Jun 5, 2010
My neck’s slowly getting back to game strength, so it’s time to return to my journey through my personal gaming history.
While a lot of gamers in the 90s were huge fans of Mark Rein·Hagen’s Vampire the Masquerade, I prefered Jonathan Tweet’s Over The Edge. The pair had created Ars Magica earlier in their careers, and their subsequent individual games are continuations both in gaming mechanisms and story elements.
However, rather than the abiding goth/metal/spiritualist/ecologist overtones of Rein·Hagen’s games, Tweet’s is (as a gamer I ran it with at university once said) Naked Lunch The RPG.
Taking place on the amoral Mediterranean island of Al Amarja, it’s a surreal thriller of game, one whose direction can vary greatly depending on the group of players. In part this is down the mix of influences Tweet brings the background of the game, but more over it is down the incredibly simple ruleset and the infinitely flexible character generation system it supports.
Like Tweet’s rewrite of D&D for the 3rd Edition, OTE is notable for being able to put the rules on a single page. Unlike D&D, it isn’t backing that up with pages of skills, spell lists, character classes, powers and monsters. Each character is described by three stats that are unique to them and a flaw. For anything else they either simply roll 2 dice for or they cannot do it at all. It’s a system that you can easily tear from the background material and use to for any material you want, as long as you’ve got a group who are willing to collaborate rather than play a RPG as some sort of contest between the players and the GM.
A typical Over The Edge game involves the player characters as tourists visiting (or fleeing to) Al Amarja. The why is usually down to the players, they might choose to start as a group or be thrown together by fate and the vagaries of Al Amarja’s immigration controls.
For instance, the last campaign I ran, the players were all recruited by a secret conspiracy who were battling a satanic children’s author in New York prior to being sent to Al Amarja to uncover the conspiracy said children’s author was part of. This being Over The Edge, both conspiracies were actually part of the same larger conspiracy, The Movers, a conspiracy so fractured, large and unwieldy that no one knows who is in charge (one published adventure explores this by having someone just decide that if they act like they are the leader it will have pretty much the same effect as if they were).
Having bought most of the material that was published for the game, I can safely say you can probably just get away with using the core rulebook. A lot of the adventures are fall between two stools, too detailed to improvise around, but not not detailed enough to hold you and your players interests. One of them is even a run around the sewers… Even EVERY Neverwinter Nights level designer figured that out as a setting, you don’t really need to drop money on clichés like that.
You’ll probably be able to put something better together using the vast amount background colour the rulebook provides and the characters your players create. The sourcebooks are stronger, and often have better adventures than the stand alone adventures, but they are not essential. Personally I really liked the Player’s Survival Guide, Weather The Cuckoo Likes and Friend or Foe? Thinking about it, while there’s nothing really essential in terms of supplements for running the game, the Survival Guide is definitely worth picking up. Lots of good ideas in there that go beyond just Over The Edge.
Easily in my top ten RPGs, the setting, rules and highly customisable character generation make it one of the best RPGs of the nineties. Possibly THE best. And if you are loving Durarara and like RPGs then you definitely want to pick Over The Edge up. Their mixes of the mundane, the weird and warring factions are pretty similar. Certainly enough that watching Durarara reminded me I had this post waiting to be finished in my drafts.