Archive | June, 2012

Session 22: Dread

24 Jun

5pm – 9pm
Tuesday, July 3
Guardian Games
303 SE 3rd Ave at Pine St

Dread by Epidiah Ravachol is a game of horror and hope. Those who play will participate in a mutual telling of an original macabre tale. The goal of Dread is to sustain the delicate atmosphere that invokes the hand quivering emotion that lends its name to the game. The thrill of a Dread game lies within the tension between desire and loss. You will take on the role of someone trapped in a story that is only as compelling as it is hostile—someone who will find themselves making decisions we hope never to face in real life.

During a Dread game you and your friends will create characters to populate your own brand of horror story. This character creation is done through a questionnaire that is created by the player who is hosting the game. Each questionnaire provides a skeleton of a character for one of the players to flesh out with their answers, creating the character they want to play. In this way, characters are molded to the story by the host, and shaped to the players’ fancy.

As the game begins, the host sets the first scene for the horror tale everyone is about to participate in. The other players interject with questions and explanations of what their characters are doing. When a character attempts a task beyond their capabilities, it’s time to turn to the Tower–a stack of blocks, such as the Jenga® game, placed within reach of everyone at the table. Players allow their characters to succeed by pulling a block, or choose to let them fail by not pulling. If, at any time in the game, the tower falls, the character of the player responsible is removed from the game, never to return. Their fate might be death, insanity, cowardice, imprisonment, possession, or something else, as the story dictates. Players prone to martyrdom can mollify this somewhat by deliberately knocking over the tower, resulting in a heroic or dramatic success which ultimately consumes the character.

Those are the rules in a nutshell, but for more information, please visit


XP: Kingdom

20 Jun

Kingdom has got to be one of my favorite games. In my top five for sure. Usually these XP posts end up being critical and improvement seeking. But this one is going to be me gushing about Kingdom for several paragraphs.


Everything is so easy. In character creation you simply answer a few questions about who the character is and what it is they do. Building the characters builds the setting effortlessly. Everything you need for your character can be recorded on an index card.

Even the Roles are easy. Kingdom does not rely much on tactile mechanics such as dice rolls, but instead it gives each player incomplete authority over the Kingdom as a whole. The different roles interact is a very intuitive fashion, and the interplay between these Roles is all the mechanics this game really needs.

Each player can ask a question about the Kingdom’s future via Crossroads. So like, you get to explore the most interesting stuff.

The Arbiter function, which is a quasi-minimalist GM sort of thing, passes around the table. So there is no real way to know who will be Arbitrating when and if that comes up. It’s always a surprise, and it again helps get each player’s input on the Kingdom out in the open.

Though there are no mechanical details to make it so, the tension found in the Crossroads and Crisis naturally bring everything to a boil and the consequences are felt hard.

Stealing Roles is just awesome. In out game the Kingdom was Heaven, and I, playing Archangel Michael actually stole Power (the Role) away from God. Beyond epic.

Kingdom reminds me of Fiasco. I like to be reminded of Fiasco. It’s probably the open ended scene framing and the almost total lack of situational mechanics.


I would like to see the game manage to do away with the scant d6 rolls. They are used in only a few specific situations, but the game would be more pure in my mind without them.

The text is still a work in progress, so it’s understandable that there are some minor issues to be resolved there. I really appreciate the accessibility of Microscope’s text, and I hope that Kingdom will follow suit.

Keep your eyes peeled for Kingdom. You have got to play this. There is not a soon enough!

Session 21: Monsterhearts

10 Jun

Tuesday, June 19
Guardian Games
303 SE 3rd Ave at Pine St

Monsterhearts lets you and your friends create stories about sexy monsters, teenage angst, personal horror, and secret love triangles. When you play, you explore the terror and confusion that comes both with growing up and feeling like a monster.

Based on the Apocalypse World engine, this is a game with emergent story, messy relationships, a structured MC role, and a focus on hard choices.

It’s designed to evoke stories like True Blood, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Ginger Snaps or The Twilight Saga. If you like supernatural romances, or stories of monstrosity and personal horror, or if you just like watching sexy people ruin their lives, then you’ll love this game.

Text taken from

XP: Misspent Youth

1 Jun

Misspent Youth by Robert Bohl is a dystopian science fiction game about standing up against oppression with your friends and possibly selling your soul in the process. It’s a really hot idea and the game just bleeds style at every level – play, text and record sheets.

Unfortunately we had difficulty fitting this game in the four hour time slot. We rushed some things and our game suffered for it. We liked the taste we got, but keep in mind that this review is based on what amounts to a glimpse and not a detailed examination.


Play is preceded by a rather detailed setting creation process. This process involves labeling and stereotyping certain aspects of the dystopia and the Youthful Offenders (protagonists) themselves. At first this seems a little weird and seemingly counter theme, but a closer inspection reveals that this is merely how the Authority classifies the YOs and the world in general. You are meant to resist these narrow categories. At this point the various record sheets become a prop of sorts and lends the game a surreal texture.

It is also very easy to apply these labels to the games various concepts, which makes using and understanding things very easy. It’s very convenient.


As awesome and effective at the setting creation was, it took a lot of time to get things all squared away. This cut into play time significantly. I would advise a group looking to play this game in a few hours to really move along quickly, spending no more than an hour total sorting out the details. Less is more.

Because of this scenes were very short. We began looking for the conflict right away and driving towards that instead of enjoying the characters and letting the scene evolve more naturally. A true shame. I think fifteen to twenty minutes a scene, including the struggle would be ideal.

The struggles themselves are very specific ordeals. There is a certain procedure as to who says what when, and as you interact with the mechanics you have to leave a lot open ended. It feels very shaky at first, but it becomes sensible as you go through the motions. On the other hand, deviating from the process outlined in the text gets weird and unintelligible fast. Somebody at the table had better really understand how the struggles work or the first few scenes will feel out of place. As we played I felt like I wanted a ball we could throw around the table as different people needed to speak.

Aside from simply needing more time, the real difficulty was in selling out. In a game of Misspent Youth it is not so much a question of whether or not the YOs will win a struggle or emerge victorious at the end of the episode (the scene structure imposes a certain flow to the narrative), but whether or not they will have to sell their soul and sacrifice their convictions and ideals in the process. Sell out like this will win a struggle outright. In a one shot that means that the YO’s would never be actually risking losing a struggle. It takes the wind right out of the sails.

Instead of allowing the sell out to win the struggle, we decided to have selling out allow a re-roll of the dice in the struggle. This seemed to help, but still we didn’t get much of a chance to see this mod in action. I can’t really say if this was a good adaptation or not.


Were it not for time constraints this would have been a very different experience. All I can say is that one-shots are not ideal for this game and that much of its design favors long term play. An extended multi session game would be a much more fulfilling experience.

That said I am chomping at the bit to play this one again. I like what I’ve seen so far and would like to see more.