Tuesday, August 4, 2015

RPGaDay 2015 #4 Most Surprising Game

It's kind of hard to think of a game as surprising. I mean, sure, somewhere in all of that D&D merchandising back in the 80's there must have been a pop-up book with monsters that jump out at you. But a regular old game book?

Well, maybe a few things have surprised me.

I'm surprised by how much I enjoyed reading Monsterhearts. While I don't know that I could really go for the PVP/teen drama style of play, I liked how it encouraged thinking about supernatural powers as a metaphor for puberty, queerness, or both. Being the awkward kid who didn't fit in at school when I was younger, that resonated with me.

Diaspora was another game that surprised me. It's a small book that is mostly rules, but nearly everything about it is brilliant. The overall setting is very broad, with relatively few hard facts. Because of how the FTL drive of the setting works, civilization is divided into clusters, groups of solar systems that are connected by hyperspace links. The play group is assumed to create their own cluster, randomly rolling the stats for each system and deciding exactly what that collection of stats looks like.

It offers spaceship combat and tactical squad combat that work in the FATE milieu and are playable as separate minigames if you want to. But the real kicker is the social combat system. Most other social combat systems I've seen are not very different from the game's physical combat system. But Diaspora's social combat is more about positioning and maneuvering. The result feels much more like a system where you're trying to change someone's mind rather than just whacking away at their resistance to doing what you want.

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