fracking, deep-core mining, deforesting, expelling carbon, and spilling waste into water without restraint, speeding up the planet’s projected death-spiral.
The Reclaimers, then, have no choice but to embrace militancy to stop the Embarkers to save the rest of humanity from extinction. However, conventional force is not viable. If threatened with overwhelming military force, the Embarkers would readily deploy weapons of mass destruction that would all but ensure the planet’s doom. They’ve little concern for irradiating a planet they intend to leave. The only way to stop the Embarkers, then, is through sabotage, insurrection, and other asymmetric means. Enter: Ecotage.
As members of Ecotage, you and your fellow players are clandestine, military, and/or technology specialists who must infiltrate Embarker environments, stir up insurrection among their workforce, sabotage their production pipelines, steal plans for self-sustaining systems, and support emergency Reclamation efforts to countermand the ark’s most ecologically damaging projects. Your goal is to stop the Embarkers at any cost: to commandeer, land, and dismantle their arks, or create so much chaos that they flee the planet immediately instead of continuing to inflict irreparable harm.
RECLAIMER is a game of armed resistance in defense of the planet, and of extracting vengeance on those who would rather doom us all than submit to humanity’s collective action to survive climate-crisis. It is also a game about oppressed and forgotten peoples who have taken back their land, their stories, and their lives from privileged cowards who would burn everything before ceding their power.
RECLAIMER is a 200-300 page role-playing game PDF, gorgeously illustrated by nearly a dozen artists at the top of their game. Expect a *ton* of full page and half page spreads of high-tech military mayhem, cli-fi dystopian doom, and transhumanism alternately bleak and hopeful... a combination of art commissioned for this project and licensed art too sick to not to have a home. It is a standalone game that provides everything you'll need to run and play the game and uses its own rules system.
At this point, you might be thinking, "Wait, PDF only? No print run?"
Environmental RPG is environmental! Seriously, though, we're focusing exclusively on a PDF version of the game and hope to make it a delightful experience to use in conjunction with online playing tools like Roll20.net and others. Not only are we going to make beautiful form-fillable PDF sheets for you (do you have any idea how satisfying it is to click-fill health bubbles?), but we're contracting Christian Nommay to make the game manual an absolute breeze to navigate. Why Christian Nommay? Because of the miracles he performed for his own science fiction RPG "Titan Effect." Watch this video to see the future of interactive PDFs...
Yup, Christian's going to be doing the same magic for RECLAIMER. You won't even want a print version after you glide through this thing. Don't have a tablet? No sweat. This thing will navigate more like a slick website than an artifact you have to scroll through.
The PDF itself will be in landscape orientation and also be available in EPUB. It will be designed in landscape dimensions and organized in 3 columns per page, fitting beautifully on your desktop or tablet screen. While the PDF itself will be colorful and lush, the character sheets, play aids, and other printable artifacts will be in stark black and white and fit to the same dimensions, making them easy to print and play with.
We're all very accustomed to having both a physical and digital version of our favorite RPGs and that's totally cool. However, for RECLAIMER, we're eschewing a physical version so we can double down on the digital version. Without having to maintain parity between a physical book and a digital download, we have the freedom to experiment heavily and push the boundaries of PDF and EPUB formats. We're hoping to make RECLAIMER's format as bold as its themes.
RECLAIMER is a hybrid of traditional RPG and story game principles. It requires a game master and relies on character skill-checks for dramatic resolution, but hands the narrative reins to players when it comes to describing the outcomes of rolls. It's never just a question of "do I succeed or not," but instead, an opportunity for everyone at the table to take turns talking about how awesome their character is.
Character creation is a combination of the hyper-customization we've come to expect from traditional RPGs of the science fiction and cyberpunk genres, coupled with character class "playbooks." RECLAIMER features 8 playbooks, all visually designed by the super talented 2D artist and photobash-extraordinaire Abrar Khan, who has done work for AAA video game studios:
Bulwark: Hard-charger with extensive training in conventional modern warfare, with an emphasis on squad tactics, fire superiority, and close quarters battle. The bulwark isn’t just a hard-to-kill bulldozer; they are a team player who makes their entire unit stronger.
Mesmer: Psy-operative with the exceedingly rare and feared holographic optics augmentation, capable of projecting digital hallucinations limited only by their imagination, directly into the retinas (or cybernetic optics) of anyone who looks upon them.
Psychokinetic: Clandestine killer and squad support whose latent psychokinetic potential has been awakened and actualized by bioware designed to situate a once mythological power back into the realm of physics.
