Hillfolk in the Holy Land?

So, succumbed to the latest Bundle of Holding and picked up Pelgrane Press’s Hillfolk, the RPG that bills itself as having play like an HBO original series.

The base setting for Hillfolk is an early Iron Age tribe. I thought we were talking about the late European Iron Age, until I saw pg. 68, which is a map of the area.

Hillfolk’s hills, if I’m not mistaken, are the Judean hills, with the Jordan River to the east and the Mediterranean Sea to the west. Given that I’ve spent more time than I’ve cared to puzzling over Israeli road maps, I’m pretty sure I’m not mistaken (also it says it’s the 10th Century Levant two pages later).

I’m actually a little disappointed by this, because the instructions around this map are to make the area abstract and suited to whatever story you want to tell, which is great, but the Levantine early iron age was actually super-interesting, with all sorts of amazing cultural and religious details, but unless I’m a super-nudgy GM who demands them in despite the opposition of my players those details will never get included.

Otherwise, I like the system and look forward to trying it out. I also think running the underlying mechanics would be good for my “Eleanor Roosevelt’s Commandos” setting.


Nobilis – Start of a Project

So, a week or so ago, I made an impulse purchase on Bundleofholding.com and ended up with, among other things, Nobilis, 3rd Ed. The concept is fascinating: each player is something between a nature spirit and a demigod, having power and responsibility over a field as encapsulated by a single word or phrase, such as “clocks” or “first love.”

The actual rules of Nobilis, however, are a little dense on first read. Actually, let me revise that. The rules are bound deeply in the fiction, such that you can’t get a straight statement of “Jack fires his smartlinked handgun at Percy. Jack’s REF + Handguns + 1D10 + 3 Smartlink Bonus exceed the 15 target number at medium range, so Percy has been shot.” The fact that Nobilis is diceless doesn’t change that there’s no section where the flavor text has been dialed down so that a reader can just get the rules without having to also read how the Queen of Shredded Wheat is interfering with the affairs of the Herald of Low-Fat Milk. One of my gaming group, who has access to write on this blog so she can speak for herself, has much stronger words on this front.

Another blogger, had this to say about the 2d Ed. while reviewing the 3rd, but I find the statement still basically true for the latest edtion:

It was a really engaging read in a really pretty book that was really hard to wrap your brain around and actually use at the table. I managed a fairly long campaign, but only after getting to play a one-shot of it at a con that finally made it click enough to run. I suspect many others got it, read it, and left it on the shelf.

Another reviewer, who also really liked a lot of the game, said:

…there is no summary rundown of How to Play in Nobilis 3e; Moran really does take the entire 370-page rulebook to explain what the game is.

Or rather, to show how it feels. Or how it felt to her.

This is RPG design as literature, well and truly, but in aid of what? ‘Play?’ I mean: what, mine?

I refuse to be deterred.

This post starts a project where I’ll be, possibly with my gaming group’s help, figuring out how to play this game. I have experience in distilling games; when I need to start a new game quickly, I often generate handouts on the character creation process so players can get started fast without having to pass around a single book or a PDF-displaying device for hours. I’ll be posting two of those after this post goes live so you can see how they look.

No matter what, we’ll all learn together.


Welcome to Unserious Gaming, a (as of this post) new blog about roleplaying games!

Soon this blog will be filled with the stories of my gaming group, which doesn’t have a name because we’re not cool or nerdy (pick one) enough to nickname ourselves. We used to run a big Ars Magica campaign, but then we all ended up being more adults with responsible lives, so for the past couple months we’ve been doing pickup games mostly with stuff I grabbed off Bundle of Holding.

We’ll be rating the games, talking about their positives and negatives, and sometimes making inside jokes for our own benefit. I hope you find it entertaining!