43/52 New RPGS: The Last Place on Earth (Research Blog Antarctica #172)

I’m on a study project to improve my understanding of roleplaying games. To this end, I already have two reading projects, A Game Per Year and An Adventure Per Year. This is the third, with the goal of reading or playing 52 games made in the last few years. Originally I considered making this “A New RPG Per Week” and that’s where the number 52 comes from, even though a weekly schedule is probably not within my abilities.

A promotional image for Last Place on Earth

Last Place on Earth is a roleplaying scenario about a Heroic Age expedition to the South Pole. It’s closely modeled on Robert Falcon Scott’s failed 1912 expedition but the action and characters have been generalized somewhat so that players have more space for their own creative input.

The design consists of a number of scenes on the journey such as The Ross Ice Shelf and Perils of the Return. In each, there general setting of the scene and prompts players can use to define the specifics of what they’re going to play.

The style of the game is familiar to me from freeform design. It cites Fall of Magic and Witch: The Road to Lindisfarne as inspiration.

In real life, Scott failed to reach the South Pole before Roald Amundsen and perished on the return journey along with his men. The game has a mechanic to see if your character dies on the return journey. If everyone dies, the game mirrors the real Scott expedition, but it’s also possible for characters to survive. Even all characters, if you’re very lucky.

As an Antarctic scenario, the design has deconstructed the beats of the expedition into a narrative experience where the players can inject their own meaning. There is support for a critical stance towards heroic leadership and a focus on the physical toll and privations of the experience.

As an Antarctic aficionado, I noted that the scenario is very non-judgmental in its analysis of history, probably to preserve possibility of players to define their own game experience. Scott’s fatal incompetence and nationalist hubris is present only in an echo, if at all, in favor of a narrative that erases culpability and the impact of values.

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