RPG Catch-Up, Part 3

Another few weeks and another few games. Most of these (the first 5) are  pretty short, but being otherwise busy kept me from being able to read as much as usual. That and I haven’t had time to post about them. Anyhow, on to the games.

Breaking the Ice, by Emily Care Boss

Breaking the Ice is a 2-player rpg about characters going on dates and forging a relationship. I’ll say upfront that the content of the game doesn’t really interest me, but that’s complete personal preference.

What I did like, though, are the mechanics. They’re really simple, but fun. The basic idea is that each character takes turn narrating parts of a date. The second person will award the first person dice as they narrate things they think their character would approve of. Eventually it’ll reach a point where dice need to be rolled to determine an outcome. The roll of the dice will determine how well things go and possibly form connections.

Also, after a roll the active player can narrate things putting them in a disadvantage to earn a re-roll. It’s a twist I find pretty interesting. It encourages you to create problems in the hope of forming a stronger bond with someone.

The other thing about Breaking the Ice I really like is the character creation. Again, it’s pretty simple. It’s basically just built off of a map of word association. One player starts with a color and then they take turns writing down new words that they associate in some way with a word that’s already written. After something like 12 words get added, you use those to form a character. What they do, what kind of traits they may have. It’s a really clever way to put together a character relatively quickly

Clover, by Ben Lehman

Clover is your average enthusiastic, energetic 5-year old. One player plays Clover, one plays her dad (who is generally called upon to present the world), everyone else plays her friends. Or, if only two people, the person playing Clover’s dad will also play the friends when necessary. Really, the whole game is just about Clover & her friends going on adventures, playing, and just doing things 5-year-olds do.

The structure of the game is pretty basic. Clover’s Dad presents the world and asks questions and Clover and her friends do stuff. There’s some light mechanics for doing things that might be difficult or scary for a 5-year-old, but that’s about it.

It’s a pretty light-hearted game and I can see the appeal of it, but it’s not something I’m particularly interested in trying anytime soon.

Chthulhu Dark, by Graham Walmsley

This is a pretty cool rules-light Lovecraft story game. Basically, if you want to do something if it’s within human capabilities you get a die, if it’s within your particular field of expertise you get another. Then the highest die determines how well you accomplish it (even a 1 means you succeed, but just barely). If you might be risking your Insanity die, if it rolls higher than the other dice you rolled, then your Insanity score might increase.

There’s some rules for re-rolling (which includes the Insanity die of course) & player cooperating/competing, but that’s really about it. Just a nice, basic system to tell some Lovecraft horror stories.

I’d definitely enjoy giving it a shot sometime.

Dread House, by Epidiah Ravachol & Emily Care Boss

Dread House is a card/board game hack of Dread, a game I really enjoy. So some of themes are the same. It’s a horror game and it uses a Jenga tower.

This one’s a little more light-hearted and more suitable for children, which is cool. The premise is that all the characters are high-school students that have been challenged to stay the night in a haunted house. Which is, of course, actually haunted. So play involves exploring the house, running into scary creatures, possibly finding items to ward them off, and all the while making pulls from the tower to accomplish things.

The board/card game aspect is that there’s actually a map of the house laid out (the board) and cards for items & monsters & such.

A cool thing that was added in this version is that sometimes instead of putting a block back on top of the tower you can put it in a pile, which can later be used for special things, like character special abilities. That’s a cool little hack of the Dread system that adds some fun gameplay, I think.

I’d really enjoy giving this a shot sometime, which is no surprise since I really enjoy playing Dread.

Final Girl, by Bret Gillian

Final Girl is a really interesting slasher flick rpg, meant to implement those sorts of movies where all the characters get picked off one by one until there’s only one left to confront the big bad, whatever form that big bad may take.

During the setup of the game everyone makes a bunch of different characters (around 10 for the whole table). Players may play any character. Then in the beginning there are some introduction scenes to develop some relationships between the various characters. Inevitably some characters will have fewer (or no) relationships with other characters. The one happens in the next scene, First Blood, is that each player will choose a character with no relationships. All those characters will be killed by the killer in that scene.

After that, it’s usually just one player per scene getting killed off (players take turns being the killer). During those scenes there’s some mechanics for fighting off the killer, but someone will always die. Then play continues until there’s only one survivor left, then whoever had the most characters die gets to narrate the endgame. Does the survivor live? Die? What about the killer?

I’d heard of this game before, but it wasn’t really solidly on my radar. Partly because I’m not generally a huge fan of the genre, but after reading through the pdf and recently talking to a friend who got to play not too long ago, I’d definitely excited to give it a shot.

Fortune’s Fool, by Jay Stratton

I was interested in this rpg almost from the moment I opened the pdf and saw that it used a tarot deck as a resolution mechanic. I’m kind of a sucker for interesting non-dice based resolution mechanics (see above for my love of Dread).

First, the setting. It takes place in Renaissance Europe, except with elves, dwarfs, orcs, & goblins, etc. There’s actually a lot of interesting color in the book about different regions the different races are from and what their primary religious beliefs are (which is an important decision in character creation).

But the mechanics are where it’s at. I was pretty amazed by how much mileage they were able to get out of a tarot deck: making use of the 4 suits of minor arcana, the face values of those (differentiating the numeric values from the “face” cards), as well as the different cards that makeup the major arcana, a few of which have their own rules.

Every character will have one or more minor arcana suit that is considered “fortune smiles” for them, so that when it’s drawn it’s relatively positive. The other suits are “fortune frowns”. Then, they’ll have some number of cards in the major arcana that are “Fortune Shines”, while the rest are “Fortune weeps”. Similar to fortune smiles/frowns, but cranked up.

The numeric face values come into play for basically skill checks, so if you draw a value equal or less than your skill you succeed (and color the success based on whether it was fortune smiles/frowns).

I was actually pretty surprised how crunchy the game actually is considering it’s just done with a single deck of tarot cards. It’s obvious they put a lot of work into getting as much as possible from a deck of cards as possible. It’s got just about everything someone that likes mechanic-heavy games might like: weapon lists, spell lists, special skills & traits. It’s rather impressive.

Fortune’s Fool is definitely something I’d like to try a game of sometime to see how it plays out. Plus I might finally get some use out of the tarot deck I bought a while back that I otherwise have little use for.

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