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Preview: The Play’s The Thing RPG


A famous author, important in our history
Finds a new home in the digital age
From immortal text springs new revelry
And young gamers take their turn upon the stage

Late in October last year a project appeared on the fundraising site Kickstarter. It was a simple proposal, a roleplaying game where the players took on roles within an acting troupe about to perform a Shakespearean play. There was a catch, however. Each player would be allowed to alter the play to better suit their character’s desires. Richard III could end up the hero, while Romeo and Juliet could live happily ever after.

Magpie Games aimed low with their fundraising for The Play’s the Thing, with a goal of only $500. This goal was met, and passed in less than 48 hours. Realising they were on to something, more goals were set. If the project reached 200%, a Teacher’s Guide to the game would be produced, helping teachers use the game in classroom situations. In addition to this, each donation of $25 or more would result in a school receiving a free PDF copy of both titles. At 300%, these PDF copies would be upgraded to print copies.

By November 5th the 300% mark had been met, and backers were still signing up. By the time the clock ran out on the project they had received over $5000 worth of pledges, almost 1200% of the original target. Because of this, over 100 schools will be receiving copies of the game, and there will be 12 monthly expansions released in 2012 that will expand the game into all new genres like horror and superheroes.

A couple of days ago, Magpie emailed out a link to all of their backers. The link took them (well, us) to a pre-layout copy of the finished game. I’ve only had the time to give it a quick look over, work and sleep being rather necessary evils, but I like what I’ve seen. Overall, the game is fairly straight forward. Each Player creates their actor and the Playwright (GM) informs them which play they will be performing. They then pick their roles and any props they will need and play begins.

Like most roleplaying games there are stats, but while D&D has Strength, Dexterity, and so on, The Play’s the Thing has Logos, Pathos, and Ethos. These each affect a different aspect of the play and will determine how best the actor can influence the plot. Each player must also decide the Type of actor they are portraying (Lead, Villain, Ham, or Ingenue). Each Type grants the player special abilities, as well as providing a way for the Playwright to affect them.

One of the great things about The Play’s the Thing is that the setting is completely open. Your actors could be a 16th Century troupe performing at the original Globe, or if you prefer, a group of high school students putting on a school play. Anything’s possible.

Well, maybe not anything

The potential for this game is huge, doubly so when you remember the 12 supplements releasing over the rest of this year. It will also be a valuable tool for schools and drama clubs that cater to young adults. Performing Shakespeare is good, but being allowed to alter the works of The Bard takes things to a whole new level and will hopefully encourage a tomorrow’s youth to discover his work for themselves.

Keep an eye on Magpie Games’ website for release details.


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