Calvin’s Commentaries: XENOSCAPE
So seeing XENOSCAPE – Extreme survival Sci-Fi RPG on kickstarter.com recently I was intrigued.
From the campaign itself, “XENOSCAPE is a post-sci-fi tabletop role-playing game based on survival which features primitive yet fantasy vibes. Players will role-play the rarest beings on Materia, the sentient ones: Materia is an alien world eons far from our time where nature prevailed over the hard impact the Ancient Human Empire had by colonizing the planet. Only a few remains of it can be found today crumbling and covered by a magnificent yet terrible biosphere.”
If you are going to role play, an alien world populated with alien species that are new to everyone at the table is a rather cool prospect.
So I was interested to learn more, so an email later I was in contact with Alessandro Rivaroli in Italy, author of XENOSCAPE, who was good enough to consent to answer a few questions via email, starting with what was the idea which led to the game’s creation?
“Well I was born in the 80s, and I always loved the weirdo sci-fi arts, books, RPGs, and comics from those years; my cousin is older than me and when I was a kiddo I used to go to his place and see all this fantastic stuff round the house,” he said.
“Other references came later: Nausicaa, Starchaser, Dune, Giger, Druillet, Moebius, Talbot, Heavy Metal mag, Grant Morrison, Lovecraft, Zardoz, the Metabarons, Moorcock and lastly the Chris Burnham Prophet run inspired me into doing this.”
It helped that creating an RPG fit in with Rivaroli’s other passions. “Writing and literature is my passion but I’m also into physics books and magazines so I tried to think about an exoplanet where evolution went down a different road one million years from now, far beyond the end of the human intergalactic empire; ta-da: XENOSCAPE!,” he said.
Still in creating a new RPG there has to be a more specific goal than just a book.
“I wanted to make my own out-of-the-box weird-fantasy RPG, which is a post sci-fi or raypunk genre one indeed even though there will be less spaceships and hi-tech around than you can expect,” he said. “The goal was trying design a system that mimics biology to make players really feel the sense of struggle for survival and the real difference that role-playing a human-like plant or a sentient virus implies.”
What has always surprised me is the time developers put into creating fresh RPGs.
Rivaroli noted in this case “the idea was around since ever, but it started take form something like six-years ago; we announced the game two years ago after a long testing and proceeded to blind test it with our Italian community who helped improving and adding a lot to its lore.”
Of course, the more unique an RPG hopes to be the greater the creative challenge.
“XENOSCAPE features a unique game design based on resource management with no random on the players’ side; maintaining a high uncertainty level in order to keep the tension up especially during the action scenes having no alea (means no casual results so you, the player, don’t have to roll any die), has been quite a challenge but the end result totally satisfies me and everyone who tried it really did felt such experience,” said Rivaroli.
But the work toward uniqueness ultimately is seen as a game strength by its writer.
When asked about its best elements Rivaroli’s offered, “both setting and rules are devised to be original and never before seen; the former is totally unique, offers amazing role-playing challenges and has been studied with the help of professionals (anthropologist, naturalist, virologist, etc); the latter are destroying the myth of the die roll (if you throw a punch in a boxing match and miss it is because you did not put enough energy in it, your aim was bad or you miscalculated the distance from your target; the only uncertainty is your opponent response if any but no dice roll.”
So what does the RPG offer others don’t? Rivaroli answered by posing a series of questions himself.
“Did you ever play a living virus possessing bodies?” he asked.
“What would it be like playing a droid that can transform into a wearable exoskeleton supporting the party as special equipment during combat?
“Have you ever developed your temperament during game assigning traits on the base of it?
“How you will survive on land with no civilization, no politics, no coinage, no religions, and no moral principles as we know em?
“What would be your approach to the world if you could be able to determine your sex, if you possess both sexes or if you do not even remotely know the notion of sex?
“Do you want a game design that is all about managing you resources where your action do really make the difference with no need to depend on a big uncertainty model?”
Of course, as in almost all RPGs, there is more to come.
“The first expansion is already under development and will be given out in digital form to everyone supporting our Kickstarter campaign, and it is the Legends book where we will collect all the stretch goal special contents – like stories, adventures, extra NPCs and creatures,” said Rivaroli.
“In the future, we will publish more of them both digital and physical while also developing more and more games.”
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