Research Blog Antarctica #178 – Terra Nova

Roleplaying Game: Robert Poppe: Terra Nova (2006)

Terra Nova is a roleplaying game scenario designed for the Gamechef competition inspired by Scott’s ill-fated attempt to be the first to the South Pole. Scott’s fatal expedition was called Terra Nova, granting the game its title.

The scenario is tightly designed, relying heavily on Scott’s diaries for content and rhetorical effect. The experience revolves around the five men who attempted to be the first to reach the pole, and begins as they realize that the Norwegians got there first. Thus, its a game of misery, disappointment and attempting to hold onto ones values and integrity in the face of crushing adversity.

Thematically, the interesting aspect in this is that the race was already lost. Thus, the only thing that could be won was life itself, survival against the Antarctic cold. And perhaps also self-respect.

The design of the scenario is unusual in the sense that it features a victor, a rarity in roleplaying games. If you manage to play your game right and receive commendations from Scott at the end, you win.

This invites you to wonder, win at what? The characters all die, so any victory is rhetorical, internal, reframing an unpalatable situation until you can feel good again.

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