Join a Teenage Bird Gang in This Exclusive Game Reveal From The Ultimate Micro-RPG Book

Join a Teenage Bird Gang in This Exclusive Game Reveal From The Ultimate Micro-RPG Book
Part of the cover for The Ultimate Micro-RPG Book. (Image: Simon & Schuster)

Ever wanted to become a teen raven and join a gang of birds? Well, now you can in this exclusive look at one of the 40 mini tabletop roleplaying games in James D’Amato’s upcoming The Ultimate Micro-RPG Book. Just be warned: Things are about to get angsty.

Gizmodo is thrilled to exclusively debut one of the mini RPGs featured in The Ultimate Micro-RPG Book, which comes out November 17. The compilation features small, single-session campaigns from dozens of game designers — including Honey and Hot Wax editor Sharang Biswas, and Rap Godz co-creator Omari Akil. The micro-RPGs features a variety of scenarios and systems, like dungeon crawlers, games about space exploration, and even just games about living some semblance of a normal life (can you imagine getting to do that in 2020?).

To celebrate its release, here’s a first look at Unkindness, a 3-6 player micro-RPG written by D’Amato himself, which is touted as “a game about adolescent ravens.” The goal? To be a total piece of shit to as many people as possible, until you eventually grow up. Let’s fly!

Unkindness: A Game About Adolescent Ravens

by James D’Amato

When a Raven reaches adolescence, they leave the nest… and join gangs. Any gathering of ravens is called an Unkindness, but Teens wear the name well. In Unkindness you are a Teen Raven. You live to cause Mischief and Destruction, and to experience Emotion.

Goal: To cause destruction and experience emotions as teen ravens.

Number of Players: 3-6. Playing Time: 1-2 hours. Complexity: 2 out of 4

You’ll Need: 1d6, paper and pencils.

Setup

Adolescent ravens start the game with these stats:

  • Youth: 4
  • Feelings: 4
  • Maturity: 0

Roll a 1D6 to sow your adolescent chaos:

  • Roll Youth for theft, moving fast, and avoiding danger.
  • Roll Feelings for breaking things, attacking enemies, and being a nuisance.
  • Roll Maturity NEVER — maturity is boring and useless to adolescent ravens.

Roll 1D6 to get a power:

  • If you roll a 1Mimicry: perfectly re-create sounds in your environment, even human speech.
  • If you roll a 2Loudness: the ability to be extremely loud.
  • If you roll a 3Tools: using simple tools like sticks and rocks.
  • If you roll a 4Memory: the ability to recognise patterns and learn to avoid past mistakes
  • If you roll a 5Portent: the ability to be a foul omen
  • If you roll a 6Wolves: you are friends with some wolves

If you make a roll incorporating your Power, you may choose to roll again once if you are not satisfied with your first result.

Choose something to hate:

  • Owls
  • Cars
  • Windows
  • Old memes
  • Capitalism

Choose an insecurity:

  • Wingspan
  • Beak
  • Athleticism
  • Size
  • Accomplishments
  • Knowledge of 19th century literature

Choose an emotion to inform your role-play:

  • Anger
  • Infatuation
  • Jealousy
  • Existential Dread
  • Depression
  • Joie de Vivre

Name your Raven (if you need help, choose from this list: Mordechai, Shriek, Lilith, Shadow, Knife, Allen, Carol, Goblin, Vape, Lucifer, Asmodeus)

Gameplay Phase 1: Mischief and Destruction

There are two phases to Unkindness. The first is Mischief and Destruction. Each round, a new member of the Unkindness chooses a goal for the group to pursue (if you have trouble selecting someone to choose a goal, pick whoever does the best “CAW!”). Goals can include:

  • Steal something shiny
  • Get into trash
  • Mess with an owl
  • Settle a score

Once a player chooses a goal, the rest of the group will create obstacles. Each player controls the obstacle they create and must describe how it vexes the Unkindness in pursuit of their goal. Obstacles can be physical dangers — like a human with a rake — or emotional like an argument within the Unkindness.

Players take turns describing how their Teen Raven pursues the goal. Players in control of obstacles should describe how their obstacle gets in the way. To circumvent obstacles, ravens must roll.

All ravens roll against Youth or Feelings. Based on what you want to do, choose the most appropriate stat and roll a D6. If you roll under or equal your stat, you succeed, and you must describe your success. If you roll over your stat, you fail, and the player controlling the obstacle decides how things get more complicated. If a Raven fails two rolls while causing Mischief and Destruction, they gain an Emotional Condition. Their Youth temporarily decreases by 1, and their Feelings increase by 1.

If a Raven fails three rolls in one round of Mischief and Destruction, they might die. After three failed rolls, any event that could potentially kill you, does. Every member of the Unkindness must agree that a situation is lethal in order for this to happen. When a raven dies, everyone gains 1 point of Maturity.

Players can go around and take as many turns as needed to accomplish the goal. Mischief and Destruction ends once the player who picked the goal feels it has been accomplished or decides it “sucks now.” After Mischief and Destruction, the Unkindness must Experience Emotion.

Gameplay Phase 2: Experience Emotion

After Teen Ravens cause havoc, they must sort through the powerful emotions of youth. Each raven gets a turn to explore their feelings. Most emotional scenes are punctuated by a chorus of “CAWs!” When you feel a scene has reached its emotional height, or when prompted, “CAW!” like a big noisy trash bird. Unless it is a romance scene, the rest of the group should join you.

The Unkindness Experiences Emotion doing one of the following activities:

  • Bathing: Splashing around in a puddle or basin
  • Anting: Rolling around in an anthill because it feels good
  • Eating Trash: Beaking down on some good garbage
  • Watching Something Burn: Just idly observing fire

After establishing your activity, work as a group to describe your location. Once everyone understands where they are, each player chooses to Rant, Rave, or Romance.

Rant: Your emotions are overwhelming, and you need to share them or they will destroy you. Pick another raven and talk about your Emotional Condition. Discuss it until you feel you have learned a lesson and you both gain Maturity. Or you become so frustrated you have to “CAW!” No matter what, ranting will clear an Emotional Condition, returning your stats to normal.

Rave: You just did something rad, and the others have to know. Tell the group about what you did and why it makes you cool. Once you finish, slap your hand on the table and look at your Unkindness. They can either Validate you by erupting in a chorus of “CAWs!” or Reject you by remaining silent. If you are Validated, you can select a new Power to use once in the next round. If you are Rejected, you gain a point of Maturity as you realise your actions were foolish.

Romance: Choose another raven in your Unkindness and attempt to Romance them by doing a cool stunt, offering a gift, or reciting a poem (we suggest selections from Edgar Allan Poe). Describe your effort to Romance the other bird. Once you have finished, the other player must “CAW!” Based on your Insecurity, decide if you think their “CAW!” was Affirming or Mocking. If it was Affirming, the bird who was courted gains Maturity. If it was Mocking, you gain Maturity.

Once every player has Experienced Emotion, choose a Teen Raven to pick a new goal for Mischief and Destruction.

Ending The Game

If Maturity becomes your highest stat, you grow up. If two ravens in your Unkindness grow up, they become adults and mate for life. They win the game, but everyone else is pretty sure they actually lost.

The Ultimate Micro-RPG Book comes out on December 8.