Friday, November 26, 2004

[RPG] The Farm ... One Last Look

In this final article about The Farm*, I’m interested in how the rules reveal a philosophy, a premise behind the game…

Right from the start, the focus is on the group. It's assumed that six people are playing this game. They get 48 points to divide between their mental and physical scores. So almost the first thing you do in this game is try to co-operate on allocating resources.

The rules seem designed to create questions about teamwork versus individualism. In my personal creepiest-sentence-of-the-entire-game, “The Leader is voted into office by the group during any of the three feeding times.” This Leader can be given the players’ dice when lots of them need to make a skill check. The Leader then rolls the dice and allocate each player the number they say need to succeed.

The Leader has no compulsion to keep their word. They can hand out a different (unwanted) number or keep good results for themselves. Carefully maneuvering yourself into the Leader position at a moment when it’s advantageous to you is always an option.

But the players also have a way of looking out for Number 1. After the Leader’s rolled dice for the group, a player can say (using these precise words), “I am a pig. Give me all the 4’s” if – for instance – they want 4s. Although it’s not clarified, I suspect that only one person can claim the role of Pig during any group roll.

The impression I’m getting from this game is that it’s a Prisoner’s Dilemma-type exercise in trust and co-operation.

Another neat wrinkle in the rules is that you can loan successes to someone else … but this puts you into “Skill Debt”, and until that Skill Debt is repaid, you can never succeed in the skill that uses that number. Other players can’t pay you back – so the only ways to regain your ability are to: a) rely on luck; or b) be the Pig.

That means helping other players is a conscious act of pure altruism …

So what’s the conclusion? Jared’s summary is: “The point of the game is to band together as a group and escape. But is that even possible? I don't know the answer to that question. But if I had to make a guess, I'd say no. No, it's not possible.

“But maybe one person can make it to freedom. … Maybe.”

The Farm is testing us. Is this a world where only an individual can survive? Where you have to act like an animal to escape an animal’s fate? And if you need the help of others to even get a chance of escaping, then at what point do you betray your friends?

*Previously I’ve asked: What’s The Farm about? Why is it such a creepy game? And how do you play it?

No comments: