At Dreamation I ended up picking up Kingdom of Nothing by Jeff Himmelman. Jeff does the writing as well as the illustrations for the book. It's the first book that Brennan over at Galileo Games published and it's the first one he didn't write. I've been meaning to pick it up ever since he started talking about it because I like pretty much everything Brennan has put out and it's in essence a horror game. These two things make it a quick sell for me.
However, when I picked it up I will admit that I had a reservation. You see, there's a comic artist in Toronto who decided that he was going to do a comic about the homeless people he saw around him in Toronto. If you've been downtown, there are a fair number of homeless people and they all have their own stories and are their own people and what the artist does is play on them and completely dehumanize them. The comic became about him rather than about the people he was supposedly writing about.
When I opened up the book, I was worried because even the best intentions can become problematic.
Thankfully, I wasn't disappointed.
Kingdom of Nothing is a game where you play people who find themselves as one of the Lost. Something large and traumatic happened to you and you find that people no longer pay attention to you. Even if you shake regular folk, you'll find that they forget you pretty quickly and you go back to being stuck in the Kingdom of Nothing. The goal of the game, is to get past the bad stuff that stands in your way and come out the other side.
The book itself is gorgeous, and the illustrations are breathtaking. Everything just seems to fit right. The hopefulness mixed with despair. The fact that you're dealing with your community of Lost and what goes on there is captured wonderfully in the illustrations.
Now, what makes this game great is the mechanic. I'm usually one for the story and screw the mechanic, but sometimes there comes something that is so perfect for how the game works that you can't really divorce the game from the mechanic. Don't Rest Your Head is like that, but Kingdom of Nothing has just completely blown DRYH out of the water for immersive mechanic. From the part in character creation where the book encourages the GM to be ruthless when it comes to taking away things that the characters might have had, to the idea that you use spare change as the way to see if you succeed sends chills down my spine as someone who creates games. I love the idea that the only way to get ahead is to be risky, or desperate. I just love the mechanic so much that I read it again, and I never do that unless I absolutely have to.
The other part of Character Creation that I really love is the fact that everyone writes up your secrets and it's up to the GM to try to weave them together. Usually it's not that hard, because you have to leave the trauma up there as something you forget. It's rife for props to come into play, if you like to make props, or other elements. I might even consider trying to use music if I could find a way to do it right.
The setting also makes you more aware of what's going on around you, or at least it did for me. When I was driving my autoshare car around doing errands I ended up looking at buildings that might be Lost places and what I might be able to do with them. How I could run a game and use a map of Toronto and mark these places down and how they might impact people.
If I do have a complaint about the game, it would be the couple of editing mistakes that appear here or there. There are a couple things that are duplicated in a bunch of lists. Also, there's a moment where it says that a dime is worth three successes and later on it says that it's worth only one. I'm going to stick with the dime as three because it fits with the theme and the progression.
For fifteen bucks I would highly recommend this game to anyone. If you're making a big purchase at IPR or if you see it at a con, it is totally worth the pick up cost.
Setting is chilling and appropriate. Book is beautiful to look at. Mechanic is perhaps the best woven in I've seen, even better than Don't Rest Your Head. At 7.50$ you should buy it now.