RPG Catch-Up, Part 1

It turns out that over the last few years I’ve collected a fair number of game pdfs from various bundles & give-aways. Most of them have just sat on my hard drive, never read, or even opened in a lot of cases. Recently I finally got a tablet, so I’ve decided to start catching up on my pdf collection. It turns out a fair number of these are pretty short. I figured I’d talk about them a bit as I read them. Partly for my own use so I have a record I can reference, but also for anyone that might find any of the games interesting. The other day over lunch I read 5 (note: 4 of these 5 can be obtained for free, so definitely check them out if they pique your interest):

A Thousand Years Under the Sun, by Matthijs Holter

Sort of an odd one, but one I find interesting. Definitely a collaborative story-telling-type game that’s about the rise & fall of civilizations, tribes, and whatever else a group throws into a setting.

Each round is 100 years. That is, each full circuit around the table of players making turns is a round. The game lasts for 1000 years, so 10 rounds total. Each player takes a turn describing something rising/becoming more powerful, reaching it’s apex, or declining/dying off. And there’s guidance for what each of those can mean.

Looks like it could be a fun exercise in world-building. I imagine it plays pretty quick as well. I think I’d like to give it a shot sometime.

Animal Crime, by Ben Lehman

I had a hard time finding a reference page for this one, there was a Kickstarter for it a couple years ago and apparently it’s now available somewhere for pay what you want — at one point that was http://www.animalcrime.com, but that’s not valid any longer. Supposedly you can just e-mail Ben and get it.

All of the players play as animals. One as the marmot detective, the rest as suspects. I think my favorite thing about the game is the setup. Once the detective is chosen, that player leaves the room. The rest of the players then choose their suspects, decide what crime was committed, who committed it, who was involved and how, and if anyone is actually innocent.

It’s an interesting mix of genres: noir & animal comedy. The rules point out the trappings of the genre and says to juxtapose them as much as possible.

The game plays in scenes, giving the detective a chance to interact with characters and obtain clues. It’s not spelled out in the rules, but my assumption is that eventually the detective will get enough clues to decide how everything went down (right or wrong). After play, if they like, the players can lay out everything they’d decided on. The last rule is that at the end of the story the marmot detective is never happy.

I like what it does for creating a mystery for one person to solve. Definitely something fun to play with there. The animal thing is a bit odd, but not a total put-off. I’d definitely be willing to give it a shot, see how things play out.

Witness the Murder of Your Father and Be Ashamed, Young Prince, by Nathan D. Paoletta

I think of the five I read that day this is the one I’m most interested in. The premise is that all of the players are princes and at the beginning of the game the king has been murdered. What follows is an hour (in-game time and real-time) of the princes discussing what went down. At the end of an hour if a king hasn’t been chosen amongst the princes, bad shit happens. The king had struck an agreement with Crow a demon-god, and with no new king at sundown the agreement is broken and the kingdom will perish.

The game has a number of ritual components that really interest me (really, just about any game with some sort of ritual-like component interests me). The players sit in age order — the youngest player being the youngest prince and so on. The game is played with tokens, two different colors (red and black, or whatever two colors you have). There’s also a third token, distinct in feel from the other two (like a coin), which represents if one of the princes is crow-sworn.

Many of the mechanics surrounding the tokens are done in secret — in the beginning, each player can put in different numbers of tokens as they choose, which should be done in secret. Later they’ll draw tokens and keep them secret as well. In play, they’re basically used to assert or refute facts.

The end-game gets determined by what tokens people own in the end, how many, what color, etc. There’s different ways to end, depending on if there’s a consensus for who the king is or not and if any of the brothers are crow-sworn or not. Aside from that there’s some ritual phrases for the players to use to indicate different things in the game, like refuting another’s story and what not.

And, of course, Crow wins if the hour runs out. Though because of some of the ritual-type stuff, I’d probably be a little lenient with that the first time playing, since remembering and referencing could eat up extra time.

Beatrice, by Ben Lehman

First off, the full title of this game is:

Being a role-playing game on the topic of the High-Flying adventures of Beatrice Henrietta Bristol-Smythe, DBE, daring Aviatrix and accomplished Exploratrix, and her Gentleman Companion, who for a Modest Fee, accompanies Beatrice Henrietta Bristol- Smythe, DBE, when the Occasion warrants her an Escort

I think the setup/premise of this game interests me more than anything. One player plays Beatrice. The other players all create applications to apply to be her Gentleman Companion. Beatrice chooses one and the rest play as “The Natives”. In play, the natives describe the environment, surroundings, and the condition of the Gentleman, as well as any actions or presence of native inhabitants. The Gentlemen describes his actions and asks questions. Beatrice describes her actions and makes assertions.

One interesting thing as that anything that Beatrice asserts is 100% true. Sometimes she can make assertions on her own, otherwise it’s in response to a question from the Gentlemen.

Some interesting pieces, but as a whole it doesn’t entirely click with me. Might give it a shot at some point, but I’m not considering it a must-play.

Beloved, by Ben Lehman

This is a solo game, which is a rare beast. I’ve only ever seen a few, so it’s always interesting to see what someone comes up with as a game for a single player.

The game is about your beloved being captured by an undefeatable monster, and then you coming up with clever ways to beat said monster. When you do defeat the monster, you discover it’s not your beloved, but someone very much like them. Then you decide if you’re willing to give up and live with the one you saved. If not, then you defeat two monsters. Keep repeating until eventually you give up.

In other words, you’ll never rescue your beloved, but each rescue you make you find someone more like your beloved than the last.

Something interesting there, I think, but again it’s not something that really grabs me.

Once I’ve read some more games, I’ll put up a new post. I’m currently reading Bliss Stage, which is longer (200+ pages).

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