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[Obscure Games] Over the Edge

Over the Edge (game)

Over the Edge (game) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For Christmas my girlfriend gave me an Amazon giftcard. She only figured that out the day before Christmas, which makes this the first time in four years when I had her present earlier than she had mine. Now such a giftcard is a nice idea, normally, it just met two roadbumps: it was a giftcard for the American Amazon (which meant that the postage would cost A LOT of the amount from the card), and of course the fact that many things I wanted would not be delivered to me.

I live in Poland, and even if Amazon shops claim they deliver to Poland (which they do, because I checked it multiple times) I always got the message that one or another item could not be delivered to me because of my location. As my current wants were mostly concerned with roleplaying games, and there mostly with the OSR, this was a bit annoying. (Specifically I wanted to have a copy of the Fiend Folio, but it just did not seem possible to get it from any shop that delivered here).
In the end I went with some classics: Call of Cthulhu and Over the Edge.
Now, I have the rulebook for the first one in Germany. The only problem with it being: it’s in German. And while most of my players at least know some German we still are playing in English.
The second one is another interesting case. I once had a copy of that game. I know the game. I have been looking for that game for years, and then I finally got it after years, looked a bit into it and proposed it to some people. But all the players I had back then said: thanks, but no thanks.
So it went back on the shelf. And then disappeared.

No, I don’t know how. The same thing happened to a few other RPG books in my collection that I distinctively remember having, the other one of note being a book with CoC one-shots I was desperately looking for at one point. They just remain gone.
Hmm… an Over the Edge rulebook that just disappears? How fitting…
Over the Edge is a game with an interesting history. It came out of a project between game designers Mark Rein*Hagen and Jonathan Tweet. Both had worked on Ars Magica before, now they were working on another project. Mark’s variation of the project was what later became Vampire: The Masquerade, while Tweet’s became Over the Edge.

While not really that similar both use a dice pool mechanic, and both deal a lot with conspiracies and dark secrets.
Now I guess it won’t be necessary to write about Vampire: The Masquerade, anyone involved in roleplying has heard about that game before (my opinion of it just for completeness sake: neat mechanics and nice background, smothered to death by metaplot). Not so about Over the Edge. While it had some modicum of success, with an host of scenarios and supplements, and even a second edition, it never really went mainstream. Nowadays it’s mostly known as a good example/inspiration for indie rpgs.

So, what was so special about it?

2 things: the rules and the setting. Both made the game a bit of an acquired taste.

1. The Rules

The Over the Edge rules are so lightweight it is hard to go more light without playing freeform rpgs. Nevertheless they are functional and easy to grasp. Characters are defined by a variety of traits and flaws which one is encouraged to chose specifically for the character. And in game one can role on these attributes.  It’s fast, it’s easy, it’s a nightmare for every simulationist.

2. The setting

Al Amarja, the island that is the setting of the game, is heavily inspired by the Interzone in Burroughs novels. Actually Burroughs always comes up as an inspiration. As do David Lynch, Franz Kafka, a lot of other literature and movies in the same vein: Al Amarja is a hotbed of spionage, mystical activities, mad science, and political activism. And did I mention conspiracies? There are conspiracies. Lots and lots of conspiracies. Even the existance of the island has largely been hidden by that, the island being just south of Sicily (and with that rather close to the real life Interzone…).

Frankly it was the setting which attracted me to the system. It sounded like so much fun. Of course there is a problem with that on might find out when trying to run a game there: do you know how much stuff changed the last twenty years? One has to think very deeply about how these changes affected the setting before being able to run proper adventures there. Oh, I could tell the players: you cannot investigate on the internet, but how much sense would that make? Especially to people who use Wikipedia as a second brain.

There is another problem in that vein as well: the game was written from an American perspective, and it shows. So we have the assumption that everybody wants to have guns. Or that the university has greek fraternities. And a lot of other small but significant things. This of course is designed that way for a reason: Tweet was writing the game for Americans. It jst makes it rather grating for Europeans. Still, not too bad. Most of the stuff can be justified somehow.

Of course I read someone’s comment on a forum once who said he had made up Wikipedia pages for the island and the most important features there that were so good his players started to assume it actually was a real place they were going to. That actually sounds like awesome props for such a game. I think I will plan a one-shot in the game and not tell my players what sort of game it will be.


2 responses to “[Obscure Games] Over the Edge

  1. Pingback: Half-assing the dungeon (Under the City State Part II) « Stuffed Crocodile

  2. Charles Fewlass November 13, 2014 at 10:02 pm

    I picked up the game and several supplements via Bundle of Holding. Now I find myself needing to run a game for the group I’m in, in a couple of weeks, so I’ve decided to give Over the Edge a go. I too am loving the setting as I read it, and feel that the group could have a lot of fun with it.

    I too am wondering about the complications that could ensue from the advent of the Internet since the game came out over twenty years ago.

    * Perhaps the Al Amarjan monitors all communication just like the U.S. does with the NSA. If anything too against their interest happens, they could interfere in a variety of ways.
    * All communication utilities on Al Amarja are controlled to some extent or another by the government. Cell phones, internet access, etc.
    * Most of the conspiracies are indeed secret. So word is not out on the net yet. Or if so, it is to be found in obscure corners, and the information is limited or even wrong.
    * This brings up a good point. Any information that the players find using the Internet could be misleading. It can be partially right, limited, tampered with, etc.
    * There could be entities actively vandalizing Al Amarjan entries on the Internet, spreading propaganda, or otherwise suppressing information that they view harmful to their own interests.
    * There could also be viruses on the servers and zombie client computers, actively vandalizing Al Amarjan entries.

    Just some thoughts.


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