bringing design into the play of small press role-playing games on the UK convention scene
Evidently plenty of animals were tried in the law courts of medieval Europe.
All over Europe, throughout the middle-ages and right on into the 19th century, animals were, as it turns out, tried for human crimes. Dogs, pigs, cows, rats and even flies and caterpillars were arraigned in court on charges ranging from murder to obscenity. The trials were conducted with full ceremony: evidence was heard on both sides, witnesses were called, and in many cases the accused animal was granted a form of legal aid — a lawyer being appointed at the tax-payer’s expense to conduct the animal’s defence.
This smokin’ game of Norse-themed melodrama is the game I’ve played the most this year: Morningstar’s own pitch for his own game explains why.
There’s a crumbling kingdom, an ambitious earl, a weak king, an unhappily affianced princess, a sexy witch, and a scheming knight who is also a werewolf. There are burial mounds, thralls, a swamp, a weird garden, and lonely border fortresses. People end up cursing their hubris and dying underground, murdering the people they love best, betraying their nation on the advice of ghosts, that sort of thing.
So you sit down to play and immediately have this insanely tight web of relationships in crisis with built-in decisions you have to make. Your choices will color both who your character is and how the events will unfold. You have questions to answer, and the game injects events that drive it all forward. All this is built on the Archipelago II framework, so it is very freeform, but structured by a handful of phrases that help you resolve conflicts and spice up the action at every turn. It is simple and plays out to a satisfying conclusion in about two to three hours.
A priapic Duke, a bitter Queen with a barren womb, an ambitious Knight of Parma with a taste for cruel sex, a virginal Lady of Parma, and a Saracen physician with “an odour of the infernal about hym.”
What’s not to love? Face-stabbin’ anguished soliloquies ahoy!
Set on the eve of the fall of Warsaw in World War II, it’s a rather harder-hitting affair than other of his games that I’m running. I’ve been wanting to play this game for ages but I can never get anyone to bite: hopefully the bigger pool of folk attending IndieCon means that I’ll finally get this one out of the station.
Like his games of Elizabethan revenge tragedy, Last Train Out Of Warsaw uses a repurposed version of Matthijs Holter’s Archipelago II framework. I’m keen to see how this GM’d take on Archipelago II works in comparison to the GM-ful and GM-less variations of it that I’ve played.
Set in Rennaisance Venice, it provokes the kind of bloody dramatics of source material such as The Spanish Tragedy. Winningly, one of the playable characters is Revenge. The game sports a shag-ton of colourful wee cards that I’ve dutifully printed out, cut out, and laminated.
I’m really looking forward to some face-stabbing, eye-gouging histrionics on the canals of Venice.