+Bundle of HoldingIndie Spring Festival & Itras By  
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The second to last game I'll be writing about is the +Ole Peder Giæver and +Martin Bull Gudmundsen's _Itras By_. (http://itrasby.com/about/).  It's a sumptuous, generous game that brings seemingly contradictory elements into one harmonious, grounded yet dreamlike whole. 

The title of this Norwegian game translates to "Itra's City," which forms the setting and central organizing principle of the game itself. The otherworldly illustrations by Thore Hansen and Kathy Schad perfectly evoke this timeless early modern and eerily fantastic setting. +Jonathan Tweet and +Robin Laws worked with some of the same territory in Over the Edge, set later and with a bit more acid, a bit less opium.

Smoke climbs from the factory chimneys, paperboys sell the Morning Post. In the darkness of the cinematographer, silent movies flicker in black and white. Electricity is making its appearance in people’s homes, but still, many live without....

But right beneath this everyday atmosphere, there is another side to the city. In the middle of town, the Moon Tower looms. In a park in the most refined neighborhood, there is a society consisting of talking apes. Downtown you’ll find, or not, a street which only exists on Fridays...

The city is an invitation to a world set in our pasts, as well as in the sideways corners of our imagination. Inspired by the historical Europe between the World Wars--a time of modernity and raging optimism as well as reaction and revulsion from the horrors of war--as well as the fantastical images of that time that live in our art and popular culture. Surrealism is the by word, with the fantastic peeping out of this place which was our past like the Tower of the Moon standing silent over the sooty, gaslit metropolis of Itras By. The works of Kafka, Fritz Lang, Lewis Carroll and Lovecraft all come to mind, as well as Sinclair Lewis, Ann Petry, Dziga Vertov and Dostoevsky.

Yes, and…
The character succeeds, and achieves more than she expected. Perhaps even a bit too much…

Yes, but…
The character succeeds, but something unrelated goes wrong, for the character or someone she cares about.

The game system itself is another juxtaposition. A traditional tabletop rpg in many senses of the word: the book is setting rich, a Game Master prepares adventures, plays the city and its denizens, the players are responsible just for their characters actions, words and decisions. The way the book immediately conjurs the setting impels the reader directly into the world brings +Mark Rein-Hagen's Vampire: The Masquerade or +Vincent Baker's Apocalypse World to mind.  And yet....the engine of the game is the litest of the lite and although actions taken do come to a "does it happen" crux, the means for resolving conflicts is evocative and open ended in a very collaborative way.

"Yes, And.." and "Yes, But..." are two of the cards one can pull for resolution. The system is reminiscent of +Matthijs Holter's Archipelago (https://norwegianstyle.wordpress.com/2012/09/20/archipelago-iii/  Matthijs talks about the relationship between the games here: http://story-games.com/forums/discussion/comment/406703)  Each card answers the question posed by the crossroads reached by the character, but also adds a twist. Adds something to build on. These are interpreted by the GM. The players are given principles to call upon, to orient them towards both accepting and adding to what the GM offers, and to help each other create something interwoven by the play group out of this strange land we all visit together.

The principles create a shared approach to play. "Getting to Know the Character," an invitation to follow and learn to know more about the character one plays over time invites the players to have an openness about what their conception of their character is and can be. An openness to letting it be changed by the world, and simply to focus on the character and its changes as one of the frames of the story, instead of having an external focus on the events of play. This calls to mind the psychological arc of characters in +Sandy Petersen's  Call of Cthulhu, and the fall into abasement and madness suffered by characters in such classic films of the era as M. and The Blue Angel.  And such improvisational foundations as "Build," "Don't Block," and "Reincorporate" provide a basis for a flowing dynamic of play. And the authors devote a chapter to discussing surrealism and how to incorporate it into play.  

Note: I've helped +Allen Varney  curate the collection of games involved, and am participating in the Bundle myself.  I've written one of these pre-views for each of the games as we've gone through the two weeks. 

https://bundleofholding.com/presents/SpringFestival #BundleofHolding   #IndieRPGs   #charitybundles 
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