In the shadow of empires, an epic saga of ambition and desire! In an arid badlands, the hill people hunger. Your neighbors have grain, cattle, gold. You have horses and spears, courage and ambition. Together with those you love and hate, you will remake history—or die. With the Hillfolk roleplaying game, you and your group weave an epic, ongoing saga of high-stakes interpersonal conflict that grows richer with every session. Its DramaSystem rules engine, from acclaimed designer Robin D. Laws, takes the basic structure of interpersonal conflict underlying fiction, movies and television and brings it to the world of roleplaying. This simple framework brings your creativity to the fore and keep a surprising, emotionally compelling narrative constantly on the move. As you build your story, you mold and shape the Hillfolk setting to fit its needs. Do you entangle yourself with the seductions of your wealthy cousins to the north? Do you do battle with the fearsome sea people to the west? Or do you conquer the scattered badlands tribes to forge a new empire of your own? Detailed play style notes show you how to make the most of DramaSystem’s new tools. Once you’ve mastered DramaSystem’s nuances, you’ll hunger […]


When I start a new series, I always intend to keep it separate from the last one. Certain factors inevitably continue from one game to the next. At the top of this list appear the habits of individual players in creating and portraying their characters. The way any two players tend to riff off one another tends to act as a constant, too. Players can shift these with effort but the reasons that bring them to the gaming table tend over time to push the game toward the group’s default groove.

I have my habits too and try to consciously avoid some of them. I ration the use of particular themes that I’ve used too much in the past.

Sometimes though the story can have a surprising way of wending back to previously explored territory. A new player joined the Alma Mater Magica DramaSystem game I’m currently running and improvised her way to an area the rest of the crew already knew well. She introduced a dream reality into the setting, along with the sort of dreamscaping that featured in our previous Dreamhounds of Paris campaign.

Other players started to joke about the possibility of a cross-over.

At first I decided that I wouldn’t set about to introduce any elements from the old game in the new. If another player had wanted to, the narrative freedom of DramaSystem would certainly have allowed it. But no one did.

You might interpret this as meaning that they didn’t really want the current series to become a sequel to the last.

But the jokes and references kept coming.

I knew it would get a positive response when it happened, so when the story allowed the opportunity, I succumbed to the crossover urge.

A minor antagonist character turned out to be someone else in disguise. He revealed himself to be an insane dream reflection of a PC from Dreamhounds.

Yes, you guessed it. A simulacrum of Salvador Dalí turned out to be the big bad antagonist of the series’ second season.

Lesson: the fun value of a thing is more important than abstract qualms about the cheapness of the effect. In roleplaying, use what works.

Although Dalí hails from the Dreamlands, so far we’ve kept the rest of the Mythos out of it. So in our hunger for that sweet, sweet crossover buzz, we did show some restraint.

Hillfolk is a game of high-stakes interpersonal conflict by acclaimed designer Robin D. Laws. Using its DramaSystem rules, you and your friends can weave enthralling sagas of Iron Age tribes, Regency socialites, border town drug kingpins, a troubled crime family, posthuman cyberpunks and more. Purchase Hillfolk and its companion Blood in the Snow in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

In my recent piece on the necessity of kicking out incorrigibly disruptive players, I briefly mentioned geek culture’s fear of ostracizing behavior. JS3’s comment on the post has me wanting to consider that in a little more depth.

The idea that geeks don’t separate themselves from fellow members of the sub-culture due to their own experience being shunned in the wider world has achieved truism status. However, as the sub-culture increasingly becomes just plain regular pop culture, it’s one that could use some examination.

I’d argue that the narrative of our collective instinct against ostracism is largely an after-the-fact rationalization of something much simpler and near-universal: the desire to avoid confrontation. Audiences at GM masterclass panels laugh delightedly when I say, “kick ‘em out” because they wish they had the wherewithal to stand up to that toxic, disruptive player in their group. But most of us will put up with a lot before launching into an unpleasant interaction. Not just introverts, either—you have to be kind of toxic yourself to enjoy confrontation.

This of course is what toxic, manipulative people depend on; this natural impulse lets them get away with their hijinks.

That’s one of the big emotional roots of Donald Trump’s otherwise surprising appeal. Lots of us would love to yell “You’re fired!” He’d kick that inveterate rules lawyer out of the group in two seconds flat.

(As GM, that is. As player, he’d be that rules lawyer.)

