Saturday, July 6, 2013

Becoming: an RPG of Legends

Becoming is a pretty sweet game. I'm just gonna say that off the bat, and because it's past 1 AM here, I'm gonna keep it brief for all of you. (Getting in a quick post before I head off to CONvergence, wot?) It recently funded, and they're looking for a little more money for an awesome stretch goal. So get over there and check it out, once I explain why.

The Trials of the Hero
(As a side note, I use the term "hero" as a generic word which can refer to a heroic male or female protagonist.)

Becoming is about a Hero trying to achieve a goal, and the forces of the world trying to drag away everything that the Hero holds dear, whether it's friends, beliefs, or strengths. It's all about wearing the Hero down, and seeing what's left on the other side. That's an incredibly compelling arc, at least to me, and the game makes it happen in a very natural way. The non-Hero players offer the Hero bargains of a mildly Faustian nature--giving up small bits of the things that matter to them, in exchange for power.

The Flow of the Game
Becoming is a highly structured game. No, that's a bit of an understatement. The story in Becoming is practically pre-planned. Everyone knows exactly what path the story will take; it's outlined as a "Quest". Finding out the events of the Quest isn't the point of the game. The point is to find out what victories the Hero wins along the way, and what they're willing to sacrifice for those victories.

The crux of the game is in the bargains made by the Fates--the three players who aren't the Hero's player. The Fates' players trade off GMing roles, describing and framing the scene accordingly. The Fates who aren't currently running the show can introduce bargains into the picture, offering the Hero more dice against the current Threat in the scene. In exchange, they'll demand the ability to make the Hero's strengths worse (giving negative traits or stripping away positive ones), or even to betray the Hero with one of those strengths. Once the Threat is resolved, the next scene comes.

Why This Game is Great

The basic mechanics of the game are simple--they introduce story elements as quantifiable parts of a character. They use this to tell a story of a Hero who's faced with tough decisions, who struggles with their loss of self, sacrificing it to achieve their goal. There's a massive spread of stories that you could cover with this, as well. The sample quests don't just include more typical "hero's quest" fare--there's one Quest inspired by the Blair Witch Project, and another which bends the rules to allow two Heroes in a romance-based Quest. I could equally imagine it being used to model the adventures of Harry Dresden, or the perils of evading an alien intruder on the Nostromo.

It's a simple game that follows a compelling character arc--and if you're a roleplayer, the idea of having three competing Evil Overlords might be delightfully mind-bending for you. There's only a few days left for the early-appearance Kickstarter, so I'd say...check it out.