Review: Stingers and Spores

THE PUNCHLINE: Stingers and Spores is a creative blend of real-world science and fantasy, filled with quirky background and character options. Two tentacles up!

FOR LOVERS OF: Low Life, Savage Pathfinder, Heroes of Terra

USEFUL CROSSOVER MECHANICS: Arcane Backgrounds (especially Alchemist), race creation options (especially for Science Fiction settings)

Stingers and Spores (on Kickstarter as of this post) from Twitchy Butcher Games, is a pretty standard fantasy setting – in which everyone is an insect. Not a giant, human-sized insect, mind you, but a real insect species you might find in a jungle, your backyard, or, if you’re particularly messy, in your kitchen. Cricket bards, moth wizards, hornet barbarians, and beetle paladins abound. Broad families of insects like crickets and grasshoppers; bees, hornets, and wasps; or beetles share common traits, but the opportunities to customize your insect race abound. Size also matters – you can play a giant stag beetle or a swarm of gnats with a collective consciousness, and it’s very possible for player characters to ride each other. New Arcane Backgrounds include Alchemy, which is a great all-purpose background that could be used in many settings; variations on magic to reflect insect spellcasting techniques like silkspinning or putrefying; and War Path for Qi-powered insect monks. A small number of new Edges are supplemented by a new Trade-Off mechanic, in which a benefit such as perfect camouflage in a specific environment (think stick insects) is offset by a conspicuous lack of stealth in other environments (think stick insects in the desert).

Other new mechanics include special rules for flight-based combat and actions, since many of the characters will be able to fly; insect-level hazards such as rain; and rules for dealing with the deadly hazard of spider webs. A special kid-friendly ruleset is also included to allow for a more Pixar-cartoon feel for the adventures, with simplified rules and key Setting Rules like Heroes Never Die. Gear is mainly standard fantasy fare, but with the inclusion of gigantic Str+d12 melee weapons (Titan Weapons) to allow the hugest insects appropriately scaled hardware.

The player’s guide includes a ton of information on the setting, including legends of the gods and the Arthrogods, the horrifying creatures known as vertebrates, and the revolution that put the insects on top of the food chain. A quirky sense of humor suffuses the book – aside from the aforementioned Arthrogods, your moth wizard might have a great deal of trouble concentrating on anything when there’s a bright light nearby, while your wasp monk might be so focused on a task that he misses the spider assassin sneaking up behind him.

While the Gamemaster’s Guide is still a stretch goal as of this writing, I would anticipate a lot of stats for enemy creatures, including spiders and scorpions, as well as monstrous beasts such as frogs and robins. Taking on a frog in this setting is probably equivalent to fighting a dragon in core Savage Worlds. There are also hints about dangerous elder gods beneath the ground that the insects might awaken (“The ants delved too greedily and too far…” – Gandalf the Grub), and a ton of opportunity for intrigue across insect kingdoms, quests for ancient knowledge lost during the Age of Bones (vertebrate era), and religious conflicts.

The layout and graphic design of the book is solid, with some great black and white art in the interior and a beautiful color cover. This is a setting I’d strongly recommend picking up if you have any interest in either fantasy RPGs or bugs. Kudos to Twitchy Butcher!

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