Monday, April 30, 2018

Tales from the Wizarding School

It has been a while since my last post - I'm sorry. A combination of actually doing work on the WILD RPG (tweaking the Attributes and Abilities) and being convinced that no one actually reads the blog.

I haven't really had much to talk about on here for a while, but recently my mind has been wandering back to familiar territories thanks to a couple of games.

Tales from the Loop RPG
Our epic Star Wars: Force and Destiny game came to a suitably awesome end, and recently we've started playing Fria Ligan's Tales from the Loop. You'll have heard about it by now - it has won many awards (deservedly so), based upon the amazing paintings of Simon Stålenhag. Set in an "80's that never was" this is Stranger Things meets robots, time travel, dinosaurs, mind control, and super-science, all in small town Sweden (or wherever you want to set it) with kids riding around on bikes and investigating stuff.

I've been wanting to play this for ages, since reading the rules months ago and finding them so simple and intuitive that it really appealed - especially as I love simple and quick rules systems.

Not only does the game encourage characters to have a "Drive", a "Problem" and a "Pride" which all come into play in the way the characters act and are motivated, but it also has a proportion of the character sheet and character creation dedicated to "relationships". You define how you know each other, and other people in the town, and you gain experience for putting yourself at risk to help your friends.

Within a session we were running around, bickering like thirteen-year-olds, and coming up with bizarre plans and pissing off the teachers from the school. Brilliant!


You know what else has teenage kids at school solving mysteries?

Harry Potter. Yeah, had to get back to my little gaming obsession. I got thinking about how the friendships and relationships from Tales From the Loop would work with Harry Potter (and a lot of the rest of the system to be honest).

A lot of the core of Harry Potter is the central friendships between Harry, Ron and Hermione. There's a real sense of this in the way the players are interacting in Tales from the Loop, but it got me thinking about taking it further. With the relationships having a value that could change and evolve over time. Just look at Year Four - Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Ron and Harry have a real falling out at the beginning of the story, when Ron's convinced that Harry has put his name in the Goblet of Fire. They don't speak to each other, even using Hermione as a go-between (much to her disgust, rightfully so). While this is resolved, it's great to have a mechanic that represents the relationships of the characters.

With a few tweaks, Tales from the Loop would be a great system for Harry Potter.


Bearing that in mind, thinking about the way friendships work in roleplaying games, I was pleasantly surprised by the mobile game - Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery - that launched last week. It's received a lot of criticism for its energy management (encouraging that impatience to complete tasks and lessons to urge you to spend real money to help speed things up). However, the friendship mechanics have been a real eye opener.

My character (on the right), looking like a young me (when I had hair and no glasses), in Charms Class
in Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery

In Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery, you play a character of your own creation attending Hogwarts in the 80's, before Harry is old enough to attend but after Voldemort has "vanished". You have a past of your own (a brother who was expelled for trying to access the Cursed Vaults under Hogwarts) and you make friends, encounter bullies, go to classes and everything you expect from attending Hogwarts.

However, time is taken to make friends at the school, whether this is over a game of Gobstones or chatting over food in the great hall. Talking to friends is handled in a similar way to classes, and you can answer in positive and negative ways to increase your "relationship" with some of the students.

It's not the complete, branching relationships we've come to enjoy in the Telltale Games like The Walking Dead or Batman, where our decisions really shape the outcome. I don't think in Hogwarts Mystery you can tell Ben to go home when he's worried about being at Hogwarts and him actually leave. Seems a bit mean, but I'm not your archetypal Slytherin.

Merula gives us Slytherins a bad name....

The friendships being such a part of the game was a really nice surprise, and along with Tales from the Loop has reaffirmed by belief that it should be an integral part of a tabletop Harry Potter experience.

I know it's probably impossible, and will never happen...

However, Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery is certainly a step in the right direction. After all, it uses established characters - not only professors like Snape, Dumbledore and McGonagall, but also young incarnations of Tonks and Bill Weasley! Something I didn't think any game would do short of adaptations of the books/movies.

The interesting thing is the timeline that recently appeared on Pottermore:

It seems to imply that Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery is set on an alternate timeline? Almost like the Kelvin-verse of the Wizarding World. Or maybe I'm reading too much into this? If it is, what's the problem with allowing tabletop gamers to play in an alternate timeline after the Battle of Hogwarts, but before the events of The Cursed Child?

One day... One day my dream of writing an official Harry Potter tabletop game will come true...

You can read my lengthy treatise on Harry Potter roleplaying on this blog here.

Until next time, keep dreaming.

1 comment:

Batjutsu said...

Praise the day when we can say "You're an RPG Harry!"