Grab a coffee, see a basement show and slay a demon in the same afternoon with We Die Young, an upcoming tabletop RPG system based in the Pacific Northwest United States during the early days of grunge music.
Drawing on influences from classic Seattle bands such as Nirvana and Soundgarden, along with the game design of World of Darkness and other White Wolf titles that tackled similar fantasy realism genre tropes, We Die Young imagines a world vampires, werewolves and fae creatures inhabit the cities and scenes alongside disaffected 20-somethings searching for meaning.
While many of these weird creatures find solace in sharing civilisation with humans, too many seek power, riches or something darker and use their otherworldly abilities to harm innocents. We Die Young centers its story around a group of likeminded individuals who would rise up against anybody – or anything – threatening that relative peace.
Creators Eric Bloat and Josh Palmer designed the standalone RPG using a D20 roll-above system that will be familiar to anyone who has played Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder or other popular tabletop systems. It strips out a lot of the extraneous rules and mechanisms, aiming for an experience closer to that found in Old School Revival games – only what’s necessary to get into a fight and come out the other side alive, if barely.
The Kickstarter description page shows off one class – the Riot Grrl – as a brawler whose righteous anger and dedication to a just cause fuels her abilities and prowess in combat. A selection of spell names are obvious song title homages from Nirvana, Alice in Chains and anything else one might find in the CD player of a barely running 1980s Honda Civic.
Bloat’s portfolio of past work shows a knack for designing around cinematic tropes and cultural pastiche. His Survive This!! series includes Dark Places and Demogorgons – AD&D romps in a 1980s small town setting – and Vigilante City, a near-future world of superheroes with plots pulled from episodes of Saturday morning cartoon blocks.
It could be easy for We Die Young to drink too deep from the well of teen monster hunter shows like Buffy and Angel, or else repackage tired and harmful stereotypes in an effort to truthfully recreate that 90s grunge movement (Bloat’s catalogue does contain an unfortunately shameless Karate Kid supplement titled Martial Arts Mayhem). Whether he and co-creator Palmer managed to escape such pitfalls isn’t apparent from the preview material.
Players wanting to revisit Seattle before the rush of Starbucks, hipsters and rampant gentrification can back We Die Young’s Kickstarter campaign through April 29th. Physical editions of the sourcebook, which include a digital copy, will cost $24 (£18), with shipping expected to begin in October of this year.