Monday, July 16, 2018

Summerland Second Edition

I loved and was frustrated with Summerland in equal measure and when a second edition was Kickstarted I was excited and immediately backed it.

To be honest I didn't read the prospectus too deeply as I would have been happy with any improvement over the original rules.

However now in possession of the second edition I feel that the issues I had with the game are clearly not those the author did.

The game is set after human civilisation has been wiped out virtual overnight by the strange appearance of a forest over most of the land mass of the globe. It's a situation that reminiscent of sci-fi such as the Southern Reach trilogy or Roadside Picnic. From computer games then we are very much in the territory explored by *The Last of Us*.

The biggest issue I have with the game is its split game system. It has one game system for most things in the game, in this case a version of the Open d6 system. It then has a specialised sub-system for handling the thing that is the core of the game.

In Summerland the players are meant to play Drifters, characters who are resistant to the "call" of the forest. Their resistance comes from some inner trauma that leaves them unable to hear the call due to their psychic pain.

They can use their trauma as a bonus in contests however in using and confronting their past there is a chance that they start to resolve their Trauma. This is both good, because as the Drifter becomes less alienated and damaged they are more likely to be accepted in the few communities that exist in the area outside of the main effect of the call. It is also bad as the Drifter becomes more susceptible to call and their livelihood is based around doing things in the forest that others can't.

Therefore the game, from the character's point of a view. Is a finely judged dance where the character slowly resolves more of their Trauma and attempts to integrate with a community, transitioning from one way of life to another.

For me, this is the heart of the game and the reason to play it. All the survival horror is essentially the backdrop to this inner struggle.

The game as written disagrees. Survival horror is the name of the game and combat gets more page space than trauma does.

This second edition makes me feel like I need to get over myself and accept that Summerland is a creepy game of surviving a spiritual apocalypse and I should take what I like about it and try and create another game that reflects what I find interesting.
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