Archive | March, 2012

Session 16: Carry, a game about war

28 Mar

Tuesday, April 10
Guardian Games
303 SE 3rd Ave at Pine St

Carry, by Nathan D. Paoletta is a game focused on the experience of being a soldier in the Vietnam war. Heavily inspired by the films Platoon and Full Metal Jacket and the novel The Things They Carried, carry is designed to provide a serious roleplaying experience in thetradition of these sources.

How soldiers behave in war is a difficult topic, and the game focuses more on dealing with that difficulty than on celebrating violence or exploring tactical and strategic choices. The way that players have described a session is “fun, but in the way watching a really serious drama is fun, not fun like popcorn and beer fun.”

Carry is structured in a short-form style. It plays out from start to finish in one three-to-four hour session. Over the course of the game, characters deal (or fail to deal) with their Burdens and the pressures and difficulties coming from the other characters, and from the GM. At the end of the game, everyone has a chance to talk about both what happens to their characters in the end, and how these characters are remembered in the aftermath of the events of the game.

Text and image taken from


XP: 3:16 Carnage Among the Stars

27 Mar

3:16 Carnage Among the Stars is a sarcastic game about ridiculous destruction and xenocide. It plays fast, the mechanics are lightweight and airtight, and the premise is a super easy buy in for pretty much anybody.


The planet mission, colorful as they may be, are little more than a backdrop for the meat of the game. And the meat of the game is not necessarily the combat, it is making rash decisions that jeopardize your fellow troopers well being. Granted, the combat scenes are huge motivators for driving those decisions.

I was a little surprised to see how quickly the resentment between players built up and spilled over. There are no mechanics that are overtly about that, but pretty much everything winds up encouraging it. Then it’s all about using grenades anyway, stealing kills, forcing weaknesses, and generally giving each other the finger. Great stuff!


The primary mode of play for this game is a long term campaign format. The flashbacks, the neat gear, it’s all designed for use in the long term. We did a one shot (making it through two planets), and implementing these things was just a little troublesome. In particular, there was no reason not to use plenty of orbital bombardment, which is a little anti-climactic.

But the real trouble was with the basic mechanic itself. One player failed nearly every roll. With a rather binary mechanic this is bound to happen sometimes, but in a long term campaign having an off night would not sour your whole experience of the game. This player’s only experience of this game was rather frustrating. Unfortunate, but the only sure solution I see is to focus on long term play.

We did get to see field promotions, in fighting, development rolls and cool equipment. I wasn’t sure we would see those things, but it’s a good thing we did, because those are the best parts.

Ultimately this game requires some adaptation to the one shot. The next time I play this game it will be a full twenty mission game.

Session 15: Dungeon World

20 Mar

Tuesday, March 27
Guardian Games
303 SE 3rd Ave at Pine St

Dungeon World is a world of fantastic adventure. A world of magic, gods, demons, Good and Evil. Brave heroes venture into the most dangerous corners of the land in search of gold and glory.

You are those heroes. You go where others can’t or won’t. You conquer the unbeatable and laugh in the face of Death. There are monstrous things lurking in the world. Are you ready to face them?

Dungeon World is a roleplaying game by Sage LaTorra and Adam Koebel. It’s a game of epic fantasy with rules based on the Apocalypse World system. It’s also pretty awesome.

Text & image borrowed from

XP: The Dreaming Crucible

14 Mar

This post has been kind of a long time coming because I’m just not quite sure what to say about the Dreaming Crucible.

And it’s not that I don’t like it. It is an amazing game and it produces very tender (and equally amazing) fiction. But, it is difficult to tell where the game ends and the mixed psyches of the players begin. It quickly becomes so personal that the boundaries blur. There are not many games that do that at all, much less this well.