Revenant: Heavily-augmented laborer whose entire physiology has been biologically and cybernetically transformed, permitting them to survive and thrive in spaces hostile to human life. Built to be the eternal worker, the revenant can seize their own means of production to become a war machine.
Signaler: Technical specialist fluent in Sig, the complex merger of sign language and programming language used to interact with drones, mechs, and systems controlled through gestural interface. They can bind technology to their will with little more than a hand gesture.
Siren: Chaos agent whose vocal chords have been augmented to shout at soul-crushing decibels and mind-altering frequencies. They can literally scream the armor and flesh off of foes or release a wail that jams all communication channels.
Wraith: Asymmetric warrior leveraging ambush, misdirection, deep terrain knowledge, and hit and run tactics to take on, or consistently evade, conventionally superior forces. The wraith picks their battles and they never fight fair.
+1 more playbook we haven't settled on yet. And maybe more...
The playbooks serve as a guide for how to think about and play your character, but that's just the beginning. The remainder of the character sheet is wide open for you to customize with skills and cybernetic augmentation. That means your Psychokinetic might also be an ace VTOL pilot with wired reflexes, or a diplomatic envoy who can literally see behavioral telemetry, or a medic with an autonomous extra-appendage that provides cover fire while you stabilize a comrade.
RECLAIMER is the culmination of dozens of experiments and innumerable playtests with the core mechanics that drove Cryptomancer. The core mechanic is very simple. When you make a skill check, you roll a number of d10's equal to your skill rating (which is between 1 and 5 dice). However, you always roll 5 dice. If your skill rating is less than 5, you make up the difference with d6s. If your Athletics rating is 3, you'll be rolling 3d10 + 2d6. A result of 6+ on any of the dice is considered a hit, while a result of 1 on any dice is considered a botch (i.e. a negative hit). Players are trying to score as many hits as possible, because the more they roll, the more they own the narrative.
That's just scratching the surface, however. There is bioware that converts botches to hits, cyberware that let's you count dice results of 10 as multiple hits, playbook talents that let you buy certain types of successes at the cost of fatigue, and so forth. There's also a ton of augmentations and equipment that make it harder for foes to make skill checks against you, whether they are trying to sneak up on you, lie to your face, or put a depleted uranium round into your dome-piece.
RECLAIMER takes place on our planet, in the late 22nd century.
Centuries of unchecked industrialization and environmental degradation due to capitalism’s insistence on eternal growth has brought the environment to its knees. The planet isn’t going anywhere, but humanity is. The atmosphere has become a cage of carbon dioxide preventing the sun’s heat from naturally radiating back out into space, turning the planet into a crucible. The complete melting of arctic poles raised sea levels to cataclysmic heights and rendered temperate, farming-conducive weather patterns the exception instead of the norm. The human population has been forced to flee to platforms rising above the ruins of flooded coastal cities, or inside of ziggurats; feudalistic arcologies where climate refugees work for shelter from the elements or face exile. The energy needs of this hyper-urbanization has turned the ice-less arctic to a warzone where naval powers battle over oil rigs that stand where icebergs once floated. All sources of potable water, too, have become flash-points where once-shared river basins are fought over and tensions between those upstream and downstream frequently escalate to violence.
If all this geopolitical instability were the only problem, then humanity as a species might have a chance. However, lying dormant in those melted icecaps was a dangerous microbe predating humanity by eons. In the right quantities and under the right environmental circumstances, this microbe attacks the respiratory system like a militarized nerve agent. Not only was it released back into the atmosphere, but the rising surface temperate of the planet has reached a state where it is flourishing, permeating the air, the oceans, and soil. It has already turned some of the hottest places on the planet into environmental kill zones, but as global temperatures continue to rise, humanity is running out of places to hide from it.
Approximately two thirds of the planet’s population has fled to arks, platforms, and ziggurats; the massive infrastructure projects that began during the previous century. The lucky among them live within (or atop) these structures, while most huddle in the climate refugee shantytowns that have built up around them. Much of the game's action will be centered around these locations.
Climate crisis is, and will be, the story of islands of safety and stability, lorded over by the worst offenders of climate change, shrinking in size and being protected from the poor with greater and more malicious militancy. No conversation related to climate change, nor commitment to global action, is fruitful without also addressing how capitalism and colonialism are the foundations of environmental collapse. Today's border violence, nationalism, contempt for immigrants/refugees, and eco-fascism are the means by which the wealthy and powerful are pushing the costs and pains of climate change onto the poorest and weakest among us. RECLAIMER's hellish vision of Earth is our future if we don't take back the planet from those would destroy it and then flee from the ruin they've created.
