Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Over The Edge

A few days ago, I received a comment on an old post - it was in reference to the list of traits my players had come up with for Ghostbusters International when they didn't even know what the game was going to be.
It's my working theory that, when given unbridled opportunities for creativity, a group of players will invariably come up with something to equal or exceed anything the designers of a game could ever achieve alone.
This comment led me to wonder: What if there was an entire game built around this idea?

And then, within a day or two, I received a package in the mail. My 20th Anniversary Edition of Over The Edge.  This game is a shining gem of minimalist design.  It takes five minutes to make a character (ten if you're thinking too much about it), and you can be up and playing in less than ten minutes.

And it fits exactly the theory - you see, players can be anything.

The game is an odd melange of sci-fi, fantasy, horror, espionage, and conspiracy - in all honesty, the game tends to reflect what the players bring to the table.  Do you want to play a three-armed blue alien who is stranded on Earth and trying to find a way home?  You can do that.  Want to play an innocent tourist caught up in events beyond his control? Easily done.  Are you interested in playing a hive-mind from the future possessing the body of a homeless drunk?  You got it!

I think one of the greatest things about the game is that all of these things are handled seriously. Yes, you can play Al-Amarja for laughs with its bungling Keystone Kops-esque Peace Force constantly arriving too late to prevent actual mayhem - but you'd miss part of the point.

Al-Amarja is an island where nothing is right.  That three-armed alien? He'll be mugged within two hours and the Peace Force won't help him without appropriate documentation proving that he has a right to be on Al-Amarja.  The hive mind? He'll have to deal with Throckmorton, especially if his vision of the future is somehow different.

Al-Amarja is an oppressive regime under which anything goes, as long as you don't rock the boat too much. And then they bring the hammer down - and you do not want to be there when the hammer falls.

And did I mention that the rules can be summarized onto a single page?

As a GM, there is an additional bit of fun available for the game: they did a collectible card game version called On The Edge. You can use the CCG as a story generator - grab a random bunch of cards, and flip them up one at a time.  The MacGuffin is ... [CARD], it's being looked for by [CARD], and is currently held by [CARD].  Also pursuing it is [CARD]. If you decide to do this, I do suggest having at least one starter deck.  Steve Jackson Games used to sell a "Burger Box" that was a good start.

All in all, it's one of my all-time favorite games. I own every product ever produced for it (including copies of Edgeworks, the FanZine). And it is one of those rare games with no limit to what you (and your players) can do.

I heartily recommend tracking down a copy.

Next week, I will be in Indianapolis.  Wednesday morning, you should see my Game of the Year post. Then, starting Wednesday evening, I will update sporadically with thoughts on the Con and how it's going and what I've seen. Expect a smattering of small posts with occasional longer thoughts as time allows.

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