Sunday, January 8, 2017

Laughing while Drowning and Falling

Since I have been going through a bit of a Jason Morningstar phase lately, all thanks to the Grey Ranks which I will write about fairly soon, I got out and read through Drowning and Falling.

Drowning and Falling is made up of two parts. The first one is a loving parody of Dungeons & Dragons. The second is an actual set of functioning mechanics. To be honest, when I started reading the game, I wasn't expecting the second part.

In general, the book is awfully funny to read. The theme of the game is being some kind of generic sword and sorcery hero who goes out to fight monsters and get loot. If you fail in this crucial task, you are either going to drown or fall. If you find yourself on fire or being strangled, you're clearly doing something wrong.

Characters have a whopping 15 different traits. Definitely brings back memories of some of the old-school games I have played. However, since their only mechanical use is to help generate numbers that you have to roll under with two dice, it's not nearly as complex or overwhelming as it might sound.

Since this is a Jason Morningstar game, it's not a surprise that it's a GM-free system. At the start of the game, you deal out playing cards to everyone. They then use those cards to create challenges. If you are really going old-school, each one is basically the next room in the dungeon.

Really, the only mechanical purpose of either the traits or the cards that you use to create challenges is to generate numbers. Individual names and details are just flavor to create the story. Come to think of it, isn't that how most role-playing games work? Using your strength, charisma and clumsiness to overcome a firebreathing dragon is a lot more interesting then just saying roll under a five.

I have to admit that since I read this right off of reading the Grey Ranks, which is the emotional equivalent of catching a sledge hammer between the eyes and one of Jason Morningstar's masterpieces, it was a bit of a let down. Compared to that, Drowning and Falling has an impossible act to follow.

These days, I look at role-playing games from two criteria. Was it fun to read and what I want to play it? Drowning and Falling passes the first criteria with flying colors. It is really funny and I can see it getting laughs if it was read out loud on the stage.

However, while it is clearly a functional and playable game, there are other games that fill the same niche of being a silly, funny one shot better. Toon, Kobolds Ate My Baby, Baron Muchaussen. Heck, both the Shan-al-Hiri Roach or Fiasco by Morningstar would be games I reach to before Drowning and Falling.

There is only one time I can see where I would really want to play Drowning and Falling. That would be as the last event on a Saturday night of a convention, when everyone is exhausted and slaphappy and just plain silly. I think it would work really good then.

So, I had fun reading the game. I'm not planning on playing the game. And the proceeds for the game went to charity. On the whole, Drowning and Falling didn't change my life or give meet any amazing insights. But I don't regret reading it.

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