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We played La Resistance tonight, one of the submissions in the RPGGeek 48h RPG Design Contest, created by J.L. Herbert.

La Resistance is a quick RPG, where players play members of the French resistance during the occupation of France from May 1940, until December 1944. Players play the average citizenry of Paris who have taken to joining a cell of a resistance movement, intended to drive the Nazis out of France. Character creation is handled through a process intended to encourage role play, and the system uses a deck of cards for both task resolution, as well as to add tension to the game.

We scandalously ran out of time this one what with character creation and technical issues, so we only got to play one scene in the end… But we thought it was really interesting and very tense!

The game has several really interesting features. First off, character creation is done in the form of an interrogation by a German official, which can be tense, rapid fire, hostile, friendly, or whatever you want it to be. Very interesting! We had a bit of a hard time defining our conspiratory nature in the creation process. You’re encouraged to use an outgame signal to give out of character information, but the interrogations were pretty immersive! The instant power structure might also have something to do with that: the submissive person clearly isn’t in control of the scene, so is less likely to interrupt it.

That said, we all liked this method of character generation a lot! We loved already being in the game before we had even started. We spent a long time on character creation, so if you’re planning a one-off, it’s indeed best to do it beforehand.

The other reason to do character creation beforehand is that the GM, as the German officer, can tempt or appoint one of the players as a spy or a saboteur. This is why this phase is normally done in private (we simulated it here by my rolling a d6 on my desk and messaging one of the players that they were the spy).

Secret information is getting less ‘well to do’, but in this game it’s really essential. It really captures the paranoia of every party in Vichy France at the time, and the mechanics are fully catered to playing this up.

Skill checks are resolved in Battlestar Galactica or The Resistence fashion. Everyone involved in the action hands a playing card, face-down, out of their pool to the GM. If the card is a spade, it hinders the action and can bring down catastrophe on the group. The result (I think) is not communicated to the players.

Which is very nice. It means the group doesn’t know if their contact turned all friendly because they’ve convinced her, or because she’s just decided to set them up for the Gestapo. All this paranoia quickly became palpable. Personally, I hate hidden traitor board games, but I can’t deny the immersive tension it creates, and that’s perfect for RPGs!

Sadly, we hit the two hour mark after only one scene played. We felt a bit bad for not getting to play it more, because it looks like it’ll be a lot of tense fun! After doing that first scene, it really clicked a lot more for me, and I wanted to keep going, but I did want to round off the video with some feedback to the designer… so it’ll have to wait.

As you can tell, we really liked it. A few recommendations and thoughts, though: (caveat: due to time fellow RPGGeek Andrew Johnson graciously prepared the game and walked us through it while I was set to GM, so it might be that I missed things in the text).

  • The text was clear, but a bit cluttered, and it was hard to quickly look things up
  • The character interrogation wouldn’t lose power by being a little shorter, and would be a little snappier
  • I would have liked to see a few adventure or mission hooks (and a list of possible obstacles) for the GM to quickly get started (as it’s meant as a quick play)
  • The skill resolution mechanic is great, but calculating the suits and numbers does slow the scene down a bit. It would be great if you could see the result in a single look
  • The hidden traitor part of the game will end up being a deduction game in itself. Once the first action is sabotaged, it could lead to players being excluded from future actions (justly or unjustly). What if the traitor is uncovered through deduction? Advice on that part of the game would be helpful. It’s something that normally doesn’t happen in roleplay games, so I wouldn’t know what to do then!

All in all, a succesful playtest. People came to this game very curious, and they left, still curious to see how a full game would turn out. So that seems positive to me!