Calvin’s Commentaries: Shadows of Mogg

There are always new role-playing games popping up, and some have the most-interesting themes.

Take Shadows of Mogg which is a post-apocalyptic roleplaying game set in the London underground following a catastrophic occurrence known only as ‘the event’. It uses a simple d6 system combined with group and voting resolution mechanics with a focus on survival, OSR style tunnel crawling, and resource management.

The new RPG, recently funded through Kickstarter, comes from designer Panayiotis Lines.

Lines said he comes to RPG-design as a fan of role-playing.

“I started playing Warhammer as a kid in the ‘90s and then took the plunge into RPGs in 2008 running D&D (Dungeons & Dragons) games for my school friends and haven’t looked back since,” he said.

“More recently I’ve got into the Indie & OSR (Old School Revival), scenes as they’re full of immense amounts of creativity within the community.”

In the case of Shadows of Mogg Lines said the idea grew from several influences.

“The germ of the idea for Shadow of Mogg came from a variety of muses,” he said. “I’d been playing a lot of OSR style D&D games which have a focus on resource management, high lethality and dungeon crawling and hence can suit a post-apocalyptic setting.

“I also found myself commuting on the London Tube as many Londoners are familiar with and realized staring bleary-eyed at the tube map day in day out what a good tunnel crawling/point crawl map the London Underground would make.

“Then, of course, Britain has been dominated by Brexit for what feels like will be an eternity and the chaos of the political climate felt like a ripe and cathartic area to explore within a roleplaying game.

“Mixing these ideas together felt like it had a lot of potential for something special.”

The game is set within a post-apocalyptic London Underground in the not too distant future following a catastrophe known as ‘The Event’.

“Nobody knows what the ‘event’ was, although everyone has a theory. What is known is people live underground now and try to eke out a living in a fallen and chaotic world,” said Lines.

In respect to a genre of the game “it’s on the indie/OSR spectrum, including tunnel crawling, resource management for things like group food, water, and medical supplies as well as encumbrance and anxiety mechanics,” said Lines.

“Overall though, I really want to coin the game as the first ‘Post-Truth’ roleplaying game.”

Lines said he did have things he wanted to explore with the game.

“I really wanted to explore the ramifications of ‘mob rule democracy’ and the frailties within our Western political systems especially when given over to populist rhetoric and when fueled by fear and misinformation,” he said.

“I tend to find most roleplaying games are designed pretty individualistically in terms of how the mechanics play out, certainly they are group games but there’s rarely mechanics that enforce that idea with respect to group decision making it’s usually left up to the players to decide.

“I wanted to create mechanics which forced the group to have to make decisions together and be committed to those decisions and their ramifications even if they were against them.

“Ideally players not only will enjoy the game but start to question some of the current structures within our democratic system.”

As for game development Lines said estimating times involved in the project is difficult.

“That’s a tricky one to pin down,” he said. “I  wrote the first version of the game in late 2018  but it’s morphed in various iterations since and many of my writing sessions have been quite literally whilst commuting on the tube but I’d say around a year.

“Then I got on board with designer Aled Lawlor from Anima Press to help support me with the layout and the wonderful artwork you can see for the game which has helped bring a really evocative artistic vision to the game.”

So what was the most difficult aspect of designing the game?

“The voting system was a tricky one to design, it needed to be pushed to the forefront of the game as if it’s something the players choose to ignore but I also really respect player agency in a game so didn’t want it to be unnecessarily restrictive, I feel I’ve currently struck a good balance with it as it’s worked out well in playtests with players even writing the start of their groups ‘constitutions’,” said Lines.

Ultimately the voting aspect became a game strength.

“I was really surprised by how effective the voting mechanics were during my playtests of the game,” said Lines. “They made the group really consider their decisions together and led inexorably to more and more morally awful decisions amongst the group as they were in a sense bolstered by one another.”

The classes were a good breakthrough as well, said Lines.

“I wanted the game to be about regular people within society trying to survive but the initial classes were far fewer in number and more highly powered, one was literally a Psyker who had real powers.

“Then I played this wonderful RPG called Troika! by the talented Daniel Sell which has an entire 36 classes and I realized I could use that structure within Shadow of Mogg to represent the breadth of contemporary British society.”

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