RECLAIMER embraces radical environmental action, including kinetic action, while also diminishing absurd, bad-faith takes on environmental activism (e.g. "You drove here in a gas-powered car") and anti-capitalism (e.g. "You own a smart phone"). The game's Reclamation movement, like most environmental movements, absolutely embraces science, technology, economies of scale, and smart utilization of resources (including fossil fuels) to achieve its objectives. As an organization formed by people long oppressed under the regimes of capitalism and colonialism, it also achieves these objectives while respecting the autonomy, agency, land/water/animal usage, and sacred sites of the peoples who took back their land and their spaces.
RECLAIMER is cognizant that eco-fascism, the marriage of environmentalism and authoritarianism / white nationalism, is gaining traction in some segments of the political sphere. The creative team behind this project profoundly rejects this ideology and considers it a threat to both social and environmental praxis. A fascist who advocates for environmental causes is still a fascist and must be destroyed.
What? No stretch goals? And what's with these pledges?
This is not your typical RPG Kickstarter campaign! The pledge options are named "Solidarity" and "Collective Action" for a reason.
There are no stretch goal rewards for RECLAIMER. Regardless of the pledge you select, everyone will just get the PDF (which will likely be updated and perfected in multiple iterations even after release).
However, once the project is 100% funded, 50% of all additional funding (after KS fees, taxes, etc.) will be distributed equitably (as opposed to equally) between everyone who helped make RECLAIMER a reality: artists, climate consultants, editor, layout artists, and partners. Our stretch goal reward is simple: everyone's hard work and expertise will be rewarded in the most material of ways.
It's important to note that everyone already has been paid for their work. The $10,000 funding mark represents how much everyone was paid to see this project through. This profit-sharing model was not part of contract negotiations nor was it dangled like a carrot to cajole people into working for less. Everyone was paid fairly, and now we're gonna ambush them with more money.
We've decided to use the Kickstarter platform to attempt a new look when it comes to the economics of the tabletop RPG industry. The business side of this hobby we all love often suffers from low margins, economic inequity, and a sometimes cruel valuation of certain types of work. This is not a problem set we can simply scale our way out of if we get enough sales.
We're not implying that our approach is the way it should be. Every company and every independent creator has their own priorities and constraints to consider. We're not throwing shade at other models. This is simply our economic model. We hope it works out for this project and we hope it is a model that others might consider replicating, but that's largely up to you. Honestly, it's an experiment, and one that might totally backfire in our face. But you gotta break a few eggs to make an omelet. Real change in the tabletop industry will occur when players and customers are willing to throw down to support new economic models. We're relying on you, comrades.
Chad Walker - Chad is an award-winning indie-game workhorse, an accomplished security conference speaker, and a security nerd by hobby and profession (e.g. consultant, blue team, threat hunter, BISO, and once the red-team leader in a live counter-terrorism exercise). Prior to RECLAIMER, he wrote and designed AIRLOCK, Bombs & Balaclavas (free), Cryptomancer, and SIGMATA: This Signal Kills Fascists. He also wrote a supplement for Spire called "Secrets Kept From The Sun," focusing on cryptography and intelligence tradecraft, as well as Zigguratti (also free), a Gauntlet RPG design jam about cyberpunk feudalism. When he is not doing security or gaming stuff, he is pretty much just converting oxygen into carbon dioxide.
Alastor Guzman - Alastor is a Mexican game designer and co-founder of Axo Stories, where he is working on uplifting Mexican developers and games. He has collaborated on Fate of Cthulhu, Forbidden Library, Reach of Titan, and Shifting Axolotls. He likes cats, game mechanics, and non-standard magic systems. Loves playing urban fantasy and surreal horror games but is not above playing a psion or a wizard for D&D style sessions. When not working on games he can be found ranting about many things at @alastorgv and admiring cute organisms with many legs or no legs at all.
Lola - Mexican by historical accident. From the south. Trying to decolonize everything. Feminist. Lola loves cats and cows. If she doesn't succeed in science, she will become a farmer. Cultural consultant about mestizaje in Mexico, identity narratives, and cultural appropriation. No, you are not just your DNA.
Art team - RECLAIMER features both licensed and commissioned works by many talented artists; Abrar Khan, Wadim Kashin, Rashed AlAkroka, Dmitry Vishnevsky, Breno Glrafa, Stefan Celic, Gala Berezhnaya, Max Bedulenko, Logan Turner, Marat Zakirov, Raja Nandepu, Julia Vasilyeva, and Seb Bellavia.
