About this project
A strange city. A vicious crime. And one chance to find the answers.
The leads were laid out like flattened tombstones. A few lengths of yarn drew lines of connection. Maybe we were getting closer to an answer. Or maybe it was a vain attempt to find reason behind brutality.
Noirlandia is about a tangled murder mystery in a fantastic city. It's a collaborative, one-shot roleplaying game inspired by Questlandia’s worldbuilding and narrative resolution systems. You’ll create a murder mystery from scratch, reveal the corrupt forces lurking in the shadows of your city, and follow the investigation to its terrible conclusion.
Your characters will fight for answers and question their principles. After 3-4 hours, you’ll have either found the truth, or lost the chance forever.
Noirlandia doesn’t have a game master, so nobody knows the answers in advance—your mystery will be created and solved at the table.
Finding the answers doesn’t mean you win. Dying doesn’t mean you lose. It’s not about justice, it’s about what you’re willing to give up to get it. It’s just another day in Noirlandia...
They found his body at the end of the docks, bathed in the glow of the twin moons.
Noirlandia’s city-building process is guided by a mix of player imagination and randomizers. A roll of the die will tell you what corrupts your city: maybe apathy, isolation, technology, or pride.
Then, you’ll work together to answer questions like, How are the people in this city unlike us? What do the buildings look like? How did the corruption take hold?
Every city in Noirlandia has four major districts: the Outskirts, the Upper Crust, Downtown, and Skid Row. You’ll design the various structures that define your city’s districts, deciding what buildings loom over the downtown center, or where the people live in skid row. For example, you might have “Kodachrome HQ” for downtown, “Painters’ Alley” for skid row, “The Docks” for the outskirts, and “Hanging Gardens” for the upper crust.
At the beginning of the game, each district will get pinned to the cork board, arranged around the outer edges. Just like your characters, the districts can be damaged by the case. Losing on certain rolls will escalate the corruption of your city, and if you’re not careful, these losses may even lead to full-scale collapse.
Every game of Noirlandia features a unique setting and a brand new mystery. Some cities may look quite familiar, others unrecognizable. In addition to building your own cities, the game can alternatively be run using pre-designed settings and mystery seeds. We’ve included two quick-start settings with the base game, and more quick-starts will become available if we hit our stretch goals along the way!
She wore a large hat with a single peacock feather, and there was a gun in her hand.
Characters in Noirlandia can be on the right side of the law—or the wrong side. Upper or lower class. Working together or working alone.
At the beginning of the game, you’ll create characters using a deck of playing cards and dice as randomizers, drawing cards for every player in the game plus one more. After all players have selected a character they’re excited to play, the unchosen card becomes the murder victim.
You might play a retired cop with a haunted past, an aristocratic bird king hiding the secret of your family’s ignoble birth, a hustler selling VR headsets door-to-door, or an anguished paramour desperate for vengeance. It all depends on the cards you draw and the world you build!
Every character in Noirlandia has a guiding principle. If you choose to break your principle, you can provide a much-needed boost at an essential moment. There will, of course, be consequences.
All characters in Noirlandia have a relationship to the victim—and maybe to each other. Over the course of the game, you’ll learn more about your past with the victim, and the tangled strings that tie everything together.
Your character isn’t immune from suspicion and may become a suspect in the case. You can be imprisoned, proven guilty, and you may even die. But it isn’t a loss as long as you uncover the truth.
The steam rose from the sewers, silhouetting the man who had murdered the governor…
It begins with a body. You knew the victim, you’ve been to the scene of the crime, and you’ve found one suspicious clue. From here, you and the others have to find three answers: Who did it? How was it pulled off? And why were they killed?
Players take turns setting the scene for their character’s efforts on the case. As you play out the scenes, you’ll use quick challenge rolls to overcome the physical and mental obstacles in your way. You might be riding your police horse in hot pursuit, or cajoling Baker Jones into revealing the coveted secret ingredient. These rolls take into account your character’s current condition, and often result in taking a hard bargain to get what you want.
Every scene ends with an investigation roll—a multi-dice face-off with multiple outcomes. This might look like interrogating the bigwig crime boss, combing the crime scene for clues, or entering your mind palace to make sense of what you’ve seen. You can find new leads, clues, and people. You can discover the secret connections between them. Simultaneously, your character might become a suspect themself, find an old lead destroyed, or even see the city as a whole take a turn for the worse.
Noirlandia’s mysteries don’t have pre-written answers. Instead, players earn the right to make their own theories real, one clue at a time. When you succeed in a roll, you might earn the right to connect two leads together, and decide that The Underground Temple was actually built by Ten-Fingered Suzanne as a publicity stunt. These moments let you direct the mystery, but until you reach an answer, nothing is certain.
