Wilderfeast, the new tabletop role-playing game currently being crowdfunded on Kickstarter, has a curious little tagline: “You are what you eat.” It’s a game about hunting down gigantic monsters, eating their meat, and thereby gaining their powerful abilities through potent mutagenic effects. But this isn’t just another take on the popular Monster Hunter series’ epic set-piece battles, or an attempt to move in on Kingdom Death: Monster’s territory. Instead, creator KC Shi has clearly done her homework, leveraging her own love of ecology to spin clever mechanics into what could be your group’s next campaign.
The world of Wilderfeast, Shi told Polygon, is a post-post-post-apocalyptic take on our own planet Earth. So much geological time has passed, in fact, that the seven continents have reformed into the One Land, a Pangea-like supercontinent pockmarked by deep scars still visible after millennia of abuse. Making matters worse is the fact that the One Land has been overtaken by powerful megafauna, gigantic creatures like the kakwari, a 13-foot-tall descendent of the modern-day peacock sporting razor-sharp metal feathers, claws, and a beak to match. Making matters worse, some portion of its already deadly animal population has come down with the frenzy — an incurable disease that turns them rabid with hunger and rage.
“Players are only hunting frenzied monsters,” Shi said during a recent video call. “There is no other option but euthanasia for them. They can’t be cured, and if they are allowed to rampage, then they’ll harm the ecosystems they’re in and spread that disease to other monsters.”
The game will have four main phases, Shi explained. Free play will be the most common, with creativity, character bonding, and social encounters taking up most of players’ time. Then comes the trail, when players will venture into the wild to track down frenzied monsters. Here, they’ll search for tracks, forage for food and resources, and generally begin to piece together elements of the larger ecosystems around them. Then comes the hunt, a bloody battle against one or more massive creatures.
But as players begin to learn more about the animals that inhabit the One Land, hunting won’t be the only option available to them.
“The long term idea I have is for Wilderfeast to involve rehabilitating monsters,” Shi said. “So as you’re journeying along you find some that are injured or sick, and you bring them home and you feed them. The ingredients you find along your travels are the same ingredients these monsters eat, and so you can bring them back to health by giving them food. So in that way, there is this cycle of the main focus of every journey [being] the hunt — the big, flashy, dramatic violence — but then throughout that you have to make sure you’re also supporting and restoring the habitats around you.”
The big payoff in every adventure will be the wilderfeast itself — the game’s fourth phase of play. That’s where players will sit down, give thanks, and then explain in great detail the various dishes they’ve brought to share with the other players at the table. The Wilderfeast Quickstart — available now as a free 78-page digital download — is filled with glorious illustrations of fantastical food that look pulled straight from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. And it’s those items on the menu that will contribute to players leveling up their characters, gaining new abilities, and ultimately preparing for the next tier of play.
“I wanted the cooking system to be relatively free-form and allow for creativity,” Shi said. “So you can combine these ingredients in basically any way. The rules for how you gain bonuses from them are pretty simple. [...] You can just combine things in whatever way you like, whatever way inspires you. Those small meals that you make along the trail? They can provide small bonuses for you and encourage you to make cooking part of your day-to-day adventuring.”
And all throughout that process, players will be building a better understanding of the fantasy world around them.
“One of the main things I want to implement in Wilderfeast,” Shi said, “is this idea of, just like in a traditional Dungeons & Dragons game [where] you’re picking up bits and pieces of lore about like the demons or wizards or what have you, in this game you are slowly learning about the ecosystem. [...] You have to learn what [these monsters] feed on and what the sort of natural foods found in their environment are. And then you have to learn how to gather those foods, and then you have to learn how to make a monster eat these foods. And so that lore is central to the game.”
Another big draw for the extended campaign will be that players themselves will help to unravel other mysteries in the game — like the precursor races whose creations still litter the landscape. Among them are the Conductors, whose mysterious, ley-line-riding trains still race around the apocalyptic landscape “following a schedule set for them thousands of years ago,” Shi said.
The game’s first major adventure, now in development, will task players with tracking down and saving the last chamig — a massive, tortoiselike creature that may well be the last of its kind.
“The adventure delves into the past of the world,” Shi said, “and that you are assembling the pieces of a device, a mysterious device, known only as the Resurrection Machine. [...] There’s this central idea that every adventurer still has to hunt frenzied monsters. But [your] auxiliary goals, the overarching thing that links them all together, is this quest to restore a species back to its place.”
Wilderfeast has already met its original funding goal, and currently stands at more than $125,000 earned — a modest sum for a TTRPG on that platform. Both physical and digital rewards are available, with the final product expected to be delivered by September 2024. You can get a copy for as little as $24. The campaign runs through Sept. 26.