Friday, January 6, 2017

A micro-RPG that covers love and death

Despite my efforts to read through them slowly, I was starting to get burned out by the Indy Megamix Mixtape, that collection of tiny RPG's that was sold to help designers in need. The South Side of the Sky didn't interest me and Shelter left me with so little that I didn't bother writing about it.

Then I read Darlin' Corey and realized I was not so burnt out that I couldn't find something that would spark my interest.

Darlin' Corey is inspired by and quite literally about the folk song by the same name. My parents were survivors of the great folk scare of the sixties so I grew up listening to more folk music than you could shake a banjo pick at. So I will freely admit that the subject matter was one that I could easily get into.

As opposed to being written to have you play out the scenario like you'd find in a folk song, darling Cory is specifically designed to have you roll play out that specific song. It is the story of how a beautiful moonshiner dies.

The twist and the actual game play is that at three specific points, you essentially flip a coin to determine what is really happening. Is Darlin' Corey really in love with the narrator or is he a stalker? Who really killed her? What's going to happen between the government man and the narrator in the end?

It's definitely an interesting take on the old role playing concept of railroading. Generally, railroading means that the players have to do something specific. In this case, something specific happens and the actual choice is how you react to it.

The game also has the profoundly bizarre player account of one to three. Yes, you could play this game as a solitaire exercise. Which is nothing new in the world of role-playing, given options like video game role-playing or game books. But it is kind of unusual for a storytelling game.

Heck, I might try playing it as a writing exercise.

Make no mistake, Darlin' Corey is a very simple and limited game, extremely restricted in what it does. It's not a game that you would play over and over again. It's not a game for outliers who are trying to find a way to break the game.

However, it uses the two fundamental themes of love and death in a very strong way. It will only tell one story but it will let you explore it in a variety of ways. And, as I already said, it's not what happens. It is how it effects you.

One of the things that caught my eye about Darlin' Corey from the start was that it was by Jason Morningstar. Without realizing it, I have become quite the fan of his work.

My earliest experiences with his designs was with the Shab-al-Hiri Roach, an experience that was a laugh riot in black comedy. I really hope to at least be able to play the short version of the Grey Ranks some day. And, not only did I have fun playing Fiasco several times, I also think it is an incredibly important game in the overall development of RPGs.

Darlin' Corey is not one of Morningstar's great or important designs. But it does show how his approach to storytelling and GM-free play can be applied in a game that it's only two pages long.

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