So what can I say about the game itself? It is totally non-intrusive. Drawing stones from a bag is the only mechanic, and it gently guides the trajectory of your tale. There are a few conventions regarding how things are introduced into the fiction, but those too are pretty intuitive. My one mechanical complaint is that the game is ever so slightly biased towards a happy ending, and I have found the unhappy endings to be more emotional. Maybe that’s just me, or maybe I’m somehow unable to make equally good happy endings. Or maybe I delight in unhappiness! You be the judge.

My favorite feature of this game is the way it carries a theme. It will be a theme you never talked about, one you didn’t plan on, but when you look back you will find that the fiction has been stitched with the dark thread of this unknown theme from the get go. And that’s when it strikes you – these theme is some kind of shared truth between all three players, and if any of you were conscious of it’s significance to you individually, none of you realized the collective significance.


Maybe this realization comes half way through the game, or a bit later. Then the draws become more intense. Then the companion’s relationship to the heroine changes, just before the transformation takes place and the companion is definitively altered. Then the final draw with the unhappy ending just about breaks your heart.

Well, that’s how our game went, anyway, and it all seemed to ephemeral and so precious all at once.

You know what? I was wrong. My favorite thing about this game is how it gets out of your way and lets you invest personally in the fiction and deliberately avoids any minutiae that might tamper with your connection to the fiction.

Totally check this one out.


Session 14: 3:16 Carnage Among the Stars

7 Mar

3:16 Carnage Among the Stars

Tuesday, March 13
Guardian Games
303 SE 3rd Ave at Pine St

3:16 Carnage Among the Stars by Gregor Hutton is a high-octane Science-Fiction role-playing game for 2 or more players has your Space Troopers killing bugs all across the Cosmos. You’ll advance in rank, improve your weapons, slay civilization after civilization and find out who you are through an innovative “Flashback” mechanic.

Terra’s plan is to kill every living thing in the Universe to protect the home world. See where your tour of duty in the 3:16th Expeditionary Force takes you and your friends. Revel in the kill-happy machismo and enjoy a campaign of Carnage Amongst The Stars.

3:16 is a Science-Fiction role-playing game about Carnage Amongst The Stars.

Now, take your squad of kill-happy Troopers and annihilate bugs!

Text and image borrowed from Gregor Hutton.

XP: Hot Guys Making Out

1 Mar

During our Valentine’s Day session, we played Hot Guys Making Out, a yaoi role-playing game by Ben Lehman. To our delight & surprise, Ben even showed up to play it with us!

The game is elegantly simple, and can be picked up with a quick read of the rules. Each of 2-4 players picks a character established in the book–mainly centering around Honore (who mainly takes physical & direct actions) and Gonsalvo (who mainly explores emotions). Each player has a hand of cards, and they can make short descriptions or actions that rely on which card they play/discard.


Since each player only said a few sentences per turn, the turns alternated quickly but the narrative itself moved slowly. This was a great emulation of manga as a medium. Gutters of blank space surrounded the brief (and sometimes intense) bits of narrative contributed by each player–and transitions were often moment-to-moment or aspect-to-aspect.

(Yun Kōga, Loveless 84, page 9.)

The discards (a description of something in the scene rather than an action taken by a character) really emphasized this effect. An entire action could be a simple few words or a brush of a hand on a cheek, a turn could unfold time into details like a clock’s slow ticking or the sunlight’s illumination of dust in the air.


And the effect of exploding time in such a way? Delicious romantic tension & tragic suspense. Since players kept their hands concealed, nobody knew what was going to happen from one moment to the next. The world moved on around our characters as we waited in suspense. It had all the silence and slowness of a secluded nobleman’s home, and brought in the fear of being caught. A lonely block of ice melts into Honore’s empty glass, the leaves rustle outside, and Maria silently slips poison into Gonsalvo’s soup.


Our game took on quite a tragic Shakespearian flavor. In the end, our star-crossed protagonists were dying in each other’s arms after a fatal dose of poisoned tea and a fateful kiss. Depending on what the players do, this game moves quickly toward a tragic end–which is appropriate when we’re making a story about forbidden love.