Getting one of the three answers to the case is a special move that can only be done by investigating a chain of 3 connected leads. This makes it the cumulation of several turns of investigative work, and rewards you with a bit of truth in a case where everything else is uncertain. Unlike leads and connections, your answers can’t be destroyed or discredited.
But even if you find all the answers, you can’t be sure that justice will be done. For that, we turn to the epilogue, where we find out how the case will impact the guilty party, your character, and the city as a whole. The epilogue is influenced by your progress on the case, but also how your character stuck to, or compromised, their principles along the way.
Want to see the game in action? Check out a Google Hangouts live playthrough of the game below.
Noirlandia comes with two quick-start mysteries, with more starter mysteries planned as we hit stretch goals! The included mysteries are:
Luck Harvest (Brian Van Slyke): It's been ten years since we discovered the scientific properties of Luck, and that everyone naturally produces their own. It's been five years since companies started selling Bottled Luck. Those who can afford it purchase as much Luck as they can, and their lives have never been better. Those who can't afford it? Well, better Luck in the next life. The biggest of the manufacturers, LUCKY 4U, already sits on top of the world, raking in billions. Their headquarters in the new, bright, and shiny city of Santa Fria towers over everything else—a testament to their unstoppable corporate power that's never questioned. That is, until a dead body is dropped out of a moving van in front of their skyscraper with a note tacked to it: YOUR LUCK'S RUNNING OUT.
Fungi Fatale (Hannah Shaffer): On the day of her coronation, Princess Persimmon and her royal attendants arrive at Castle Kuriboh to find her beloved, a humble plumber, floating facedown in the courtyard fountain. The rest of the guests have disappeared, imprisoned in paintings scattered throughout the castle grounds. Both the princess and the plumber have a list of enemies a mile long, so cracking this case won't be easy. With the help of a few sentient toadstools, can the princess figure out who did it and why?
"It was everything I wanted it to be - fantastical and weird, yet firmly rooted in noir tropes without much effort on the part of the players." - Mikael Andersson, Dreamation playtester
"We created a steampunk noir city and played out an amazing, gritty, cinematic murder mystery. The evidence board mechanic is inspired (Real string!) and the optional randomization tables for clues fit the setting PERFECTLY. Evan has a winner. - Adrian Stein, Dreamation playtester
"I love how much power and money was at the center of this. It was like Chinatown." - Rob Bohl, designer of Misspent Youth
"The whole thing played out in under 3 hours and in the end, I felt like we created a world and characters which could easily fill a couple of celluloid reels." - Tyson Fultz, Big Bad Con playtester
PDF of Noirlandia and PDF of any setting stretch goals unlocked during campaign.
Game PDF, including unlocked PDF stretch goals, and a 6"x9" softcover copy of the Noirlandia book.
All PDF rewards plus two softcover copies of Noirlandia—one for you, one for a friend!
All PDF rewards, plus a softcover copy of Noirlandia and the original Questlandia RPG!
All PDF rewards, a softcover copy of Noirlandia, plus...
- Physical copies of all starter mysteries, including stretch goal settings, in sealed, custom-designed Noirlandia envelopes. Each envelope contains a dozen pinnable leads for the case, each with custom art of the people, places, and objects you'll need to solve the case. The number of envelopes you receive will increase as we unlock stretch goals!
- Four cork board squares for you to put on your table (or wall!) to pin your clues and answers to.
- Blank “polaroids” to pin clues and suspects to your cork board.
- Tacks for pinning polaroids.
- String for connecting clues.
- Six-sided dice in two colors.
- A deck of playing cards.
You’ll get everything from the PRIVATE EYE ($75) level, and you’ll also become part of the game! You’ll submit a picture of yourself or a friend to be redrawn as a suspect (or possibly the victim!) in one of the pre-made mysteries.
Noirlandia lead designer and illustrator Evan Rowland will transform your photo into a Noir headshot, which may appear in the book, or as one of the included pinnable leads! You’ll also receive a glossy 8"x10" print of the illustration.
If you're sending a photo of someone else, make sure you have their permission! No noir surprises here!
You’ll get everything from the COMMISSIONER ($125) level, plus a custom-designed map featuring the four districts of a noir city of your dreams (or nightmares!).
Noirlandia lead designer and illustrator Evan Rowland will transform your city idea into a four-piece map that can be placed directly over your cork board. In addition to the quadrant map, you'll receive the complete 24"x24" glossy print of the map for your wall!
