The concept of conventions like Origins and GenCon is not only to see the latest from the big names but to test out games from lesser-known designers. Last month, after Origins Online was canceled, that opportunity appeared lost for many.
Luckily, several designers and publishers continued to host their planned games online. One of these opportunities was to play the new GM-less story-game from the Rolistes Podcast, a first foray into game design.
Although still in its play-testing stages, Paris Gondo – The Life-Saving Magic of Inventorying turned out to be one of the best experiences.
The theme for Paris Gondo is a bit of satire on the classic Fantasy-game trope of finding treasure and carrying it all (or “encumbrance”). The game (obviously) references Marie Kondo’s organizing techniques and the concept that some items “spark joy.”
This RPG begins at the end of the dungeon crawl after the players have defeated the last monster or boss. Now presented with a bevy of unique items and treasures, they must figure out what to take with them given their original equipment and what they can carry.
The problem is the items have varying (random) qualities, from how useful they are (or who they’re helpful for) to what sort of emotions they spur in others. It’s up to the players to try to balance everything, so their character is not burdened while carrying items that are either useful or “spark joy.”
The game does not end once everyone has made their choices as they face further tests on their journey home. Choose items that aren’t useful, or carry too much, and you might not make it back; choose things that don’t fulfill your emotional needs, and you’ll be unsatisfied.
Will you master the life-saving magic of inventorying, and return home a hero while feeling that spark of joy with what you’ve found?
Paris Gondo is primarily a story-based role-playing experience, with dice reserved for random item generation or the final tests.
The players start by choosing their character classes, much like any fantasy game. Each class has a maximum they can carry and brings with them their starting equipment, each with its own usefulness or emotional attachment.
Character creation is solely imaginative – like any story game, you can make up any name, background, appearance, noticeable equipment, etc. The purpose is not to “win” but to role-play a story, and aspects of your character come through improvisation rather than generation.
Similarly, setting up the scene, from the relationships with each other to the type of dungeon traversed, is solidly in the hands of the players. Like many story-based games, this is more of a cooperative storytelling effort than rules in a book.
The dice rolling in Paris Gondo begins when it’s time to determine what items the party has discovered, now that they’ve defeated their foe. Using dice and a chart, each item now has its statistics determined.
Once every treasure has qualities, the players bring their imaginations in, as they describe the item in detail. Another chart provides guidelines into interpreting the numbers, but it’s up to the players to decide what the treasure is, what it does, why it stirs emotions, and its name.
This point is when the role-playing begins in earnest, with players presenting what they’ve found.
After everyone has displayed their items, they can start bantering and bartering. The goal is to create a fun story while doing your best to create an inventory of useful or emotionally meaningful items.
Players aren’t limited to the treasures they’ve found, but may even trade their original items. For example, in our game, in addition to trading treasures, the Fighter’s undergarments were continuously exchanged!
This portion of the game was my favorite, not only because of item creation but also the hilarity and improv. The natures and relationships of the characters come out, allowing everyone time to flex their imagination and gain some spotlight.
After everyone is sure of their inventory, and the party is ready to return home, it’s time to see the consequences of their decisions.
First, the party must try to escape the dungeon, with each player rolling dice and comparing it to the average of the party’s usefulness (based on their items). If more players fail than succeed, the entire party dies, so everyone must pick their inventory carefully!
Second, each player checks to see if they were carrying too much, rolling dice and adding bonuses if they decide to leave more behind than they needed. Failure means you were overburdened and must describe how you died, from falling to attracting the wrong attention.
Finally, those who survived must determine if what they’ve brought home with them has led to a fulfilling and meaningful life. Once more, dice and their items’ ratings are essential because failure means you have regrets and live an empty, unhappy, life void of real joy for the rest of your days.
These stages work as an epilogue of sorts to determine the fates of the characters. Even if your parties (or member) die, or find life unfulfilling in the end, their story is the most critical part of the game.
Paris Gondo was one of my favorite GM-less games I’ve played, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. From creating items to the banter between characters to finales (both sad and beautiful), this RPG sparked a lot of joy.
“Kalum,” the designer of Paris Gondo and host of the Rolistes Podcast, has created an excellent game that pays tribute to the tropes of Marie Kondo and fantasy game inventories. This RPG would be perfect for a group of friends to enjoy a lovely evening without complicated rules or campaigns.
The only downside is that this game, so far, only exists with Kalum, as it’s still in play-test form (with a Kickstarter planned for 2021). Initially meant to be part of the convention circuit, he hosts sessions online; you can see his schedule or sign up for a session through his Facebook, Twitter, or website.
Until Paris Gondo is in published form, from the rules to the cards, we’ll have to make do with Kalum’s playtests. However, if you have time, I highly recommend you sign up for one, as it’s an experience to remember!
ADDENDUM (3/29/01): Paris Gondo is now available for purchase! Although the game is currently available as a “text-only” edition, funds will help in the design and publishing of a full edition. If you buy this edition, you will also receive updated versions (once available) and vouchers toward the purchase of the published edition!
To adapt a quote from one of the game’s inspirations, “Play only those games that speak to your heart.” I want to congratulate Kalum because this game speaks to the creativeness inside players and most definitely “sparks joy.”