A while back, I wrote lovingly of a sweet little tabletop RPG (TTRPG) called Mirror. Currently, I am in the middle of a campaign of an upcoming (to Kickstarter, October 1) TTRPG by the same author (a personal friend, it’s worth noting1), entitled Americana. I have no real desire to discuss the nitty-gritty mechanics of, say, where the dice go and how to use them, but as far as my experience is concerned this all works well. I don’t mean to be dismissive of the gears that make the clock tick – all the little details are incredibly important and difficult to make work. I just don’t think that writing about them is particularly expressive, and Americana has a lot of implementation facets that really make for a compelling experience. These experiential details are what I’d prefer to discuss.
You should immediately follow this link to the single-page tabletop RPG system, Mirror. There you will find my review, which is likely a more cohesive version of this post. You will also find a couple of other reviews from friends who playtested the game alongside me, and you will find the official description, and you will find the words ‘Pay what you want,’ to which I say… it’s worth a decent wad of cash.
Mirror does two things very well. First, it exists as a single-page ‘accelerated’ tabletop RPG system. Second, it breaks the tabletop mold in a meaningful way. It does the latter by basing character generation on real-world friendship. The former is aided by this, but is additionally accomplished by a simple dice-pool mechanic that drives interactions and health.
The dice pool mechanic is straightforward and covered by the rules, and not entirely worth expounding upon. CharGen is far more interesting, and is based upon the real human physically sitting across from you. I entered this rather nervous, and ended up playing across from people who I trust1 implicitly, but honestly have a hard time distilling to their core essence. You see, you play as an abstracted version of the person you sit across from, and during CharGen, you isolate four of that person’s strong suits, and two of their weaknesses. Without being an utter piece of shit, of course. I opted to play my weaknesses as counterpoints to my strengths — where my friend was absurdly creative, that creativity made her ideas occasionally impractical.
My best friend in the whole world games with me, and I am very grateful that in playtesting Mirror, I was not sat opposite her. Not for fear of insulting her during CharGen, but simply because I actually think I had to soak in what I love about other players in said group. A lack of closeness (let’s call it) made me feel a lot closer to the friends I played as. I guess Mirror has a way of doing that — it’s like a forced empathy, but since these are people you want to empathize with, it just makes you love them more.
And, this is important in the game, and brings me back to the first point — this is a single-pager. There are expectations for these things — quick, and simple to broach. I, personally, love Fate Accelerated Edition (FAE) as a quick, accessible tabletop system. But even FAE has barriers to entry… CharGen can theoretically be as long as a campaign, and for a new player, there’s no guarantee that they’ll be invested. Something about playing as one of your fellow gamers has a strange way of making you invested. And CharGen is quick and straightforward as you are simply… describing your buddy.
In my review on the DriveThruRPG page, I describe the friendship element and the one-page/one-off element as being intimately intertwined, and that’s really the magic of Mirror, I think. To non-gamers, even a quick system like FAE can be intimidating. But Mirror allows you to build a world, build a scenario and give your players an inherent motivation and set of character attributes — these are both dependent upon someone they care about IRL.
Mirror terrified me at first. Because I’m timid, and I’m bad at breaking even the people I know the most intimately into their prime components. But there’s enough of a balance between abstraction and familiarity that the whole thing is just… really comfortable. This is probably a first: I’m going to smash a redundant link here: go check out Mirror, it’s… special.