For a long time, the Kickstarter whose product I was most eagerly waiting for was Corvus Elrod‘s Bhaloidam. The funny thing was that I wasn’t entirely sure why I was looking forward to it so much—I have a lot of respect for Corvus, and he seemed to be going in an interesting direction, but I don’t play non-electronic RPGs. Not that I have anything against them, but they require a time commitment that I’m reluctant to make, I don’t have a pre-existing group of friends that I’m in the habit of playing them with, I don’t feel like rounding up a group to play them with. Also, I don’t have ideas about a campaign that I want to run myself.
But as the release date got closer, I could see reasons to justify my excitement. When I read through the handbook, the system looked interestingly different: very sparse rules, with a nice simple set of abstractions. Gameplay that was based on speaking sentences instead of calculating damage and hit points, but with enough constraints to limit and support the players. It’s bridging the space between traditional gameplay and traditional performances in a way I hadn’t seen before: definitely worth looking into. And I loved the physical version of both the handbook and the lifewheel that eventually showed up: the Skein Pack is well worth the price.
And, as it turned out, I did have a pre-existing group of friends to play with: I play games with the VGHVI folks every Thursday night, we were looking for something different to do, and Bhaloidam was the obvious choice! So yay, we decided to play it once a month.
I quite like the handbook, but I couldn’t quite see how the mechanics would play out in practice. Fortunately, Corvus had a solution to that: the handbook comes with an introductory scenario designed to teach players the mechanics, and Corvus himself volunteered to run a session of that for us! And then Dan Cox put it together into a lovely podcast episode, with both audio and video versions.
That podcast is actually what motivated me to write this post: I imagine I’m not the only person who thought Bhaloidam sounded neat but couldn’t quite see how it would play out in practice. So, if you’re one of those people: I strongly recommend you listening to (or watching, if you prefer) the podcast, Dan and Corvus did great work. And if you’re not a person who is yet curious about Bhaloidam, I also think the podcast would be interested in showing you why it might be interesting. Because I do think that Bhaloidam is potentially a rather important new thing, a distinct point in the design space not just of games but of performance and art more broadly.
And if you’re interested in playing, consider dropping in on one of the VGHVI sessions—the campaign that we’re running (Greek Gods in Space) is pretty free-form, I imagine we should be able to support newcomers somewhat.
This post has not been revised since publication.