A Game Per Year: Annalise (Bonus 2009)

I started to feel that I didn’t know roleplaying games well enough so I came up with the plan to read a roleplaying game corebook for every year they have been published. Selection criteria is whatever I find interesting.

The cover of Annalise / Interim Edition

Some indie games are published in a number of different physical editions at different stages of the process of their creation. There are ashcan editions, playtest editions and sometimes even full, complete editions. Once those various physical versions of the game start to travel the world, they end up representing the game despite the original intention of why they were published.

The version of the vampire roleplaying game Annalise I acquired is called the Interim Edition. A short text at the end of the booklet tells me that this edition contains the mechanics and a future edition is supposed to contain “a complete arc of fiction” as well as art.

The game is designed for a single session of play. The most important stats the player characters have are Vulnerability and Secret. The Vulnerabilities are exploited by the vampire, a predatory presence who’s identity is unclear at the beginning of the game. The mechanics feature an economy in which coins are placed on different attributes and then used to affect the story in various ways. If the coins on Vulnerability reach zero, the vampire gains a new hold over the character.

The session culminates in a confrontation with the vampire where the player character can either succeed in throwing off its malign influence or succumbs to it. The game’s use of the vampire is very metaphorical: It can represent all sorts of negative influences on people’s lives.

Interestingly, there’s a short postscript in which the designer recounts playing the game Misspent Youth with a character called Annalise who was geared for a strong interior game. The session did not deliver that experience and this game was created to bring the interiority of a character into focus.

The goal is interesting because I personally like to engage with my character’s interiority when I roleplay and it’s common to do so in my play culture. However, we almost never address the issue through game mechanics. Rather, it has been a question of building a culture in the gaming group where questions of character become part of play because players are interested in them. Annalise made me consider the fact that mechanical design could also be used to lead to that direction.

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