Tag Archives: game design

XP: SKEW

22 Aug

SKEW 8 20

Last RSG we game SKEW, the new surreal science fiction story game by Ben Lehman a spin. Two spins, actually, and great spins they were!

I confess that reading the text itself did not leave me super excited to play. I was curious, I like the genre and flavor, and Ben’s games are some of the best anywhere. But, as soon as we sat down to play things really kicked into gear.

SKEW takes place in a sequence of Phases that guide the story into, and possibly out of, misunderstanding. Players take turns narrating what happens to the protagonist and their world (unlike many role playing games, there is only a single protagonist shared by the table in SKEW) in one or two sentence turns. This is very reminiscent of one of Ben’s earlier games, Hot Guys Making Out.

A simple token economy paces the encroaching weirdness, and eventually, one player at a time will speak for the weirdness of this bending reality. The short turns keeps the pace of the game brisk, which accommodates for a large group of players. This also allows for a steady stream of creativity. Since things change so quickly you have to listen attentively to your fellow players. This prompts very functional play, and may be one of the chief reasons we had such a good time.

Our first game took about an hour and a half, and the second took about an hour. The second game was facilitated by one of the players who had no experience with SKEW beyond the first game.

Clearly, SKEW is very accessible. After the game we reflected on our play, and many of the players commented on how this would be a good game to play with non-gamer family members, or in one players case, how it might be used in her classroom.

For our plays the early Phases were the most fun and exciting, and while the later Phases didn’t drag, they were not as poppin’ and the first few. In one of the final Phases the players ask questions of the GM (the player who speaks for the weirdness) as they try and figure out what is going on with reality. Both of our games slowed during this Phase. In our second game we distinguished between asking questions about the details of the established narration, and asking questions about the nature and workings of the weirdness. This was a critical distinction for our play, and is something I will mention in my future plays of SKEW. The text itself isn’t terribly explicit on this, but I feel this approach is likely in the spirit of the rules.

Our first game saw a postal worker attempt to deliver a non-euclidian package to a superspace processed cheese factory only to become a kind of sentient metaphor for certain elements of Greek mythology via a Hero’s Journey quest against a implicitly nihilistic minotaur while on an errand to replace Hermes.

Our second game was the story of Napoleon, a ukulele playing islander who got caught up in a rock ‘n roll battle of the bands with Nordic Gods, Satan and the miserable souls of hell at sea after sounding the lowest pitch possible given the diameter of the physical universe which happened to free an entangled titan. Napoleon successfully (?) re-created God from the kindness in his grandmother’s soul by way of a strange parent-child paradox (“it’s complicated”).

I have no doubt that each player would sum up these games differently, but hey, that’s SKEW. You don’t tell just one story, you tell a spectrum of possible stories, and each is as crazy as the last.

Read more about SKEW here: http://www.tao-games.com/skew/. Enjoy!

Open Play 49: The Sundered Land, Bacchanal, Hollowpoint

11 Jul

6pm – 10pm

Tuesday, July 16th

Guardian Games

303 SE 3rd Ave at Pine St

Welcome, again, to Ready, Set, Game PDX Open Play!

Ready, Set, Game PDX is an easy story gaming event. All you have to do is show up and play a game. You don’t need to bring anything other than the desire to play and the willingness to try something new. Absolutely everybody is welcome! No experience necessary! You are free to invite anybody and everybody; just make sure you RSVP. That helps us make sure everybody has a good time.

A story game is a game where the players create a narrative as a product of play. You might recognize a few things from other tabletop games, but the difference here is that you spontaneously make a collaborative story with the other players. There are always several different ones to choose from, so odds are good there will be one that’s just right. A description of each of the scheduled games will be posted as comments, so check ’em out!

At 6:00 we kind of loosely gather in the “Blue Area” of Guardian Games and socialize for a bit. Please, just relax and chat! At 6:15 we all come together as a group and the facilitators introduce their games. At that point players sign up for whichever game they want and get down to business.

Technically we have the space until 10:00, but we try to get games wrapped up around 9:30 or so. After the games, all who wish to do so go out for drinks and banter at a nearby establishment. As usual, everybody is welcome!

