Thursday, January 4, 2018

Welcome To Tribe 8 Thursdays



Anyone who spends any time on my blog, knows that there's a lot of Tribe 8 posts. A good chunk of them are posts from old blogs and websites that I have recovered, cleaned up a bit, and reposted.
But, I realized tonight that there is likely a large chunk of people reading who have no idea what Tribe 8 is and why I love it so much.


No, not that Tribe 8
Tribe 8 was a roleplaying game published by Dream Pod 9 in 1998 (yes, 20 years ago), and was in development for a couple years before that. It was written by a team that included Joshua Mosqueira Asheim and Lucien Soulban, both of whom also wrote for White Wolf and would go on to make their marks in the video game industry. The setting is without a doubt my favorite of all time.It hits multiple sweet spots for me - post apocalyptic, dark fantasy, horror, post modern tribalism. It's kind of like Neil Gaiman and Clive Barker got together to create a world, and they enlisted Lisa Gerrard to do the score. As presented the setting is evocative, gritty, and ethereal all at once.

In contrast to the setting, the Silhouette system was never a perfect fit for the game. It's lightweight enough to largely get out of the way during play, and its gritty nature matches the atmosphere of the setting, but it has simulationist foundations that go back to the early 90s or even earlier. The spiritual elements - namely Conjunctional Synthesis (kind of a dream based magic system) and the River of Dream (basically, a shared dream realm) - stand out in stark contrast to or even outright clash with the simulationist underpinnings of the system. There also was no real support for social or interpersonal conflicts, which are something you'd expect would be really important in a game that so heavily features tribalism and a barter economy. There were plenty of times when dealing with the more ephemeral elements that I just ignored the system entirely and winged it.

Oh, that's just my Tribe 8 collection
Beyond the setting and the system, I think the game suffered from over reliance on in character fiction and supplement bloat (more than 24 books in six years) - followed closely by high prices (a 96 page book was often $25+) and inconsistent quality. Using microfiction to communicate setting information to the degree the game did was novel in the main rulebook, and really helped gel the setting in my mind. But in the long run, with 2,000+ pages of material, the format made it difficult to process and figure out what to implement in game. Furthermore writer and editorial turn over caused the quality to fluctuate, sometimes dramatically. For a line so heavily reliant on narrative and with relatively high price points per book, it started to cause players to hesitate before buying.

Still, a reboot could be successful, especially if it tried to do more with less and ditched the dated Silhouette system for something like Fate, Powered by the Apocalypse or a Blades in the Dark variant. Unfortunately, the game has been kept in limbo by Dream Pod 9 (by far not an unheard of situation in the gaming industry). It's out of print, and the company has rebuffed or made very difficult attempts to both license the game or outright purchase it. From a property standpoint it's somewhat understandable - there likely is a lot of potential for cross media tie ins. It's just frustrating to me that the potential is just sitting there, unused.

As a result, for at least the first Thursday or so of each month I'm going to be either reposting some old content or adding some commentary toward using Tribe 8 with some of the newer systems out there such as Blades in the Dark (I already have a Fate Core adaptation, which you can find in the Downloads section), as well as discussing the post-apocalyptic/dark fantasy genre at large and particulars of what Tribe 8 did (and didn't) do well conceptually.