A game about intrigue, mystery, oppression and … winning.
Casey Steven Ross and Brandon Reinert of the Triumph & Despair blog, the home of Star Wars RPG resources such as Rogue Events, Cause & Effect and the EotE Alphabet, and the DDE Adventures blog have produced their own game. What they call a structured competitive storytelling game. They’ve named it Crush the Rebellion (CtR).
Bow down to your God-Emperor!
The game is set in a dark space opera setting where the Human Empire rules countless galaxies. At the top there’s the immortal Emperor, a mythical and mysterious figure. He rules a significant portion of the universe, employing skilled, dedicated and fanatic agents to root out any spark of rebellion, any resistance, to hunt down and kill (or capture) any surviving Sorcerer-Lord. From where I sit, the setting seems to be a cross between Star Wars and Warhammer 40K.
In CtR every player takes on the role as an agent of The Emperor, one of which is Mission Leader. This player has a somewhat similar role to a GM in that he serves as a storyteller, delegates some tasks to the other players and creates the mission for the session, but he or she also makes his/her own agent with a secret (only to the Emperor, not fellow players) agenda, and will be replaced by another player if incapacitated during the mission or executed. Generating the mission for the session is done through drawing a card and then weave a narrative and story inspired by the information provided by the mission card.
The game is played through a series of steps or Moves, that further the narrative and the creation of the fictional world. While the moves are simple enough and the process seems straight forward, it is here the game happens. It is during these moves the story is made, the fiction created and vying for position and the favour of The Emperor (or his death) happens. And there is not necessarily anything simple about any of that.
CtR definitely falls in the RPG genre, but is somewhat more free-form and lacks the normal structure of GM and players. The game can be played perhaps most easily as a one-shot, potentially as a dinner party type of game, but can also be tied together into a string of missions and a larger collaborative narrative, like more conventional roleplaying games. Any such campaign would of course be a collaborative effort, where every player would have their say in the events, plots and directions it can go. The game also differs from conventional RPGs in the competitive aspect: The game can be won and the characters only cooperate when/because they have to, they all have their secret agenda to complete to win the game.
The game is what you could call rules light. Rolls are made during the Moves, but the focus seems very much to be on the storytelling, the joint creation of a fiction that cannot be changed once it’s been pronounced, and established. In fact, the game has a list of principles for telling the story when playing CtR, one of which is: Abide by the fiction. The fiction is sacrosanct, this is a further emphasis from the preceding page: When a player describes something in the fictional world as the result of a Move or other activity, that description holds true and cannot be invalidated. As such the fiction or narrative is the superseding element or rule of the game.
Setting it up and playing the game seems easy enough, but I have not tried this myself yet. It is in the playing the challenge comes as I see it – and not in the game mechanics and rolling of dice. The game requires everyone to be involved, to be on top of things, interested and inspired to create, improvise, vie and betray. The game requires investment and skill in storytelling and thinking of things on the spot to further the plot, their agenda and so on. I believe this game can be rewarding to play, but also challenging, potentially creating (small or large) conflicts between players as well as characters, but mainly I think it can be fun as long as everyone is similarly invested.