TTRP Corner takes a look at a new horror science-fiction game! Come check Petitioners of Zed and explore the far reaches of the universe. Hopefully, you will find exactly what you need.
VERY BRIEF OVERVIEW
Petitioners of Zed is a new tabletop game created by Vincent LaBate in the universe of The Old Bones. Player characters make a character based on a species, a background, and several personal questions that round out the character. The system requires a game master and a handful of ten-sided dice as you begin to explore this small scary corner of the universe. You complete your actions by rolling one or more ten-sided dice to determine the result. The game’s main conflict is to survive Haunts. A Haunt is an area for players to explore that will terrify and scare you. As you go through the narrative, you gain a point of Progress and when you hit 7 points of Progress, the game can enter its final stage and you find The Witch of Zed.
As I was reading through this 23-page PDF, it feels that the system really brings us back to RPG-roots of exploration. And Zed is a terrifying world to explore! While I was combing through the pages, I appreciated the emphasis on creating a real character as opposed to a caricature. While we get some of the basic TTRP stuff of a species, background, and a handful of skills; I am happy that they ask you to establish a “need”. Why do you want to accomplish this task? Money? Love? Self-Discovery? These sort of questions force you to become invested in the characters. For me, this is the most important aspect of character creation. While there is uniqueness in the ten different species you can choose from, aliens tend to detach you from reality. The Need forces you back into the character as something relatable.
I would classify this game into a rules-light system with a more narrative focus. The mechanics are easy to pick up and are engaging but they lack the complexity you would expect from some of the more popular TTRPGs. Which is a good thing for the tone of this game. If you spend too much time bogged down in rules, then you lose some of the tension in the game. The Game Master is supposed to give you a sense of dread as you explore the Haunts. I think there is huge pressure for the GM to create moments of tension and must use the characters’ needs to create hard choices. However, this makes the game harder to pick up for strangers. Adopt this game for your home group as I think this one will be hard to bring out during conventions.
This is a solid game but I think it will be difficult for a new Game Master to run. The suggestions that the pdf gives you are only a baseline suggestion and I think you will need to add a lot of descriptors to make the game engaging for players. Additionally, I don’t know if the game has much replayability. Once you go through the campaign, I wonder if there will be much interest in exploring Zed a second time. Luckily, the mechanics can easily be ported over to a new world if the Game Master wants to create a new setting.
As a last thing, the PDF mentions using a safety toolkit. I am a strong supporter of this as the game encourages you to explore the uncomfortable. However that is a thin line between uncomfortable and traumatizing, and the safety toolkit helps you not to overstep it. All in all, this is a well thought out game and I think you can spend a few sessions exploring this horrific setting. Perhaps I’ll even get my home group to explore the world of Zed.