But just as no halfway empathetic person enjoys the sickly adrenaline rush of a touchy personal interaction, we also don’t like to admit that to ourselves.

That’s not just a geek thing either. Confrontation avoidance rules the day in most social environments, covered up with one justification for inaction or another.

But when we sidestep a messy interaction, we create a narrative around it that makes sense to us, the fable of anti-ostracization. If we didn’t have that explanation we’d find another.

That’s a big part of Hillfolk’s appeal. DramaSystem lets you fantasize about telling people off in exactly the same way that D&D encourages you to vicariously slay monsters. Through its rules structure and the distance afforded by playing fictional characters, it lets the confrontation-averse safely yell, browbeat, protest, issue stark demands and, yes, even storm off, slamming the imaginary door on the way out.

I’m not proposing a Hillfolk series as a cure for emotional reticence. But it sure provides a sweet vacation from it.

Original image by Gage Skidmore, under CC BY-SA 2.0 license.

Hillfolk is a game of high-stakes interpersonal conflict by acclaimed designer Robin D. Laws. Using its DramaSystem rules, you and your friends can weave enthralling sagas of Iron Age tribes, Regency socialites, border town drug kingpins, a troubled crime family, posthuman cyberpunks and more. Purchase Hillfolk and its companion Blood in the Snow in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

The play advice in Hillfolk largely focuses on the GM as the source of external pressure that keeps the player characters at odds with one another, generating new and compelling drama. However, as a DramaSystem player, you may well enjoy the process of tightening the screws on, or delivering comeuppances to, other players’ characters. A crass application of this technique can tip the game into unwanted PvP territory. But a sneakier, more subtle use of your scene-narrating powers can crank up the fun for everyone.

For example, in a recent game of the Alma Mater Magica series I’m currently running, stuffy, pedantic wizard Dr. “Doc” Jacobsen (Paul Jackson) finally took it upon himself to destroy a parasite criminal French elves had installed in colleague Dr. Stephen Kim (Scott Wachter) in order to remotely monitor group activities. The parasite, a centipede named Maurice, had been a staple of the series over many sessions. No one had bothered to do much about him, in part because they probably reckoned that I as GM would somehow stop them, but mostly because Maurice had sparked too many fun scenes to get rid of. Yet now his presence had finally precipitated its long-foreshadowed catastrophe. The time for an exorcism had come. Paul described the scene in which the parasite was removed and Maurice apparently met his end.

Until Chris Hüth, playing reluctant returnee to the world of magic Earl Pudgely, decided that Maurice was still too fun to lose, even if he was no longer clinging to Stephen’s pancreas. So he narrated his next scene to describe a bent and broken but still very much alive Maurice crawling away. That’s the sort of thing a GM would do, but Chris, author of Blood on the Snow’s article on playing DramaSystem to win, saw an opportunity to confront another player with an entertaining turnaround and took it.

When stumped for a scene to call, you too might look to see if you can envision any scenes that will delightfully complicate the lives of other cast members.

As of this writing, Maurice still lives, having inveigled his way into the life of yet another PC, just barely convincing her of his value as a familiar. And because it was Chris who made it happen and not me, it doesn’t feel like the editorial hand of the GM pressing down to keep things moving in a certain direction, or granting script immunity to a treasured GMC.

So when you try this at home, think of it as the Old Centipede Trick.

Le mille-pattes est mort! Vive le mille-pattes!

Image credit: Matt Reinbold, via Creative Commons CC BY-SA 2.0

Hillfolk is a game of high-stakes interpersonal conflict by acclaimed designer Robin D. Laws. Using its DramaSystem rules, you and your friends can weave enthralling sagas of Iron Age tribes, Regency socialites, border town drug kingpins, a troubled crime family, posthuman cyberpunks and more. Purchase Hillfolk and its companion Blood in the Snow in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

Robin Laws’ multi-award-winning Hillfolk is a great game in its own right, but its DramaSystem engine includes a toolkit for describing and dissecting characters that can be used in other games. One of these tools is the concept of dramatic poles.

To quote Robin: Driving any compelling dramatic character in
any story form is an internal contradiction. The character is torn between two opposed dramatic poles. Each pole suggests a choice of identities for the character, each at war with the other. Events in the story pull the character from one pole to the next. Were your character’s story to conclude, her final scenes would once and for all establish one of the identities as the dominant one… In many cases, you can conceive your dramatic poles as your desire, on one hand, and, on the other, the character trait that makes you least likely to attain it.”

