We broke out a rather unique, and thoroughly enjoyable, role playing game this week called, as the title may suggest, the Shab-al-Hiri Roach. Yes, it's quite the mouthful. With all of the pending "mainstream" gaming I foresee my group's near future (40k, 4e DnD, etc.) it's nice to also play some of the more obscure "independent" games out there as well. I'm not going to say "go to their website and read about it", but I'm also not going to just copy their summary of the game (which is more succinct than I could do), here's the gist:
The setting is Pemberton University in 1919, and the role of the players is that of various faculty and staff of the college. Everyone has their own particular specialty, whether it is as a professor or a janitor. The game takes place around a series of events during the fall semester such as the wine-and-cheese social, homecoming football, and the like. The players verbally, and oft-times, physically duel with one another in order to gain prestige in the college. The one with the most prestige at the end of the game wins.
Now, the kicker. An ancient Sumerian God, in the form of a cockroach, bent on destruction and chaos has invaded the campus with its brood. It possesses people and bends their will to conduct its bidding, all the while hiding away snugly in their nasal cavity. Extreme drunkenness is the only way to thwart it. It is fairly easy to become possessed, but very difficult to be rid of it. While possessed, your powers and abilities in-game are enhanced supernaturally, although you absolutely cannot win the game in the end if you are still acting as host. Character creation is straight-forward and easy, and the use of 'special event' cards help add interesting flair and plot twists. Players take turns narrating their own 'scene' in which their character tries to win over prestige, other players join in the scene by either helping or hindering the process. The focus of the game is creative storytelling and role playing, the rules themselves are extremely light to help facilitate this. I highly recommend this extremely fun game. It's an incredible value at only twenty bucks.
What follows is a transcript (of sorts) compiled by Chris, who ran the game, read on...
Strange activities and tragedy marked Pemberton Universities fall semester this past year, with much of the focus on four professors. Dr. Appleby-Jenkins Baker-Smithfield, Phd. Head of the Poetry department and staff liaison of the drama club (played by Mik) William Patrenus "Stonewall" Jackson, Dr. of Anthropology and Pemberton Panther Cat #1 booster (played by Andy) Watson Stubblefield, Esq.- Director of the Philosophy department.(played by Chris)
The semester began on a grim note, after the mysterious death-suicide of Dr. Jenkins. Before classes began, the school held a Convocation ceremony for the incoming class of 1923. Professor Jackson gave the keynote speech, lamenting the loss of Dr. Jenkins and his important research into Mesopotamian Fauna. Dr. Jackson then showed tablets brought back from the middle east by Dr. Jenkins on his last expedition, suggesting that the hieroglyphics on the tablets showed evidence of early Mesopotamians playing American-style football, and indicated that he planned to write an article connecting early Mesopotamian culture and the popular American pastime. During the speech, he was heckled repeatedly by Dr. Baker-Smithfield, sitting in the front row of the audience. There was also an awkward moment when Dr. Stubblefield, stepping forward to the microphone, suggested that, had he been in ancient Mesopotamian, playing football with Dr. Jackson, he would have "hit you so hard it would have knocked you out, then I would have stood over you, beat you to a pulp, ripped off your head and spat in it." Soon afterward, outside the hall, a conversation sprung up at the Drama Club sign-up booth. Dr. Baker-Smithfield and Regina Sutton (who, it might be noted, never left his side the entire semester), were working the booth. Dr. Jackson, flanked by Quarterback Bantam Whaley, approached and discussed with Dr. Baker-Smithfield the quaintness of his scheduling all the semester plays during football games. Dr. Stubblefield soon arrived, deep in discussion with Professor L. Scott Collins over whether Lenin had corrupted Marx's communist theories. Later, in the entry room of the hall, Dr. Stubblefield openly challenged Dr. Jackson's Mesopotamian Football theory, leading to a debate which included, Dr. Stubblefield, Jackson, Baker-Smithfield, Reverend Talley, Regina Sutton and several others.
At the next event, the Founder's Day Wine and Cheese Social, things changed for the worse. The event started on a sour note, with Dr. Stubblefield becoming heavily intoxicated. Dr. Jackson attempted to remove Dr. Stubblefield from the room, and Dr. Baker-Smithfield successfully distracted the crowd to draw attention away from the inebriated Dr. Stubblefield. Dr. Baker-Smithfield and Regina Sutton entertained the crowd with an impromptu reenactment of Shakespeare's MacBeth, with Dr. Baker-Smithfield using a half-melted broken piece of a ice sculpture and a prop for a skull. Their performance was interrupted with a loud crash, as a large grandfather clock fell over and crushed Professor L. Scott Collins and another person. Dr. Stubblefield, who had drunkingly stumbled back into the hall in search for some more cheese (and was standing right behind the clock when it mysteriously fell over), pushed the clock off of the two professors, but it was too late- both were dead. The party goers had only a moment to morn, however, as Dr. Baker-Smithfield, during the distraction, grabbed, Gordon Bampus, the Chair of the Board of Trustees. Dr. Baker-Smithfield doused the startled Mr. Bampus and a nearby curtain with brandy and lit both on fire with a candelabra. Everyone ran from the room as the building began to burn.
The next event was the Pemberton Follies. Dr. Jackson, flanked by the ever-present Bantam Waley, began the follies on a humorous note, making several biting comments about the drama department and, specifically implying that men who join may be not be heterosexual. Dr. Baker-Smithfield defended his profession, but not successfully. Angered by the professor's words, Dr. Baker-Smithfield decided to try to poison Bantam Waley, but his plan was foiled when Dr. Stubblefield, who was gorging himself on the nearby buffet, attempted to grab the laced drink from Waley. The distraction was enough for the quarterback to move on without consuming the beverage. The Follies ended with Dr. Stubblefield putting on a skit with two other students. The Dr. and the students took the stage in Mesopotamian garb and wearing shoulder pads and helmets. Dr. Stubblefield throw a pass to one of the students, then took a three point stance and began puking up the food he had gorged on earlier.
The final event of the evening was the homecoming football game. Dr. Stubblefield had found Professor Emeritus John Acton Gerard and was trying to convince the retired professor to join him in betting the hell out of Chancellor Furguson. His plans were interrupted by Dr. Jackson, who came out of the football team locker room, walking gingerly but with a big smile on his face, and Dr. Baker-Smithfield, who was entertaining Ms. Sutton under the bleachers. They convinced Gerard that Dr. Stubblefields plans were foolish and should not be undertaken. Dr. Jackson gave a rousing pre-game speech, apologizing for his role in the Founder's Day Social debacle, and revving the crowd into a frenzy by suggesting sexual improprieties among the other time. Dr. Stubblefield planned to light the bleachers on fire, detracting from Dr. Jackson's speech, but has he moved to do so, the crowd in the bleachers rushed the field in celebration and he was knocked to the ground.