We played some Trollbabe the other night, and had a tonload of fun. I was kind of expecting it to be a bit turgid, since it’s a highly experimental sort of game, but it moved really quickly and provided as much drama as I could ask for.
Without going into heavy detail, it’s a game in which you play trollbabes — half human, half troll, stuck between two worlds. All PCs are trollbabes, and every trollbabe in the world is a PC. The isolation from both the human and the troll worlds is an important part of the game.
Play is divided into formalized Scenes. At any time, any PC who isn’t in a Scene can show up if there’s no reason why she couldn’t. Scenes contain Conflicts, which are either Social, Combat, or Magic. The player gets to decide if they’ll be resolved with one die roll, two out of three die rolls, or three out of five die rolls; the player also gets to decide what the victory conditions are. (“I win if I convince the bloodthirsty troll to go away.”) Finally, the player gets to narrate failures and the GM narrates successes.
All those elements combine to give a lot of power to the players, and that power means players can really relax and get what they want out of a session. For example, that old RPG cliche about splitting the party goes away when you can pretty much always go where the action is. Another example: it’s not very scary to fail when you get to narrate the exact shape of the failure.
There’s a lot more experimentalism in Trollbabe, mostly oriented towards making it a story-oriented game, but what really interested me were the aspects above. They seemed to be the keys that permit a real sense of dramatic tension in a game in which the players almost completely drive the story.