Durance: A narrative game

Stigg's picture

After blowing off Justin today (just kidding, I was in class until 1630), I headed up to a weekly 'game night' hosted by a local game store, appropriately called 'Games and Stuff'. The past few times I'd gone in there, a worker had mentioned he hosted the game night and invited me to join. Finally, a coworker went to last weeks and had a good time, so I headed up.

The game was Durance. I think the recommended number of players is 5, though you could probably get away with 4-10. The basics of the game is that it is a 'narrative' game, with no real objectives, so I guess the idea is just to tell a cool story. The game is set on a penal colony on some distant planet. The creator basically made it based off of Sydney, Australia. At the start of the game, you pass around a sheet of paper which has a few lists on it that basically decide the conditions of the planet. Each person selects one and crosses one off. So you could select, say 'intelligent life' and cross off 'mild climate'. After you create the colony by doing this a lot, you create the 10 'persons of power', 5 of each 'Authority' and 'Convicts'. You have the Governor, Judge, 'normal people', then some lower classes. To create a person, you are given a name from a long list decided by a dice roll, and then you choose a 'oath' which you MUST keep, else be banished from the colony. These range from 'Must keep all promises' to 'Must never let harm come to player X' to 'Eats every chance he can'. Some are neat, as they create dynamics between players, while others are... kinda pointless.

At this point, each player (if 5 players) is given control of 2 characters. Then one person at the table asks a question to the group, which then must be roleplayed out. You can make up ANYTHING about the colony, world, other players, etc. as long as it doesn't break any previously mentioned facts. For example, I was playing a Marine (which is an authoritative role) who had to keep his promises. There was an 'Emancipated', which is the lowest level in the 'authoritative' regime, which basically meant that they had just beed freed from being a convict. The Emancipated's oath was that no harm could come to me. The question was asked, 'The marine discovered that an invasive species of plant was discovered in the power plant (which on this planet was a nuclear greenhouse... somehow) which was destroying the water supply to the coolant. He promised the governor he would not allow the greenhouse to blow up, what do you do?' This immediately pulled in the Emancipated, as if I got harmed, he would be evicted from the colony. So we were going to just go in and do some weedwhacking and picking. But the guy who posed the question mentioned that the air inside the power plant was poisonous.

So we decided that their was a species of animal native to this planet that absolutely loved this particular plant, and we would lead them to the power plant and just let them inside. But they needed to be lured. Their favorite food was harvested by a plantation owner, so we went over there and asked a slave for it. The slave, whose oath was he would never betray the plantation owner, wouldn't let us have any. So we went to the judge to demand he give us some. The judge wouldn't be swayed by the problems of the explosion, so we decided that the power plant was actually directly under the judge's house. When he learned that, he let us demand the food from the plantation owner, so we got that, laid them in a trail leading to the power plant, and wha-lah, we saved the day.

The game lasted 2.5 hours and we played about 8 rounds. 3 players got killed, 2 got exiled. The total setup time was just under an hour.

It... was an interesting game. The objective is to create a narrative by asking questions that force people to obey their oaths, even against better judgement. The problem is, some of these people had bad oaths. 'Must eat when they can'. Its kinda hard to make that something good while also involving other people. The time to setup the game was far too long for what it was. We never used ANY of the world things we chose... and I'm not sure how you really could make them all that useful anyway. There was also some strange part of the game which we completely ignored... something about a 'colony drive' or something which we had to choose at the start, but got overwritten every round? It was useless.

I don't think I'd like to play this again. If a bad question was asked, there was 10 minutes of useless talk where nobody was in danger and the story wasn't progressing. If a bad oath was given, that person was pretty much immune the entire game (barring a question that put that person in a dangerous situation). I dunno.... it just... wasn't very fun.


Gormash's picture

Sounds interresting, and quite possibly fun if you play with the reight people.
I'd rather stick to Fate Core, though, as it has a perfect blend between narrative game where you can affect the world around you, and regular game mechanics.

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