Like anything, role playing games (RPG) have their “trendy” releases. The currently trending product seems to be “Thousand Year Old Vampire” by Tim Hutchings. Rather than a review, since I haven’t even played the game, this is my first reaction to flipping through it and getting a general sense what it’s about. My reaction is partially as a gamer, but mostly as someone interested in writing and looking at it from the angle of a writing exercise.
Firstly, this is a solo RPG, you play it by yourself – not with friends. The meat of the game is a series of writing prompts. There are SOME mechanical elements in the background, which seems like they’re more there to help come up with ideas about what to write than to be a game you think hard about.
There are 80 of these writing prompts. You start at prompt number one and write what it suggests. Once you’ve completed it, you roll a 10 sided die and a 6 sided die. You move to the prompt indicated by subtracting the 6 sided die from the 10 sided die (so you move in a normally distributed range from -5 to 9 spaces). Negative numbers are possible, so at times you might move backwards. If you land on the same prompt repeatedly, there are alternate prompts for your second or third visit. If you land on a prompt for the fourth time (or get sent back before the first prompt), you move forward to the next prompt instead. The last 9 prompts (72 to 80) all end the story in different ways.
An example prompt (this is the first prompt from #60, randomly chosen) is:
Vast numbers of humans are migrating around the
world. What group becomes easy to feed upon?
How do you capitalize on their helplessness?
Create a Resource.
Basically, it’s like a choose-you-own adventure book that you write yourself. You could just jot down a couple ideas for each prompt and be finished in 30 minutes. Alternatively, you could write thousands of words about each prompt and have a NaNoWriMo novel at the end.
The “Create a Resource” referenced above is part of the sparse mechanical elements of the game. Your vampire is represented by 5 traits, Memories, Skills, Resources, Characters and Marks. After each prompt, an experience is a single sentence written to describe the resolution of the prompt. Up to 3 related experiences can make a Memory. Your character can have at most 5 Memories. What happens when the character exceeds 5 Memories? They forget something about themselves. This loss of self and the hard decisions about which memories to keep and which to lose are the core of the experience the game is trying to evoke.
Skills, Resources and Characters are simply elements a prompt will sometimes tell you to create, as above. They can be whatever you choose and will impact the game, future prompts, and describe the character you’re creating. Each have some simple mechanical impacts on the game.
The game (narrative) ends when you get to the final 9 prompts or you’re required to lose a resource or skills, but can’t.
Will the resulting text from this be a brilliant novel, sure to win awards and adulation? Probably not. The end result will be a (hopefully) engaging writing exercise and a very detailed character and background that may inspire your writing.
Given the enthusiasm this product has received, I suspect there will be similarly constructed games with a focus on non-vampire characters.
I don’t have any financial, social, or creative connection to the product or its author.