Broken is an RPG of tragic romance for two players about broken objects and broken hearts. Create two characters in a relationship and over the course of ten scenes, you will explore the ways in which the things you loved about each other crack until everything about your relationship is broken. And over ten scenes, you will also break ten, real life, physical objects. In Broken the relationship will always end. But while the tragic conclusion is inevitable, there is potential for healing and self-discovery along the way. Broken is an emotionally deep game that explores themes of memory, identity, loss, empathy-building, hope, and healing. Imagine a game that recreates the experience of going through a break-up with the catharsis of smashing objects while telling a beautiful story along the way and you have Broken.
You emphasize your use of safety and comfort tools in your preview materials. Can you talk about what you’ve built to support that in Broken?
I've known from the outset that safety design would be important for this game given the potentially intense subject material. In the current version of the ashcan edition we make several recommendations for safety tools and talk about safety throughout the book, including after care. However, the itchfunding campaign for Broken in part will pay for the safety design and consulting. We brought on Beau Jagr Sheldon of Thoughty Games and creator of the Script Change safety toolset to design safety tools for Broken and implement elements of Script Change. We want safety to be a seamless part of the play experience and we want the game to be an easy to pick up and play experience, so we want to layer safety into the rules of the game itself. That's one important thing we'll be working on from the current ashcan edition to the final edition we fund in the itchfunding campaign. We also talk about physical safety in the book. Since breaking physical objects is an important part of gameplay in Broken, we include a section on physical safety at the table as well.
Romance can be a challenge in rpgs—what drew you to that? Are there some games which you think handle romance well or inspired your take on it?
I've been immersed in romance games for the past five years as co-host of Pod of Love, a romance and relationship actual play podcast. My wife Mel and I initially started Pod of Love using the board game/RPG hybrid Fog of Love and recorded actual plays of that. Right around the time we launched the show, Star Crossed was on Kickstarter and we had the pleasure of featuring it on the show and interviewing Alex Roberts. We have played dozens of romance and relationship games since Pod of Love began in 2017. It's a genre that is really important to me, and that I'd love to see expanded in indie ttrpgs. Beyond the games I already mentioned, I'm very influenced by The Romance Trilogy by Emily Care Boss.
It’s been interesting to see the duet rpg space open up over the last few years. What are the challenges of doing a two-player game as opposed to a larger table, GM-full or GM-less
I love getting this question, and was glad to speak on the subject at PAX Unplugged two years in a row in 2018 and 2019. I think the answer really depends on whether you're talking about designing for two players or adapting for two players, and that for adapting your own game play for duet play, any rewards far outweigh the challenges. When designing for duet play, I wanted to make something collaborative and story-driven. I wanted it to be something that would be very easy to pick up and play, that any two people could give a try even without much rpg experience if any.
I think that the challenge for designing that way is to create an experience that involves both players pretty continually and gives them both a participatory role throughout every phase of the game. Basically, I think the challenge is to design something that equalizes investment from both players. I used the rituals in the game to do that, so that each person is continually involved and participating, or that you take turns performing certain rituals, such as breaking a physical object. I knew that the scenario and character creation portion of the game would be especially important for getting both players invested early in the experience, and so I tried to design that to be really easy to understand and simple to do, while kind of folding in or "hiding" investment into it so that you get pulled into this scenario and these characters before you even realize it. Similarly, scene setting is participatory from both players. You use a ritual in the game that you repeat to set scenes where one player says "Remember when...." and the other players adds a twist by saying "But you forgot about....". This gets both players invested in the creative process of setting scenes.
How does Broken handle online play?
I wrote the version of Broken that exists today during the pandemic, so online play was certainly in my mind throughout that whole process. While the game is very tangible and involves real life objects and breaking them, the entire process is very easily played online. Most of my playtests have been online games, and simply breaking the objects over video chat or playing the game with the popsicle stick option as an alternative to breaking physical objects is another really easy online adaptation. The game offers popsicle sticks as an alternative to breaking physical objects by having players write ten objects on popsicle sticks and snapping them at the end of a scene instead of breaking a physical object. Online play isn't the only reason for this adaptation, but is an important reason we knew we'd need to include an alternative to breaking a real-life, physical object at the game table.
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Ben Wallis on twitter: https://twitter.com/benjaminwallis