Pen-and-paper role playing games, much like their digital counterparts, very often revolve around quests. You might need to protect some villagers from marauding goblins, say, or retrieve a lost treasure from a haunted catacomb. Or, as I discovered last week, five cockney iguanas might demand you smuggle vast quantities of cocaine into the condemned reptile house they call home.
It's safe to say, in other words, that Grant Howitt and Nate Crowley's Reverse Beastmaster is not your average RPG. Comprised of a single page of rules, it casts the players as the titular Reverse Beastmasters - hapless individuals incapable of disobeying any command given to them by an animal. Over the course of their adventure across Saint Beef's Zoo for the Brave, the heroes encounter a number of demanding animals, each of which is controlled by a different player wielding a sock puppet. These animals lay down a series of challenges aimed at ultimately bringing down the zoo from the inside, all while avoiding the clutches of the absolutely gargantuan zookeeper.
As you'll see for yourself if you watch the Let's Play we recorded over a couple of cider-soaked hours, it's a gleefully daft game. It's absurd in the extreme, which is normally cause for worry - out and out farces can be painfully unfunny if done poorly. The thing with Reverse Beastmaster, however, is that the design is whip smart. Challenges are undertaken by rolling between three and nine six-sided dice. Rolling a 4, 5 or 6 nets you one success (and sixes are rerolled as you enter Beast Mode). Rolling a 2 or 3 does absolutely nothing, but rolling a 1 gives you a problem. For every problem you take, you have to fill in a tick box on your character sheet - as these fill up, different pieces of misfortune befall you. You might lose social standing, for instance, or maybe you'll catch fire. It's a simple system that realises your failures in an immediate and very personal way.
If you can gather some open-minded friends (and enough socks) then I'd heartily encourage you to give Reverse Beastmaster a go. You can pick it up here and you get to name your price, which is pretty nifty. Just watch out for those iguanas.
Disclaimer: Nate Crowley, co-author of Reverse Beastmaster, works for our sister site Rock Paper Shotgun. He also does a mean gorilla impression. It's good to be open about these things.
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