Absconding is a 5th edition D&D zine that launched its Kickstarter today. Comprised of a team of mostly RPG newcomers, they’re looking to create fresh stories by an eclectic group of folks. Covering a wide range of sci-fi and fantasy, this zine looks to take the imagination beyond the heavily trodden paths of traditional D&D. They’re currently raising the funds to print their first issue full of supplemental art and stories with plans to have seasonal releases.
Below are a few questions the team answered for us to get a look at the people behind the project.
What inspired your love of gaming (assuming you love it, of course)?
Joshua Rivera: When I was about 18-months old, my parents had my little baby self crawl towards either a train set or a Nintendo Entertainment System at a toy store. I chose the latter, and the trajectory of my life was chosen ever since. While video games have been a pastime of mine since then, I only got into tabletop back in 2011 after a friend decided he wanted to run a Pathfinder game. Being able to express an unlimited amount of character concepts was exhilarating, and I haven’t turned back since.
Austin Estrada: Ever since I’ve been little ball of energy rolling around in the mud I’ve loved immersing myself in realms of imagination. From hunting Big Foot through the woods with bb guns, to gathering groups of kids to search for ghosts out in the dark of midnight, to spending weeks pretending to be a pirate with my friends on the playground in a game rife with intrigue and betrayal, I’ve always lived for imagining grand adventures and immersive storytelling. Tabletop RPGs are, to me, one of the ultimate expressions of creativity. I believe in the unique experience you get from these kinds of games, the feeling of getting to collaborate and share the storytelling experience with others to make something truly special.
What spurred your foray into the game industry?
Joshua: My friend and mentor Robert Brookes had this idea for a sci-fi dieselpunk book called the Aethera Campaign Setting. He approached me with it back in 2015. My knee jerk reaction was “okay, I want kung fu robots striding through desolate rice fields, fighting corrupt robot governors in space!” And later, “I want soulful, jazz singer psychics in smokey, underground asteroid bars!” Robert and I used to write a bit together years and years ago, so it was great to collaborate with him, some familiar faces, and some completely new faces again. Something that caught my eye was the presence of both writers who had RPG credits to their name, and people who were completely new, myself included. I was very taken aback by the amount of risk Robert was willing to take on a project so close to him, and the amount of trust he had in me and the others who were freshmen RPG designers.
Austin: Ever since I learned the rules for Dungeons and Dragons I’ve wanted to DM my own campaign, and I positively lived for homebrewing worlds and monsters from the outset. When my good friend (and incidentally, the one who convinced me to play my very first TTRPG game) Josh Rivera began recruiting creative minds for Absconding, I was eager to contribute. In particular, crafting mechanics and concepts for new monsters and items is a particular passion of mine. I love the notion that we can present these ideas to a world of adventurers, and potentially inspire others to build wonderful things into their stories.
How did you come up with this project idea?
Joshua: Fresh off my Aethera contributions, I had an idea for a player character race called the “errors,” who are glitch folk based on the video game bugs of yore. I started work on a Pathfinder supplement for that, but it fell by the wayside for a few years. I’m a graphic designer for a newspaper, and over time I began to appreciate the art of editorial layout and being able to draft engaging pages that could amplify the effect of a story or an article. I decided I wanted to express this newfound passion in the form of a magazine, and wanted to revisit the older error material. Absconding is named for the act of escaping. This hobby, somehow, has become the most nurturing form of escapism for me, and for many others. This is a fantasy/sci-fi/lit fic/art jam, in addition to being a TTRPG product. I also imagine the mission of Absconding may evolve over time, so I want to give it that room in the event we become a platform for radical essays. I think TTRPGs are flexible enough to compliment it, should that mission change.
Another thing I noticed about my time working on Aethera was that we had a very diverse group of collaborators. That resulted in a book that had a lot of soul, informed by a tapestry of human experiences. Realizing I have a circle of friends who are as diverse, and as talented, I felt like my zine project could be a nice platform for that. I know several excellent people in TTRPG circles, but I wanted to showcase what a group of people who are completely new to this industry, even this hobby, were capable of.
