Tabletop role-playing games are all about fantasy. Inside the magic circle of the dining room table, you can be whoever you want to be — a powerful wizard, a streetwise cyberpunk hacker, or even a smarter-than-average bear. One of the reasons we buy TTRPG books is to validate those fantasies. It is inspiring to pick up a copy of Dungeons & Dragons’ Player’s Handbook and find that fantasy version of yourself rendered on the page. But for Reynaldo Madriñan, co-creator of the Break!! TTRPG, it was always hard to see himself inside those books.
Like many players of a certain generation, Madriñan grew up playing Japanese RPGs, like The Legend of Zelda and Final Fantasy, and watching anime. Rarely, if ever, did the heroes he enjoyed as he was growing up appear in the pages of Western TTRPGs.
“It was almost like the old Simpsons gag — Why doesn’t mine look like that?” Madriñan said in a recent interview with Polygon.
So, Madriñan decided to do something about it.
Break!! is the culmination of a decade-long effort to get what was inside his head down onto the page — a fully-featured, pen-and-paper experience designed and written with his style of fandom in mind. The secret sauce, Madriñan said, is his close collaboration with co-creator Grey Wizard. The anonymous “hobby artist and information design nerd,” as they describe themselves, has gone several rounds with Madriñan to get the look of the game just right.
At first, Madriñan thought he’d found the right angle for the project in an early version of D&D that was released in Japan — a three-volume set known as the Rules Cyclopedia series that was first published in 1994. That original set was designed and built with Japanese aesthetics in mind, including brightly-colored, cartoon-like characters throughout.
“I remember seeing that and going, Oh, that’s perfect! That’s what I want!” Madriñan said. “It actually turned out it wasn’t perfect, because when I got into it, I was like, Yeah, you know what? I think I want to move a little towards Secret of Mana here. Maybe a little bit of Link to the Past kind of stuff.”
The result of that tinkering has clearly been a hit with consumers. Madriñan’s Kickstarter campaign was fully funded shortly after it launched, and it’s cruising along toward $400,000 in its final few days — quite the sum for an unproven franchise. It also doesn’t hurt that the entire gaming world is waiting with bated breath for the release of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, only the second major entry in the Zelda franchise to be released for the Nintendo Switch. Break!! seems well-suited to that particularly rabid audience.
“Regardless of exactly how it happened,” Madriñan said of the Kickstarter’s success, “I’m really humbled by it.”
The core book is mostly finished, he said, with delivery of the digital version expected in June shortly after the campaign ends. Later, in November, the physical product is expected to be delivered to backers. This is just the beginning, though, as Madriñan has plans to support the system long after its release.
But not too long, mind you.
“I just want to start doing free stuff for the game every couple of weeks again,” Madriñan said. “We’ve already planned it out. We want to do supplements, and we’re gonna go for smaller books and modules and stuff for supplements that are things that Grey and I can turn out and still be high quality, but also not take years and years.”
You can find more on Break!! at its Kickstarter page, where a digital copy will set you back about $25 and a physical copy starts around $57. The campaign runs through May 17.