Here is what we have this week!
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The Sundered Land:
The Sundered Land is a series of 5 single-page games plus 2 supplements set in the Sword & Sorcery ruins of the future. And we are going to play as many as we can!

The games are mutually compatible and overlapping, but self-contained. Each game plays in 20-60 minutes. You can play them in whatever order you like. You can bring the character from one game into the next, or create a new character whenever you like. Each of the games has a GM, but you should take turns from game to game to game.

In Caravan Guards, you’re guarding a caravan on the Burnt Road, and the Hazard player creates monsters and other dangers to try to destroy it.

In Night Watch, you’re passing the night by telling your comrades stories from your past.

In At Ends, you’re down to your ambition and your wits, trying to make your way on the streets of a city of intrigue.

In Warriors, you’re meeting your enemies in battle.

http://nightskygames.com/welcome/game/TheSunderedLand
hollowpoint-title
Hollowpoint:
Hollowpoint is a role-playing game that uses a novel engine to generate fast on-the-fly violent action at the drop of a hat, brought to you by the award-winning developers of Diaspora. It’s ideally suited to a single evening’s play and encourages regular character death because, hey, this shit’s dangerous. Hollowpoint has been nominated in three categories for the 2012 ENnie awards: best rules, best game, and product of the year.

http://www.vsca.ca/Hollowpoint/
bacchanal-pen-sm
Bacchanal:
It is late summer in Puteoli, south of Rome, 61 A.D., when the city finds itself playing unexpected host to the god Bacchus. Caught up in the madness of wine, the citizens throw off their togas and mingle as equals with slaves and foreigners in a debased fervor. And your own plans for a hasty departure are lost to this decadence which separates you from the companion with whom you would travel.

Bacchanal is a sensual game of debauchery for players both mature and courageous.

http://www.halfmeme.com/bacchanal.html

Ready, Set, Game PDX is brought to you by Play Out Loud. Play Out Loud serves Portland with spontaneous shared storytelling activities featuring non-mainstream games. Learn more athttp://www.facebook.com/playoutloudpdx.

XP: Kagematsu

29 Jun

IMAG0447

Sorry it’s been a while since the last XP. I played Monsterhearts that week, and I’d already written about it, and I didn’t have anything to add. But I’ll make up for it now with a huge review of Kagematsu!

Kagematsu is a romance game set in feudal Japan. The most interesting thing about Kagematsu is not it’s subject matter, but rather the highly gendered lens through which that subject matter is viewed.

There isn’t much to say about the game’s mechanics, and there is a lot to say about the game’s process, so let’s get this out of the way. The mechanics are clear, coherent and simple. They do exactly what they mean to and nothing more. Even the slightest glance at the meaning of their implementation shows thematic insight (such as Charm vs. Innocence – as you lose Innocence you gain Charm, which is a statement about gender and sexuality). Elegant and practical! Moving on.

The killer app of Kagematsu is that the text asks a woman player to take the role of Kagematsu and everybody else to take the role of a Townswoman. The Kagematsu Player is “Scene Manager” and has the first and final say on scene framing, but can also delegate a portion of scene framing ability to the other players if they choose. Kagematsu can even frame the Townswomen into scenes, saying what they are doing and where they are doing it. On the flip side, the Townswomen may never speak for Kagematsu. Even if the Kagematsu player allows a Townswoman Player to set the scene, it is still up to the Kagematsu to enter that scene how he will. Finally, my reading of the texts suggests that it is not in the spirit of the game for Townswomen Players to offer suggestions on scene ideas until the Kagematsu Player asks for their input.

However, the Townswomen decide which affection they are going for, which is resolved by a die roll. Which means that Kagematsu has no say over that – only how it comes to pass (if it does) and what he thinks of it after.

There are a number of observations one can take from those data points.

First of all, it is a very gendered statement. Kagematsu has all the narrative power, and the Townswomen just have to fit it however they can. However, Kagematsu also has the responsibility to frame scenes. Let me tell you, Kagematsu is looking at framing probably forty to fifty scenes. Half that would be exhausting. Which means, that despite the asymmetry of power distribution between the genders here, actually it sucks for everybody. This is a play critique of gender inequality and how, by performing this form of oppression as a culture (which we certainly do) we do harm to the whole of our culture.

