Monday, February 29, 2016

Lover of Jet and Gold hides some real story potential

As pretty obvious by now, I am someone who enjoys looking into quirky little role playing games. Unlike my interest in boardgames, I'm not looking for games that I'm planning on playing. Instead, I am interested in the ideas that people come up with and the ways that people tell stories. 

Lover of Jet and Gold is a tiny little RPG that is beautifully written and a little vague about what you're supposed to do. Seriously, not counting the cover and a list of names, the thing is six pages long and I had to read it three times to get a sense of how it was played.

Vaguely set in an Arabian Nights world (although, I can see how you would easily be able to use these ideas in just about any setting), the players are mortals who have an understanding of the power and influence of names. Over the course of the game, they will struggle to survive and to not  be forgotten.

As mortals, the players are doomed to die and to be forgotten. They deal with the names of force is more powerful than them, in order to gain favor and to deal with their enemies. While they will inevitably pass into the sands of time, the players can hope to have a lasting impact on their descendants.

The actual mechanics of the game consist of generating dice pools for your times of trial. Everyone gets to jet (or black) dice that serve as their mortality. You need to deal with powers and their names to get gold dice in order to bulk up your dice pool.

Of course, dealing with a power that has its own desires and interests and agenda is something that could come back and really bite you. If the dice rolls go bad, they may harm you or make new demands of you. Of course, at the same time, if you don't deal with the powers you're only rolling two dice at best and are probably going to fail horribly.

At the same time, along with the jet dice that represent your mortality and your hit points and the gold dice that represent favors from names, you're also trying to accumulate destiny dice. While that you can spend those dice to reroll jet dice, the cool part of destiny dice is that you get to roll them after your inevitable death see what lasting impact you had on the world.

Basically, as the game goes on, you're getting yourself deeper and deeper into the debt of powers that can easily destroy you. However, that's really the only way that you're going to succeed in your trials and the only way that you are going to build up any destiny dice to be remembered. Live a boring life and be immediately forgotten or take terrible risks in order to become a legend.

Lover of Jet and Gold reminds me of two games that I really like. The trial mechanic reminds me of the moves from Apocalypse World, where successes will let you pick from a selection of benefits. The destiny dice reminded of Fiasco, where the dice pool that you're building up for the end of the game will determine what kind of ending you have.

I can easily imagine using this exact same system without any problems with the theme of doom-laden Vikings or stone-age cavemen struggling to understand the world around them or even computer-age hackers. Like so many story telling games, Lover of Jet and Gold really is what you put into it.

The first time I struggled to understand Lover of Jet and Gold, I  thought the language was beautiful but I didn't have a good idea how the game was played. But it was really short so I read a few more times and got a sense of how the game worked.

And now I actually DO want to try this game!

I am worried that a game could get derailed if one player loses all their jet dice and dies long before anyone else dies. I have a feeling that would require some extreme swings of luck but that can happen. Still, there is some potential for good stories in Lover of Jet and Gold.

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