Indie in Bielefeld

I’m sitting at home, having just returned from the regular gaming meetup in Bielefeld. While I did pack but not play Dusk City Outlaws, I did get to play two other games: The Skeletons by Jason Morningstar and Thorny Games' Dialect.

Both games are very much focused on story and emotions, less about high adventures, so this meetup has again been very much thematic for me. (There was a DSA 4.1 game that I was invited to, but, let’s say, even though I like the GM a lot, this isn't my cup of tea.)

So, what are these things about?

The Skeletons has the players all gather as undead guardians of a hidden tomb. The game asks them to map out the tomb together, to come up with the little details that give it a history.

And then watches on, as there are repeated incursions into the sacred stillness. Grave robbers, adventurers, monsters and others seek out the tomb, and the skeletons have to deal with them, rediscovering their own identities and memories while doing so.

A very fun game, but we sadly did not unlock it’s full potential. One reason was that the game got constantly interrupted, so we couldn’t really establish a flow. None of the interruptions were malicious (we got cake, new arrivals at the meetup wanted to say hi, and of course everything got paused when the infant kid of one of the players got carried in with a very nasty bruise on the forehead.), but a game that tries very much to evoke a feeling of loneliness and time passing suffers greatly from that.

The other was a result of this being our first time to play this game: The tomb we made was small. Basically one big room with just one corridor entering it. That way the skeletal guardians confronted each and every incursion in basically just one short encounter, not allowing for a lot of roleplay in those moments.

On top of that, I realized the actual point one probably should drive at only after the game ended, so the players felt a lack of agency. Discovering and making use of ones own personality should be much more important.

Still, I recommend this game a lot.

Dialect is a meta‐game, similar to Microscope, but instead of a deep history, this game has you develop a language. It comes in a rather thick hardcover, gorgeously illustrated and also hands you a bunch of cards with prompts. All of this enables you to form a tightly knitted group that has somehow isolated themselves from the rest of society — and thus forms their own language.

We had a merry band of gentleman thieves in early 19th century Hamburg that surely but slowly moved towards their downfall. In that time we invented slang that defines our marks, our celebrations and our hierarchy and actions. We saw how words slowly took on different, meaner definitions, as we moved from high stake cons to simply robbing and murdering people.

The phrase „before the cellar“, which we used to have as a code to reference our lofty gentlemanly standards became a curseword and then evolved into „to cellar someone“, a euphemism for plain murder. In the end, the cellar was all we had, and when our fearless leader walked up to the hangmans noose, her last words were „no one sings in the cellar“, refusing to give up her partners in crime.

A great game, one that I cannot wait to play again.

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