Updated: Jun 13, 2021
Before I start this review, I would just like to say that I received this RPG for free from the creator. This was not done with the intention of soliciting any action from me. However, it fell appropriate to do so since it is my desire to boost indie creators whenever I can. It will not influence the opinions expressed in this review.
The design of this game is by Kalum, one half of the UK-based TTRPG community and podcast hosts The Rolistes. A tongue-in-cheek game based on the philosophy of Marie Kondo and old-school TTRPG tropes, this game seeks to "spark joy" in your group by exploring the emotional attachments we form with things and how we balance that with their utility.
The GonParis Method
Because this game has rather unique mechanics, I will go over the basics of the flow of play. The basic GonParis Method, the game’s description of its play system, takes place over 7 steps. The steps are:
Step 0 - Session Zero
Step 1 - The Dungeon
Step 2 - The Party
Step 3 - The Loot
Step 4 - The Life-Saving Magic of Inventorying
Step 5 - The Journey Home
Step 6 - The Emotional Epilogue
In Session Zero, the GM introduces the safety rules and the players discuss the spirit of the game. The safety rules should be relatively familiar to most who are used to using them, utilizing the X-card system to flag when an undesirable event is occurring to stop play and resolve the discomfort. However, a welcome change is the addition of a “Sparks Joy” card. This allows the players to indicate when they are really enjoying a particular element or event in the game. It is encouraged, but not required, for the players to discuss why this particular moment was so enjoyable to encourage positive feedback for the GM and players involved.
In the next two steps, the characters cooperatively create the dungeon where the loot was found and the party of adventurers the players are representing. Elements of this are free-form based on what the players decided was the spirit of today’s game, but the characters are in part defined by their class. The class is represented by pre-created cards that display basic stats important for the rest of the game.
Once the Party and Dungeon are defined, the players create the items that they found in the dungeon. The players do this by drawing loot cards that have a basic idem description and then roll a d6 four times to determine the item’s:
Encumbrance (how heavy or awkward it is)
Emotion (attachment or sentimental value)
Affiliated Class (doubles the usefulness in later stages)
Once these have been determined, the player fleshes out their loot and explains it to the party what it is and how they found it in the dungeon. The players then determine what they are going to keep, get rid of, or trade with other players.
Once this is done, the players use their loot statistics to create three stats that will determine the party and players success at getting home. An Encumbrance Factor, a Total Usefulness that helps determine a Party Average Usefulness, and Total Emotion. The final steps are defined by three d20 rolls based on these statistics that determine the success or failure of the players escape from the dungeon as well as find lasting satisfaction in the items they brought home with them. Once these have been determined, the players role-play out the results.
My Impressions of the GonParis Method
Kalum says that he was greatly inspired by the design of Tabletalk Roleplaying Games (TRPGs) from Japan when writing this game. The main features I see here from my own experience with TRPGs are the emphasis on one shots, a scripted flow built around making scenes between a limited number of characters (or items), and the full length replay at the beginning of the book.
The Replay I found to be quite useful. Written in a transcript format, it reads quickly and really sounds like a group of geeky friends playing the game. I strongly suspect that it is a slightly edited transcript of a session the creator ran while play-testing. Also, the decision of having it come before the rules in the book was a good choice, as it really helps illustrate the context of the rules. If I was a player, I likely would have skipped it if it had not come first in the book.
As for the mechanics, they are quite simple which makes quick one-shot play easy and quick to set up. Aside from the class and loot cards, the only needs are at least one d6 and d20, note-taking materials, and tokens to use with the X and Sparks Joy cards. Most groups would likely find this style of game a change of pace. However, it may not appeal to players who are in TTRPGs for the math crunching or who have trouble with on-the-spot creativity due to the game’s strong reliance on narrative storytelling and role-play.
I think I might enjoy running through the GonParis method a couple of times, but the formula would likely fail to “spark joy” for me if played repeatedly with the same group because of the limited amount of results that could come from the script and mechanics. I am a world-builder at heart so I prefer continuing sandbox style games over the structured one-shot common in TRPGs like this one. However, this may serve as an interesting way to make a Session Zero in the form of an adventure your party went on prior to the current campaign or create a legend for your campaign world surrounding an artifact, a dungeon, or some past party of adventurers.
One thing that I would likely bring from this game to my table would be the “Sparks Joy” card. It gives us a way of not only sharing in the moment the things that make us uncomfortable, but also the things that we want to encourage in the game. In the era of digital games, a tool that allows the player to rate their current experience like this, maybe even based on a scale or a wheel would be really useful in addition to an X-card and other safety tools. After all, it can be even more difficult for a GM to determine the engagement of their players over the internet, especially in voice-only games. Many of us can have enough trouble determining everyone’s engagement when in person!
Where Can I Find This?
The text-only version of the game is currently available on itch.io, but an art-filled version is currently in the works with layout & graphic design by Francita Soto and art by Bodie Hartley. To stay up to date on that, the creator has a page dedicated to the game on the Rolistes website or you can follow the Paris Gondo Official twitter.