Tuesday 16 February 2016

The Dark, Romantic, Adventures of Mary Sue by Michael Morrison

DREAMS is perhaps the best shoe-horning of an acronym into an RPG that I've ever seen and it isn't wasted with this delightful, light, narrative driven RPG by Michael Morrison. Setting agnostic but best fitting the modern fantasy such as your might find in Twilight or Neverwhere. It's about Mary Sues.

Wait a minute: a Mary What?

A Mary Sue is a perfect fictional character that can perform incredible feats, usually because they are a vehicle of wish fulfillment for the author.

Rainbow defecating joy engine

Players will need to be perfect themselves to craft a flawless character of unutterable brilliance. If, like me, you have a slobbering wreck of a group who have forgotten how to walk upright, then you might (as a perfect GM) need to given them the assistance they so desperately need. Your magnum opus begins by writing a little fan fiction describing your Mary Sue and their unenviable niche in the world. They might have many extraordinary powers, or just one utterly useful one.

A Mary Sue is defined by descriptive words called traits and organised into three layers. The first layer is what we always see and has three traits, the second what we don't always see and has two. So you could have a character who has the first layer attributes of happy, hard working and very clever and the second layer of beautiful and fascinated by the occult. Ideal for the moment where glasses are removed, hair unfurled and the booky nerd is transformed into a raging beauty that leaves the audience agog or launching thousands of ships.

The third layer is your secret, a powerful catalyst for your character in the game. Hidden, personal and powerful in your hands or the hands of the enemy! If you reveal your secret in a scene, you get a new one or expand your character with a Wish fulfilment, which can be done only once and adds extra traits to your character. Name, description and other tiny details to bring your Mary Sue into focus and you're done. Lite games rely heavily on the characters being in relief and Lite story games all the more so.

Dramatic Actions

Your super-real character performs most mundane actions without question but on occasion, the GM (the jealous sort, they all are) will put some fiendish roadblock in your way. This calls for a Dramatic Action. Player characters begin with 4 Drama Resolution Points each (such as pennies). When a player describes an action, the GM gives a cost in points and if the player wishes to pass, they must pay by putting the pennies into a pot that the GM can then use. When the GM uses the pennies, they are given back to the players.

The Enemy of Printers

The DREAMS is attractively created in landscape but sadly has a toner eating grey background and a printer killing black background. The examples are well designed but I would like a list of one-sentence setting seeds. For example, the system would fit the stoner comedy movie format, Bro movies just as well as lampooning Twilight.

I like that there is no random element but I would prefer a little more system so that the tactical choices between the players are more interesting. Stealing coins, donating coins, dealing coins, offering options on the future of coins, short selling coins, producing coins from behind an ear; the options are endless.

Beyond Satire

Most groups (including the barely humanoid scamps I fend off with a stick weekly) will use the system for satire but I can see real promise in using it for intense play. There is drama to be had in tossing coins into a hat and every player delights in their own character secrets. Even if the idea isn't your cup of chai, it is a neat mechanic and a novel idea that's worth a coffee break read.

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