Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Stranger Engines

Hours after releasing yesterday's post, I realized that I hadn't talked at all about one of the most interesting hacks of the Apocalypse World engine: SAGAS OF THE ICELANDERS, by Gregor Vuga.

Now here's an amazing and fascinating oddity in the world of roleplaying: a game that rejects a lot of the typical trappings of what a RPG is, including Awesome Powerz and Buttwyth Magic (mostly - there is some stuff in there, but it's 98% more subtle than most historical settings in roleplaying... we're looking at you, DEADLANDS), so that it may tell a straightforward historically-based story about settlers in Iceland. Well, it helps that settlers in Iceland were Norse -- because Vikings are awesome. But still, this is cool stuff worth a look.

SAGAS has an angle on the Apocalypse World engine that no one else has come near. In addition to the standard Moves and special Moves (which are attached to individual playbooks), this game includes Gendered Moves. This is a game about ancient Icelandic society, and part of how that is modeled is by representing different Moves for men and women in society which emphasize their gendered roles. Fascinating stuff that most games back away from as quickly as their pegasi mounts can flap their lily-white wings.

"Norse men and women are largely treated with equal respect, but their roles in society are strict and narrowly defined. Mothers and fathers pass their skills onto children of respective gender from a very early age. In spite of this a woman may sometimes run a farm or go into battle, while a man might take on the practice of seiĆ°r or magic. For women, taking on male roles is often not an issue, but the transgressions of men are often seen as dishonourable."

Most of the presence of the supernatural in the game is more associated with superstition and societal ideas about fate, rather than big set piece battles with trolls and dark elves.

While most of the AW hacks are fannish adaptations of people's Favourite Games to the new rules, without a whole lot of consideration for what you might actually make such a game about, SAGAS dives right off the dragon-headed prow of the longboat into unique material I've rarely seen games take on at all.

If you like the AW engine, or you're just interested in what a serious, no bullshit historical RPG might look like, you owe it to yourself to check this game out.

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