These are my last two assignments.
Star-Crossed Lovers was probably my favourite, not least because it seemed the most concrete (no handwaving here). Players take the roles of suitors trying to woo the daughters of a rich patriarch – but they must also woo their father as well. The daughters care about the passion of their beaus, the fathers about how wealthy the son-in-law will be, and you go through the game earning points in each category by risking the last points you got in the hope of earning more – although the goal is not to have the MOST points but for your scores to be as close as possible, so your love is equal to the suitability of your marriage. Also nicely, there are set rounds (through the five Acts) when certain scenes work better than others, and we get a nice progression through a Shakespearean structure (eg in Act 4, you find out a secret about your background, so the Patriarch now knows you are richer than he thought, so you get +1 to impressing him). The only problem with the game is the only way to distinguish each suitor is whether they start with more Passion than Wealth, and a mechanically-unbalanced classification of their Humour. At least it is an attempt though, and if you fix this, this looks like awesome fun. What I think I like the most about it is it has fortune at the start. There’s none of this “set a scene, tell a story, roll a die if it matters” or “a messenger arrives and then you make up the rest” – the rules say You’re At a Party, you’re Suitor A trying to impress a Daughter or a Patriarch and then you roll and then the roll helps you come up with ideas. Plus the GM/Patriarch gets to have a lot of fun in a supervisory role, which is what I like too.
Durance is not eligible this year, not sure why. It didn’t end up having much to do with Shakespeare so maybe that’s it. Instead its a tale of a colonial planet settled by convicts, with the planet being far more hostile than anticipated – ie its Australia. The game focusses on the chain of authority – or rather two chains, the legal, from Governor down to enlisted guards, and the illegal, from the Dimber Damber and his lieutenants down to the weak as dirt prisoners. What you get then is a prison drama like Oz – brutal and bloodsoaked and full of bullies. Characters break their promises to themselves and conflicts are resolved with dice labelled Servility, Savagery and Desperation (highest wins, ties causes Random Events to occur instead, from a cool table). It’s one of those “frame a scene, maybe roll a dice” thingies which again lacks a bit of concreteness (and shares the GMing around, each turn somebody else gets to set the scene and just sit back and watch, which is, for me, the whole reason I am a GM, so I don’t have to do, just enjoy as an audience) but at least here it is very very clear what the game and each scene is going to be about. Shared world design and character design (your neighbours give your characters his oaths) complete a very polished package. It’s dark and bloody but if that’s your thing, it’s worth a look.