Beak, Feather and Bone, a map-based and slightly competitive tabletop RPG, recently announced a sizable expansion called Claw Atlas that introduces two fresh player factions to control in 10 new fictional, fantastical cities.
I love map-based tabletop RPGs. Centering roleplay around a fictional place and its surrounding geography immediately lights my brain up like festival decorations. Groups often use prompts from cards, dice or other tools to gradually sketch the topography and buildings of a town, village or metropolis. Beak, Feather and Bone provides its players with an already completed layout, viewed from the top down, and tasks them with carving up influence over its many districts among various factions.
As these community roles outline chunks of the city, they take control of the narrative and describe a significant location within that district - its reputation, appearance and interior give shape to something solid and adds to the broadening tableau of the city proper. As the game progresses, named characters will appear and play out their own stories, influencing events and shifting the balance of power amongst the community roles (the players). How these figures resolve conflict and where that ultimately leaves the inhabitant is the whole point of playing.
Claw Atlas will release a good two years after the initial launch of Beak, Feather and Bone (one of Dicebreaker's best games that requires no GM), injecting some new blood into the game. Two new roles, the Hunters and the Cartographers, add two new variant rules that fundamentally alter how the game is played. Hunters will introduce an end-game phase that sees the winning faction stand off against a monstrous incursion threatening the city. This can serve as a thrilling cliffhanger or easy on-ramp for roleplaying in another system.
The Cartographers, on the other hand, explain rules for creating “collage-style maps”, according to designer Tyler Crumrine. The players won’t need to use one of the included pre-illustrated maps and can instead create their own or start from scratch, tracing the contours of their home as the game progresses forward.
Speaking of Maps, Claw Atlas will ship with 10 additional locations that can be used with the base game and the new community roles. All of them come from illustrator Jonathan Yee, who collaborated with Crumrine on the base game, and will be included as digital files to satisfy online play and home printing needs. Sneak peeks on the crowdfunding page show a pretzel-knotted cityscape that defies Euclidean space, a high fantasy townscape hidden among towering trees and an urban sprawl housed among the bones of a truly colossal horned beast.
Beak, Feather, & Bone: Claw Atlas’ crowdfunding campaign will remain active through June 30th, and backers can secure a digital or physical copy for US$5 (£4) or US$12 (£9.56), respectively. Crumrine currently expects the game to begin shipping in September of this year.