This is such a great idea. On the Tor books site, Linda Codega gives suggestions for readers who want to “play the plot” of fantasy novels. She pairs five novels with appropriate roleplaying rulesets.
Even if you’re not interested in the novel and game match-ups, the games she recommends are worth checking out. There are some very unique, indie, experimental games with mechanics that involve map-making, the postal service, journaling, tarot cards, Jenga towers, and more.
When Zen Cho releases a new book, you get that book. The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water is a delightful, compact, fast-paced stunner, full of Chinese and Malaysian fantasy worldbuilding, queer characters, and a loosely wuxia-inspired plot. Set against the background of a revolution and resistance, the book explores the ways that you can never really escape your past, or hide your true nature. If you want to play out these wuxia fantasy tropes, complete with romance and found family, check out Hearts of Wulin, a playable version of which is currently available right now as a playtest—an unfinished preview of the game, which I hope entices you to preorder the full book!
Now, because a tropical mythical island vibe echoes throughout Pure Moon, which is full of jungles, shrines, spies, and references to Malaysian history, let’s dig into some Malaysian game to help fill in the shapes of many people’s cultural understanding. Keris & The Dream by Nana, a short single-person game about a symbol and sacred object is perfect for Pure Moon, which also trades in sacred things. When dealing with colonialism, one of the ways to both understand and dismantle it is to look at maps. Borders are invented things, and never is this more clear than in a country bound up in foreign-drawn boundary. Orichalcum is a map-making game by Justin Quirit where the Empire has been destroyed by their own folly in a land not their own. You play as Exiles, and work to remake the map in the image of you and your ancestors. Another map-making game, this one about queerness, safety, and travel, is Across This Wasteland With You, by Diwata ng Manila and Pamela Punzalan, both pillars of the #RPGSEA (Role Playing Games of South East Asia) community. This two-person game is about queer lovers striving to reach The Safe Place, and paired with the queer bandits, nuns, and surrounds of Pure Moon, this is the game you play after you finish the novel and want to know what happens next.
When I realized that magic in Kingdom of Liars cost memory I had immediate flashbacks to Advanced D&D and had to go lie down (this rule is on pg. 40, if you want to do the digging). However, the magic system in this book is sweeping and strange, and it takes on significant importance as the moon rains down on the hollow, the court begins its marriage court, and the city of Hollow takes on a character all of its own. First, check out Night Reign, by Oli Jeffries. You play as guards of the recently deposed royal family, a guise perfect for our “hero” Michael Kingman. If you want something super light and easy to pick up, but will still be able to adapt to a rage-filled city of magicians and beasts, I recommend Pacts & Blades by Lucas Rolim. While the full book falls at 40 pages, the entire playable ruleset fits on a single page. Super simple, accessible, and expansive.
Finally, let’s focus on building out Hollow with Aurora by Adam Vass. Out of all the games, this might be the best to play while not at the table with your friends. It has the added bonus of using mail as a mechanic, so if you want to save the post office, pick this game up! You create an oracle deck using various parts of a mailing address and later interpret the signs from other players. You create a communal deck, and then use it to create a city, its problems, and its people. Aurora is incredibly ingenious, and a fantastic game, perfect for the Kingdom of Liars and you.
Read the rest.
[H/t Bruce Dykes]
Image: Promotional image