Austin: Absconding is Josh Rivera’s brain child so all the credit for the creation of the project goes to him, I am just a humble contributor. That being said, my corner of Absconding seems to primarily have the function of a Monster and Magical Bobbit Factory. I love sitting down and thinking of creative ways a creature can interact with an adventuring party, and how it would affect the experience that a group of players would have in fun ways. I also enjoy coming up with potent but balanced, magical items that I honestly have no specific use in mind for, but just want to see what an imaginative group players would do with. What happens when you give your players a wooden plank that transforms into a fully functioning catapult when activated? Or a pair of rings that enables you to instantly switch places with whoever wears the other? I have no idea, but I’d love to get the chance to find out.
Kierra Pixler: Well, I’ve kind of always wanted to try my hand at fictional writing. I thought it would help to ignite my creative side and I also wanted to help Josh achieve a dream of his. Sappy, yeah, yeah. Look, I don’t have an elaborate and meaningful response to this question. I just think fairies cute as fuck and you can go a long way with them. I wanted the story to have some sort of love aspect to it. The idea of a human falling in love with a non-human appealed to me. That’s where Flynn came into play. As far as Elga, well, I wanted the story to also include an “older, wise” person. Someone with a background, someone who can give advice, a character that I can potentially grow with. What made it fun for me was doing research online and digging from my own deep fears to bring them to life. It some way, it was like I was writing my own story.
What are you hoping for most with this project?
Joshua: I hope that if they’re interested, my writers and artists could move on to produce more TTRPG material in the future. Kierra Pixler is a journalist and an editor with a colorful past and a vibrant personality, and she should be the face of D&D. Austin Estrada is a musician with a sincere, soulful outlook, and he should be the face of D&D. Brittiny Hines has immense talent as an artist, exuding passion, joy, and immeasurable strength, and she should be the face of D&D. I want everyone who’s ever rolled dice on a table that they are welcome to share their vibrant worlds and truths, that they can and they should. And maybe for our Kickstarter to raise enough for the second issue in full?
Austin: A D&D game, at its core, is a very powerful form of collaborative storytelling. Creating content, to me, is the same thing. Getting to tell stories with no fixed ending, to conceive of a menagerie of beasts or collection of mystical items, the bold notion of new races of creatures and worlds. To be able to capture and distill these ideas, write them down, and give them to others to inspire and provoke their imaginations as well. It is a cycle of creativity that works through and connects all of us, and I hope to lend to others the same tides of inspiration that have taken me this far.
How has your personal identity shaped the games you create?
Joshua: I’m a Puerto Rican/Filipino American who grew up in a household with Asian and Afro-Latinx influences. It took a while for traditional fantasy stories to speak to me. However, when viewed through an eclectic, anime/manga/video game/movie/comic book lens, I think I found a space to explore creatively. I’m also demisexual, so, uh, I suppose I’m a little deliberate in what I do creatively. When something does grab my interest, I am engaged even by its minute details.
Austin: I think I’m, in many ways, a better collaborator than I am a creator. I love getting to sit down with people and their ideas, and – if they’ll let me – help them expand and develop them into realization. Absconding is a great project for me in that regard, because not only do I get to present my own ideas to this awesome project, but I get work with others and help them develop fantastic concepts that I would have never considered on my own.
Anything else you would love to share?
Joshua: Thank you very much! Our Facebook page is available at http://www.facebook.com/abscondingzine for more information. Our Kickstarter just launched and is available at http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/absconding/absconding-indie-rpg-zine-for-5e
Austin: Absconding is going to have Giant Mantis Shrimp monsters that can shoot rainbow lasers out of their eyes. Its arriving soon my friends, so come along for the ride. Its a good one, I promise.
Kierra: EVERYONE/EVERYTHING NEEDS AN ADORABLE PET IN THEIR LIFE.
Absconding is on Kickstarter from February 26 until March 28, 2019.