I’ve been thinking about Skulldred a bit lately. One of the interesting things about it is that the setting is divorced from any particular fantasy setting. All games have abstractions in the form of rules, but most have a setting that is essentially a work of fiction. With all works of fiction come certain conceits unique to that work. In the case of speculative fictions the conceits are obvious and hard to swallow. In order to get into Harry Potter for example you have to accept the conceit that there’s a secret wizard world full of people with spectacularly British names, among many others.
Skulldred has an abstract setting, as well as abstractions in the form of rules. I guess this is because the players have to be able to use any models that they like. The game is written with some broad fantasy conceits – for example there’s magic – but that’s about it. Other than that you are expected to just wave away the fact that your mushroom man and troll alliance is fighting a bunch of samurai rabbits. For the purposes of the game it doesn’t matter how or why they got there, or even where “there” is. Another game like this is Rick Priestley’s Fantacide.
I like it. It’s sort of like the way many ancient wargames work, such as De Bellis Antiquitatis. The players all know what a Frank is, and they all know what a Persian Immortal is, and so they just choose to ignore the potential crippling anachronism of those warriors facing one another in order to play a fun game.
It’s the same with Skulldred. I suppose it can only work because we know what “fantasy” broadly is, but the amazing thing is that just about anything is then up for grabs, because that’s part of what “fantasy” means.
I think it’s very interesting. Does it mean that the game is inherently story-telling? It certainly encourages it. It could be a lot of fun to invent a history for the mushroom-troll and samurai rabbit wars.
All the best,