I’ve been having fun with Vincent Baker’s nano-game The Sundered Land the past couple of days. It’s a small roleplaying game set, comprised of a number of single encounters, suitable for playing in a forum thread. In one called A Doomed Pilgrim, one player plays a pilgrim, and the other participants try to stop the pilgrim from succeeding. However, there is a constraint: the other players can only respond to the pilgrim’s direct questions, so they may not be able to do it. A typical exchange might look like this:
Jordan: There are two shrike banshees circling overhead, slowly swirling in a spiral that has you at its epicenter. The wind bears the unmistakable musk of their digestive pheromones. As they are normally solitary creatures, this is most disturbing.
Me: My eyes dart back and forth, looking at the caves around me, weighing which might provide the best shelter. Have the shrike banshees definitely seen me? Anyone should answer.
The rules provide the barest amount of structure needed to make a game like this work, as well as some advice for the pilgrim. I’ve been on both sides of the table now, both as hazard and as pilgrim. Both are enjoyable. It’s fun to try to foil the plans of the pilgrim — tightening the noose, at it were. It’s also fun playing as the pilgrim to try to ask a question that will get you out of your current predicament.
The game comes as a group of similarly-themed encounters, all written on a single letter-sized page. Other games have different rules. For example, in another encounter called Caravan Guards, all but one of the players takes the role of a member of the same caravan. The remaining player takes the role of the Hazard, whose goal it is to decimate the caravan.
If you’re looking for a half-hour’s diversion, something lightweight that takes no preparation, you should give one a try. The bundle sells for $5.