Paul B is more fun when he’s talking about fun things! So let’s talk about being burned at the stake.
Had a chance to read through the rulebook last night, and as Adam Day mentioned, there’s definitely some Durance like stuff happening. Or rather, Montsegur 1244 sets up an early template that games like Durance fit into as well.
You’ve got a dozen little character sheets (plus four ‘optional’ characters, more exotic characters for when you’ve already experienced your baseline sads) with some leading questions you should try to answer before the siege is over, and a little historical context about who they are and who they relate to. No matter how many players you have (never outright stated, but it’s between 3 and 6), every character gets dealt. Players then choose one “main” character, but will also be playing their backup characters when called upon.
There’s no resolution system; it really is a freeform in the most general sense (that is, you don’t need to subscribe to any particular definition). So as story-gaming goes, great, the tension definitely lies in watching creative people improvise around their questions and and other scene-framing details the game provides. The unknown outcomes lie in what comes out of each player’s mouth rather than what comes out of dice.
There is some randomization happening, though, and I think it’s a really interesting way to ensure the game is replayable — which I was concerned about. There are always three Scene cards on display; they have little scene-setting elements to be worked into each Act’s scenes. A player sets a scene within an Act — there’s an intro, three Acts, then a wrapup where you decide who lives, dies or escapes. They use one of the Scene cards and then hold the card for when they’re done. Then I think they also pull a Story card, which is another fictional element that’ll be dropped in (second and third Acts only, since you don’t start with any and need to run a scene to get one).
So you’ve got the Act (background provided by the siege timeline), a scene card and probably a Story card to work with. That’s practically a pretty good bit of framing, as long as you’ve done this kind of game. It’s more than you get in Durance and I’ve had no problems, personally, running that one either. I’m sure it works great, and I love that there’s so much variability in setup. Kind of boardgame-y that way truth be told.
By the end of the game you’ve had a slow introduction to the history and situation (certain key characters are attached to background sheets, which those players are responsible for conveying at certain points), everyone’s had a chance to invest in their characters’ situation, and I’m sure after 3-4 hours of watching events unfold, the “do you live or die” moment is pretty tasty.
There’s an admonition to “make the choice as painful and difficult as possible,” which made me chuckle because man, right there is the Great Dividing Line, isn’t it? Adventurous Escapism | Misery Tourism and/or Human Drama | Infantile Empowerment Fantasy. Either you buy the notion or you don’t.