Can you spare some change? You don't have any? Okay, how about a bite of food? No to that too? How about a role-playing game where you play beggars? Seriously? You think that would be fun? All right, I will give it a try. This is a game that is written by Jeff Himmelman who happens to also do some killer art for this thing. I know what you are thinking, the writer did the art? What is it going to be? Stick figures? Nope, these are full illustrations that are simply amazing. I think I'd have boughten the book on just art. It is put out by Brennan Taylor's imprint, Galileo Games of Mortal Coil and How We Came to Live Here. Brennan also does the editing for the book.
It is an eighty-two page softcover black & white book with art throughout. It has the standard form factor most of the small press books have, 8 x 5.5 inches. There are several full page pictures so the page count of actual text will be less. It does have a table of contents and an index, so the index police will be appeased. Granted with how small the book is, I figure a decent table of contents would be sufficient. It has a character and relationship sheet in the back. It is a quick read and took me less than a day at work to finish it off. I have a hurry-up-and-wait kind of job at the present moment, don't be judging me. Let's not get side tracked, lets get back to the book, it's why you are reading this in the first place. The book retails for around 15 dollars and from what I learned after I purchased, years in the making. How many? I have no idea, but the wait is over.
What is this game about? Beggars. Granted if that was all it was about, it'd be a very boring game. I wouldn't blame anyone for not wanting to look at it. This book is to beggars as Don't Rest Your Head is to insomnia. If you don't know about Don't Rest Your Head, well, check it out, simply amazing premise for a game. Well, back to your regularly scheduled review. You are one of the Lost, a beggar who has literally nothing and since you have nothing, a supernatural force known as the Nothing comes to get you. Stop that right now, it isn't the Never-Ending Story. There isn't a flying doggy-dragon. I digress yet again. The only way to free yourself of this hunter is to work through your issues and figure out your past. You see, since you're a Lost, you don't remember your past.
Character creation is one of the places where this game truly sings. When you make characters after all of the number crunching (there isn't any since there are only two stats: Lucidity and Survival), picking stuff (the GM is encouraged to not let you have much, you're a beggar, duh!), pick your skills (free-form), pick your echo (an interactive object of what you want to guide your character) and burden (what's holding you back); you hand out a sheet of paper with the character's name in the middle along with the character sheet. Each person then takes something on the character sheet, say the skill Negotiation and writes a secret about it. The juicier the better since this will not be known to the player who owns the character at the beginning. The object of other players is to help drive the story to reveal this in play.
The core mechanics revolve around loose change. Yep, that metal stuff that's returned after you give the restaurant fancy paper things. You need some of that and a beggar cup. You wager your character stats which have pennies on them equal to their value at the beginning of the session, by putting them into a cup. Each penny is worth one success. Skills give you a nickel which is worth two successes and your echo is worth a dime which is three successes. Your burdens have a quarter associated with for when you are really desperate. You then have the chance to ask your fellow players if they can spare change. In which case, they can add their own coins to the pot and they can lose these coins just like the acting player. Then shake the cup and slam it down to the table. All right, it might not have said slammed, but who cares, if you gotta go, go with gusto. All heads are successes and it is versus a target number the GM sets for you. This is another game where the GM gets the chance to roll dice or mechanically act in the game. It bothers some people but to me it doesn't matter. Successes you keep the coins and gain some new pennies.
The other cool mechanic is that there is a concept of plot coins. You gain these by introducing cool things into the game or by helping characters with their issues. The reason these are important is that they are how you buy scenes for the game. This allows the players to choose what the next scene is going to be. You start the game with three and will need a lot more to finally get your character the life he always wanted.
This is one of those small type games that I think could have the danger of too much awesome at the table, especially in the right kind of group. This can also be really dark since it covers dark things that drive people to homelessness. There are supernatural elements to it that I didn't cover in great detail as I think you should discover that in play. As I said, the art is amazing, worth the 15 bucks alone. If you are looking to add a nice focused game to your groups list of games, you should check it out.