In 13th Age, the player characters have relationships with one or more Icons – rulers and other powerful NPCs who shape the world from behind the scenes. As a relationship can be Positive, Negative or Conflicted, a well-designed Icon is always divided on some level. Even the most heroic Icon needs a little hint of darkness; even the vilest villain needs some redeeming quality. In the Dragon Empire setting, for example, the Lich King may be an undead tyrant who wants to conquer the lands of the living and restore his lost empire, but he still thinks of himself as the rightful ruler and has some sense of obligation towards his prospective ‘subjects’. The Priestess may be the mystic champion of all the Gods of Light, a shining vessel for their blazing kindness, but her overwhelming niceness might be hiding a secret agenda.

A well-designed Icon, therefore, is torn between two dramatic poles – usually, one that might draw the player characters to serve or support that Icon, and another that makes the Icon seem suspicious, dangerous or destructive. Evil Icons flip that around, so they’ve got one pole that makes them villainous and ghastly, and another that doesn’t redeem them, but makes them more nuanced and interesting than straight villains.

For the default Icons, I usually go with the pairs of poles below. Your own interpretations may differ, of course – and if you’re creating your own Icons, then you may find these helpful as inspiration.

Archmage: Benevolence versus Hubris – is the Archmage building a utopia, or a house of cards?

13th Age icon symbolsCrusader: Necessity versus Humanity – what does it profit a man to raze Hell to the ground, but still lose his soul?

Diabolist: Power versus Self-Interest – does the Diabolist have the courage of her convictions, or it all just a game?

Dwarf King: Tradition versus Friendship – can the dwarves move past the grudges and debts of their ancestors?

Elf Queen: High versus Wood versus Dark (yep, three poles) – which aspect of Elvendom holds sway?

Emperor: Law versus Truth – can the Emperor save the Empire from the intrigues and double-dealing of his courtiers and governors

Great Gold Wyrm: Heroism versus Sanity – mainly for the Wyrm’s followers, when does divine inspiration become indistinguishable from madness

High Druid: Nature versus Humanity (the concept that of Icon – and its followers – being pulled between elemental forces and humanity shows up a lot in my games).

Lich King: Death versus Obligation – what do the dead owe the living, and vice versa?

Orc Lord: Destruction versus Destiny – is the Orc Lord a disaster, or an opportunity?

Priestess: Divinity versus Humanity – can a mortal embody the gods and remind human?

Prince of Shadows: Anarchy versus Civilisation – what’s beneath the Prince’s mask?

The Three: Hunger versus Intrigue versus Malice (three poles again) – which head of the Three is dominant?

In DramaSystem players both work together as co-authors to build a story, yet also compete as characters in pursuit of their unmet emotional needs. By requiring you to call scenes featuring other characters who don’t necessarily want to give you what you seek, it bends you toward conflict. But if you’re used to a more traditional game in which you all work together to solve an external problem, like the mysteries at the heart of GUMSHOE, your group reflexively pulls together. Albeit with a little bickering as you plan solutions to problems, for spice and contrast. As players we have good reason not to want to get too harsh with each other: that goes against our social instincts.

That’s one of the main reasons why DramaSystem keeps a GM in the mix. When you’re in the GM’s chair, your task will often be to break up the group as it moves toward harmony. YouR primary weapon here are the externally pressuring plot developments found in each Series Pitch under the “Tightening the Screws” header. When the group gets too cozy and too lovey-dovey, pick a shift in their underlying situation that will again pull them apart.

Not coincidentally, this mirrors the flow of ensemble-cast TV shows. You can find the best example of this in the sitcom “Community.” The title tells you what you need to know. Again and again, a new situation shifts the equilibrium of its key setting, Greendale Community College. This pulls members of the core study group apart. Usually one or two of the characters is inspired by the shift to pursue an emotional need that trumps collective harmony. This leads to comic disaster, and the eternal, heartfelt realization that the group matters more than the individual. The group drifts apart, then reasserts itself.

A couple of cast members, chiefly Chang and Dean Pelton, orbit the group without being part of it, often generating or amplifying the conflicts that pull at the threads of group unity.

DramaSystem main casts organically tend to mirror this pattern, with a tightly knit if internally fraught key group, and one or two outliers. Many scenes revolve around efforts to bring the outlier more fully into the fold.

