2011 has been an ugly, trying year. Globally, we’ve lurched from crisis to calamity to tragedy. There are too many to list, but the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the shootings in Norway, and the London riots stand out for me. Personally, it’s been a year of grief and stress, beginning with Grimalkin’s death and continuing with a heavy work load, insecurity about how long I’ll have a job, and a new chronic condition to manage. To be fair, there have been bright spots, and they’ve been refreshing rain showers in an otherwise parched year. But overall, I’ve been tempted to give up on 2011–just soldier through the remaining months as best I can, then take a shovel to New Year’s Eve and bury the bastard deep.
And then I thought, no. Let’s not give up on 2011; let’s cram as much awesome as possible into the last three months and try to rescue this thing! Do you remember the ‘1968’ episode of From the Earth to the Moon, where they focus on all the political and social turmoil of the year, the assassinations, the riots, and then Apollo 8 goes up and transmits the first-ever picture of Earthrise? And NASA gets a telegram from a woman that just says, “You saved 1968.” That’s what I want to do, on a personal scale. I want something so wonderful and thrilling that it balances out all the misery and gives us something to really celebrate in 2011. Let’s make a dream come true. This dream:
Yes, it’s a game–board, tokens, dice. And it’s a work of art, and a labor of love, and one man’s most cherished dream. I have known the designer, Corvus Elrod, for twenty years, and have gamed with him off and on for most of that span. He’s been working up to Bhaloidam that whole time, taking the ore of his gaming knowledge and refining it, burning off the unnecessary elements and extracting pure, shining metal. This he wrought into a light, elegant system for gaming–a set of elements that combine into character attributes, an expression of a character’s ability to impact the world and vice versa, and a mechanism for determining outcomes. Simple, really–just the tools for designing characters, taking their measure in the world, and counting their successes and failures.
There aren’t character classes, because you can play whatever character your story requires–in my own forays in Bhaloidam, I’ve been a little girl and a grandma; I’ve been human, snake-demon, and space lizard. Once, I was a post-Rapture religious zealot and assassin in 17th-century Japan, although she didn’t last long. (Bad dice.) There aren’t books of spells or classes of weapons or iron rations, although you can have those things, if they work for your story. What Corvus has done with Bhaloidam is not to design a world for you to go adventuring in; he’s given you the keys to the world-building machine. He’s not interested in having people run through a story he’s plotted; he wants to help them plot their own stories. Everyone at the table is an author in Bhaloidam; everyone works together to tell the best story possible. If you’ve played a lot of RPGs, it will be an adjustment for you to go from the adversarial GM-vs.-players model to the cooperative storytelling of Bhaloidam, and it’s a thrill, let me tell you. Once you catch on that you can do anything you can imagine, that you’re not picking from a list of actions, your imagination catches fire, and great things happen.
Gamers, authors, actors–Bhaloidam offers you valuable tools for your trades. But you don’t have to want to play Bhaloidam to back the project. You just have to want something awesome in the world, something designed to elicit cooperation, imagination, and fun. You just have to want to redress the horrible imbalance of the year, by turning a huge dream into reality. You just have to want to spread some happiness in a very deserving quarter.
Let’s do it. Let’s save 2011.