The Warren (2015)

First surprising thing: Marshall Miller’s The Warren is a storytelling RPG about rabbits, a la Watership Down. Second surprising thing: it is the second RPG about rabbits, a la Watership Down, the first being Bunnies & Burrows, which appeared in 1976 (!).

Where The Skeletons is an inversion of the RPG empowerment fantasy, casting players in the role of the monsters, The Warren takes an even more unusual track by having players take the role of prey. The whole world is seemingly out to get rabbits, who must rely on speed and cleverness to survive. The result is perhaps the most harrowing example of a survival horror game as I’ve encountered.

The game uses a stripped down version of the Apocalypse World system (developed by D. Vincent Baker, who also did In a Wicked Age – you’ll see his name often the more you dig into storytelling games) which uses sets of predefined Moves to resolve conflicts – fighting, running trying not to panic. Rather than having an intricate simulation, dice rolls for Moves result in success, failure or partial success, the latter creating the sort of complicated situations that make the game compelling (and also terrifying).

The name The Warren implies the final interesting mechanic of the game. While perfectly suited for a single session experience, this isn’t intended to be a rabbit-simulator. Rather, the games system is built for telling a multi-generational story across many sessions, creating a rich and often hardship-filled history of a family of rabbits over the course of many years.

It’s sort of like Pendragon, except instead of gallant knights, it is about cute fuzzy bunnies facing terrible dooms.

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