Ten years ago, the Thaumastrates, the ancient order of wizards that ruled Tiraval for centuries, were overthrown by the Five Families, a powerful oligarchy of merchant houses. Now the Thaumastrates live in exile outside the protection of the city walls, and the Five Families are beginning to fall apart—torn by infighting, they struggle to hold onto the power that they seized. The Enchantadores in their cathedrals of song do their best to stay above the fray, but the Lion Knights now know that revolution is possible and plot to take their own turn at power. Was it one of them who killed the matriarch of the First Family?
Most nights, it seems there’s not a single thing in this city that vampires don’t run. They’re everywhere, from the hospitals, to the nightclubs, to city hall. Most nights, it’s easier to turn a blind eye, because it’s happening to somebody else. Someone else is getting sucked dry in that dark alley and you’re just glad it’s not you. Tonight, though, things get a little up close and personal, and it’s about time somebody did something about all these bloodsuckers.
Atunwa’s spires unfurl high into the clouds and deep into the soil. The city’s roots are long and old, containing many marvels for those willing to venture into Atunwa’s otherwise empty sector of space. Atunwa is a living city, growing organically to meet the needs of its citizens. Its architecture also serves a higher purpose: the transmigration of dying souls into new life, retaining some of the spirit and knowledge of the former life. In this way, the denizens of the city are constantly evolving and growing. New souls are born every day, and celebrated, but old souls are the richest treasure in the city, as they contain the knowledge and wisdom of several human lifetimes. No one ever dies in Atunwa; they merely try again. Or at least, that’s what they used to say. Someone has found a way to disconnect those who live in the city from the special energies of the city. Old souls are actually dying, prompting the panicked people to ask: where do old souls go when they leave Atunwa?
Though Upstairs has its small-town charm, everything that's shaking takes place Downstairs, where the little shadows of everyday objects live their lives at night. But lives end—even the days of a knife can be cut short. So, from the busy workaday corner of Living & Kitch all the way up to the glass table-view cabinets in Dining, the truth will unravel like a lost sock—make sure that sock isn't you.
The City of Scarlet Light has power in this world, not through military arms, nor religious strictures, but through pleasures of the flesh as performed by their trained courtesans, the Light-Touched. Other cities trade their dearest commodities in order to engage a contract with one of the Light-Touched, but inside the City, corruption reigns. Noble houses vie to place their sons and daughters in the most exclusive training houses, while the poor struggle to afford a bit of carmine to give their lips grace. Tensions were already high when news broke that Caron, son of Briallyn and Grey Scholar of the Autumn Breath, had been found strangled with his own satin bondage ropes, and the city plunged into mourning for a beloved teacher. Caron seemed to have no enemies, but a cryptic symbol left at the scene suggests he may have crossed the wrong person.
An urban megalopolis where androids and bots do the hard, dangerous or menial work humans used to do. Riches from their labor and poverty for displaced workers divide the city. In the midst of an election year where manumission for silicon citizens is hotly contested, the disappearance of a champion of digital sapience throws the entire urbzone into an uproar.
The Tkausa Dynasty has ruled the ten thousand worlds of The Commonality for a thousand years and five generations. Each Hierophant, aided by their immortal ancestors, has fomented rivalry between the Seated Families to preserve the Tkausa Dynasty’s seat on the throne. But now, the Heirs of Yana send gifts of falsemen to the Family of Taüu, while the Taüu lend their powers of mind control to the House Marrd, who secretly convey Yana agents between worlds. With the discovery of the body of Kellowen Gurch, the Tkausa envoy, in his quarters of the Yana palace, the Commonality of Worlds balances on the point of a flashing stiletto wielded by hand unknown.
Every backer who’s getting a physical copy of the game ($25+) will also receive a 3.5”x 5” Noirlandia case book, designed by Evan Rowland. The pocket-sized case books include:
- A Case History table of contents for all your Noirlandia cases
- 24 pages, with room for notes and doodles
- A page of noir Descriptors, to give your case that special noir flavor!
In addition to the above, you can help unlock new features for the game by completing these challenges!
New Random Lead Generators: Write a surreal, one-sentence mystery and use the hashtag #Noirlandia - then post publicly to Twitter, to G+, or to our Facebook!
New Full Page Art for Noirlandia: Take a selfie with you and a suspect or a clue, then post publicly to Twitter, G+, or to our Facebook with the hashtag #Noirlandia!
With each posting, we'll get closer to unlocking a different feature. Here's how we can unlock them:
Noirlandia was made possible through the hard work of the Make Big Things cooperative. Evan is the lead designer and artist for the game. Hannah Shaffer has taken on the role of project outreach and design support, and Brian Van Slyke has provided phenomenal project management and communications. We’re also joined by editor Joshua Yearsley, who will ensure a clear, professional text.
