Pelgrane Press recently released Seven Wonders, a collection of seven story games by red-hot, up and coming game designers. With innovative mechanics and fascinating settings, the book is a must-have for gamers who want to be on the cutting edge of the hobby.
So what is a story game? In the introduction, Pelgrane publisher Cat Tobin describes story games as “a way of collaboratively creating fiction, within particular narrative or structural constraints.” They are a kind of tabletop roleplaying game, but are usually incredibly light on mechanics. They’re played in a single setting, with the emphasis on the story, and not on success, die-rolling, or combat.
So what kind of gaming gems does Seven Wonders contain? Here are our three personal favorites.
When the Dark Is Gone — Becky Annison
This game asks what life would be like for the children from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe after they returned from Narnia and grew up. Probably, they’d be in therapy. Players–called “clients”–choose a mental disorder from which they suffer. They then work backwards from the disorder to what may have happened in their childhood journeys to give them that disorder. The GM or “therapist” then leads the clients in a group therapy session to resolve the issues, and recount shared incidents from their pasts.
Rise and Fall — Elizabeth Lovegrove
Explore the rise and fall of a dystopian society in just three hours! Play is divided into three phases: Rise, Established Order, and Fall. Players create characters which will allow them to directly experience life under their dystopia in all three phases. The sky is the limit when it comes to dystopia creation. Players can make a fantasy dystopia, a steampunk dystopia, even a pony dystopia.
Nemesis 382 — Alex Helm
Your spaceship, after 20 years, approaches its destination: a black hole. Now it is up to you and the rest of the crew to complete your mission, and pilot your ship directly into the black hole. No one truly knows what lies beyond the black hole’s event horizon, so the only way to find out is to shoot some astronauts into it. You have volunteered for this possibly suicidal mission. But are you truly committed to the cause? Or will you decide to turn away from the black hole before it is too late? Nemesis 382 is a hard sci-fi story game of guts, decision, sacrifice, and science.
Other games include Heroes of the Hearth, which answers the question of what happens to loved ones left behind while heroes are off adventuring, Acceptable Losses which is about the life of the poor in a dystopic arcology, Small Things, which tells the tale of small things (little people, talking forks, sentient toys) protecting their home from threat, and Before the Storm, which tells the tale of heroes settling debts, forgiving slights, and remembering past deeds on the night before the battle which will decide the fate of the world.
Cat Tobin: Rising Star of RPG Publishing
Tobin was hired by Pelgrane in 2013, and in three short years became co-owner of the company. How does she account for her rise to the top?
Since joining Pelgrane, the company has seen the number of events it runs at Gen Con skyrocket from fewer than 10 to over 150. The company had a $120,000 Kickstarter, and won 15 ENnies, all while Tobin “worked hard to build a Pelgrane community that engages fans, and acknowledges the vital part they play…in our team,” she says.
Tobin states that Pelgrane Press owner Simon Rogers, “Recognized that my skill at ramping up production, while maintaining the quality we’ve built the brand on, meant it was worth keeping me. The cost of doing that was giving me half the company.”
Up next for Tobin and the Pelgrane crew is Cthulhu Confidential, which she describes as “a hard-boiled noir-flavoured Mythos game which launches our GUMSHOE One-2-One rules system, specifically designed for one player and one GM.”
While producing edgy story game anthologies such as Seven Wonders and nerd-standard hits like 13th Age and Trail of Cthulhu, Pelgrane Press appears to be setting a high bar for small press role-playing game companies.
Learn more about Pelgrane at their website here!
Have you played a story game? What was it like? Let us know in the comments below!
All images courtesy Pelgrane Press