Friday, November 18, 2016

First Thoughts: The Republic

Recently I was given word of a new tabletop game called The Republic, an RPG about "social justice, elemental bending, and piles of dice." I'll compile my feelings about what I saw below, but right up top I just want to say that this game looks really fun and you should consider supporting it.

The setting of The Republic is one of distinct inequality. No matter what setting you play in, the rules of the game are simple. The government has firm control over society and uses that control to crush and dehumanize women, foreigners, the disabled, and those outside the gender and sexuality norm. You play as someone in one of these demographics surviving under or even fighting back against the oppression you face. Immediately the game presents you with its politics, which as noted above are explicitly about social justice. A paragraph later on describes a few alternate ideas for settings, including my dearest love, cyberpunk. So long as the balance of power and threat of dehumanization are present, the game should work in any world. The setting as written includes the elemental bending aspect, as those mystic powers are forbidden to those of a lower station, but you could play this game completely without magic--and in fact I rather like that interpretation, myself.

The mechanics are what make this game truly unique. I havent seen a system that I felt this compelled to buy since the first time I laid eyes on Apocalypse World. Players are defined by elements: fire, earth, water, air, and the heavenly fifth element that connects them. Each one has a type of die associated with it and corresponds to a type of human behavior. Fire represents things like violence or ambition, while water represents reason or patience (as well as the literal elements in the setting-as-written). You get 10 dice, and pick their types according to which personality traits your character has more or less of. Each action has a range of numbers that represents a success, with more complex or difficult actions requiring multiple successful dice, and using the appropriate die (and thus the appropriate attitude or elemental magic) makes that action more likely to succeed. It's a simple system that really enforces character traits and personality in a tangibly significant mechanical way. One of the things that stood out to me was one of the player options when a character dies. The player can pass on a die to each player's character to represent how they've affected that person in death. Imagine having your character dying and passing on a fire die to a character that never acts that way, finally prompting a pacifist to take up arms out of grief. The possibilities are really inspiring for all you drama queen roleplayers like myself out there.

Honestly, as someone in the process of trying to make a simple RPG system about social themes myself, I'm a bit jealous someone else did such a good job before I could. I'm very much interested in playing or maybe even running this game (as if I've got the time between the two games I run now!). I'd definitely recommend you take a look at this game, especially if you just can't quite find the perfect system for what you want to run.

The Republic is the work of Ashton McAllan, Vincent Baker, and Mark Redacted. It can be found and supported here.

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