After months of teasing here on the blog and in sundry precincts of the gamersphere, Pelgrane Press and I are now soliciting outside playtest reports for Hillfolk, the first DramaSystem game. Hillfolk features the saga of iron age raiders struggling to protect and enrich their clan at a time of clashing empires. DramaSystem fosters a dynamic between players and GM allowing them to collectively create a compelling, serial story of emotional need and personal conflict.
Long term story play. DramaSystem arises from the story games school of roleplaying game design, which privileges the exploration of narrative over other design goals, such as strategic decision-making, tactical butt-kicking, or the simulation of imaginary environments. Story games typically focus on delivering a fun and challenging one-time story that wraps up in a single sitting. DramaSystem shines in long-term play, in which a group unfolds an improvised narrative over an extended period, during which they come to relate to the characters as they would to the protagonists of their favorite ongoing television drama.
Easier to GM: Unlike some justly acclaimed story games, DramaSystem retains the role of Game Moderator, a participant apart from the rest who guides action and pacing and provides necessary rules interpretations. In this it is more like a mainstream or traditional roleplaying game. However, its events are entirely created in the moment, sparing the GM the usual lengthy prep work required by those games.
Harder to GM: Where GMs in traditional games have nearly unlimited power to shape the narrative by determining the obstacles PCs face, DramaSystem doles out their interventions in measured quantities. That makes the effort of pushing the story in the direction you want more of a challenge, with game-like tactical elements. Working within the limitations becomes part of the fun. You can never predict the outcome of any episode, giving you a sense of surprise and suspense you don’t get in games granting you near omnipotence.
My main goal for this playtest is to learn how much of the game is already on the page, and how much additional guidance and exegesis the text requires.
To participate, please contact Beth Lewis at Pelgrane.
We’ll be launching a crowd-funded campaign to fund the project next month.