This D&D Kickstarter is Scary Close to Playing an Unbeatable(?) Game

Is it really 1,500 hours long if nobody has ever beaten the game before...?

Many of us have played or at least heard of those epically long games of Risk or Axis and Allies that take four hours, eight hours, or even longer to complete. But what about a tabletop game where even a single round is estimated at half a continuous day — about 10-15 hours — with a total time to complete estimated at 1,500 hours? A game most believe that no one has ever finished.

If a Kickstarter for a third-party Dungeons & Dragons supplement reaches its largest stretch goal, we’ll see at least one of those rounds in action.

Flee, Mortals!, a new monster compendium for Dungeons & Dragons by MCDM Productions, reached its initial target of $600,000 in just about six hours. Then it went on to reach two of its three stretch goals by its second day, hitting over $1,000,000 in funding.

Author’s Note: I have playtested previous products for MCDM but did not receive financial compensation or free products. Nor have I yet touched Flee, Mortals!

The first stretch goal at $800,000 is to add rival adventurers to the monster manual, adding art and stat blocks for players to face as they save the world. The second stretch goal at $1,000,000 promises to add lairs and treasure hoards for each of the book’s boss-like characters.

Leaping all the way to $2,000,000, the final stretch goal has nothing to do with Dungeons & Dragons or Flee, Mortals! at all. This last goal is to livestream at least one round of the tabletop wargame The Campaign for North Africa: The Desert War, 1940–43 by Simulation Productions, a company that shuttered its doors way back in 1982. Despite this, the game’s bizarre legacy cast a shadow into the mainstream after it was featured in an episode of The Big Bang Theory.

Campaign for North Africa (CNA) is a classic example of wargaming of the ‘70s reaching an excess, with a map at least nine-and-a-half feet long (reports of the exact size seem to vary wildly), 1,600 counters, and six booklets with tables to reference which cover topics such as “Air and Logistics Game Rules of Play and Scenarios.” It’s also estimated that the game takes about 1,500 hours (over two real-world months) to complete. Even the designer, Richard Berg, never finished it. In fact, fans of the wargaming scene are certain that no one has ever completed such an outlandishly long game.

Founder of MCDM Matt Colville admits that playing a round of CNA has absolutely nothing to do with the monster manual. It was totally meant for something fun to add to the Kickstarter — not necessarily a serious goal anyone thought was likely. In the video promoting the Kickstarter, he even said he doesn’t think it will happen. The team chose $2,000,000 “because it seemed basically impossible,” but over a week later funding is inching closer and closer to that “impossible” goal to play the borderline impossible game. The Kickstarter is now at over $1.6 million as of this writing.

Colville said of the “legendary” CNA that it’s been sitting on the shelf at his company for years — ever since he bought it off eBay. Every time someone sees it, they open it up and say, “This looks insane! We should try it.”

Flee, Mortals! promises to be a fun project on its own. Built on the premise that stat blocks for creatures in the official Wizards of the Coasts products are boring, this book has new monsters and adds new abilities to existing creatures such as goblins to make them feel more dynamic and interesting. Goblins in D&D are said to be crafty fighters, but nothing in their basic stat block suggests this.

New goblins, of which there are eight in Flee, Mortals!, all gain a trait called “Crafty” that allows them to run in, attack their enemies, and run back to the “safety” of their allies without taking an opportunity attack. It may not sound like much, but as an experienced DM I can say this small change alone makes fighting goblins much more thematic and chaotic.Not to mention, most importantly,  fun!

This new supplement also brings minion rules from fourth edition into the more modern fifth edition, allowing even Level 1 characters to destroy multiple “weaker” enemies in a single attack (and letting players to feel pretty damn cool doing it). Minions do have hit points, but the rule is that if they take any amount of damage from an attack, they instantly fall to zero. The six hit points a goblin minion has act more like a threshold — so spells such as “Sleep” don’t drop 20 goblins unconscious at once, but also allows for the new minion “Overkill” rule.

When characters attack a minion, which intentionally clump up in groups, they attack and roll damage normally. Any damage over the threshold is Overkill and “splashes” onto another nearby minion, killing it as well. If there is still damage left over, the remainder moves to another minion within range, and so on.

I used some of these new goblins, their new tactics, and these minions, all provided in a free preview in the Kickstarter, in a Level 1 one-shot recently. And, yes, my players felt pretty fucking cool killing two or three goblins at once. Goal achieved! Perhaps that’s why Flee, Mortals! is drawing so much funding when most D&D Kickstarters don’t get nearly this kind of attention these days.

While the new monsters and minion rules are exciting on their own, the Kickstarter is still inching ever closer to the “impossible” goal of playing a round of The Campaign for North Africa. Whether you’re into the mainstream mage-mashing RPG or not, that alone could be interesting as hell.

The Flee, Mortals! Kickstarter ends on Monday, May 2, 2022.