Interactive PDF engineering - Christian Nommay
Environmental Consultants - To ensure RECLAIMER's cli-fi dystopia is scientifically and sociologically sound, we've relied on expert consultants ranging from climate scientists to think tank analysts to foresters to eco-insurrectionists to pipeline resisters, and everything in between. We'd like to specifically call out the support of Jamie O'Duibhir, Benjamin Johnson, Chris Steinitz, and Tristan Kading. As a Minnesotan, Chad would like to specifically acknowledge the effort and victories of those who have been battling Enbridge Line 3. He's not a direct part of your struggle, but stands in awe of your commitment and resourcefulness. You know who you are. Thank you.
To continue in the spirit of RPG industry solidarity, we'd like to highlight a few other games that seriously consider the impact modern society is having on the planet and the future of our species. If RECLAIMER is not for you, these games might be:
Hack the Planet by Samjoko Publishing is a Forged in the Dark cyberpunk tabletop role-playing game about clawing power away from those at the top while surviving extreme heavy weather. In the not-so-distant future, our environment and technological growth was impacted by Acts of God: natural disasters radicalized by climate change effects that wreak havoc on the world.
Hydro Hacker Operatives (H2O) by Encoded Designs is a game of hydropunk Robin Hoods who steal water from the rich corporations to provide it to their neighborhood. H2O is a Powered by the Apocalypse game, but like many similar games (such as Headspace) it has drifted from the core PbtA system by adding on mechanics for hydro hacking and Neighborhoods.
Blue Planet by Biohazard Games is an environmental science-fiction game about humanity coping with ecological ruin and fleeing to an oceanic planet capable of sustaining life, only to again embrace colonial greed and environmental degradation. Released in 1997, the work now seems prescient. A quick-start preview of the forthcoming new edition can be found here.
If there are others we should add to the list, please contact us and let us know! We're all in this hobby together, fam. There's plenty of room for all of us. Let's grow this hobby as comrades instead of fighting over scraps.
Workers of Kickstarter, we have your back and we're following your lead.
We're aware of how your company's management has been diminishing your collective power. So we can stand with you if you call for action, we are building a back-up campaign with a crowd-funding competitor. The moment you and only you declare a boycott and establish a virtual picket line, we will cancel this campaign outright, refund all backers, and use the Kickstarter infrastructure to direct backers to their competitors' sites. If you declare a boycott during this campaign's 11th hour or after our campaign is complete, we still fulfill backers, but otherwise use our campaign page to only share articles and social media posts that amplify your voice and highlight your struggle against a union-busting management team.
We don't want to do this. We love Kickstarter as both creators and backers. It has been a major boon to the tabletop roleplaying game industry and has helped many dreams become a reality. However, us indie-game designers are a principled and scrappy bunch. We're survivors who adapt in spite of low sales, low margins, and low wages. We will work together to find a new home and start over. We're counting on the company's management to do the right thing. Solidarity with all Kickstarter workers, and solidarity with all art workers, many of whom are reliant on this platform to get by.
This is a guerrilla project in more ways than one. We're counting on you all to signal boost this campaign aggressively on social media and other channels. Even if it's not your style of game or you don't have the means to back it, you'll be helping us out a lot by creating visibility for a project with a radical environmental theme, a radical funding model, and radical declaration of worker solidarity.
Chad is available to discuss this project on a podcast or in a website Q&A format, so if that interests you, please contact him at @Papa_Shell on hellsite Twitter. Thank you so much for taking the time to read this campaign page. We hope we've earned your confidence, enthusiasm, and support.
Solidarity with all eco-defenders! We see and value your work and struggles. Our game dramatizes the battle and extends it to a dystopian future, but the only reason we can even speculate about the future is because you are fighting tooth and nail to defend it. Give 'em hell! If we can use our small platform to signal boost your cause, let us know.
Risks and challenges
Stuff happens. If something horrible happens to the game's author, it is unlikely that the project would be fully realized. However, 90 days after the completion of the Kickstarter, all backers will receive an "ashcan" version of the PDF. This ashcan will contain much of the work done on the game's setting and mechanics and even feature a lot of art. It will not be representative of the final product, but it will be fully playable. Backers will continue to receive new versions of the ashcan during development, and will even be able to provide feedback, suggestions, and content to make the final product the best game possible.
A secondary reason we're not engaging stretch goals is that they often get delayed or simply never delivered. In full candor, Chad's previous Kickstarter, "SIGMATA: This Signal Kills Fascists" was delivered on time, but the promised stretch goals have been difficult to complete for reasons outside of his control. Chad has had to (and continues to) create alternative supplementary materials to honor backers. For RECLAIMER, however, we will not be biting off more than we can chew. If supplemental or bonus materials manifest for this product, consider it a gift instead of a transaction.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)