Last Wednesday was a bittersweet day for fans of independent role-playing games, as Craig Stern temporarily put his website, IndieRPGs.com, on hiatus to work on the development of his own game. While gamers will need to find another source of news for upcoming indies of this genre, Stern’s newest game, Telepath Tactics, might just be worth the trade-off.

I had a chance to talk to the 30-year-old Stern about his decision to put IndieRPGs.com on hold. The Chicago native was torn about his decision to pause his site, which was created to fill a void left by gaming news sites. He had noticed that mainstream sites focused mainly on big developers, and even indie sites had a tendency to overlook roleplaying games. Stern set out to create a website where indie RPGs could get the attention he thought they deserved.

Stern has been a long time lover of RPGs, and it’s tough to pin him down on a personal favorite. “They’re all different, and many different games do very different things really well,” he says. In the end he gives a list of his favorites: The Spirit Engine 2, Recettear, Frayed Knights, Cardinal Quest II, and Caravaneer make his list for various reasons. Stern says that Telepath RPG: Servants of God has his favorite combat system, which he admits may be a biased view since he made the game.

Stern directed me to a short video that gives a brief description of his upcoming tactical RPG, Telepath Tactics. After watching the video and browsing SinisterDesign.net, I was more than happy to try out the press demo Stern made available.

The informational video talks about the AI of the game not being simple and waiting around to be slaughtered by the player, but I wasn’t prepared for the ruthless nature of my computerized opponent. Before I had even gotten a hang of the game, I found myself outflanked, and my sole healer, who had yet to cast any spells, was mercilessly mobbed and executed. In a tight spot, I moved the remnants of my army into the castle and used my engineer to barricade the doors. I then raided the castle for supplies (looking mainly healing items), while trying to dodge the arrows of hidden archers. I then had to sneak out of the back door and try to assassinate the enemy leader to salvage some sort of victory. The game was intense, brutal, and humbling, but it certainly was a few minutes of good fun.

I thought I was special for getting a press demo, but it turns out Stern makes his alpha demo available to everyone. Stern wants everyone to see what Telepath Tactics is about, and he is trying to raise support for the game’s Kickstarter campaign. A $10 backing now guarantees a copy of the game upon release, which really isn’t a bad deal, especially since anyone can try the game out now.

Stern does plan on resuming his dedicated reporting on IndieRPGs.com sometime in 2013, once he has wrapped up his Kickstarter campaign. At that point, he will continue to work a day job, run the website, and keep developing Telepath Tactics, which he has scheduled to be released in December, 2013.

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