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An anthology of live action games exploring the untold stories of the experience and contribution of women during World War II
An anthology of live action games exploring the untold stories of the experience and contribution of women during World War II
An anthology of live action games exploring the untold stories of the experience and contribution of women during World War II
284 backers pledged $9,109 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

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War Birds is an anthology of games about women in World War II. These larp and freeform style games focus on the ways that war creates opportunities for women that are at once terrible in their circumstance and beautiful in their capacity to transform lives on the margins.

Designed by an international team of women writers, War Birds presents fun-to-play, easy-to-run games that let you explore exciting stories you might not have heard before: Striking factory workers torn apart by hatred, or women aviators struggling to find sisterhood and freedom in the skies.These games are designed to give you everything you need to know to run or play them - with no research required.

If things go well, we will create more value for all backers with each stretch goal by offering new games representing a greater diversity of women and places affected by the war. With your help, we will explore the world of queer women discovering identity, expression and community on army bases. We will move the games outside of America to tell international stories: special operatives, nurses, resistance families, and more!

The team behind War Birds decided to do these games as an anthology with an interest in creating a multiplicity of perspectives about women in conflict. The games sometimes overlap, reinforce and contradict each other. They provide a broader investigation into the contribution of women in the war effort and they ask hard questions about history and how we interpret and remember it.

Each game is fully complete and playable without any of the other games in the anthology. You can play just one, or you can play them together for a rich play experience where these astounding stories provide contrast and strength in context to one another. 

This Kickstarter will make this collection possible. We will produce a gorgeous full color production run of all the games together in one volume. With your help we can make it a beautiful book, available in softcover, hardcover and .pdf, with professional artwork, layout, and writing. We want it to be a well crafted product that gives you both an exciting play experience and a beautiful artifact to showcase your support in making sure that these oft forgotten stories can be told.

War Birds starts off including these two games, and each successive stretch goal will unlock more games for all of our backers:

Baltimore, Maryland - August 1944: In Europe and Asia, World War II is raging. On the American home front, the production of defense materials is top priority. Munitions, shipyards, aviation and telecommunications production can hardly keep up with the demands of the war and 24-hour production lines are in effect. With the soldiers at war, the gates of industry swing wide and offer exciting new labor opportunities to women and to people of color.

But change comes neither easily nor equally. When the first African American inspector joins an all-white, all-female crew at the Western Electric Point Breeze Works, a wildcat hate strike is launched to reject her employment. Against the Grain fictionalizes this moment in history to explore the intersectional allocation of freedom and equality.

Against the Grain is a larp for 4 players and a facilitator that plays in  hours including workshops and debrief. The scenario is based around a charged negotiation between characters embroiled in the situation. The tone is calibrated by the facilitator using directive meta-techniques, and the use of monologues helps determine the outcome of the story.

"Combining a racially fraught, impossibly difficult historical conundrum with tight, focused gameplay, Against the Grain is provocative, challenging, and deeply humane. It's a window into a larger story that was deliberately buried during and after the war, and when you play it, you live it. I cannot recommend it highly enough."

- Jason Morningstar, creator of Night Witches

"This is a beautiful game. It is simple to start up and run. Play the characters with empathy and intention and enjoy the incredibly satisfying storytelling that the game offers."

- Julia Ellingboe, creator of Steal Away Jordan

"Brutal and eye-opening. Turkington has a talent for choosing a powerful historical moment and distilling it into conflict fed by people we can imagine ourselves to be."

- Jessica Hammer, professor of game design at Carnegie Mellon University.

"It was an eye opening experience for the players and even though I knew some of the history and had listened to such stories from my family, it was fascinating to see the flashes of emotion going through the players. A fascinating window into a historical moment of intersection!"

- Misha Bushyager

Sweetwater, Texas - August 1943: Four women meet in a barracks where they have been called to be Women Airforce Service Pilots. They will test new planes and ferry them to the front lines of the war. To the outside world, they are unknown, to the war they are unwanted, and to the US army they are a necessary evil. They will each endure insults, distrust, and ridicule.

Through the war, they will find kindred spirits in each other, and together they will be invincible. No matter what else might occur, they will always have their memories of the plane. The unfathomable, tactile sense of flying as the only refuge of absolute freedom. High-flying, anxiety provoking, discouraging, untameable, deep-felt, wild. Friends in arms, always. Barriers are things to overcome. Life is, until it ends.

