The RPG Perseverant is a story and game about survival, horror and desperation. Create your own wilderness, share your plight, and persevere. What horrors will you manifest in your world of manipulation? How will you survive? Perseverant allows you tell a complete and immersive story of self-sacrifice, honor and even betrayal in a single session.
We lost our way around the Pamir Mountains; hope dwindled even faster than our food supply. The donkeys were easy to eat; the dogs, not so much. Now, there's only one source of meat left...
As any #tabletop RPG fan can tell you, it takes a long time to do all the things needed to set up a game. The Game Master (GM) takes hours to set up all the scenes and possibilities, the players spend hours developing their characters. Then you take hours to set up a group that can meet on a regular basis to actually play the whole campaign.
By the time you get everything set up, you've used up more time than you probably spent playing in any one sitting. Or at least that used to be the case.
To learn more about this game that challenges that problem, I had the privilege of talking with Ben Dutter of #SigilStonePublishing, Perseverant's creator, who enjoys creating his best work early in the morning with a 5:00am start time while listening to a white noise generator.
The rules need to be just right
Peseverant is a happy medium between the two extremes of role playing. In some instances, tabletop RPGs have so many rules that you spend more time mediating rule arguments than actually playing the game.
On the flip side, if a game has too few rules, then the players have to work too hard in order to create the situation, and too much time is spent preparing the actual game. In both of these situations, a lot of effort is exerted to micromanage all the aspects of the game. Peseverant developer Ben Dutter had this to say.
My favorite part of Perseverant is a trivial little thing really — a dice mechanic that helps determine how challenging a particular scene is. It creates a really beautiful bell curve that stays in lockstep with the number of players involved.
I stumbled upon it sort of by accident when trying to come up with a simple but random way to determine how hard a challenge scene was beyond just counting the number of participants. It had to scale, but it couldn't take too long or be too complicated.
Peseverant keeps enough rules in order for the game to tell the story on its own, but not so many rules that it hinders the player's ability to act as their character. The purpose of rules in this game is to help players create the story and then transition from one situation to another.
The rules do not present a lot of restrictions when it comes to character actions, so if you want to do several actions in one round, you don't have to consult the rule book to see if that's allowed. When asked about this, Dutter said:
A lot of story games are more freeform, and therefore they're more reliant on the experience, confidence, and creativity of their users. Perseverant allows you to marry a few unique ideas together, leveraging the collaborative spirit, and come up with a new and organic play experience every time — without a lot of exhaustive creative energy.
The setting has to be simple to set up
Making a good setting for a story is time-consuming. If the rules simplify creating the setting for the story, it allows for a lot more time to actually play the game.
Perseverant keeps a very short set of rules on how to create the game's atmosphere. The players create the setting which must involve a survival aspect. Then the players all agree on what situations can occur in the game.
That's it. All that's required is to set up the scene, add some problems, and the game's rules will use that to create the order of the story for you. That's hours of time saved! But how did Ben Dutter create a game that simplifies the creation of amazing role playing? He shared these thoughts:
I feel that Perseverant was easier to make than a game that tries to provide a lot of answers to every potential question. This comes back to the age-old argument about trying to simulate a kind of reality, as opposed to emulate a kind of narrative pattern or genre; Perseverant falls in the latter camp.
Once I honed in on the theme of survival, it was pretty easy to create a light structure. The tricky part was knowing what to add and what to take away until all we had left was a lean story-telling machine.
Character creation is a time-consuming ordeal
In most games, the characters require a set of skills as well as an in-depth back story, motivation, height, weight, hair color and so many more details that require a player to actually create a character with an entire life story.
Perseverant only requires five details.
- Your character's relationship with other characters
- One Fear
- One Motivation for your character
- One description of how your character handles situations
- A brief description of your character's background
All of the things required in Perseverant can be done simply by a few short sentences. For example: my character hates character two, secretly loves character one, fears spiders and wants to be famous, handles situations cautiously and has a background as an architect. Just like that I've just provided enough to create a character and trust me, that didn't take 30 minutes.
My friends said they could meet this month but now they can't
How many times have you played a tabletop RPG and failed to get to the end of the story because your friends can't get together? Each sitting can last several hours and several sessions are likely needed in order to complete the game. This requires the ability to meet as a group on a regular basis and it can be difficult for one person to make that kind of commitment, harder still for a whole group.
With Perseverant, each game takes about two to four hours, depending on how many situations the players put into the game. This makes it so much easier to play the game because you can easily get a group together once and play a whole game.
Instead of several sessions that require the same group of people just to finish one story, you can have multiple sessions with anyone willing to play and complete the story that day. It's easy to think that this would somehow create a weaker role-playing experience, but Dutter describes an amazing experience during a trial run of Perseverant.
There was one particular moment in one of our play test games in which one of the players decided to betray a comrade. Eventually it backfired, as the rest of the group didn't take kindly to the traitor after that. It's a long story, but it involved some ancient ruins, an occult witch, a cold Baltic forest, and a potential demon possession.
Dutter had a goal of creating a game that allows for a great role playing experience, and now that his game has been fully funded on Kickstarter, he is sure to succeed. When asked about what makes his game such a wonderful experience, he had this to say:
"The combination of collaborative world-building, shared relationships, and a strict narrative framework make it easy to tell a unique story every time. The theme stays focused, the narrative stays on track, and everybody's involved equally and through to its conclusion."
While tabletop RPGs are fun, they also present a lot of frustrating moments that make it hard to actually role play.
Perseverant does a great job addressing all the issues by simplifying the creation process, limiting the restrictions normally placed by a lot of rules, and delivering an experience that can be finished in one sitting. What does this all mean? It means get in character and have fun role playing.
Release date: March 2017
Creator: Sigil Stone Publishing
Does this sound like a game you would like to play? Let us know in the comments.