XP: Archipelago

4 Mar

Archipelago has become my favorite fantasy story game.

The primary reason for this is the sense of relaxation and expansiveness the game fosters. The world really feels wide open. I think it has a lot to do with the map making process and the implied dare to imagine what’s out there. Hot, hot, hot.

But it also has to to with the seeming lack of resolution mechanics. I hesitate to call the mechanics conflict resolution, because it has much more to do with the pace and direction of the narrative than it does the action at hand (this is not entirely true, but the way it relates to my experience as a player feels something like this). The net result is that there is a kind of permission the game gives you to act and express. That is so freeing.

Much of the mechanics have to do with the phrases used by the other players in response to your narration. This bears a great resemblance to Polaris, which is present on two levels. The ritual phrases thing is obvious. But more significantly, this is kind of an automatic social contract calibration tool. The tone of your fiction is determined by the way all players interact with each other through the use of these mechanics. I find this to be a brilliant feature of Polaris, and it is brilliant here, too.

The only bit of advice I might have is to use the “Try It Another Way” phrase a lot. I know it sounds like stepping on toes, and I was reluctant to use it for that reason, but seriously, your game will suffer for not using this. The first hour or so will require revisions, but you will find a stride for your fiction and then you will begin to really explore what the game has to offer. But seriously, the use of this phrase is the best way to get there. I promise.

The long and short of it is this: Archipelago will be a long term game at my table some time soon.

One Response to “XP: Archipelago”

  1. Nemomeme (@nemomeme) March 4, 2013 at 4:58 pm #

    I’ve played Archipelago hacks many times and am only now finally beginning a long-term fantasy game with the core rules. Archipelago is one of my favorites too.

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