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The Specific Flavour Of June
I roll the Doom Die.
You are reading the TEETH newsletter, written and compiled by hedgerow poet Jim Rossignol and scrubland laureate Marsh Davies. This is a newsletter about table-top role-playing games: our own—that we’re publishing over here and also here —as well as interviews, links, and general noodling. Want us to see your work? Get in touch!
Some Things We Have Acquired
It’s been a busy old month, which always — to my mind — seems to be the specific flavour of June. Perhaps it’s something to do with the long days, but June always seems like a crescendo of activity around our way.
And so it was! Last week we fulfilled the first batch of materials from the TEETH Kickstarter over on itch.io, so if you backed the Kickstarter please check your email (it’s the one you signed up to Kickstarter with!) and you should have a link to the files at the bottom of that, which will allow you to associate your downloads with an itch.io account. Let us know if you have any problems and we can send you the link again privately!
This first batch includes the full core PDF as well as the playbooks and maps (which are actually free to download for all, check out the inaccurately-named “Demo” section at the bottom of the Teeth page). The first round of feedback and responses to this have been incredibly kind and generous, and we are thankful that so many people have been struck by the chord of the game. As we have said before all the stretch goal documents will be added to your itch.io accounts as we complete them!
Then, of course, there is the printing of the books. Since the Kickstarter was more of a success than we had initially anticipated we have had to change our printing plans a little. This is also the first time we have ever done anything like this, so Marsh has had to spend a lot of time learning about setting up PDFs for printing and all that stuff. He’s been negotiating with printers, too, and I think we now have a plan to go forward with that. We’ll keep you all updated as we go, both here and over on the Kickstarter update pages.
Thanks again, everyone!
Marsh & Jim
Oh my goodness, Koriko by Jack Harrison is just beautiful. The themes it plays with may be familiar to you, a liker of 21st-century culture: “This is a game for one player, designed for contemplative solo play. It’s a bubbling cauldron of simple rules and writing prompts, stirred together to produce the story of a teenage witch spending a year away from home in an unfamiliar city called Koriko.”
If there was ever a Forged In The Dark game that we were destined to play, it is surely 40k variant Blades Of The Inquisition, which is freely available (for obvious reasons) and has a new recent update. (I think? Maybe not, but it found its way into my file recently anyway.) Go take a look!
We are (sort of) a Forged In The Dark fan-newsletter over here, so please forgive a second link to a FitD game, because I suspect those of you with a whiff of interest in such things will be very interested in Alterity. There’s some great writing in here, and it just brims with atmosphere: “ALTERITY is a Forged in the Dark game about the delvers of an Aetheric Order, a radical guild or cell whose members scour glooms across the ruins of Alteris in search of the multiversal aether they need to fuel their power, prestige, and protection.”
I am in love with this fantasy-architecture book by Guy Pradel (it’s in French, but that just adds to the charm) and consequently I am facing a tragic heartbreak, since the printed zine is out of stock. (But there is a PDF!) It’s worth browsing Pradel’s other work.
Speaking of architectural space, I have been meaning to link to this Unwinnable article about Inside and Gorogoa for weeks. Mostly because it reminds me of when I used to write about videogames and architecture.
Some Things We Have Acquired
Thing #1: Atma
A couple of weeks ago the boxes for “role-playing card game” Atma I & II, by Meromorph Games, arrived. Atma has been around for a while, but it’s completely new to me and it’s been fascinating to take a look at.
The principle of the game is that it works like — and explicitly credits — the Powered By The Apocalypse games, which, if you are not familiar with their general motif, are games which handle player actions via “moves”. These are actions that when resolved with dice are played out narratively as success, partial success, or failure (an evolution for which was seen again in Blades, of course).
Atma does this by your characters being a set of cards (narrative on one side and rules on the other), but it sets up everything else with cards too. This is interesting because it plays out in a limited sort of time frame: the GM has to steer the players through three scenes with a goal in mind, which is then added to via character, prop, and twist cards.
The intention here, as I understand from Meromorph’s own descriptions of their game, is to make things zero-prep. The game generates a scenario in their science-fantasy world, introduces the characters and antagonists and goals, all within a few minutes. An ideal way, I think, to introduce people to a rather more narrative way of role-playing, especially if they are a GM who has little or no experience with improvisation: the cards deal you the content to play and there’s no need to invent on the fly because you are simply given the next thing.
That said, from what I have played so far (one game with my kids, to be fair) I am not sure it actually *does* make improvisation any easier. I found myself grasping inexpertly for how to include the things that came off the deck. And even though you are encouraged to peek and what’s coming up, I didn’t always find a very plausible path from one item to the next.
Perhaps this is because I am so used to improvising and just making stuff on the fly that the cards actually interrupted and derailed my usual free-associating, or perhaps it’s because actually doing some prep IS necessary to really make Atma sing, in a way that isn’t really intended.
Either way, I am smitten with the cards, their beautiful art and (weird as this sounds) the incredible packaging. I am not sure I have ever seen a role-playing game (Invisible Sun excepted from this, obviously) with such aspirational packaging. We’re talking magnet-closers in the card box flap. (I know!)
My own safari through TTRPG-land initially failed to register Black Sword Hack by Alexandre ‘Kobayashi’ Jeannette until Comrade Gardiner brought it to my attention by running a game a few weeks past. I’ve already mentioned that it has pitch-perfect art by the sterling Goran Gligovic, whose work summons an alternature future/past stylisation from the 70s (a sort of ode in art to Elric-or-Viriconium* meets the Bakshi/Frazetta axis as well as Euro influences) and could not be more pefect for the law vs chaos dark fantasy tradition that it appeals to, but it also comes with some fantastic tricks of design and writing.
Based on the redoubtable The Black Hack by David Black, the game generates a world “to destroy” and throws in some mechanics that evoke the setting admirably. My favourite of these is the “Doom Die”, which is an additional dice held by each player, which msut be tested for certain rolls and drops in size (d6 to d4 to example) on failure. A push-your-luck mechanic intended to “push the envelope of traditional OSR lethality – at the risk of going too far and becoming doomed.”
I am a sucker for stuff like this, and not just because I really like saying “I roll the Doom Die” in play.
The consequence of this is the Black Sword Hack ends up feeling more-70s-than-70s, a fantasy more an Old School Fantasy than (m)any of the games of the period. It is one of those neat creative tricks of nostalgia where a book/movie/song takes the tropes of the time and pushes them through a perceived idea of how things were or might have been, while at the same time using modern conceits to deliver the final experience.
Admittedly my absolute immersion in FitD and narrative-y games over the past couple of years has left me wide open to OSR colonisation, but this really hit a chord.
I am not sure I know how to explain Moebius’ Lazlo Parker (it’s a book of abstract art by the comic book master, Lazlo Parker being the pseudonym and alter-ego for the work) and it has nothing much to do with TTRPGs, but I now look at it every single day. It’s beautiful on its own, but also provocative.
What would an RPG with art like this be about? How would it play? (There’s a thread here about what RPGs aliens would play; games the rules of which are incompatible with being human.)
Gosh, that’s a lot of francophonic aspiration.
*Speaking of Viriconium, I have been reading Harrison’s “anti-memoir”, which is just a very odd and at-least-partially-brilliant book about writing and being a writer. Not sure it has any relevance to this newsletter, but it might when it’s had time to stew.
More soon! x