Evan Rowland (@adrawnnovel) is an avid player and creator of both tabletop and computer games. He’s worked previously on Questlandia and 14 Days, and is also developing the upcoming video game Goblin Diplomat. His favorite game is Go. If you ask, he will definitely play Go with you.
Brian Van Slyke (@thebrinos) is a game designer, educator, writer, and cooperator. He’s designed several games, launched a few organizations, and eaten his fair share of popcorn. He specializes in history, cooperative economics, social movements, and high-fives.
Hannah Shaffer (@hanbandit) is a game and web designer living in the Pioneer Valley of western Massachusetts. She’s the co-designer of Questlandia and 14 Days, and the designer of Damn the Man, Save the Music! and a silly little game about birds.
Joshua Yearsley (@joshuayearsley) is a professional editor of games. His RPG editing credits include most of the Fate Worlds of Adventure line by Evil Hat Productions as well as the Ethos Engine line by Sigil Stone Publishing: Vow of Honor and Hunt the Wicked. He also likes cats and orange-vanilla seltzer.
Stretch Goal Writers
Rebecca Slitt is an academic turned game designer, currently a writer and editor for Choice of Games. She’s the author of the interactive novels Psy High and First Year Demons, and has contributed to the forthcoming TimeWatch RPG. Her next project is the first multiplayer title for Choice of Games, in which she's using her degree in medieval history to make sure that the dragon-vs-dragon combat obeys the rules of chivalry.
Kira Magrann creates jewelry at Anima Metals, writes game critique at Gaming as Women, organizes Indie Games on Demand at Origins and Gencon, and creates sexy, feminist, queer and cyberpunk games. Some games she's recently designed are Strict Machine, Twilight Dames, and Game of Thrones: Play the Cards. Follow her on G+ or twitter @kiranansi. http://kiramagrann.tumblr.com/
Quinn Murphy is the chief mastermind behind Thoughtcrime Games. The former primary contributor and editor of the Ennie-nominated site At-Will, Quinn’s work can be found in Kobold Quarterly, Dragon, and the Open Design book Lost City, as well as numerous playtest credits. Games of all kinds ignite his passion, which is said by many to be highly contagious.
Jackson Tegu writes ground-breaking, award-winning story games and runs them internationally. He invents new games monthly, supported by his dear patrons (via patreon.com/jacksontegu) and collects his projects and shadows at photographsoflightning.com.
Sarah Richardson is the layout artist for the Epyllion line, employee of Magpie Games, and co-author of Bluebeard’s Bride. She has also written for other RPG outlets such as The Complete Oracle and Witch: Fated Souls. In addition to her design work, Sarah has also served as layout artist on a number of projects: No Salvation for Witches, The Shadow Out of Providence, and The Cold Ruins of Lastlife. Sarah’s illustrations have also have been featured in many a RPG.
Emily Care Boss of Black & Green Games is an independent role playing game designer, publisher and game theorist from western Massachusetts. She wrote the Romance Trilogy: Breaking the Ice, Shooting the Moon and Under my Skin, and has contributed to games and anthologies by Pelgrane Press, Evil Hat Productions, and Ginger Goat. You can find her games and other work at blackgreengames.com.
Joshua A.C. Newman is the designer and publisher of Shock:Social Science Fiction, Human Contact, and Mobile Frame Zero: Intercept Orbit but is best known as the co-designer of Mobile Frame Zero: Rapid Attack. He writes, draws, and records science fiction for his blog xenoglyph and is currently working on Fate Space for Evil Hat and a roleplaying game about asteroid belt traders.
Risks and challenges
We love Kickstarting games. This is the third Kickstarter campaign we’ve run at Make Big Things, and all have been fulfilled, with consistent communication along the way. Combined, our team has experience running and fulfilling seven crowdfunding campaigns.
In the past, the most daunting piece of the Kickstarter puzzle has been fulfilling hundreds of orders, and shipping international orders affordably. This time, we’re working with Magpie Games to get backer rewards out affordably, and we’re thrilled to have their help as industry veterans.
With the help of many great playtesters, we feel confident about the Noirlandia system. The rules are nearly complete, and we’ll be able to provide a sneak peek of the PDF well before the game goes to press.
As with any crowdfunding project that relies on a small team to bring a big thing to life, there are sometimes unexpected delays along the way. If we experience any delays we’ll be communicating with backers quickly.
If we meet our goal, we’ll be able to deliver a beautiful mystery game with amazing content. If we exceed our goal, we’ll be offering some exciting additional rewards from talented designers and writers in the tabletop community! We’re so excited to share this project with you!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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