We got to check out an early copy of Rest in Pieces, a tabletop RPG that is live on Kickstarter now. This game comes packaged like a board game, complete with cards, dry erase character sheets, and even a Jenga tower with alternating black and white pieces. This is everything that you need to play the game with 3-5 players. This game is a surreal dark comedy that is heavy on storytelling and plays out like a sitcom, in a manner similar to Rick and Morty, What We Do in the Shadows, and Aquateen Hunger Force.
The game centers around a tiny, run-down studio apartment occupied by the Grim Reaper, and several roommates who share the space. Players create their characters by giving them a name, favorite food, and a place to sleep (since it's a studio apartment, you have to get creative as to how you manage to cram up to 5 people in there).
There are several sets of cards that come into play when creating a character. These cards help flesh out your character, and will serve a purpose later during gameplay. Each player picks a card that describes the character's occupation (what they do for money to maintain their meager existence), their odd hobby (what they do for fun that makes them something of a weirdo), their deadly object (an item that they have that they can use to get an edge during the story). They'll also randomly pick a pipe dream card, which describes the character's goal in life, which they'll hide from others. These are known as strategy cards and they play an important part in the mechanics of the game. As well, the players each choose pet peeve cards that they'll give to the other players to interfere with their plans.
The game plays out very much like a sitcom. One person will act as the narrator (like a game master in other RPGs), and that person will take on the role of Death, the Grim Reaper (other options such as Vlad the vampire and Cthulhu will be available, too). Death, is bratty and self-obsessed, and does a lot of things that cause trouble for his roommates. The narrator will pick from a set of cards that present a problem that arises in the apartment. After introducing themselves, the players (also known as the deadbeats), will hear the problem and start acting out the scene. The game is very light on rules and heavy on story-telling and role-playing. The players will contribute to the story by reacting to the problem, perhaps trying to find a solution, maybe trying to fix things or escalating the situation further. Maybe they'll just pick a fight with their roommate whom they're still angry with for leaving a pizza box around for 3 days on the dining room table last week. It's all up to the players, and the narrator to see what happens.
Through all of this, however, there are a few core mechanics that govern what happens. Whenever a player wants to do something to do something to influence the story, they'll pull from the Jenga tower. This will have one of 3 outcomes that will determine what happens: 1) they'll succeed in what they were doing and keep the piece they take, 2) they'll decide that they can't safely pull a piece and instead pay Death one of the pieces that they got from a previous pull, or 3) they'll pull a piece, and the whole tower comes crashing down. Now, one of the goals of the game is to get as many Jenga pieces as possible. These pieces are called "pull", and they represent the pull, or influence that you have around the apartment. It's good to have pull because it will give you influence over where the story goes. When the tower comes crashing down, the player with the most pull gets to determine whether the story goes on, or if it goes into an epilogue to end the game. As well, players who successfully pull a piece can pull a "middle finger" card that may cost their opponents some pull. Your deadbeat's pipedream card can also be played under certain situation to allow that player to steal pull from others. So, keep an eye on your pull.
When pulling from the tower, there is one other thing to keep in mind--your strategy cards. Your dead-end job, odd hobby, and deadly object all give you a chance to do something narratively
cool that move the story along and give you a chance to pull from the tower. Use your strategy cards creatively to think of a way in which your experience can help you in a situation. During our playtest, my wife Monica (a cosplayer in real life), chose the "cosplay" card as her odd hobby, and used her crafting skills as a cosplayer to fashion a mask to protect herself from the smell of the demon vomit that ended up covering the floor of the apartment (don't ask, it's a long story). But that's a good example of how to use your strategy cards in the game to use your character's strengths creatively to get out of a situation. When you do so, the narrator will let you flip your strategy card to get a "touch" when you pull from the tower. This allows you to touch an additional piece to check and see what might be loose to increase your chances of a successful pull. Since you're doing something to influence the story, the narrator will tell you whether to pull a black piece for a self-serving action or a white piece for an action that benefits others. This presents some challenges that might make you think about your options and choices in the story that you're trying to tell.
The mechanics are simple enough and very much help drive the story, but overall this is a game that's very story-centric. If you're used to other games like D&D or Pathfinder that have a lot of number-crunching and combat optimization, you'll want to set aside that style of play for Rest In Pieces. This is a game of telling stories and having a good laugh, with some rules and randomization around that main goal. But remember to treat it as a story, and keep it loose. Even the scenarios that come with the game are just suggestions. Play them as you want--or make up your own. Let the story go off the rails--just make sure that everyone is having fun.
This is a game best played with people who you know have a good sense of humor and quick wits. If you have friends that you play Cards Against Humanity with, they would probably be a great group to play this game with. If you have a group of gaming friends who always turn D&D night into a rowdy laugh-riot of dirty jokes, this is definitely the game for them. Aspiring narrators should remember that the scenarios are very light, and merely suggestions for gameplay, so they might want to do a bit of prep work and maybe come up with some jokes or gags to pull out during the course of the game, unless you're good at thinking on your feet. With the right narrator, and the right group, this game is something that can be a lot of fun and generate lots of hilarious memories and inside jokes that you won't be able to repeat in polite company.