Actual Play – The Harvesters (5/25/2014)

unknownarmiesGM: Todd Furler
Players: Shawn Endresen, Tracy Pinkleton, Chris Vincenti, Jessie Stavely, Chad Lynch, Sean Nittner, and William Lee.
System: Unknown Armies

I was very excited to play in another of Todd’s games. Karen had played in it on Friday and enjoyed it quite a bit, plus I had just been recording an episode of Narrative Control with Todd about game prep, so I was extra enthusiastic to see what he brought to the con.

Two things gave me pause though. The first is that Todd started the game with a disclaimer that their would be depictions of torture in the game, though he did keep his promise to only leave them “on screen” as long as they needed to be to drive the point home. The second concern was gaming with my ex-wife and two of her close friends (who are also friends of mine, but since the divorce we haven’t seen each other often). Both of these ended up working out fine. The torture was never gratuitously graphic and Jessie and I, though we didn’t interact much in game, played together just fine.

Game Description

Yesterday, you were just a regular member of the working throng. Today, you have to kill or be killed. This is a dark tale of psychological terror & body horror for mature players.

Places you can still play The Harvesters

August 2014

GenCon – Friday 12PM – https://www.gencon.com/events/57059

GenCon –  Friday 6PM – https://www.gencon.com/events/57060

November 2014

IndieCon

The play is the thing

Some of Todd’s games make you wonder “why?”, some of them make you question beliefs, some of them evoke sadness. The harvesters was a demonstration is helplessness. Of course we weren’t, not completely, but there were long periods in the game where all of us looked to each other with absolutely no idea what to do…and predictable things came from that. We turned on each other (in lieu of someone we face that deserved the blame) and we started asking ourselves questions like just how awful of things would we do in order to regain our safety an autonomy.

For every other detail in the game, I can only recommend that you play it yourself. And if you do, be nice to Julie. Her boyfriend has really put a number on her.

Thoughts on the Game

Unsurprisingly the game lived up to my expectation of excellence in Todd’s games (no pressure here Todd). It’s also one that engaged more of the UA mythos than I’ve been able to recognize in the past (though that could just be because I’m not familiar with the parts of the setting he’s used in the past). That was a little bit exciting when, after the game I realized, oh yeah, I know what that is!

Todd also employed an unreliable narrator during certain parts of the game. Namely what was on screen wasn’t the whole story, until it was seen again. That was a neat trick that helped make a reveal without us feeling like we had been “duped” for not getting something in the past.

Todd’s characters, even the powerful ones, are all painfully human. They just want what everyone else wants. Safety and security for them and the ones they love. That is hard to fight without becoming a monster yourself.

We “lost” the adventure in some sense of the word, but it really didn’t feel like “winning” would have been any better. It was disturbing, mournful, and creepy. Awesome.