In my own group I’ve noticed that certain players gravitate to the outlier role and others to the harmonizer. This goes far beyond Hillfolk, repeating itself in more traditional procedural games as well. If you spot this in your own play, you might experiment by making a pact with your counterpart to step outside your comfort zone and switch roles next time.

Just as DramaSystem characters are torn between two dramatic poles, we as roleplayers may find ourselves torn between two roles: character and co-author.

Certain games and play styles encourage us to think only of what our PCs would do. Some players who prefer this approach take a semantic leap overboard and declare any game where you do anything other than that as definitionally not an RPG.

(Really they mean it’s not the kind of RPG they like, but hey. Without hyperbole, we would all be thrown into the sun and instantly incinerated by the screams of a million super-demons.)

Focus only on the character as decision-maker can become a challenge if the player is also intensely self-protective. The extreme version of this player requires the GM to petition him for permission to insert the group into a genre situation. “Why would I go down the basement into the old house? My character would just stay home and call the police!”

GUMSHOE players will recognize that as the problem Drives address. They put the onus of engaging with the premise on the players. GUMSHOE assumes engagement and asks you to specify the flavor of it that suits your investigator’s personality.

Most of us move fluidly between character and co-author states without having to think about it. Your character might talk over everyone else if given the chance. As a player you know enough to establish her as relentlessly verbal, then step back and allow your fellow participants equal time to speak. Your character might want to murder that hobo, but as player you rely on the other players, talking in character, to convince you otherwise. That way you get to show a key point about your character, but the plot doesn’t go in a direction you don’t actually want.

An equivalent disjuncture occurs in our experience as audience members for fiction. We may identify with a character and hope that everything works out for them. At the same time, we might see that the goal they’re pursuing will actually lead them to ruin. So we are rooting for them in general but against them on the specific, tactical level. That’s a type of dramatic irony. You can find it everywhere from Washington Square to “Better Call Saul.”

In a recent DramaSystem session, one of the players bumped into this. His character wanted to solve the problem at hand. (Something about a vat of unicorn blood.) However, as co-author he saw that there was still plenty of tension and story development to be had out of this plot device. If the problem got solved too quickly it would disappoint everyone at the table. As he groped for the right scene to call, I suggested that he come up with one that explained why his character would be unable to do what he wanted. He invented an obstacle in his own character’s way, called a scene around it, and the unicorn blood vat was preserved for another day.

That shows how far DramaSystem takes you onto the co-author side of the continuum. Where procedural games are all about problem-solving, Hillfolk may well encourage you to protect, nurture and cosset your characters’ problems.

Hillfolk is a game of high-stakes interpersonal conflict by acclaimed designer Robin D. Laws. Using its DramaSystem rules, you and your friends can weave enthralling sagas of Iron Age tribes, Regency socialites, border town drug kingpins, a troubled crime family, posthuman cyberpunks and more. Purchase Hillfolk and its companion Blood in the Snow in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

The RPG Geek DramaSystem Contest 2015

by Yohann Delalande

I only discovered Hillfolk a year ago. I was fortunate enough to experience a demo game run by Robin D. Laws himself at the Chimériades, a small French convention with a huge gaming-holiday feel. This experience turned into a real eye-opener.

DramaSystem showed me how to play with characters’ agendas and interpersonal relationships. Finally, I had all the tools I had been looking for to run games based on emotional conflicts. ds2

Then, last February, the stars went right when the announcement of the Bundle of Holding on Hillfolk coincided with a discussion I was having with some fellow members of the RPG Geek community about writing series pitches – Robin’s name for settings you can play with DramaSystem. This is when the idea of a contest suddenly popped up in my mind.

I had already run other contests on this site, so I asked for permission to the community’s administrators and to Pelgrane Press, who both replied positively and were willing to sponsor it. In less than 24 hours, the RPG Geek DramaSystem Contest 2015 was born and launched.

One of the assets of RPG Geek, beyond its huge database of games and designers, remains its international community who constantly strives to uphold some high standards of diversity and inclusion. Everybody is welcome there, whatever their tastes in gaming are. This meant it was the perfect place to hold such a contest.