Second, it is also interesting to note that for all of his narrative power, Kagematsu does not have control over his fate. It’s dice rolls all the way down for him, and his success or failures are blind to his input. He may color his actions, but ultimately he will be ushered through his destiny with no choice and no voice. Even the Townswomen get to choose whether or not they die, but not Kagematsu.

The Townswomen, however, ultimately succeed not based on the die rolls, but based on Kagematsu’s Love for them, which is completely independant of the Townswomen’s success at the die rolls.

In fact, winning an Affection Roll has two mechanical effects, lowering Fear (which helps Kagematsu, not the Townswomen) and Acts of Desperation (which, if used to win a roll, are somewhat more likely to each Pity instead of Love for the Townswomen, and actually work against her), and neither directly help the Townswomen. The only was a success on a die roll helps a Townswoman is if the fiction described after changes the tone of the scene so that the Kagematsu Player chooses Love over Pity. But, since Kagematsu gets to say how that transpires, Kagematsu would be leading the conversation in which he convinces himself that he loves this woman. So I am going to maintain that the outcome of die rolls has only a small effect on the overall success for a Townswoman.

Which means that the Townswoman finds her success in her fictional actions and the actual roleplay by the player. Which means that her actions in game do have a direct impact on her success. For not having any voice in other parts of the game process, the Townswomen have the only voice here! This “judgement mechanic” that weds the fiction to the eventual outcome is super slick. That it is also used in the inverse of the rest of the mechanics to complete this gendered statement is quite remarkable.

I have only one gripe about this game – for a one shot, it takes quite a while to play through to it’s natural conclusion. if you hunker down for a full play, expect 6-ish hours. This is one of the rare cases where I think the constraints of the RSG event actually improved play. We effectively added a rule that at 9:25 Kagematsu abandons the town. This really encouraged the players to frame strong scenes and play right to the point. It was very tight and had more energy that the full “natural” play I was in a few nights later. It’s not exactly to the spirit of the game, but it did focus our play to a very beneficial end.

I would highly recommend this game. There is a reason Kagematsu has a legacy f influence in the story game world. This one is definitely staying in my bag as a go to game from here on out!

You can find information on Kagematsu here.

 

XP: Dirty Secrets

23 May

IMAG0363

I was really skeptical of being able to have a positive gaming experience with Dirty Secrets.

I had to read the text three times just to be able to order all of the information in my brain. There is so much paraphernalia. The mechanics are anything but transparent.

But, despite all that, the game rocked.

Many of the procedural conventions which may seem a little arcane at first dove tail quite nicely into the other mechanics and this in turn helps to establish a sense of genre. In particular, I’m thinking of the first person narration and the witness grid (though, the witness grid will be hard to work with if you neglect the first person narration).

The liars dice resolution system is a very fun was to emulate the experience of solving a crime, and it lends strongly to the feel of the game, but the players will need to be prepped on how to play that effectively. Also, the Advisors have got to be contributing to the fiction – the Investigator and their opponent will have their hands full with statistics and trying to bluff and call bluffs.

One of the strength of this game, which takes just a little bit of faith, is the function of the witness grid. The witness grid ultimately determines the pacing and conclusion to the story. But, in the meanwhile, the events get very convoluted as it asks you to connect dots farther and farther apart. But this is a great boon, even if its not clear from the get go; we would not have had a story about the stolen remains of a mass grave any other way. Every player gets to have the experience of discovering the details of the mystery as the game progresses. This is not often so well achieved in a table-top game.

I find that I have less to say about my positive gaming experiences. All of the game components are much more invisible when they aren’t clashing with each other, the fiction or the players. In any case, Dirty Secrets is definatley worth your time if you enjoy the crime genre at all.

