Murderland Reviews: Pies 14, 19

June 5, 2009

Hey, more pie, finally! Time to wrap this shit up.

A few interesting things have happened in the intervening… 5 months since the last pie, notably, I got a copy of Filip’s game from Danial Yokomizo (though Filip has since erased himself from SG) so I’ll review that first, and, secondly, my friend Eric playtested Josh Roby’s game Quoth the Raven at SGBoston. Unfortunately, I wasn’t there for it, but Eric wrote an AP post on it.

But on to the pie…

14. Filip Łuszczyk – A Conspiracy of Ravens

Premise: A fairly gritty and realistic simulation of the life of ravens, whose only fantastical ability is the ability to communicate and understand humans and other non-raven animals (though only when they succeed on a successful roll).

Thoughts: Seems like Filip’s intentions were to create a more realistic take on Bunnies & Burrows, featuring ravens. Mechanics wise, it seems like he succeeded pretty well in this. My main concern is the lack of any guidelines for the GM, who is responsible for creating whatever amounts to a plot — though maybe this game is beyond plot, focusing on the ravens day-to-day activities, but I can’t imagine those would be very fun to play, at least not for long. There also isn’t really any information on how the ravens interact with each other, which would seem to be critical in the fundamentally social environment of roleplaying. Are the ravens loners except when they are feasting on the same carcass or mating? Do they hang out and talk together? Do they have what amounts to a “society” as we would understand it? Since Filip’s guidelines are pure rules, with no “setting” material or other background to speak of, it’s difficult to get a sense of what the players and GM are supposed to do once play actually starts… aside from trying to keep their ravens from starving to death. That later goal is probably a pretty realistic depiction of raven’s lives, but I’m not sure it would sustain for long. Then again, that might be part of Filip’s point, since he says you can play the game for “as short as an hour.”

Conclusion: Browned, but maybe baked enough for those looking for a gritty, banal play experience.

19. [Not] Ben Lehman – The Raven Story Game

Premise: A set of instructions, written to a reader who is sufficiently wicked, on how to capture a raven and have that raven tell the story of “the life you would have had without the wickedness of the world.”

Thoughts: You’ll either love this, think it’s bullshit, or maybe a little bit of both at the same time. As it stands, it’s a nice little piece of conceptual art or Fluxus, I think, but one that appear as if it hails from another time and place, a mythic, totemic culture of masks and ravens that take the form of men. That’s a neat little trick, something along the lines of Shreyas’ Mridangam and Eero’s yet unpublished (due to my own fault) game about the ars memorativa, but places huge obstacles for any contemporary audience that might actually want to play this game. Sounds like a pretty great premise for a chamber larp, though.

Conclusion: Browned, but definitely baked if you simply want to appreciate it as a set of ideas, which is most likely what the author intends.

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