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Queen of Thorns

Queen of Thorns is a game that focuses on just one particular scenario, the abduction and attempted rescue of a cherished individual. The Queen of Thorns has abducted her victim to serve as a sacrifice in a ceremony. The players take the role of characters who have an emotional connection to the abducted individual and pledge to rescue them.

The game uses a challenge dice mechanism where the player groups expend their resources to cancel poor outcomes and get closer to completing their rescue. For something similar think of 3:16 with its supply of threat tokens that are spread over a number of scenes. In Queen of Thorns though the characters cross items off their character sheet to indicate the sacrifice the character makes to overcome the challenge.

A game can be completed in an hour or two and I found the game  enjoyable and satisfying from a narrative point of view, in our first play the Queen of Thorns was thwarted but at the cost of one of the characters falling (literally) in the final confrontation.

Starting a game

The players and the GM need to agree the circumstances and purpose of the kidnapping and perhaps even the nature of the Queen of Thorns herself. Although the game does not say explicitly you could use non-fantasy situations such as the girlfriend kidnapping plot of retro arcade game Double Dragon or a contemporary narcowar plot with an abducted sister.

The players fill out blanks in their character sheets that explain their relationship to the missing woman, the tools and skills they will use to rescue her and, critically, the guilt that drives them to attempt the rescue.

Basic game flow

The GM will describe the group setting out on the rescue and from there on in the game runs on a small tight loop. The GM will think of the next obstacle the group face in their mission. Assigns it points from their pool and then presents the situation to the players.

The first player who proposes a solution to the problem picks up four Fudge dice and throws them. Pluses can be used to resolve the obstacle and cancel the GM's outcomes. Minuses allow the GM to injury the PCs, cancel their successes or advance the Alert and Doom tracks. The players need to accrue success equal to the points the GM assigned to the obstacle. Until they do the leading player must throw the dice again.

Tracks

The GM manages two tracks Alert and Doom as mentioned above. Alert reflects the awareness the Queen's minions have of the rescuers invasion into her realm and make the encounters significantly more difficult if the track fills too far. The Doom track indicates how close the Queen is to sacrificing her victim and provides the timer that frames the whole game. Once the Doom track is filled the victim is sacrificed and the rescuers lose.

The clever aspects of the tracks is that it allows the GM to poses hard challenges to the players in a mechanical way. Would they prefer to be unhurt or unnoticed? Will they use their equipment or take their time?

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