We Were W.A.S.P. is a Danish scenario for four players and a facilitator that plays in four hours including workshops and debrief. It uses set scenes to give players an immersive glimpse into the lives of the W.A.S.P., and a partnered piloting mechanic that brings to life the emotional intensity of flight.

We Were W.A.S.P. was featured at the Stockholm Scenario Festival and was nominated for two awards at Denmark's Fastaval 2014 under the categories Best Roles and Best Storytelling. Here is what the judges had to say:

"Four women with dreams of flight become the unsung heroes of the war in an otherwise forgotten chapter of history. Simple story rules ensure that even stressed out W.A.S.P.s don’t get stung, but instead find strength in a high-flying sisterhood when chauvinism tries to pin them to the ground.

Powerful and genuine characters mirror the conflict of the game and provide the players with a solid foundation on which to build despair. The outside world forces the W.A.S.P.s to grow and form their own sisterhood in a society that wants to clip their wings."

When completed, the game will be available as a full-color, 7"x 9" perfect-bound book, a printable digital book and game materials. The length of the base book will be approximately 80 pages, but will of course expand with every new stretch goal added to the anthology. We will also be offering a hardback edition at a higher backing level.

For each game included in the anthology, a WWII propaganda poster is being custom created by Claudia Cangini that illustrates the underlying thematic elements of the game. The below image is the poster associated with Against the Grain. ROSIE backing level includes prints of these posters in 8'10" glossy format suitable for framing.

Claudia Cangini will be offering custom portraits for our backers! 

Choose the FREEDOM FIGHTER reward and submit a photograph of a woman who is important to you (yourself, a partner, a family member or friend). Claudia will transform it into an awesome portrait of you as a Rosie,  W.A.S.P., or W.A.C.

We’ll send you a high-resolution file to use however you like, and might even use it in the book or play materials!

Important: You must obtain permission from the subject of the image you send us to use their likeness.

Fine Print: If for some reason we feel that your picture does not fit the tone of the game, we reserve the right to reject your submission. Also, by purchasing this reward level and submitting an image, you grant us a permanent and non-revocable but non-exclusive license to use the resulting portrait in War Birds products. This means we can use them in materials related to War Birds, and you are also allowed to use them however you like.

Our very own Kira Magrann has offered to create some custom War Birds necklaces for our highest level backers.

The necklaces will feature the War Birds logo, and will be kiln-fired and made from layers of copper, watercolor enamel painting, and glass enamel. See Kira’s Etsy shop Anima Metals for examples of her amazing work!

Example of Kira's work.
Example of Kira's work.

Kira can only make 10 necklaces for this reward- so grab them while you can - this is a limited reward level!

Stretch goals for War Birds will increase the number of games included in the published anthology! These games will feature more diverse locations that the war was fought, different ways that women contributed to the war effort, and other kinds of revolution that the war brought to women's lives. 

The following games are in the line up, and more stretch goals may be added at a later time.

$5000: Ft Oglethorpe, Georgia, 1943: This story follows five queer women working together here in the motor pool, trained in the driving, maintenance, and repair of jeeps, trucks, and motorcycles. For the first time they could find each other, find community, in the Women's Army Corps: clothes they felt themselves in, a job that let them get their hands dirty, a lover, a family, a home. The military only tolerated these women because they needed the numbers; by regulation they were still classified as mentally ill and the threat of a dishonorable discharge was real. Sometimes that threat meant making the hard choice between doing the right thing, and surviving as a queer woman in the army.  

Mobilize is a semi-live larp for five players. It runs in three hours and includes workshops on gender presentation and performance to understand the complexities of identity these women experienced in 1943. Play is a series of motor pool jobs where choices are made about how characters and their new found queer community will comport themselves under pressure and the intense scrutiny of military authority.

Once this stretch goal is funded, Mobilize will be available in all versions of the anthology, a Mobilize propaganda poster will be added to the Rosie backer level, and those obtaining custom portraits with the Partisan or Motor Pool backer level will have the option of seeing themselves represented as a W.A.C.!

$7,000: Keeping The Candles Lit is a story about three generations of women in one family fighting as partisans during the war. Having escaped the grasp of the Nazis, they have taken to the woods of Europe to fight back in armed resistance.The women are from a traditional Jewish background and have spent their lives steeped in their culture and religion. Confronted with this wide-open world fraught with danger, they must decide what part of their past traditions they wish to preserve, and what legacy they will carry with them to be passed down to future generations.

Keeping the Candle Lit is is a semi-live larp/freeform inspired by blackbox theater techniques and abstract play. It runs for four hours, requires five players with an optional facilitator.

