What does role play consist of Undying and what are its strengths and weaknesses? What could have been done better? Who is it suitable for?

After trying Undying in a nice one-shot at the Narrative Game Night, I decided to start a campaign with some friends of mine and with my boyfriend, all the players / role golds navigate.

After a month of playing, we decided to stop and move on to something else. Having collected the impressions of the other playing people, I decided to write this article. I wouldn't call it a review, just a series of rather personal impressions about Undyingwhich, however, may perhaps be of help to someone.

Undying: what is it about and how does it work?

Undying is a diceless role-playing game in which players play a group of vampires and juggle the power struggles of the bloodsucker community. Each player, therefore, will have a booklet of his character, in which his relationships with other vampires will be marked, a unique special move, the vampire's humanity and a maximum of accumulated blood points.

Blood points are gods token spendable to make moves, among which Interfering stands out, with which you put the sticks in the wheels to the other vampires aiming blood points. Less humanity you have, the more blood points you can accumulate. But the less humanity you have, the more the vampire will hunt carelessly, leaving behind a trail of victims that might suspect humans.

Maps of relationships, debts and social status

During session zero, players will create one relationships map between their characters and the PNGs, indicating what kind of bond unites them, who has debts with whom and how big their debt is. In fact, the world and politics of vampires are characterized by the creation and collection of debts: you can ask someone for help, but will we be willing to pay the price?

Each vampire, in this sense, is also characterized by its own status: the pg start as Plebei, submitted to the Patricians and higher than the Paria. Above all, the Prince reigns. Status determines the severity of the consequences of those who refuse to settle a debt with another vampire.

Game times: interlude and night game

Undying develops in two game stages: the night game and the interludes.

During the interludes, vampires will develop their long-term plans which, over the decades or even centuries, will bear fruit, determining the situation that players will face when a crisis arises.

Il night game it is a more traditional role-playing moment, in which vampires and their obsessive need to feed themselves day by day are played in an attempt to resolve a hard crisis that has hit the community. After this moment of tight play and after having resolved the crisis, we will return to the interlude, resuming the cycle.

The English cover of Undying
The English cover of Undying

The strengths of Undying

Undying manages to characterize the If you want to as a creature through the game mechanics.

Vampires are static beings, being dead, and therefore cannot grow and change like a human being. For this, it makes sense that there is no experience point system and that the characters do not increase in level. In fact, the only change that vampires can undergo is that of status, which influences their weight in collecting debts.

Also, vampires have to do most of their moves (including waking up!) spend blood, which therefore becomes a very important currency. For this reason, vampires must spend a large part of their time feeding, thus sacrificing part of the few precious hours they have at night. This therefore proposes very well the idea that vampires are addicted to blood, almost giving the impression of being an addict.

Also the idea of relationships map it's excellent. Although, in fact, this is not a new concept and we review this map also, for example, in the fifth edition of Vampires: The Masqueradein Undying the map tends to be much more detailed and to outline interesting plot cues. It should be adopted in many role-playing games.

The weak points of Undying

Unfortunately, despite the good premises, Undying failed to take off with our party.

PG VS PG, but doesn't the game encourage him?

First of all, Undying it is quite clearly meant for a PG VS PG context, where the characters plot against each other. It is absolutely not a game where the characters form a party. This in itself would not be a problem at all, were it not for that the game does not put players in the position of stabbing themselves in the back.

In fact, all the characters start the campaign as Plebei or (if one wants to hurt themselves) as Paria. Therefore, being all in the lowest rank of vampire society, it doesn't make much sense for them to take it out on each other. On the other hand, it is easier, and more logical, to join forces against some patrician or to do their own business. Perhaps some mechanics would be needed to make our vampires' lives more troubled, in addition to crises. Or, in any case, it would be necessary to incentivize the PG VS PG immediately.

A potentially very static game of monologues?

Night play tends to occupy a large part of the game time, and it is imperative that they happen very serious and excited crises, otherwise there is a risk that the pace of the game will decrease very much. In this sense, if there are more than three players and if their characters play alone, meeting little, Undying it risks being reduced to an evening in which each player makes two or three monologues, explaining what he does to the others during the night.

This situation is potentially very boring and not very suitable for less proactive players. So, Undying it risks becoming a game in which only players with a specific plan have fun, turning the campaign into a VS player, rather than a PG VS PG.

Little customization, little variety and little risk?

Also, the character booklets don't give you many ideas on how to set up your vampire, nor do they allow great customization. In fact, with a single personal move, the range of interesting things a character can do becomes narrower and is greatly limited by the player's imagination.

Finally, although the lack of experience points makes sense and gives flavor, the fact that there is no reward of any kind for bringing your own background into play (as instead happens in, for example, Blades in the dark) or to risk failing (as happens in PBTAs) makes players extremely static. The negative consequences of the moves, in fact, are not particularly heavy and therefore do not have one of the main characteristics of the PBTAs: the game of the consequences of the choices of the characters. And this lack, unfortunately, is not replaced by other mechanics.

A hybrid between PBTA and Diceless not successful?

All this seems to me a result of the particular game system adopted by Undying, That is a hybrid between a PBTA and a diceless token and game phases. In fact, the idea of ​​booklets and common moves is typical of PBTAs, but in Undying it seems to have not been developed properly, since the librettos are too thin. This minimalism should be offset by the tokens and the very dense and schematic game phases typical of diceless, but this does not happen, because the night game will always be much longer than the interlude.

Therefore, during the crisis (i.e. most of the time) there will be few mechanically relevant options to be deployed. The unique move of some booklets, moreover, not only does not cost blood, but is also too powerful and versatile to be granted lightly. And, in all this, the master himself has relatively few "master moves" to use, and therefore few ideas to brighten up the situation.

The Italian edition of Undying
The Italian edition of Undying

Some conclusions

Then, Undying not only does it not have the time marked by the diceless (like Kaiser 1451 o dialect), but it also does not have the dynamics of the consequences and risk gain of PBTAs. Therefore, this role-playing game struggles to grasp the positive aspects of the games it inspires, resulting a good hybrid attempt, with its strengths, but also left too much to chance and to the whim of the players.

Some of my playmates said: "Maybe better and more experienced players than us would have been able to better squeeze its rules to get a good story." But, as the Vate says, things like Bravogiocatore or Bravomaster do not exist, e a game cannot be beautiful because its players are good, but it has to be nice and work regardless of the skill of the players.

Who can appreciate Undying?

In my opinion, Undying can please players of Vampiri for which the best game is the one in which you play a good role and do not roll the dice. Undying this does it very well and you can also spend many sessions running your plans without too many risks, entrusting everything to interpretation.

If you want to try the game, you can buy it on Narrattiva site!