Open Play 42: Golden Sky Stories, Bhaloidam, They Became Flesh

3 Apr

6pm – 10pm

Tuesday, April 9

Guardian Games

303 SE 3rd Ave at Pine St

The Breakdown
6:00pm – Chit chat, socialize, make merry.
6:10pm – Introduce the games and facilitators, facilitators will have the sign up sheets.
6:15pm – Game on!
10:00pm – Any and and all who wish go out for drinks and/or banter, probably at the Green Dragon.

The Games
gss
Golden Sky Stories:
Originally released in Japan in 2006, Golden Sky Stories is a uniquely heartwarming, non-violent role-playing game by Ryo Kamiya. In it players take on the role of henge, animals that have just a bit of magical power, including the ability to temporarily take human form.

It isn’t a game where you fight with others. It isn’t a game where you compete with others. It’s a game where everyone works together to create a story. If you can tell a good story, everyone wins, and if the story is boring, then everyone loses. That’s the kind of game this is.

The henge do not fight with weapons or magic. They don’t seek out or expose great secrets. They don’t save the world. They don’t earn money. Stories about henge are simpler, but every bit as important. They save people not through money or food, but with their hearts. Such stories are waiting for you in this town.

www.starlinepublishing.com
bhaloidam-logo-med
Bhaloidam – The Stranger:
Use Bhaloidam – a storytelling platform inspired by semiotics, Russian formalism, and commedia dell’arte – to tell a classic tale of The Stranger, a mysterious person of unknown background who arrives in a small town and upsets the balance of power. Using Bhaloidam’s imagery-rich game boards you’ll determine whether this story takes place in Feudal Japan, America’s Wild West, or someplace entirely new. You’ll also decide whether The Stranger is a hero or a villain, peaceful or violent, and fated to win or lose.

www.bhaloidam.com
They Became Flesh
They Became Flesh:
The war in Heaven is over.

God’s forgiveness is uncertain. Humanity’s embrace is fickle. Peace among your kind is unlikely.

Many of the Fallen have been killed.

This is the story of those who are left.

They Became Flesh is a game about fallen angels, just after the fall. It is a game with two Game Masters, who control God and Humanity while players take on the roles of the Fallen— angels who loved humankind best and were punished by God for defending Adam and Eve. The Fallen are pushed and manipulated by God and Humanity, and every action leads them to one of three options: forsaking humanity and the Fallen to become Angels, forsaking God to become human, or forsaking both in the name of brotherhood.

http://elizabethsampat.com/find-my-games/

Ready, Set, Game PDX is brought to you by Play Out Loud. Play Out Loud serves Portland with spontaneous shared storytelling activities featuring non-mainstream games. Learn more at http://www.facebook.com/playoutloudpdx.

XP: Bacchanal

10 Mar

IMAG0288

I was very pleased to realize that in addition to being close to Valentine’s Day, this RSG also landed on Mardi Gras. So, if there was ever a perfect time for Bacchanal, this was it.

What is there to say about Bacchanal that isn’t already known? The particular style of play required to make satisfying fiction is well known. The extremely erotic subject matter is the hallmark of this game. The social navigation of deliberate discomfort is a feature of it’s charm. Bacchanal is a very well known entity.

Beyond those obvious features, there are some interesting qualities that might be worth examining more thoroughly for other games. The wine glasses and passing the dice provide a fantastic tactile dimension to play. I would say this is a superexpression of lust. Attention is drawn to color and feel, the sound of dice clattering in the glass and spilling on the table, the feel of the rim of the glass. The game itself is such a spectacle that onlookers are drawn in and curious – it is irresistible. The fiction of the game is about lust, debauchery and decadence, but the act of play is about that too, even when divorced of the fiction. I earn for more games to follow this model.

And yet, there is a subexpression too. You look into the glass and find a story of men and gods, or monsters and threats. This is much like peering into our own soul, a sea of symbols. Just as Bacchus came from the hills to this lavish village we visited our own soul with the secret myths of our own minds. And then we play a game about sex, desire and lust, with all inhibitions discarded. This too is a journey to a new depth, and has the potential to encode secrets about the player’s own soul. But who is listening, and who can make sense of this foreign tongue?

And then too, you narrate your findings without commentary from the other players. The game forces you to escalate, plunging deeper and deeper into your findings. And the other players only listen. This onlooking, and this exposition, is again the lust expressed through play.

