Friday, March 14, 2014

Non-D&D RPG ‘March Madness’ Blog Challenge – Day 14 & 15, Playing with Culture

Other blogs can be found HERE.

The questions can be found HERE.

14 What historical or cultural RPG have you enjoyed most? Give details.
15 What pseudo or alternate history RPG have you enjoyed most? Why?

When I first created this blog challenge, I wanted to give as wide array of possibilities as possible to the participants. I didn’t always succeed, and these two questions are close enough that most bloggers who responded skipped or folded them together. Between the ambiguity or the questions and the narrow focus most of us have in our gaming histories, it was inevitable that this sort of issue would arise.

Oh well, live and learn.

At a con the other year I got to play in a game of Dogs in the Vineyard. Pornstar Zak S has stated the game as on he just doesn’t get, which is bound to happen between one’s personal preferences, gaming group dynamics and the skill of the game master (I feel the same way about Maid the RPG).

Regardless, starved for roleplaying as I was, I was open to try new games, especially story or indie ones, and we were lucky to have an ace gamemaster and a group willing to give the game an honest shot.

It was a hoot. In case you don’t know the premise, you play Mormon lawmakers in 1800s Utah. The game is rules lite but made interesting by poker style bidding to achieve actions, but has enough substance that it won the 2004 Indie Game Award.

I can’t say our session was heavy on action – we moseyed up to an isolated farmhouse where a pious old man and his two daughters lived. Our Dogs tried best to make a good impression by chopping wood, reading scripture, and mediating a dispute between the old man and his ornery brother.

Reading what I just wrote, it sounds as dull as dirt. But between the bidding mechanics and the GM’s expert explanations of the cultural context and expectations, our mixed table of Canucks and Brits unconsciously took on southwestern drawls and did our best to live up to the ideals of the Mormon church. Even though I am a devout atheist, it was no more galling than playing a cleric of Odin.

The session ended with a suspicious fire in the house in which the player who had hoarded his dice up to then splashed out for a final roll and ended up saving (and getting betrothed to!) one of the daughters.

Playing DitV taught me that a good GM who makes the cultural context come alive without going into excessive detail can really make a niche game work.

And gambling mechanics are wicked as well, providing some PvP without the bloodshed and bad feelings, instead supplying camaraderie and appreciation of a good bet made.

If you haven’t played the game and see it at a con, give it a chance, and don’t be scared off by the niche setting!

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