CAPES

We were one player short for the C&C campaign, and it has become clear that Tom hopes to wrap up the game soon, so we decided to put off the next session of C&C until everyone is there. Instead, we tried out a neat little game called “CAPES”, which probably stands for something. John had a printout of the quickstart rules, a pack of poker chips, some index cards, and a ton of six-sided dice, which apparently is all you need (besides some paper & pencils).

Richard was pretty nonplussed, as he does not care for non-fantasy game settings, and I was skeptical, wondering what kind of RPG has no GM. But we had fun.

The game has no GM, apparently being some kind of “Indi-Forge” type thing (I am way out of the loop on “state of the art” RPGs).

So anyway you make up a character in about 5 minutes by selecting a list of powers, attributes, and attitudes, by selecting two halves of a cards (one side had super powers or other comic-book archetypes like detective, reporter, etc., and the other has personality types like “psychopath” and “charmer”). I was The Amazing Leopold, for example, a hero with teleportation-related powers and the “nice guy” personality. You then cross a few items from the list of powers and attributes and attitudes, and then assign a value of 1-5 to each.

Then things get a little weird. With no GM, players take turns setting each scene (in our case, a hostage situation in a lab). From there players use the things on their character sheet to try to achieve or frustrate goals (either the one that is decided when the scene is set or other goals by players). Game play is very hard to describe, but basically it is not really an RPG, it is a story game, where all players contribute to telling a story. (John told us the creator of the game insists it is an RPG but our consensus that is more of a fun party game than an PG. Maybe you could roleplay in it too but the game does not assume you’ll use the same character from scene to scene or even act in your character’s best interests; the point is solely to “control the narrative.”

Now when I think of superhero games, I think of the ones I played in the 1980s and 1990s: Villains and Vigilantes, Champions, Marvel, GURPS, Underground. Probably V&V was the one I enjoyed the most, although it is pretty hard to go wrong with GURPS and I loved reading Underground.

CAPES is not really the same kind of thing as those. I could easily recreate any of my RPG characters in CAPES but I don’t know if I would be interested in an extended campaign of sessions of CAPES. A certain sameness of action emerges because you are really only able to do things that relate to the stated goals on the table and there is absolutely no level of “simulation” going on at all. The gonzo story lines that emerge from the way players rotate setting scenes is fun and funny but would definitely get a little old.

Still, it was a blast as an alternative to role playing, board gaming, or war gaming, since the rules are easy to learn and after one scene were all pretty clear on the concept and didn’t need to look at the rules at all (it helped that John was coaching us; he is used to explaining math and science to high school kids so his explanation skills are pretty good!)

Admittedly, we did not play the “full” version and probably skipped some rules in the “Lite” version, so there could be more to it than I am giving credit.  An A as a beer & pretzels one-session amusement; not in the running as a continuing game (C-).

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Published in: on September 29, 2010 at 2:42 pm  Leave a Comment  
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