I was intrigued by it and saw some interesting tidbits about it online during the development processes. Hillfolk promotes itself as a game of Iron Age Drama, but that title alone does not capture exactly what this is. The focus of the game is on narrative connections between players and how the story itself moves along. The DramaSystem builds off of elements of narrative structure and collaborative gaming that are common to many games in the story game category, but it aims for something bigger and meatier. The system works by deconstructing story action, pacing, and drama and applies a structure to the interactions at the table to create a story between the participants.
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I loved both as source material, but I wanted more experience with the game mechanics in play before I could review the system itself. Since I gave a pretty lengthy description of the two volumes last year, I will concentrate here on the mechanics and the feel of the game. The system relies on shared narrative control between all participants, everyone taking turns at selecting theme and setting scenes, starting with the game-master.
The focus of the game is the cast of player characters, which are created in the first session and are linked by a web of relationships established by the players. These relationships are deliberately held in balanced tension and constitute the dramatic underpinnings of the game.
The character creation process is also largely the setting creation, and with a group of people who enjoy shared narration, this turns into pure magic. Two types of scenes are used: dramatic scenes , in which one character tries to obtain something—an emotional reward—from another who presents some opposition; and procedural scenes , in which the characters confront and overcome external obstacles.
In most role-playing games, we are used to paying attention mostly to procedural resolution: opening the door, killing the monster, escaping the larger monster, and so forth. Each scene is set by a player in turn, with their character trying to get something from another.
If the petition is granted, the player whose character yielded gets a Drama token; if the petition is refused, the one who was turned down gets the Drama token. In other words, you either get what you want or get a Drama token as consolation prize. Drama tokens can be used to force concessions later, to crash a scene where your character was not invited or, on the contrary, to avoid a scene you are called to, and so forth.
External challenges are resolved using procedural scenes, using three types of Procedural tokens red, yellow and green and ordinary playing cards. The Procedural tokens grant a certain number of card draws, and do not replenish until all three have been used i. Procedural scenes are normally resolved with two sides, either GM against one lead PC, or two lead PCs squaring off, and all other PCs either supporting one of the two sides or abstaining.
In addition, there are seven very broad skills e. In practice, of course, creative players always find a way to use their strong skills. There is some back and forth between the two sides, taking turns describing the results of each action, and a stronger position can allow one side to knock high cards out. But most of the time, procedural resolution ends up being rather anticlimactic. This was particularly highlighted for my husband and I recently by the contrast with another card-based resolution system that provided high suspense and interesting tactical options: the Motobushido RPG.
On the other hand, Hillfolk and especially Blood on the Snow provide a number of alternate rules options that we have not had a chance to try. But reading the Advanced Procedural Rules presented in appendix in Blood on the Snow got our group somewhat confused.
In short, the tension and pacing supported by the DramaSystem structure, and the drama that resulted, were highly satisfying. However, the mechanical resolution of procedural scenes was lacklustre; in the future, I am likely to either tinker with the mechanics—perhaps using some of the plentiful ideas provided in the two books—or use the structure with a different system altogether. Nevertheless, I greatly enjoyed the games, I would certainly play this again with a suitable group, and I am glad I bought the books.
This is a great game for people who like to think about how a story is constructed and what makes dramatic characters tick, and who enjoy creating a lot of the setting material in-game. You are commenting using your WordPress. You are commenting using your Google account. You are commenting using your Twitter account. You are commenting using your Facebook account. Notify me of new comments via email. Notify me of new posts via email.
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DramaSystem/Hillfolk: A Brief Review
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You Pick It Review – Hillfolk
Hillfolk is a tabletop role-playing game designed by Robin Laws and published by Pelgrane Press. It was initially launched via Kickstarter in ,  with the funding being sufficiently successful that a second book called "Blood on the Snow", containing 33 new settings, was produced as a part of the kickstarter. Reception was positive, with RPGamer saying "mechanics don't so much get out of the way of roleplay as provide a supportive foundation for it to happen. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Hillfolk Cover. Law's Hillfolk and the DramaSystem".