After seeing the hype on Twitter and G+ for a few weeks, I finally found some time to check out Bully Pulpit Games’ latestÂ Kickstarter: Star Crossed, a two-player game of forbidden love, designed by Alex Roberts. Bully Pulpit is famous for publishing some really innovative games, including perhaps most famously Fiasco, so I’m always interested in seeing what they’re releasing next. After backing the game and receiving the early preview of the rules, I can say that Star Crossed continues their history of pushing the envelope of what it means to play an RPG.
The pitch for Star Crossed is deceptively simple: this is a two player, GM-less game, where you play a couple that can’t be together for some reason. Examples in the preview text include an Empress and her Vizier, or two friends at the gym. Perhaps the Empress is married, or just can’t risk engaging in a relationship with someone lower in the hierarchy than her, while the Vizier may actually be a member of a faction that wants to overthrow the empire! And the gym friends may value their friendship too much to risk it on a romantic relationship, or maybe acknowledging their attraction would require some really deep introspection about identity that’s scary. The game is completely wide open to exploring any type of pairing you want to tell a story about!
But where Star Crossed gets really interesting is in the details of the mechanics. The resolution mechanic here, as implied in all of the (adorable) art revealed so far, is a block tower. Like in Dread, you pull a brick when the outcome of an action is in doubt, but instead of doing something that could result in your death, in Star Crossed you make a pull when your character is being vulnerable, either by physically reaching out an touching the other character, or making a personal revelation. If the tower falls, the characters have finally acted on their attraction! If the game ends without the tower falling, then the characters part ways, never to reveal the true depths of their feeling.
But in a very fun twist, the tower could fall even if you aren’t making a pull! The neatest detail is that you need to be physically touching the tower any time your character is talking. The game notes that this might influence how your character speaks – if the tower is in a precarious position, you might find yourself keeping your dialogue extremely short – that must say something about your character’s mental state! Or maybe you take a risk and go into a soliloquy, because you’re ready for whatever the consequences may be…
When (if!) the tower does finally fall, the two players count up how many bricks they successfully pulled and look up the final number on a table to help determine the final outcome of their relationship. If you pulled only a few bricks, your ending might be unsatisfying because you revealed too much, too soon. If you pull more than a dozen, the two of you have an uneasy intimacy – you’ve revealed some things but maybe no quite enough to have true trust and love yet. But if you pull over 20 bricks, your love burns bright and passionate, and you don’t need anyone else in the world but each other.
Since the characters and mechanics are so freeform, the game does provide a scene structure of eight scenes to keep the game moving, but the prompts are intentionally vague to allow for a variety of interpretations. You start with “an introduction,” but is this the “meet cute” of your characters, or perhaps it means by the end of the scene a complication isÂ introduced that is going to keep the two of you apart? Scene four is “hard at work,” is this a work place romance? Or is it the hard work of building intimacy in a relationship? The choices are really endless!
Since Billy and I are in the market for more two player games, I’m excited to add Star Crossed to our library, and I look forward to a chance for us to play it soon! But before we play it, I have a question for the fans out there:Â what relationship(s) would you like to hear played out in the podcast?Â Do you want a sci-fi game between an AI and an engineer? Historical romance between a member of the gentry and a servant? Rival swashbuckling treasure hunters? Give us some suggestions, and we’ll record our favorite(s) to release on Fandible!
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8 comments on “Cool Kickstarter: Star Crossed!”
A typical D&D monster, like an Owlbear, and an adventurer who unexpectedly find they have a lot in common.
A Jedi Master and Sith Lord who unexpectedly meet after finding each other on a Holonet dating site.
Lucas Brewster tries to get a date online but it’s always just Dr. Montgomery Clementine mercilessly trolling him.
Those are my ideas. Hrm… I probably shouldn’t be a romance writer.
Rival superheroes, or a superhero and supervillain.
A girl\guy and a figment of their imagination… Are they really real?
Two Lovecraftian horrors (not quite the books from fiasco). Who can resist the pull of attraction forming between some thing from the Deep and a manifestation of madness from the abyss?
An undead monster (zombie,werewolf, vampire,etc.) And the hunter sent to hunt them… Will their love blossom, or will one of them wind up dead?
A long distance couple. One lives out in the middle of nowhere, a true survivor/roughneck/ outdoors person in a small tight knit closed off community. The other watches from afar, on a space station above the planet via satellite as part of her daily monitoring job. Somehow they connect and bond. But will that be enough?
Beauty and the beast. He’s a wealthy beauty the crÃ¨me de LA crÃ¨me. She’s a frightening chimeric beast employed by a circus\ shadowy organization\ unemployed due to hideousness\ violent temper. Is it a curse? Maybe she was born that way? All he knows is that his foppish heart has fallen for her. All she knows is that she wants to tell his pretty face how she has seen his goodness from the shadows, but her circumstances prevented her from it. Until now…
Two spies\ assassins a la Mr and Mrs Smith.
Listening to the Kick Starter Video, Alex mentions a game involving a Alien Brain Parasite and it’s Consensual host….sounded very DS9 and right up y’alls alley. Though I like the Swashbuckling Adventures idea (“Dr. Jones. Again, we see there is nothing you can possess which I cannot take away”) and the Beauty and Beast idea, only they are part of the same underground origination, he being the pretty Face and she being that Secret Weapon X/Bio-Weapon asset. Granted, the suggestions you listed where solid as well.
The two parts of the love triangle that the protagonist is trying to decide between.
The monster and the princess he keeps kidnapping
Darth Vader and the Emperor (Now i’m not saying the emperor has a thing for tall black men who know how to use their light-sabers but im also not not saying it)
A super hero and supervillain’s sidekicks?
Kid-Shuriken and the girl who hates Torchlight
Willard (Unhalowed Met) and a rich Nobleman’s daughter or a Weeper (young mourner)
Henry (Krampus) and a randowm swiss monster/person
I am finding I have the weirdest shipping ideas for your guys games
But still one last idea, what if you guys go for the weirdest most never before done love story ever. Two socially and mentally well-adjusted people
Hearing you and Billy on Soloshot, I think you two would enjoy Fog Of Love.
Forbidden love, Knight rider and KITT.
Extreme republican, extreme democrat.
One comes to mind because Iâ€™ve been listening to the author of the games podcast: The Else world Version of Moiraâ€™s romance with Byron\Horatio