Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Alpha UNIX where uncertainty is the only mechanic

Alpha UNIX is a tiny little RPG with rules that are so simple they are barely even there. And it has a very strong theme that not just justifies those simple rules but uses them to elevate the theme.

Alpha UNIX was an entry in the Free RPG Blog's 2013 24 Hour contest. One of the requirements was that the designers couldn't include numbers in their game. Alpha UNIX takes that to a whole new level.

Take the Matrix and mix in a healthy amount of Groundhog Day. Then season to taste with Paranoia. Everyone is now inside the machine, the all powerful computer, forced to relive the day the computer was turned on over and over again. The players are rebels, trying to escape from the machine. They do that by introducing uncertain and doubt. 

There are no random number generators in the game like dice or cards. After all, numbers are the province of computers. Instead, players can do anything they want to, as long as they say it in an uncertain manner.

If they say anything as a certainty, they reaffirm the reality that the computer is creating. They give power back to the computer and the computer can use that power to punish or delete them. 

Basically, Alpha UNIX is an advanced version of the party game where you're not allowed to say the word 'I' or 'the'.

I'd be interested in trying Alpha UNIX to see how well this approach to minimal mechanics works. I have played systems that were this light but not like this. If it works, I can see it being a handy game for car trips or playing via Skype. 

I'm sure it won't work for some groups and, frankly, I don't know how well it would work in general. But I do think it's a brave design that is cleverly linked to its theme.

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