Bacchanal speaks to me in a way that many games do not. It is a beautiful and smart creation. I learned a lot from this play. Many thanks to the brave souls who consented to play this game with me, in a public space no less.

Session 39: Durance, Sagas of the Icelanders, Cthulhu Dark

18 Feb

6pm – 10pm
Tuesday, February 26
Guardian Games
303 SE 3rd Ave at Pine St

durance big

Durance:
On a remote planet far from civilization, the worst criminal scum from a dozen star systems have been dumped, charged with building new lives under the watchful eye of Authority. Within a brutal hierarchy of savagery and servility, convicts and guards alike must make hard choices. Every colonist has their own code of conduct and their own aspirations—aspirations that invariably come at the expense of others. This dangerous new world is too small for everyone to succeed. In fact, it may well be too small for anyone to succeed. Only the shrewdest, the toughest and the luckiest will get a chance to find out. Will you be among them?

Durance is the latest game from designer Jason Morningstar, author of the award-winning game Fiasco. It is a fast-paced, low-prep, highly collaborative game designed for 3-5 players and one or more sessions of play and includes a detailed, engaging science fiction setting.

Did you hear the news: http://www.bullypulpitgames.com/games/durance/

SotI

Sagas of the Icelanders:
Sagas of the Icelanders is a game about the lives of norse settlers in Iceland, 10th century A.D. The game deals with the trials and issues that the norse people had to deal with on the icelandic frontier. It takes a more accurate historical approach to vikings and their culture than is common in most games, but avoids excessive minutiae of attack rolls or damage, focusing instead on the turbulent relationships and strict cultural norms that make up their original sagas.

Listen to another time: http://www.indiegogo.com/soti-rpg

Cthulhu-Dark

Cthulhu Dark:

Cthulhu Dark is a rules-light Lovecraftian game. (It gets its name because it’s essentially Cthulhu Light, but you can’t call a Cthulhu game that, so it’s Dark.)

The rules are fun and incredibly minimal: they fit on one sheet of paper. You don’t need a character sheet to play, so you can start playing after two minutes of prep.

Can you handle the truth: http://www.yog-sothoth.com/threads/20390-Cthulhu-Dark

Ready, Set, Game PDX is brought to you by Play Out Loud. Play Out Loud serves Portland with spontaneous shared storytelling activities featuring non-mainstream games. Learn more at http://www.facebook.com/playoutloudpdx.

Session 38 V-Day Special: Bacchanal, Kim & Marshall, GxG, Princess Provocateur

9 Feb

6pm – 10pm
Tuesday, February 12
Guardian Games
303 SE 3rd Ave at Pine St

This week we have something very special just for you. Since this sessions doesn’t quite fall on Valentine’s Day this year, the game do not quite feature romance. Instead, they focus on lust, dysfunction, and broken expectations. Three of these games are hot out of the oven Portland indie efforts, and have no pictures. Good thing these games don’t leave much to the imagination!

bacchanal-pen-sm
Bacchanal:
It is late summer in Puteoli, south of Rome, 61 A.D., when the city finds itself playing unexpected host to the god Bacchus. Caught up in the madness of wine, the citizens throw off their togas and mingle as equals with slaves and foreigners in a debased fervor. And your own plans for a hasty departure are lost to this decadence which separates you from the companion with whom you would travel.

Bacchanal is a game for adults and asks for a measure of trust from each player. Join in the debauchery ready to extend that trust and care.

Disrobe and dive in: http://www.halfmeme.com/bacchanal.html

Kim & Marshall:
Kim & Marshall is a game about exploring the semi-fictional relationship between Marshall (Eminem) and Kim, his wife. It is about what happens to a relationship when broken tools are all you have to work with.

It’s a game for 3-4 players. One player will play Marshall, one will play Kim, and one or two players will play the Pressure, setting scenes and complicating the lives of K&M.

-Marshall’s player has powers to change what other people at the table say.
-Kim’s player has powers to force Marshall, the character, to do things in the fiction.
-The Pressure players have power to force Kim & Marshall into difficult situations.

