Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Ventures Beyond the Wall

A few weeks ago, Rob Barrett started posting on G+ about Flatland Games’ Beyond the Wall & Other Adventures.* It is an OSR type game, a neoclone that models the YA bildungsroman** fantasy genre, inspired by Lloyd Alexander and Ursula K. LeGuin. Though I’m not well versed in the direct inspirational sources of this game, the concepts are classics of the genre and were instantly recognizable to me.

From Rob’s discussion of the game, what immediately struck me was the interesting collaborative party creation system. Each player chooses an archetype, instantly familiar to fantasy RPG players and fans of the genre. In round robin fashion, players create their characters based on their respective archetype playbooks, which determines their stats and skills, but furthermore influences their characters' backgrounds, relationships, and aspects of their companions. Everyone is connected to at least two player characters and some NPCs. Character creation even results in a complete home village.

While I’m still new to the OSR games and have limited experience with RPGs outside of D&D and recent descendants, I don’t recall a fantasy RPG with character creation done in this way with an emphasis on building interconnections culminating in a starting hometown. The playbooks are brief but extensive. Browsing through them never felt restrictive but rather creative, as I saw the possibilities they hold for each archetype and subsequently each character. Even if two players pick the same playbook, their characters could turn out very different due to the rolls they get on the charts, divergent upbringings, their own histories, separate goals, mentors, and adversaries.

Rob asked for participants in a shared mini-setting design exercise who will run through Beyond the Wall & Other Adventures character (and home village) creation process. Participants will detail their contributions on their blogs following the round robin style as if we were seated at a virtual table. Suffice to say, this is right up the alley of the intents of this blog, gaming chatter, setting creation, the whole nine. I can’t wait to see how this turns out in actual practice.

Things began to move this week once we gathered six participants to form our party. We’ve already decided on playbooks over G+ and will start the full process in the order we signed on to participate. Check out Rob’s blog post detailing the process and order: Beyond the Wall: It Takes a Crowd to Source a Village. The participants, their blogs, and respective chosen playbooks are:

+Rob Barrett of Vargold: The Wolf-Time is creating a Dwarven Adventurer.
+Brett Slocum of The Eye of Joyful Sitting Amongst Friends is creating a Would-Be Knight.
+Henry Wong of The Campaign Expanse is creating a Self-Taught Mage.
+Pearce Shea of games with others is creating a Witch's Prentice.
+Anthony Simeone of Once More Unto the Breach is creating a Young Woodsman.
+Mike Lizardi of Fear No Darkness is creating a Halfling Outrider.

* Beyond the Wall & Other Adventures is available at DriveThruRPG, best thing is it has free support materials in the form of more playbooks in two sets, Nobles and Demihumans. In total these playbooks outnumber the ones offered in the main book. They offer a good preview of the character creation system.

** German, the language has a word for everything you wouldn't expect it to have.

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