Brick & Mortar: Last of the Independents
A downloadable game
This is a small, semi-functional GM-less tabletop RPG for 3 or 4 people. It's a survival horror game set in a struggling retail store. It was originally created for the April 2011 round of “The Ronnies” game design contest and published here on itch.io after some minimal editing and graphic design as part of the Unearth Your Old Games Jam. I'm releasing it as an unfinished prototype and don't expect to do any more development on it.
The parameters of the design contests called for picking exactly two ingredients from a set of four to inspire the game, and I picked “amazon” and “chains”. At the time I had just seen an announcement related to Amazon Cloud Services, so the “retailing” link between “chains” and “amazon” seemed like a good thematic starting point. I felt like it would be amusingly satirical to set a survival horror scenario in a retail store that was struggling to survive in a world ever more dominated by the likes of big-box chains and Amazon.com.
Why is it only semi-functional?
The dice and cards system is a bit clunky in play, and maybe too swingy. But more importantly, one vital system in the game is the mechanic related to where items can be found on The Owner's play sheet. At the time I sort of assumed that typical gamer behavior would be to concoct convoluted plans to resolve situations, usually premised on using particular items in creative ways. I figured that people would be saying things like “do we have any rope?” all the time, which would cause The Owner's mechanics to kick in, which would tend to throw monkey wrenches into the plans since the items would tend to not be easily available. However, while people with a more old-school style might play that way, at the time there were a lot of popular “declare a fact” style story games which encouraged people to just say things like “I use some rope to start fashioning a lasso...” without first checking in about whether their character had access to rope. If you do that in this game The Owner is stuck in an awkward flow-breaking situation where they have to use their mechanics and then figure out how to retcon what the other player said, since the mechanics often result in the item not being easily accessible.
But it does kind of work! I ran a playtest session shortly after it was designed and we had some zany fun with it.
Any noteworthy design elements?
While not an explicit Powered-by-the-Apocalypse game, I was inspired by PbtA-style “fictional triggers” in this game, and it uses them to construct a GM-less structure. For example, The Regular's “What was that?” mechanic has them introduce something ominous when there's a lull, which is a characterful way of doing something that a GM might be responsible for in other games.
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