When I backed Durance, the newest RPG from Bully Pulpit Games, on Kickstarter I really didn’t know what I was getting. I basically saw that Durance was the next game from the folks over at Bully Pulpit Games, the folks that made Fiasco, and decided I had seen enough. I knew that it was a game about a space penal colony and power structures, but really nothing else beyond that Well, I recently got my pre-release PDF and gave it a read over to see what it was all about. At the outset, I will say that I am extremely impressed by Durance. It has a great singular focus on emulating its specific setting in an interesting way. With that, here are six things I have learned about Durance:
Durance drips with theme – All of Durance really is built around the idea of the power struggles and relationships inside of a penal colony that was sent off into space without sufficient supplies and preparation to, you know, get rid of the prisoners and the whole game is built around that idea. While Fiasco was built around emulating a theme, Durance is really all about emulating this particular power structure, between authority and the convicts, and how it relates to the challenges faced by the prison colony. That is not to say intrepid players won’t find a way to port Durance over to their theme of choice, but it will be a theme where two
You create a whole world during character creation, not just your characters – At the outset of a game of Durance, you use a checklist to cooperatively build the world that your characters have been sent to. This process is interesting because it is meant to set up a world that has good points and bad points, making sure the setting is compelling. In Durance, you also set up what the colony is like (by the same process as world building, where players take turns picking one good thing and one bad thing).
You set the theme of the game at the outset – Another world creation note, in Durance when you are creating the world you also choose what drives the colonists (authorities and prisoners alike). If a game is about safety, it will likely have a very different feel than one that is about indulgence. It’s another neat way that Durance makes sure each world is unique.
You play multiple characters, whose roles are set – In Durance, each player has control of two ‘Notables’ (the people who the story is about), one Authority character and one Convict character. These characters are listed in two competing power structures (one for each side), so not only is there the push and pull between the two sides, but also within each organization. This also is an interesting to make sure players are interested in both sides of the stories in Durance, not just the one they have a character on.
Everyone takes turns running the game – Everyone gets to act as the ‘Guide’ over the course of the game. While the ‘Guide’ does not participate in the scene (other than steering it occasionally), they ask a question that kicks off what the scene will be about. Bascially, all of the players other than the Guide who have to work out the answer to the Guide’s question through roleplay, turning to the dice when there is uncertainty in how things are going to turn out.
So is Durance like Fiasco at all? Really, not all that much. I mean, there are some design similarities (which you would expect), but the things that Durance shares with Fiasco are that it is all about how these people (the characters) interact and that things are going to go bad by the end of it. Honestly, things in Durance have the possibility to go bad at a completely different scale than Fiasco, but it’s still about the unraveling of the people. There’s also a ton of narrative freedom in Durance, much like Fiasco, and it trusts you to be mature enough to use the rules to make interesting stories. Oh, and it’s thoroughly stylish.
So, there you are. Durance is a great looking game and I really look forward to getting a chance to give it a spin sometime. It has a fascinating rule set (I love fascinating rule sets) and a unique setting, along with an interesting world/character creation process that looks like should make Durance a lot of fun to play. Of course Durance, much like Fiasco, will require players with a certain maturity level and devotion to telling an interesting story without too much guidance, but – if you have that – it looks fantastic. The game doesn’t look like it is up for general order yet, so keep your eyes on the official Durance page for more information, as well as checking out Bully Pulpit Games on Twitter.
What theme would you like to see Bully Pulpit take on next? Have you gotten to play Fiasco? Do you plan to grab Durance once it’s widely available? Has it been on your radar? March orderly down to the comments section in a single-file line to talk about it.