World creation can command a lot of time and attention to get real depth. Most people don’t really account for the minutiae and the ephemera – the little things and words that add colour and substances to a two-dimensional world.
Then again, most GMs simply don’t have the time to worry about that level of detail, and many players might miss it altogether. Few GMs can’t have suffered the experience of characters walking right by their carefully detailed location or running a sword through that non-player character with the six-page back-story without a second thought.
So, it helps when someone else does the work; not only providing the colour, but serving up a reason to engage with it on more than one level. If you have more than one angle of approach, the player characters will have to come across the carefully crafted detail eventually, right?
Purple Duck Storeroom – Arbakampsi is a short PDF supplement written by Perry Fehr for the Pathfinder game system, running to 10 pages in length. This includes two pages of Open Licence legal text and a cover page.
The supplement uses a well-sized typeface in a single column format, making it ideal for viewing on an electronic device – even a moderately-sized smart phone.
At first glance, this would appear to be a supplement for a boardgame. I had a double-take, worried that I’d stumbled into the wrong supplement. Given the small number of pages, was Purple Duck Storeroom – Arbakampsi just going to serve up a in-game game to play down the local tavern?
As it happens – yes and no. Purple Duck Storeroom – Arbakampsi does provide an overview and rule set for a boardgame for two players. Played on a hexagonal board of colourful hexagonal tiles with pieces for two players, The Rules for Arbakampsi take up a single page. Basically, Arbakampsi involves betting and chance, with each player weighing up the risk of a quick win against the prospect of losing their turn. Play too safe and you make little progress and still risk losing your turn.
The game is pretty simple and shouldn’t take long to play if you have the inclination, but that isn’t really the point of the supplement. Before the rules, a section of background explains the basis for the game and the mythology encapsulated in the battle represented therein. The Zendiqi people created the game for entertainment, but also as a lesson in history, a means to settle disagreements, and an avenue for discussion, diplomacy and philosophy.
After the background and rules comes the crunch. The supplement includes Arbakampsi-flavoured feats – the Arbakampsi Expert, Fanatic and Sage, applying the philosophy and approach of the game to real life. It makes for an interesting idea that something ingrained into a culture can affect the actions of those who embrace it.
For the real connoisseur, Arbakampsi Equipment details the business of crafting or purchasing a set, with magical alternatives and accessories for the die-hard enthusiast. I love the Shield of the Game, which incorporates an Arbakampsi set and pieces into the design and structure of a functional wooden shield.
To round off the supplement, the final page – before the Open Licence – shows a picture of an Arbakampsi board layout, which you can then use to recreate one for play purposes.
It never occurred to me before that a boardgame might add something to a roleplaying session, but that the Zendiqi people use the game in their daily life makes perfect sense. You just have to watch the Discovery Channel or read National Geographic to see real world examples of this kind of cultural artefact. Purple Duck Storeroom – Arbakampsi gives you a game, a background and flavourful mechanics to hang off it.
Purple Duck Games has also taken the brave step of making this supplement Pay What You Want. In my experience, this can be a genuine game of risk, just like Arbakampsi. Based on the quality and content of this supplement, I would strongly suggest it warrants a tip in the jar on the way to the cart.