Monday, April 8, 2019

An RPG where poker isn’t just the mechanic but the whole thing

It’s been a while but I decided it was time to go back to the Indie Mega Mixtape to read some more wacky RPG goodness with I Bet My Life.

Here’s the one sentence summary: Play poker with your skills and dreams and memories as stakes.

Seriously. That’s really what the game is all about. You define three overwhelming problems, crushing issues that are destroying your lives. Then symbols that represent skills and memories and dreams. Then, deal the cards.

As is often the case with games this short, there are some ambiguities. It sounds like there should be a dummy hand for The Smiling Man but that isn’t actually mentioned.

It’s also doesn’t say if you are supposed to play as yourself. If you are, I Bet My Life has a ridiculous amount of bleed and borders on being an exercise in psychoanalysis, which is going too far for my tastes.

But if you don’t go with that, I Bet My Life actually crosses the line into being a RPG. The rules state you should describe how you should role play out bidding your dreams and memories. And the idea of basically stealing other people’s dreams and skills to solve your own messed life of just a fascinating story telling method.

When I first read I Bet My Life, I was underwhelmed. But the more I’ve thought about, the more I’ve found myself thinking it could really work as a story telling and roleplaying exercise. Poker is the gimmick but it’s one that can turn around and enhance the story telling.

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