The story of Kim & Marshal can be emotionally troubling. These are tough times for the struggling couple.

Call it like you see it: http://story-games.com/forums/discussion/17767/kim-marshall-playtest-a-game-about-eminem039s-abusive-relationship

GxG:
Tomoe is a Freshman at the prestigious Atarashigawa Academy, an exclusive Catholic boarding school for girls. When she took her entrance exams, by some fluke the results were submitted to the wrong school – and despite the Academy’s rigorous standards, not only was she accepted, but she received a full scholarship as well! Her family wouldn’t let her pass up such an opportunity, and soon she found herself rubbing shoulders with the wealthiest and most influential young women in the country!

Tomoe’s outspokenness and common upbringing haven’t earned her many friends, and nothing ruffles the feathers of the elite cliques more than when she unintentionally caught the attention of the Academy’s Senior Roses: Hirose, the wealthy heiress to the Tanimura Corporation; Rei, the dashing star of the school tennis team; and Chitose, the enigmatic student council president.

As her Seniors vie for her affection, Tomoe finds herself torn between them as old rivalries are exposed and grudges flare up. Will Tomoe be able to make any lasting friendships, much less fall in love? Help guide her through three outings to see if romance will blossom!

Did you hear: https://plus.google.com/u/0/114463285882634100096/posts/Y2uv5ti93hc

Princess Provocateur:
Since ancient times, demonic overlords and megalomaniacal wizards have kidnapped princesses to further their nefarious plots, hiding them away in trapped towers, mysterious mazes, or dangerous dungeons. When all hope seemed lost, a hero would appear to defeat the villain and win glory, wealth, and the heart of the princess…it was tradition, after all.

Well, you know what? Tradition stinks. Here you are, stuck in a dank cell with a few other princesses, sitting on moldy straw in cold, unsanitary conditions, awaiting some foolhardy, so-called “hero,” who for all you know may already by dead! Besides which, you and the other princesses aren’t so keen on being treated as a prize.

You aren’t the princesses of yore – each of you is capable in your own right. You don’t need a hero to save the day. Most of these guards look like pushovers, anyway. If a barbarian, a kid with a funny hat, or a pair of mustachioed plumbers can defeat a villain, why can’t a bunch of princesses who have been schooled in fencing,
problem-solving, and leadership?

Time to kick tradition in the butt.

A new fairy tale begins: https://plus.google.com/u/0/114463285882634100096/posts/QVo8gfWv27B

Ready, Set, Game PDX is brought to you by Play Out Loud. Play Out Loud serves Portland with spontaneous shared storytelling activities featuring non-mainstream games. Learn more at http://www.facebook.com/playoutloudpdx.

Session 34: Silver & White, Project Ninja Panda Taco, The Quiet Year, Solipsist

17 Dec

6pm – 10pm
Tuesday, December 18
Guardian Games
303 SE 3rd Ave at Pine St

S&W
Silver & White:
Four suburban teenagers encounter the mystery that will shape their lives. They explore, and each time they touch, we players exchange cards. For them a few days, for us a few hours. We make up a story together, our invented truths springing from the cards we hold; and they step into the unknown, pausing at every awkward touch, hopeful despite everything to come.

This story is about personal change. It expects to be played by people who want to experience vicarious transformation, and hopes to help those people reach into themselves and connect with feelings of uncertainty, longing, and exhilaration. It is slow, and careful; and fast and reckless. It is about feeling powerless and then encountering possibilities. It is about questions, and the mystery.

This game provides a framework for telling a story with each other. You get a rich starting situation to jump off from, and the tools to navigate shared and improvised story creation. You get to walk around in an imaginary person’s shoes and see what parts of yourself shine through. You get to watch your friends speak as other people. You get to honestly pretend to be a teenager, make up cool stuff, and hear your friends tell what they imagine.

Questions follow: http://www.photographsoflightning.com/silver-and-white/

PNPT
Project Ninja Panda Taco:
Project Ninja Panda Taco is a game where you get to play a Mastermind trying to take over the world. Along the way, you’ll compete as a Nemesis against other Masterminds and as a Minion who loves to help, while receiving rewards for their hard work. This is the first game from Jennisodes Inc, and we are proud to present Project Ninja Panda Taco.

