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Blood Feud is an RPG about toxic masculinity’s effects on Viking-era men and communities

Reigning men.

Blood Feud is a physical RPG zine that investigates how toxic masculinity changes men and their communities, exploring themes of power and honor through open roleplay and hosted on Kickstarter as part of Zinequest 3.

“This is a game about people being nasty to each other and about figuring out why,” Blood Feud’s description reads. While set in a pre-Christian Scandinavia and populated with people whose lifestyle differs from modern time, creator Bläckfisk Publishing is clear that the way men treat other hasn’t fundamentally changed over the centuries.

Players embody members of a Viking community and vie constantly to earn honor tokens, a currency that directly represents power and is earned - or taken - by exercising such power. Acting according to common definitions of “manliness” proves a right to retain the tokens, while those who fail to perform will have it stripped from them. These tokens can be hoarded, spent, or used in various ways that largely aid in amassing even more tokens.

Blood Feud does not use a game master, instead relying on all players within the group to adjudicate the rules-light RPG collectively and recognise when a Move - specific behaviours that align with mechanics defined in the zine - comes into effect. Examples of such Moves include commenting on a woman’s appearance, praising or insulting someone and killing someone with a physical attack.

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The narrative otherwise flows collaboratively with the group describing the world and how their characters move through it. In lieu of dice or a deck of cards, the designers provided two tools for changing a scene’s action, either by adding details through addendums or contradicting a desired outcome with an obstacle. In all things, Blood Feud remains a tense conversation on the verge of violence.

“The goal of the game is to explore and experience toxic masculinity, while at the same time creating a thoughtful drama about relationships, competition and social consequences,” Bläckfisk wrote. “With this game we want to make toxic masculinity easier to spot for a wider variety of people in our roleplaying communities—and encourage critical discussions about how men behave, and why.”

Scenes in Blood Feud only continue so long as a player-controlled woman remains to witness the men fighting over their honour. This player will also decide the least manly among their number at the end, codifying the importance of optics in navigating toxic masculinity.

Blood Feud will be printed as a 50-page physical zine, illustrated by Ronja Melin and containing rune carving ornaments by Jonas Lau Markussen. Backers can secure a copy through the official Kickstarter campaign for SEK 175 (£15/$21), which is expected to ship in July of this year.

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