Friday, 7 March 2014

White Whales (Part Three)

The coffee shop is small, dim, smoky. The ceiling fan only stirs the murk, and the heat of noon fills the cafe, making the American sweat. His hands are shaking a little when he lifts another Turkish cigarette to his lips, taking a deep drag, trying to keep it together.
The little man in the fez seems to appear from nowhere, taking the seat opposite the American without invitation. He is wearing a greying noose around his neck, a local affectation that puzzles the American. The little man smiles, exposing a mouth full of rotten yellow teeth and gunmetal grey fillings. 

"What's your pleasure, Mr. Cotton?" he says, his voice pleasant, obsequious. But there is a cruel edge underneath it.

He knows what the American wants.

He knows..

*     *     *     *     *

So begins a visit to the tiny Mediterranean island nation of Al Amarja, a place that most of the world doesn't even know exists. But for the few who come here -- the seekers who cannot find what they need anywhere else -- Al Amarja is a promise. Here, nothing is true, and everything is permitted.

OVER THE EDGE, Jonathan Tweet's sublimely strange RPG about this tiny island (which bears more than a passing resemblance to William Burroughs's Interzone), is a game about obsession. About people who are after something they can find nowhere else on earth. For some, it is drugs, for some sex, for some inspiration. For others... their heart's desire, no matter how bizarre or unearthly, might be found here in the teeming barrios of The Edge. The air is thick with conspiracies, the water poisoned with secrets, the food tastes of mysterious spices, and ghosts walk the streets. 

Unlike some of the games on this list, I have run this particular White Whale on several occasions. The light rules, which encourage outre characters and creativity, fit me like a glove, but I never felt like I mastered the setting and uncovered the rich core of dark gaming goodness that lurks within OTE. Here is a game that demands players and a GM who are as driven and obsessive as the characters they play. A troupe that are willing to take the game down strange alleys, smoke exotic herbs that grow only below the ancient Pyramids, and open their minds to a world of surreal danger. 

A group willing to take their game to the edge... and beyond.
Footnote: The opening scene is a homage to the introductory scene in Clive Barker's HELLRAISER, which is pretty much the best part of a not-very-good movie. I thought the portrayal of Frank's quest for sensation leading him inevitably to the Lament Configuration and the Cenobites was a perfect encapsulation of the obsession that drives OTE characters.

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