Once this stretch goal is funded, Keeping the Candles Lit will be available in all versions of the anthology, a propaganda poster will be added to the Rosie backer level, and those obtaining custom portraits with the Partisan or Motor Pool backer level will have the option of seeing themselves represented as a Partisan!

$10,000: Michiyo and Richard are in love and getting married. Their lives, like those of many others, were brought together as part of the legacy of the US military campaign and occupation of Okinawa during and after World War II. So many lives are touched, and so many secret pains and crimes are hidden by time and the passage of history. At The Wedding Party, we pull back the curtain and hear silenced voices speak. 

A freeform larp scenario for 4-8 players and a facilitator, The Wedding Party employs set scenes and internal monologues contrast the characters' internal aspirations and suffered past injustices against present day conflicts. The scenario's main scene is replayed by the players to allow the opportunity for the characters to vocalize everything left unsaid.

250 Backers: Model Protectorates is an intense family drama set in occupied Denmark. Under the dominion of the Reich, the pressures of domination pushed everyday people to examine just how much they were willing to comply or resist the state of occupation. Family bonds were tested. Autonomy and sovereignty became primary concerns as much at home as in the streets. This is a game about resistance and control, freedom and protection, and the difficulty that comes from deciding not to model the behavior that is expected of you.  

A semi-live scenario for 4-5 players and a facilitator (who also plays); the game takes 4.5 hours to play including workshops and debrief and alternates between full live game play and narrative interludes. Storyboarding mechanic provides support for the players to direct their own fate.

Model Protectorates was a nominee for The Special Prize Otto at Fastaval 2015, and is currently being used in a Danish high school to teach the history of the occupation.

 

Risks and challenges

This is my first Kickstarter campaign, and I wanted to make very sure it went off without a hitch, and without delays. Though this is the first time I am independently publishing, I have professional experience writing for, editing, and print project managing. But there are always risks! I'm new to the nuances and challenges of crowdsourcing, and have never done product fulfillment before.

The first step in mitigating risk was to make sure we put together a quality team of experienced people, and to make sure that the majority of the work was already done to ensure it gets to you at high quality and in good time.

The core campaign games are complete and fully playtested. They are at the final editing stage and will be ready for layout as soon as the campaign has successfully funded. We have even already finished the illustrations required for it to go.

Even most of the stretch goals are at an advanced stage! Mobilize and Keeping the Candles Lit are both in playtest now, the next stretch goal to be announced is ready for layout, and the others were in active development long before the campaign even began!

Lastly I have mitigated risk to backers by hiring Mark Diaz Truman of Magpie Games to help us prepare for, manage, and fulfill our campaign. Magpie Games has run six successful campaigns and has a long history of fulfilling projects, including Our Last Best Hope, The Play's the Thing, Wicked Fantasy, World of Dew, Epyllion, etc.

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    VICTORY GARDEN: At this level, we'll give you early access to the draft PDF. We'll also send you the finalized PDF as soon as it's ready. In addition, you'll receive credit for your support in the book!

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    LAND ARMY: At this level, you'll receive a full color, perfect bound, softcover edition of the book, in addition to early access to the PDF, a copy of the final PDF and credit for your support!

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    SPITFIRE SISTER: At this level, you'll receive the limited HARDCOVER edition of the book in addition to early access to the PDF, a copy of the final PDF, and credit for your support!

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    LOGISTICS CLERK: This level is indended for retailers, and includes THREE COPIES of the full color, perfect bound, softcover editions of the book.

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    ROSIE: At this level, you'll receive a full set of 8"x10" War Birds Propaganda Poster prints along with the HARDCOVER edition of the book, early access to the PDF, a copy of the final PDF, and credit for your support!

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    PARTISAN: At this level, you'll receive a CUSTOM PORTRAIT of you or a woman you know as a Rosie or WASP, along with the HARDCOVER edition of the book, early access to the PDF, a copy of the final PDF, and credit for your support!

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    FREEDOM FIGHTER: For our overseas backers, with this reward you’ll get FOUR COPIES of the hardcover book shipped together anywhere outside the U.S with shared shipping costs.

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    MOTOR POOL: At this level, you'll receive a one-of-a-kind, handmade, limited edition, War Birds NECKLACE designed in copper and glass by Kira Magrann as well as a CUSTOM PORTRAIT of you or a woman you know as a Rosie or WASP along with the HARDCOVER edition of the book, early access to the PDF, a copy of the final PDF, and credit for your support!

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Funding period

- (33 days)