With such a positive spirit, all the participants were committed to offering their most innovative pitch, but also to supporting each other’s efforts. And although I expected to be positively surprised, we all ended up being absolutely astonished by the fantastic quality of the 22 submissions.

ds1However, as in every contest, there have to be some winners, and despite a fierce competition, three stood out:

  • Our 1st place winner, The Unchosen Ones, co-written by Heather Silsbee and Jon Cole, revolves around the faith crisis a doomsday, ecoreligious cult faces when the apocalypse prophesied by their guru does not match their expectations at all.
  • Our 2nd place winner, Eagle’s Twilight, written by Charles Picard, brings us back to 5th century AD Britain near the Hadrian Wall when Rome withdraws all its troops, leaving the Britons without any Imperial rule or defence.
  • Our 3rd place winner, Game On, written by Wendy Gorman, throws us into the mid-40s US with the creation of the All American Girls Professional Baseball League, and offers us to explore the difficulties and the social challenges professional sportswomen faced at that time

Obviously, our 22 Series Pitches will offer you a wide panel of diverse gaming experience to discover and play. All of them are hosted in the RPG Geek database and in the Hillfolk resources page – you can see the full list here – and they can all be downloaded for free.

Finally, there is no better emotional reward for a game designer than knowing that their creations are being played. This is why I would strongly encourage you to play them all and to share your experience with us on social media.

My booth pitch for Hillfolk describes its rules engine, DramaSystem, as emulating the structure of serialized cable TV shows. So let’s take an example heavily watched in geekland, “Game of Thrones.” Here’s a scene breakdown of the first episode of the fifth season with an eye toward identifying the petitioner and the granter and seeing who earns the drama token at the end. “Game of Thrones” presents so many featured characters that it would need an unworkably huge player group. Leaving that aside, I’ve treated only obvious foil characters, who exist only to highlight the main protagonists, as GM characters. I’m also leaving out scene snippets that in the game would be narrative bits at the head of a scene, or show us what would otherwise be revealed in dialogue. Unsurprisingly, the scene calling order doesn’t match the rotation you’d see in a game either.

You’ll want to watch the episode before reading.

And yes, I had to look up half the character names to do this.

In a flashback to childhood, Cersei seeks to establish her power over a witchy oracle, who denies her with an ominous prophecy. Cersei ‘s petition is denied, so her player gets the drama token.

An attendant petitions present-day Cersei to be considerate of the nobles gathered at Tywin’s funeral. She imperiously shuts him down, giving the GM a drama token.

Jaime petitions her to be more cognizant of politics and less worried for vengeanc towards Tyrion. She shuts him down hard, and he gets the drama token. (With her father dead, Cersei now has an easy shot reclaiming her spot as the show’s most prolific refuser of petitions.)

Safely on another continent, Varys petitions Tyrion to get himself together. He’s more interested in staying drunk so Varys gains the drama token.

Daenerys’ courtiers petition her for caution regarding the slaveowner’s resistance movement. She favors boldness and the GM gets the drama token.

Missandei (Daenerys’ translator) seeks a hint of intimacy from the Unsullied leader Grey Worm; he remains stoic and gives the GM, playing her, another drama token.

Meanwhile, back in the snowy bit, Gilly petitions Samwell for assurance that they will be safe; he tries but fails to assure her so she gets the drama token.

Melisande tries to establish her power over Jon Snow by weirdly coming on to him; her enigmatic smile at scene’s end suggests that she got what she wanted, so he gets the token.

Stannis asks John Snow to talk to Mance Rayder; he agrees and gets the token.

Brienne wants to dump her self-pity on self-appointed squire Podrick. He takes it, giving her what she wants and gaining a token to the GM, who has to be playing this classic sounding board character. character.

Sansa seeks information from Littlefinger and kind of gets it, so he earns the token.

Lancel, one of Cersei’s former minor paramours now turned penitent, asks for Circe’s forgiveness. She’s not interested so GM gets the token.

Loras Tyrell’s new boyfriend seeks for intimacy from him and gets it, so Loras gets the token.

Margaery Tyrell petitions Loras, her brother, to be cautious about his love affairs. Apparently unaware that characters who lead with their hearts don’t last long on this show, he’s not having it and his player hands hers the token he just earned in the previous scene.

Varys tries again with Tyrion and this time gets him to very reluctantly concede his interest in staying in the titular game. So the drama token goes to Tyrion.

We cut back to Daenerys’ court, where the rep for the rebelling former masters asks for a concession in exchange for peace. She denies it, giving the GM a token.