Conspire here: http://projectnpt.com/.

The Quiet Year
The Quiet Year:
For a long time, we were at war with The Jackals. But now, we’ve driven them off, and we have this – a year of relative peace. One quiet year, with which to build our community up and learn once again how to work together. Come Winter, the Frost Shepherds will arrive and we might not survive beyond that. But we don’t know about that yet. What we know is that right now, in this moment, there is an opportunity to build something. The Quiet Year is a map game. You define the struggles of a post-apocalyptic community, and attempt to build something good within their quiet year. Every decision and every action is set against a backdrop of dwindling time and rising concern.

And now: http://buriedwithoutceremony.com/thequietyear/

Solipsist
Solipsist:
A Solipsist is a human with the power to change reality with a thought, by manipulating the animacules, invisible microscopic creatures that create the stuff of reality from their own motions. So long as the change the Solipsist desires fits with their own selfish view of the universe, and they desire it enough to stir the animacules into a response, they can do anything!

Most Solipsists quickly burn themselves out, or vanish into realities of their own desires, but a few, the balanced Solipsists which the game focuses on, walk a fine line between their own obsessions and the things they value in the consensus world.

It is these few Solipsists, struggling with the nature of their own being and the challenge of caring about reality when reality does not exist, who alone stand between the rest of us and the Shadows, a corrupting force of un-making that seek to unravel the universe. Without the Solipsists to rebind the tears that the Shadows leave in reality all things would soon descend into a chaos of non-causality and un-being.

They are unlikely saviours, but they are the best we have.

Solipsist is a diceless story driven game focusing on the conflicts between the character’s obsessions and their limitations as they struggle to come to terms with themselves and to resist the Shadow. Solipsist has only one core mechanic, modeling the Solipsist’s ability to change reality with a thought. Solipsist characters are described in terms of their Vision, the ideal world they want to live in, Obsessions, the things about their Vision which draw them most, and Limitations, the things that hold them back from achieving their desires.

Find your vision: http://www.solipsist-rpg.com/

Ready, Set, Game PDX is brought to you by Play Out Loud. Play Out Loud serves Portland with spontaneous shared strollytelling activities featuring non-mainstream games. Learn more at http://www.facebook.com/playoutloudpdx.

XP: Metrofinal Transantiago

15 Nov

Metrofinal by Jonathan Walton is one of those odd games that don’t neatly classify. It is just different enough that you can’t bring any assumptions in with you.

A NEW WORLD IS BORN

The primary way in which you interact with the game is by describing this surreal world as it comes to a close. This usually involves two players, one playing a bodhisattva and one playing the situation at a given station. The license to go all out on weird trippy narration is very freeing. It’s a very neat experience to explore this unfamiliar turf. The result is a strangely Jungian spiritual journey through a landscape you can only barely understand, while in pursuit of a goal that is only metaphorically possible. This certainly captivates the subject matter of the game quite well.

Constructing the subway system is interesting. There is very little about it that influences the game play directly. Only once did this influence game play when two players were cautiously trying to position themselves in order to unlock the fourth event at a station. Otherwise, it was only a minor inconvenience at most to go to any station you wanted to go. It makes me question whether or not the rail system adds anything other than color. Which is fine if that’s all, but maybe there is something more (or less) that can be done here.

A LETHAL WOUND

I have two concerns about Metrofinal.

First of all, it takes a long time to play, and requires a lot of players. You easily need eight hours for a whole game. In a little more than five hours of play we still had quite a ways to go to finish all of the stations.

With a lot of players, and largely having one on one narration, those other players are going to sit there for quite a while.

Lastly, there is some concern about character agency. Some scenes filled the surreal conditions before the acting player did much of anything. Perhaps a second condition about what the bodhisattvas ought to accomplish or change could be added into the scene structure.

Overall I really enjoy Metrofinal. It is bizarre and refreshing. I think we could use more “spiritual” games like these. If you have seven like minded friends and an afternoon and evening to kill then you owe it to yourself to try this game from beyond the edge.