We remain almost hilariously overworked, and are still hoping to get back to regular blogging once the current Lonely Mountains and Relative Dimensions and Fimbulvetrs of work that we have to do for non-SKG projects this month are complete.
In the meantime, the ever-inspirational James Wallis has somehow found time to release a new edition of his Afterlives roleplaying game. The old edition came out almost a decade ago and can only be found in a long out-of-print back issue of Dork Tower, so a new edition was certainly due.
Afterlives is a meta-RPG, strictly speaking, fitting in to the fantasy tabletop RPG of your choice (assuming your taste is such that the fantasy tabletop RPG of your choice doesn’t include Resurrection spells, which Wallis quite rightly asserts are essentially rather naff; my perspective on this issue is that one of my favourite things about RPGs is that you only risk character death rather than actual death when you do heroic things, and if you take away the risk of character death too you might as well just be reading a book… probably a feelgood supernatural teen romance in which good triumphs over evil and the vampire always gets the girl) at just the point where most conventional RPGs end: when your character has just died.
(As an aside, live roleplaying games are far less likely to gloss over this moment than tabletop ones, partly perhaps because the dead character is usually still being physically represented by the lying-down, fake-blood-laden player; most LARPs have funerals, at least for significant characters, and several of the more progressive ones, such as those run by Profound Decisions, give at least some thought to what happens to one’s character after death. I’m not trying to hint that one genre is superior to the other, naturally, just remarking on the inevitable differences caused by the different forms.)
So. Afterlife. You sneak a Special Guest Star gamer in to your next gaming sesh to play God (literally, the dead character’s god), and play your Afterlife metagame out as a supernatural court scene. Court scenes in games can be really dull, unless they are deliberately constrained in time, and have a judge with powers so extreme, so arbitrary, as to be able to silence boring or off-topic speeches on a whim. Fortunately, Afterlife provides both these things. The game is quite tightly timed, and intended to last for one session only. The judge is a divine agent, perhaps even the character’s god, or the god of the dead in the character’s pantheon. Due process is likely to be whatever the judge feels like, which means that so long as the judge has a good sense of drama and narrative, this game should flow very nicely.
The judge is also basically impartial, since the Special Guest Star doesn’t know the regular characters of the game at all. I’ve not played Afterlives yet, but I imagine that if done well, it could play out rather like an almost-straight version of Aye, Dark Overlord, one of my favourite storytelling cardgames. The latter would make a pretty good training game for anyone fancying the role of judge in Afterlives.
I’m not going to say who plays the Persecutor, and who the Defence, not because doing so would render your purchase of the book unnecessary (it wouldn’t; there is so much superb advice here on running the Aftermath game that, though as with most great Wallis games the rules could be described in a few sentences, the rules are not why you buy this book), but because that info is something of a mild spoiler, and it is possible that your GM will buy this book even if you don’t.
If you do ever run any fantasy RPGs, this is well worth the $3.95. You may only use it once or twice, but it will provide better closure, more amusement, more game, and more fun than any roleplayed in-character funeral.