Sunday, December 21, 2014

Carcass

Carcass is Jim Pinto's game of leadership and danger. The design goals are to take complete narrative control away from players and create situations where their characters are trying to deal with situations beyond their control. The philosophical aim is to examine the nature of leadership in groups and perhaps as a consequence look at the impact of authority.

So how does it do those things?

The core mechanic is one of scene-framing and looking for conflict in situations that are then resolved via a dice mechanic.

The difference here is that control of the outcomes lies with the player to the left, the Foil of the player controlling the character. The dice determine the nature of the outcome but interpretation is left to the Foil. The nature of the interpretation colours the darkness of the game.

To balance out the PvP aspect the characters are all elements of the same tribe, struggling to survive. Making things worse for the character makes things worse for the group.

The leadership aspect functions as a reward, as the acknowledged leader of the community you get to frame two scenes per turn and for high dice rolls get to narrate your own outcomes.

This is balanced by a mechanism called Trepidations that represents the tribe's concerns with the leader and their plans. These can cause actions to fail automatically before a dice check.

The theme is post-apocalyptic, the darling of American game design, like zombies this will work for some people and not for others. Carcass uses the scarcity of the apocalypse to force the characters to act. They are not safe, they do not have food, shelter or security. They must change and move and therefore they are compelled to act despite the dangers.

One concern I have in the initially reading is that there are a lot of character types and, while the basic mechanic is rather like 3:16 in that you resolve everything with fighting, not fighting and special abilities, each type has a separate set of resolution tables and a domain for their special abilities. I'm wondering if the game is going to benefit from that level of granularity given that it is not in the high-level vision of the game.

I'm interested in Pinto's critique of freeform, narrative authority and improvisation as game mechanic. If nothing else Carcass is a valuable sally in game design. Whether it creates a game that reflects his themes is something that will require a play.

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