Later, in bed, Daario counsels her to reverse her decision on that, and also to regain her mantle as Mother of Dragons. Although we don’t see it here, in the next scene we realize that she has agreed to try and so she gets the token.

She then petitions the dragons for reconciliation and they breathe fire at her, transferring a drama token from the GM to her.

Jon Snow begs Rayder to bend the knee before Stannis but he refuses, so the token goes to Snow.

Finally, when Rayder is burned at the stake, Jon Snow answers his wordless petition for a more merciful death by shooting an arrow into his heart, earning the final drama token of the episode.

As you might expect in a game with twenty or so player characters, some of whom only get to call one scene per session, the GM playing all of their foils enjoys an advantage on the drama token front. She winds up with 5 of them.

Running a close second is Jon Snow, with 4.

Hillfolk_Cover_reducedRedditors dig Hillfolk. Here’s what some say,

cucumberkappa says,

“I played a “season” and it was one of the most fun campaigns I ever had… I really felt like a cast member-and-writer of a drama series as I played.”

“The finale was absolutely amazing. People held back all season and the finale became a madhouse of one-upping each other, dropping their saved up chips to take control of the big scene and turn it to their character’s advantage. But the whole appeal of it is – if you win now, you’ll pay for it later. And if you lose now, you have the power later to upturn the applecarts of the others.”

“I really recommend it for anyone who enjoys story gaming and the idea of a real drama series with mic-drop action.”

SpanishNinjitsu says,

“I’ve run several games of Hillfolk (well, DramaSystem) and it has easily become one of my all time favourite games. In my opinion it’s everything it promises to be and then some, it’s the most fun I’ve personally ever had behind the DM screen.”

“Hillfolk is goddamn great.”


“It’s awesome. I love how it’s so intuitive. I feel that it’s pretty well already become the go-to game when there’s not some other sort of crunch that I want out of the game. I was impressed at how we had a group of moderately different levels of playstyle and experience, but there wasn’t much trouble with everyone getting it and getting into it. It’s a very smooth startup that way.”

“DramaSystem is more a way of thinking about games rather than strictly just a game in and of itself. I like how it gets people to focus on when things become interesting in a game because there’s conflict, because you can sweep as much material as is necessary between scenes. There’s some surprisingly interesting metagame around the procedural system.”


Like most designers, when I get a stray idea for a game mechanic I try to exercise the discipline to make a note of it.

Here’s where I can’t speak for other designers: I almost never use them, because they are misconceived by dint of their very nature as stray ideas.

Mechanics for their own sake don’t serve the games we try to fit them into. The standalone rules idea is invariably aesthetically pleasing in the abstract. And that’s not rules should be. They should solve a problem arising from your design goals, not sit there looking all pretty and innovative.

For example, I’m glad I saved the following note, and even gladder that I didn’t build it into DramaSystem:

Grid you fill out to keep track of identically framed scenes –- repetition alters odds of success, as you can’t have the same outcome more than twice (and then only when you haven’t advanced the conflict in any other way.)

The idea of a grid you have to fill out seems momentarily engaging. It gives players a concrete way of interacting with the rules. You can imagine yourself behind a booth at Gen Con opening up a book and showing it to a someone you’re pitching the game to.

Yet in practice it would pose a distraction from the organic creation flow DramaSystem aims to facilitate. The occasional transfer of a drama token, and the even more occasional play with procedural tokens and cards, provides more than enough ritual gaminess.

It is worse than distracting, in that it sets out to solve a hypothetical problem that in practice never occurs in DramaSystem. Once it gets moving, the story moves so quickly that you’re not tempted to revisit an exchange that has already been resolved. Players searching for a scene to call naturally reject this option, without needing a rule at all, much less one that has them filling in a freaking grid.

No matter how beautifully graphic designer Christian Knutsson would have made that grid look.

Lesson: jot down those free-floating rules ideas for what they might teach you about design. But don’t wedge them into your designs, inflicting them on unsuspecting players.

As Gridlock the Stray Rules Idea, pictured at right in full tentacled glory, might say, “If I’m aesthetically pleasing in my own right, I’m too complicated!”

Hillfolk is a game of high-stakes interpersonal conflict by acclaimed designer Robin D. Laws. Using its DramaSystem rules, you and your friends can weave enthralling sagas of Iron Age tribes, Regency socialites, border town drug kingpins, a troubled crime family, posthuman cyberpunks and more. Purchase Hillfolk and its companion Blood in the Snow in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

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