Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Final Girl, your own schlock horror movie

While I have yet to play The Final Girl, it's been a game that has been discussed in my circles for years. And, while its focus isn't something I am deeply interested or invested in, rereading it has made me appreciate it more.

You see, The Final Girl is another GM-free system, something I spend a lot of time writing about. I promise that I'm going to write about games that actually involve using a game master one of these days. Since I've been looking at so many systems based around that idea and The Final Girl makes some very smart voices for making it work.

First off, The Final Girl is an RPG about creating a B horror movie. While the title implies that you will be pulling out a slasher of some sort, the system will work with zombie apocalypses or alien invasions or even giant radioactive dinosaurs from under the sea. 

It uses a Troupe System, which is honestly how most GM-free systems work. In a lot of Troupe Systems, the players take turn being the focus of the scene while everyone else acts as a collective game master. In The Final Girl, players take turns playing the slasher (or monstrous killing force of some kind or another) and directing the scene. So you take turns being the game master for everyone else.

And no one actually owns character. Characters are just names down on index cards and put in the middle of the table as a pool for everyone to draw from. Characters will develop relationships with each other, which can be friendship or rivalry or screwing, which counts as both friendship and rivalry. (Horror movie, remember?)

These relationships can influence a character's chance of surviving an encounter with the slasher, one way or the other. When the slasher decides to kill someone or everyone, you basically play War with a deck of cards to see who dies.

Of course, you reach endgame when you're down to X number of characters, which depends on the number of players. You can only have so many characters in the final showdown, after all. Which could result in everyone dying, by the way.

There are a number of things that I like about the design of The Final Girl. I like the variation on Troupe Play. The player playing the slasher could end up being game master entirely for that scene or the group could come together to create the scene with the slasher just picking who to kill.

I also like the fact that it has a playing time of under two hours. Part of the reason why I even started looking into games like this is because I don't have time to play in a campaign.

While I do enjoy the occasional horror movie, it isn't a genre that I'm really focused on. Really, I tend to go in more for cosmic horror, like good old Lovecraft. So that's something I'm pretty indifferent about when it comes to the system. I do realize that, with the right group of people, it can really inspire.

The fact that the system is designed to create your own horror movie  without a lot of flexibility beyond that doesn't bother me. Seriously, a lot of these games are tightly focused and I'm not going to knock an intentional design choice like that. Not every game can be a sandbox.

Truth to tell, the focus of The Final Girl is both a strength and a weakness. On the one hand, you're using a genre that most people understand. It won't be too hard to get a game going. On the other hand, between the horror genre and that no characters belonging to anyone, you're not going to get a lot of serious depth. 

In comparison, while Fiasco also embraces movie genres, it's a lot more set up for character development. And other GM-free systems like Polaris or Ribbon Drive really make character development the primary focus.

That isn't necessarily a weakness of The Final Girl. It's just something that you have to know going in.

The Final Girl isn't a deep game that will change your life or redefine how you see role playing games. It should be good for a couple hours of silly fun with horror movies, though.

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