Sometimes, I’d have to really think about this—should it be the one I most recently paid for, or the one that most recently arrived, or which of those 3 games I bought at once—and what happens if I get another game while I’m in the middle of writing this post?
But this time around, the answer is easy and clear-cut. I haven’t bought much recently (though I’ve had several Kickstarter rewards arrive in the last few weeks), with one exception, which is very cool and I need to share:
We were recently in France for vacation, and I made it a point to find some RPG stores while I was there. I don’t speak a word of French, and can read only slightly more, but I’d done some research ahead of time, and it’s amazing how much you can tell about an RPG just by looking at the character sheet.
There are a lot of cool French RPGs! Unfortunately, a lot of them are cool because of these amazing settings: historical with painstaking research, or wildly original, or clever genre mashups. And frequently these amazing settings are paired with very run-of-the-mill traditional rulesets (like Basic Roleplaying, or something similar). As cool as they were, there’s probably no point in me buying such a game: I’m not going to struggle through 300pp of detailed setting in French, and even if I do I’ll miss most of the nuances and any cultural references. So, sadly, they all went back on the shelf.
No, what I was looking for was games that were more cutting-edge for their mechanics, rather than their settings. As much as I’m drawn to cool settings when I can actually read them, if I’m gonna have to read them with a dictionary in my other hand, I’d better focus on something that I can puzzle out that way, and which will survive the translation. Several people pointed me at John Doe, a French publishing house that, if I’ve understood correctly, is more of a game publishers’ co-op, bringing together lots of independent creators to share the actual publishing part. At least every game I saw on shelves was a different creator, different rules, and really didn’t seem to have anything in common beyond the publisher’s imprint—and being fairly experimental. This was what I was looking for!
I also discovered a company, Les XII Singes (“The 12 Monkeys”) that is very similar, though their specific schtick seems to be publishing collections of one-off games/scenarios around a theme. Sometimes it’s a shared setting or genre, sometimes it’s a mood/tone. I think I saw a couple set around a specific historical period. Each that I saw was 6 games which, if I’ve understood correctly, can be played alone, and is basically a complete scenario. So replay value is probably on the lower side, but you get 6 in one book at a very reasonable price. And they weren’t the only company doing this. The only thing in the US market that I can compare it to would be Shifting Forest‘s parlor LARPs or Josh Roby’s “Vicious Crucible” series. I think—keep in mind that these are games in a language I don’t speak, and I haven’t had time to sit down and really properly decipher them. So I’m going on what I was told, what I think I’ve figured out, and what the store clerks were able to tell me in their limited English.
Even if I’m not entirely sure what I have, and there were many, many French RPGs that I didn’t have the budget or carrying capacity to bring back (and a few others that I never did see in a store), I’m really looking forward to figuring out these games:
- Deadline, by Matthieu Gonbert, for John Doe
- 6 Étoiles en guerre, by Benoit Attinost, Romain d’Huissier, Guylène Le Mignot, Jean-Baptiste Lillian, Damien Rocroy, published by XII Singes
- Americana: L’integrale du Syndrome de Babylone, by Anthony “Yno” Combrexelle, for John Doe