Wednesday, June 29, 2016

A Courteous Night - Romance in two pages of RPG

A Courteous Night, from the Indie RPG Megamix Tape, is an eety, bitty little role playing game for two players. No prep, no GM, requires just a deck of playing cards and should play out in just an hour. 
In a Courteous Night, the players play two lovers and they play out three events in the development of their relationship. The game is couched in fantastical terms with one player being the Enchanted and the other the Sotted with both characters being under curses. However, the roles really just dictate play order and a curse can be something mundane like crippling shyness, overprotective parents or heroin addiction.

The game has a simple but very defined structure. An introduction, where you meet the characters, three scenes that define the relationship, and an epilogue.

The scenes are played out in a call and response fashion, with the active player describing things and the reactive player responding to them. The active player will be playing cards face up and the reactive player will be playing them face down.

The value of the cards sadly doesn't have a direct correlation to the story. Instead, the face up cards will determine who controls the third act and all the cards will determine who is the 'winner'.

I have to note that the third act is a consensual seduction. Unlike Emily Karen Boss's romance RPGs, there aren't any guidelines for respecting people's comfort levels (to be fair, A Courteous Night is only two pages so there is size constraints) but including the word consensual goes a long way to keep things from getting creepy.

The 'winner' gets to narrate the epilogue, which describes how they break the _other_ player's curse. So really, everyone gets to be a winner. Yay!

To my mind, A Courteous Night has a couple strikes against it. First of all, I'm not terribly interested in romance RPGs. Second of all, if I did want to play a two-player romance RPG, the first game I would reach for would be Emily Care Boss's very excellent Breaking the Ice.

I also wish the mechanics of the card play were a little more tightly tied to the narrative. They do serve as a place keeper and help determine who controls certain elements. However, you can play towards winning or losing without that reflecting on how you tell the story.

However, there are some things I do like about the game. First off, an hour running time. As I have grown older and life has grown busier and more complex, shorter playing times have became more valuable.

Second, it has a tight structure. I have found that with narrative games, particularly short form ones, having a tight structure helps keep the game focused, which can be very important with the free form mechanics of many narrative game systems.

Third, I like how the player with the higher point total breaks the _other_ player's curse. It creates a cooperative, collaborative atmosphere.

A Courteous Night is by no means a perfect game. But an hour playing time and a structure that should keep the game moving along  does help it have a definite place in a very specific niche.

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