03 January 2024
Zine Month and Zine Quest take place each year, but what really is it? Why are there two? And what should we be looking for? Anna Blackwell takes us through the very event that launched their RPG writing career
Each February - except that one time they decided to change it to August - Kickstarter runs an event called Zine Quest. During this event, RPG designers put up their crowdfunding campaigns for all manner of weird and wonderful games and supplements. It has been running for five years but it still remains a relatively niche event. So what is it? And why are there two?
What are Zines?
At their hearts, Kickstarter’s Zine Quest and Feral Indie’s Zine Month are ways to promote the ancient art of the zine. These small form stapled booklets originated back in the 1920s as a way for people to distribute stories, poetry, and information without having a big budget and without having to rely on support from publishers. By the 1960s fanzines - fan magazines - which people made by hand and then photocopied to distribute at conventions, libraries, or just to friends emerged thanks to Spockanalia! and the ever popular pastime of shipping Kirk and Spock. As you might imagine, the early days of RPGs were flush with zines with people creating adventures, locations, new mechanics, and even their own games. Eventually, the internet came along and the zine sort of faded, returning to its more activist and storytelling roots while gaming content moved onto websites and forums.
Thankfully - and I say that with genuine personal investment as Zine Quest allowed me to break into being a full time game designer - the tabletop gaming community had seen the potential of independent games and had opened their hearts and their tables to them. With websites like DriveThruRPG and Itch.io making it incredibly easy for most creators to share their digital creations, Zine Quest provided a way for even more indies to fund their projects and get them physically available in the world.
How does Zine Quest work?
During Zine Quest, creators launch their campaign on Kickstarter and tag it as a Zine Quest project which puts it in a nice shared category with all the other zines. This means that creators don’t have to worry about attracting everyone by themselves as customers are likely going to scroll through the Zine Quest category and pick up whatever appeals to them. Sort of like a digital convention hall but without a table cost. Zine Quest originally required campaigns to be for A5 staddle-stitched zines with just one colour but as the years have gone on, the restrictions have lessened somewhat.
Their accepted amateur-ness means that designers - myself very much included - can create something unpolished and focus more on having it exist rather than on it being perfect. It is a great opportunity for people to break into the tabletop gaming industry who may otherwise struggle to get eyes on their game.
Everything is great and perfect, right?
Not quite. Zine Quest and Kickstarter itself have had some problems in the last few years which caused Feral Indie Games to create their own website and event called Zine Month. In a recent year, Kickstarter abruptly changed the event to August instead of February with little notice, leaving creators who rely on Zine Quest and plan well in advance for it, understandably miffed. Unfortunately, even after changing Zine Quest back to February, official announcements of the event have remained scant and last minute, often forcing designers to rely on word of mouth from those with contacts in Kickstarter to know if it’s even going to happen. Thus, Zine Month was born, maintaining the February time, but encouraging creators to use any crowdfunding site to do so.
Should you take part in Zine Quest or Zine Month?
Absolutely. If you want to create something and maybe earn a bit of money or become a game designer, then yes, it is a great way to experiment without fear of bankruptcy should the project fail. And if you like a new RPG, this is a great way to discover new and upcoming offerings at reasonable prices.