Monday, 11 August 2014

#RPGaDAY - Day 11: Weirdest Game Owned

Winner of the world's worst flautist award.
De Profundis is probably the weirdest game I've ever read, by design at least; I also saw bits of deaDEarth, which were insane, but not in a good way, as you might expect given the bizarre lengths to which the writer/publisher went to try to make it look like the game was being well reviewed, which showed a slick professional canny that simply wasn't evident in the game design itself.

But I don't own a copy of deaDEarth, nor - as it turns out - of De Profundis, or not anywhere I can locate. In fact, I'm short on hardcore weird games in general. That being the case, let's make like we're middle class conservatives, interpret 'weird' as 'innovative' and instead look at a couple of the indier games that I own:

Wield: A little game of ancient powers is a fun-looking little concept game in which the players take on the roles of ancient, sentient artefacts seeking to accomplish some aeons-old goal through the manipulation of mortal instruments that they call pawns, but most people call maize*... I mean, heroes.

The game is, at first reading - I really just got hold of it from a Kickstarter campaign - flawed, but interesting, and most of the flaws are essentially proofing errors in the early-release PDF, such as not including an easily referenced not as to how many wounds heroes have, or how to design named NPCs. There are also at least two or three vatcha powers that shortcut the torturous process of destroying a vatcha (and powers explicitly overrule other rules).

In brief, each player designs a vatcha, a relicts of a long-dead empire created and endowed with vast power and intellect to achieve a specific goal, but having to work through human intermediaries to do so. The ST then creates a hero for each player, with each hero starting off as the wielder of another player's vatcha. All wielders are fundamentally disposable and a hero can be lost and replaced many times, or even passed from vatcha to vatcha, but a player never controls a matched pair of hero and vatcha, because the central theme of the game is the conflict between the two. The vatcha can grant incredible powers to its hero, but at a price. The more power the vatcha gives, the better the hero can serve its goals, but also the more control the hero has when their destiny clashes with the vatcha's goals.

That subtitle knocks White Wolf's 'a role-
paying game of [pretentious nonsense]
taglines into a cocked hat
In some ways, it's like a less-serious, fantasy-themed version of Wraith: the Oblivion, in which each player controlled their own character and another character's dark impulses, which was great in theory and practical only with a vanishing minority of gaming groups.

The other game is Fiasco, which doesn't have anything as bizarre as the setting of Wield, but has a mechanic and play style so innovative that it is only just an RPG.

Inspired by the spiral of chaos ensemble pictures of the Cohen Brothers, Fiasco is a one-shot parlour RPG for about four players, which uses a bucket of D6s and a series of random tables to generate character ties and plot hooks. Players then take turns to play out one-on-one scenes, each of which is deemed to have gone well or badly, from which each player collects a set of 'good' and 'bad' dice.

At the end of the game, the players narrate the end of their chatracters' stories based on their collected dice set, with the most tragic and pathetic outcomes falling to the characters with a mixed set. There is no skill set to speak of and the game, while it has winners and losers among the characters, has ideally no PvP element. The collection of random tables used to create hooks, ties and plot twists for a playset, and there are dozens of these available pretty much for printing money.

Come back tomorrow for an oldie but goldie, and look for the RPGaDAY hashtag for more weird games today. In particular I draw your eye to the following quality sites by people I love:

Gonzo History Gaming Edition

Dice Tales

The Anxious Gamer

* I swear, I didn't pick the game for the pun, it just came to me as I was typing.