Reading Evolutionens Barn by Mikael Bergström

Evolutionens Barn (Children of the Evolution) is a Swedish indie RPG written by Mikael Bergström. It was written in the same challenge as my own game Medan Världen Går Under / While the World Ends, and I got to play test a draft a few months ago. Now the game will soon be released as POD on Publit, and it is available as a free download online.

The book
I am reading the PDF version of the game, so I don’t know the size of the physical book, but the file is 100 pages. There are a handful of illustrations by Johanna Håård, Ronja Melin and Lina Rydebjörk. Almost all the illustrations are of futuristic looking females in armour, mostly in a style somewhere between The Matrix and Ghost in the Shell.

There are wide margins on the pages and large type, the 100 pages are a fast read.

The setting
I would describe the setting as “Ghost in the Shell RPG”. The PCs are agents working for Special Force 5 in Metropolis, a huge city entirely owned by the SigmaTec corporation. Special Force 5 is a special section within SigmaTec’s security division, mostly concerned with fighting “unpredicted threats” – hackers, terrorists, rogue robots and such.

Metropolis is truly a Utopia where everyone can work with whatever they please and live perfect lives. However the city’s prosperity is provided by slaves working below the city, unknown to most citizens.

The rules
The rules are fast and simple, conflict resolution based. Character generation is just a matter of picking and assigning points to three Aspects and three Memplexes, and picking a few backgrounds.

The Aspects are what you expect them to be. Memplexes on the other hand is one of the two cool features of Evolutionens Barn. Memplexes are ideas, values or ideologies that govern how the character acts. They can be used as a source of extra dice in conflicts, but they can also cause madness if they come in conflict with each other. Memplexes can spread, if the PCs witness or do something extra ordinary they can be assigned more Memplexes, more Memplexes means more sources for extra dice, and greater risks of coming into situations where they are in conflict. Very neat.

The form
The other cool thing about Evolutionens Barn is the form. it is a traditional game in the sense that there is a GM and there are players. But everyone follows a set dramatic structure. All adventures should have phases of exposition, rising action, wrap up, climax and falling action. And for each phase there are clear instructions to the players and GM what should happen in the adventure. If such things indeed happen the players get Progress. Progress shows how far the players have come into the adventure. It clearly shows if they should continue to look for clues or if it is time to go and shoot stuff to pieces.

The Progress track also works as a pacing mechanism, want a longer adventure? Make the track longer.

Conclusion

The setting is OK. There is not much depth in the provided material, but most players probably have seen movies or read comics set in similar settings, so they can extrapolate the missing stuff. Also there is a section in the GM part of the game with advice on how to make the setting your own, if you want to do some world building with the players before playing.

The rules are good. Very simple rules, and lots of diagrams that show how dice should be interpreted. The Memplexes add another dimension to play, players no longer have full control of their characters’ mentality. A little bit like Pendragon, but not quite.

The form is good. The rules for dramatic structure always show everyone what they should do next, a good help for those that want to improvise.

Will I play it?
I would play again, the question is if I would RUN the game. The GM really needs to keep track of all the PCs’ Memplexes in order to create interesting conflicts. With many players that can be a lot to think about while also juggling all the other tasks associated with GMing.

urverkspel.com/index.php… – The official Evolutionens Barn page at Urverk Speldesign.

www.publit.se – Swedish POD company that will print and sell the game.

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