Here are some of the games that Pelgranistas have been playing and enjoying this month:
I recently went to the small (but perfectly formed) UK RPG convention, Concrete Cow, and had some great gaming experiences there. Firstly, I played in the introduction to the epic The Poison Tree campaign that Scott Dorward, Paul Fricker, and Matthew Sanderson are writing for us, which was more than ably run by Scott. When running for players who’ve played a lot of Mythos-type games, it can be hard to find new ways of freaking them out, but Scott never fails to manage it. The intro was wonderfully creepy, blending a strong sense of cosy, familial normality with otherworldly wrongness. It felt very different to other Trail of Cthulhu adventures we’ve published, with a much stronger focus on inter-character drama, and I can’t wait to play more of it.
In the second slot, I facilitated a playtest of Elizabeth Lovegrove’s game, Rise and Fall. We’ll be publishing this in our upcoming book of story games – we’ll be announcing that shortly. In Rise and Fall, you collaboratively create a dystopia, and then play through its rise, establishment, and fall in a number of short scenes. The players came up with a not-too-distant future set in the UK, where a UKIP-like far right party allied with powerful corporate interests to create a Britain where the introduction of the “Grandfather Bill” meant anyone whose grandparents weren’t born in Britain was marginalised and disempowered. Thought-provoking and uncomfortable, yet very enjoyable to play, I’m really impressed with this game, in terms of the theme and how it’s structured.
In the final slot, I got to play my first ever game of InSpectres. This was really good fun; our franchise was based in Milton Keynes, where the convention was running, and we had to investigate a mysterious herd of cows in one of its rougher neighbourhoods. My character was heavily inspired by Parks and Rec‘s Leslie Knope (which was unfortunately lost on everyone else, who hadn’t seen the show), and we got a lot of laughs out of a very sparse set-up. I think I already have InSpectres, but if not, I’ll definitely be picking it up now that I’ve played it – it’s a great conceit, and it’s very easy to pick up and play with minimal effort.
I went to ConcreteCow, too, the second time I’ve had that pleasure. I was in all of Cat’s games – all of which I enjoyed, and a special thanks to Neil Smith for putting up with our wine-fuelled nonsense.
In Scott’s game my feeble attempts at a accent enouraged the others to do the same, and “amniotic fluid” are the best two words you can say with in Welsh dialect, though I can’t speak to its historicity.
Rise and Fall uses scenes to answer questions about the dystopia the group devises. It also specifically addresses whether characters in the scene are of low, mixed, or high status. This lead to scenes with low status which obliquely reference dystopian tropes. Here’s an example scene.
One player, Graham Walmsley, asked a question: How did informing begin?
He then chose two players (me and Mike Mason) to act out the scene.
This scene featured a Polish plumber, Lech, and his boss . The boss (played by Mike Mason) explained very plausibly how Lech could benefit financially. from mentioning uncivic behaviour “You’d report a bomb, wouldn’t you?” and how it “might affect his annual performance review” if he didn’t comply. It was chilling.
By the time we got to the Fall, we were aching to bring down the monster we’d created. It was one of those games where the players were so good it wasn’t a certain confimation that the game itself was solid (though I thought it was).
So, last week I ran Rise and Fall for my home group as attendance wasn’t up to running Scott’s game. I’ve played Microscope, Intrepid and other GMless games which feature joint creation of background and society, and so it was interesting to compare this game. We created a generation ship governed by an elite who deferred to a computer AI, and it featured horrible biotech (using wombs to create meat), enforced speaking of Latin (and the Quietus who removed their tongues) and ended with a suprised revoutionary being eaten by his followers. Rise and Fall is concise, creates a focussed, one session game which does exactly what its supposed to do. I was very impressed. You can read another actual play report of Rise and Fall here.
This week I’m running Scott’s game, for a full table. I’m not as good as I would like at encouraging roleplaying between players in GM-led games, and I think this game is set up to encourage that kind of play. (Incidentally, if you have any advice on encouraging players used to player-GM interaction to talk to each other in character, I am all ears.)