Each week, the scholars and scientists of nerd culture that make up the Geek & Sundry staff reconnoiter the wild spaces of Kickstarter to find the most innovative, interesting, and intriguing white-hot games for your consideration. This week, we found a doozy: CAPERS, the RPG where you play a gangster with superpowers!
“It’s the 1920s Prohibition Era in the United States. Alcohol is illegal. Organized crime grows at an unprecedented rate as gangsters get rich selling hooch to a thirsty populace. You are one of those gangsters… and you have superpowers!”
That, in a nutshell, is CAPERS, the role-playing game of 1920s superpowered crime! Use eye-projected heat beams to melt the door of a safe! Snatch purses by running faster than the speed of sound! Take the police from behind by using a dimensional portal to appear out of thin air! Or, be one of the proud members of the thin blue line seeking to keep the innocent and law-abiding safe from the predations of superpowered crime! CAPERS is beautifully illustrated by Beth Varni, whose work is a veritable eyeball feast, and it’s on Kickstarter right now!
CAPERS is the game of gangsters with superpowers from NerdBurger Games and designer Craig Campbell is a man who knows his onions. Campbell has over 30 published credits to his name, including work on Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, and Gamma World. In 2016 he Kickstarted an RPG of his own design, Murders & Acquisitions which is an absurdist RPG of “espionage, subterfuge, intrigue, theft, and murder” in the corporate world. CAPERS is his second original RPG, and came about through a decision to explore a different historical era and an intense binge-watching session of Boardwalk Empire.
You don’t roll dice. You draw cards!
The system Campbell has designed for CAPERS is revolutionary in how it matches the setting of the game. Tasks, combat, everything you’d want to do in CAPERS is resolved using a deck of cards! (Just like gangsters playing poker in a speakeasy!)
If you want to do something with a chance of failure, the GM (secretly) decides on a target number for the task. You will then flip over a number of cards based on your traits and skills, higher numbers of cards of course being better, with aces high. But this is also where the game takes a turn for the dramatic.
Let’s say you get to flip over two cards. You are not dealt two cards and allowed to choose the highest. Rather, you are dealt one card at a time and them must decide whether or not to keep it. You can ask for another card, but if it’s lower than the first, you’re stuck with it. And don’t forget the GM doesn’t tell you what your target number is! The system turns task resolution into a tense mini-game reminiscent of blackjack. It’s simply brilliant, and echoes Dread (which uses Jenga for task-resolution) for the way it makes task resolution fun while also fitting the game’s setting.
CAPERS’ Setting: Here Come the Rowdy Gals!
The setting itself is rich with detail and color, fusing the actual history of the 1920s along with what wasn’t but should have been. For example, in the 1920s, Atlantic City was held in the grip of one man: Nucky Johnson, who was not only the city’s treasurer, but also its crime boss. Atlantic City is also home to the Rowdy Gals. The Rowdy Gals are a “100+ strong (and growing) gang of young women seek[ing] female equality by cracking skulls and defying female norms.” The gang dresses in men’s clothing, drinks like fish, smokes like chimneys, and applies for jobs in traditionally male-dominated fields.
Want to get in on the action? You’ve only got until April 5 to back CAPERS on Kickstarter.
Want more tabletop goodness?
- Check out more revolutionary game mechanics with the pulse-pounding Dread.
- Watch the heroes of Sagas of Sundry play Dread on ProjectAlpha!
- Want to read about a superhero game that’s easy to play? Click here!
Ben Riggs speaks five languages and has lived in four countries on three continents, but still manages to lose his keys in the bathroom. A friend to man, animal, and werewolf alike, you can discover more of Ben’s thoughts on game, the universe, and everything on Twitter, or on the Plot Points podcast. you can read his novel about the only good orc here.
All images by Beth Varni and courtesy NerdBurger Games