Tuesday, September 6, 2016

If John Hughes directed a RPG

If you were looking for a role playing game that let you relive movies like Sixteen Candles or Some Kind of Wonderful, Unrequited fits that bill. In fact, that's pretty much all you're going to do with it.

Unrequited is a short form role-playing game for two players. One player will play the Infatuated, who is in love with the Crush, an NPC. The other player plays the Friend, who supports the Infatuated but is secretly in love with the Infatuated. 

Yeah, you can see where this is going.

You play out three scenes, heightening the Infatuated's obsession with the Crush and depending the Friend's love for the infatuated. Throughout the scenes, you develop dice pools that will help determine who ends up with who at the end of the game.

One of the things that I don't like about how you earn those dice. You get them by performing very specific actions during the scene. While the rules state that the setting can be anywhere, the actions are really, really geared towards a John Hughes style 80s teen movie. Seriously, I can't see using this rule set with any other kind of setting.

What I do like is that the Friend can choose to give their dice pool to the Infatuated to help them win the love of the Crush, sacrificing their love for the desires of the Crush. It's pretty standard for the genre but it is the most dramatic choice in the game. Perhaps the only dramatic choice.

In short form games, particularly narratively driven games, I do think that it is important to have a strong framework. A lot of games, you go in knowing what kind of story they are trying to tell and the framework helps you tell that kind of story. In the case of Unrequited, I feel like the structure is so rigid that it's telling me how the story is to be told in addition to what the story will be. In fact, if we were given a very specific setting and three pregenerated characters for the three roles, I think that it would bother me less because the rigid structure would make more sense. 

Unrequited suffers from comparison to a number of games. For me, the most obvious one is Breaking the Ice. Two player, romance games aren't part of my RPG interest but the depth and many interesting choices in Breaking the Ice would make it my game of choice. 

Since Unrequited is part of the Indie Mixtape Megamix, I also can't help but compare it the game right before it on the play list, A Courteous Night, another romantic short form for two. And one that I feel allows for more interesting choices and more freedom, despite also having a very tight structure.

Interestingly enough, although there are other was not very much alike, since the scenes in Unrequited are all conversations, I find myself reminded of Until We Sink. That's a Nordic LARP that consists of nothing but conversations around the table. Making it a tabletop LARP, I guess. 

Unrequited isn't a game that I can see myself playing, even if I was in the mood for a romantic game. It's certainly not a game I can see playing twice.

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