After reading Gideon the Ninth, I knew someone had to have made an RPG based on it and I was right. Mandy Szewczuk and Linda H. Coders have given the world The Emperor is Undead. I found it on itch.io
And I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a game structure like it.
The basic idea of the game is that you are playing out the situation of Gideon the Ninth, playing necromancers and cavaliers who are trying to achieve Lictorhood in Canaan House, which is like Gormanghast in size and architectural complexity.
Gameplay consists of players taking turns picking one of eleven mini-games and playing them out. There is one that will end the game but you can play the other games I’m any order and (for the most part) as many times as you as want.
I cannot imagine what it must have been like to play test the Emperor is Undead.
I have played enough games, indie and old school and whatever is in between, that I usually have a sense of how a game flows and works. I don’t have that for the Emperor is Undead because of its structure. That isn’t a good or bad thing. It’s just how it is.
The Emperor is Undead isn’t the strangest or most experimental RPG design I’ve ever seen but it is very experimental. On the one hand, it is very much an open improv game. On the other hand, it is also a card game you are playing to win.
That said, creating a story is the most important part. You can still tell a great story while losing while focusing on card play to win would be boring.
Romance is the emotional heart of Gideon the Ninth and I have to note that the Emperor is Undead does give that an option but not a requirement. I feel that it’s a good choice for it to be included but Breaking the Ice is still the best romance RPG I’ve seen.
My biggest nit to pick with The Emperor is Undead is that the tone is very gothic horror but doesn’t touch the snarky tone that was important to the book. In the book, Gideon is a punk rock girl in a gothic horror world and that a big part of what makes the book fantastic.
We are going to have to wait until Tamsyn Muir finishes the Locked Tomb trilogy to have an RPG that really explores the setting. However, I feel it’s a testament to her work that the Emperor is Undead exists and it’s an interesting existence.