06 January 2008

Read-through Review of In A Wicked Age by Vincent Baker

Technically, this hasn't been released yet, but I pre-ordered it and got a preview pdf in my mail this morning.

It's short, with only a few pieces of art - they're immensely evocative of the setting, however. The setting is basically undefined except implicitly. There's the art, plus the oracles (more on these later) and these imply a version of Mesopotamia (or somewhere like that) with spirits, gods and magic.

Game play involves randomly choosing some elements from an oracle (there are four to choose from with differing styles). Each element is a little sentence - maybe describing some characters, a single character in more detail, a place or an event. Then all the characters explicitly mentioned or implicit in the oracles are listed.

Players choose one of these to play for this chapter (session). Everyone else is an NPC. Then character generation goes ahead, which is pretty simple. The oracles and system push for stories about sex, violence or sex and violence.

Then there's a bit of discussion about how to set up scenes, how to get to conflicts or build up to them. This all seems pretty solid advice.

Then there is conflict resolution, which is kind of interesting. Like Baker's Dogs in the Vineyard, there is quite a lot going on in the mechanics. In A Wicked Age seems basically simpler and also quicker (there's a three-round limit on conflicts). It's not just a simplified version of the Dogs mechanic, though... it's quite different but with a similar feel. Partly this is that the narration leads to rolls and the rolls then feed back into narration in a similar way. Looks cool, anyhow.

An important element is that if a PC gets beaten but not knocked out of the conflict, they go onto the 'we owe' list. This has two effects - the first character on the list automatically gets to be in the next chapter. However, you may also strike off a character from the list to either give them a temporary advantage in a conflict or bring them into a new chapter.

A chapter is deemed to be over when either the characters fulfill all their desires or time is up.

The next chapter gets prepared right away, with the player whose character is on top of the 'we owe' list noting down the character at the top of next chapter's sheet, plus picking the oracle that you will use for the random elements, and picking one element from the list to include. The other three elements will get randomly picked when you begin that chapter.

I'm pretty excited to give the game a try, it seems to have a nice episodic structure combined with a setting with loads of cool ideas that can be built on in play.

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