If you’re a millennial of a certain age, you might still remember the fold-out paper maps common in the glove boxes of family road trip vehicles and wire stands at every rest stop and gas station. Upcoming tabletop RPG Border Riding uses this unique artefact as the medium for telling collaborative stories about Scottish border disputes and community rifts.
Border Riding is the creation of Jo Reid in coordination with Scotland-based tabletop publisher Stout Stoat (One Breath Left, Apawthecaria) and draws heavily on the tradition of Common Riding festivals throughout the country’s Borders. Players will take on the role of community leaders as they deliberate (or argue) over their region’s borders and how to handle the threats facing the folks they represent.
Perhaps the largest task set before the players - you’ll need at least three - is drawing a map that accurately represents the whole community, which is more difficult than it might first appear. Generations of disputes, bad blood and commingling means nearly everyone will grouse about who owns the pond on the leeward side of that hill or why a tiny cattle grazing field is the source of decades of inter-family violence.
The team behind Border Riding draws upon other well-known GM-less, map-drawing RPGs, such as Avery Alder’s The Quiet Year and Everest Pipkin’s The Ground Itself. Both of these titles use maps and their inherent inaccuracy (but deep representational power) as a source of drama and conflict within a group of people.
“Border Riding is intended to explore how arbitrary borders can create real long-lasting divisions between communities, and how petty village rivalries can turn into full blown conflicts,” the crowdfunding page reads. “[Common Riding festivals] are a tradition founded in war, where communities had to reassert their borders from land-stealing lords and encroaching armies. They've evolved over centuries into small town pageantry, central to each village's unique identity.”
How does this look on the table? Border Riding takes place across a handful of different phases, from electing one player to lead that generation’s collaboration, addressing the community’s most dire needs, enacting long standing rituals, drawing a map that denotes who still belongs inside the region’s borders and watching time pass as their decisions bear fruit, either bitter with regret or filled with delicious success. Or, more likely a melange of bittersweet ambivalence.
I have a tender spot for map-drawing games, and the use of a fold-out travel map to house all of the rules, source text, reference materials and a gorgeous gridding map of some unnamed chunk of Scotland is, frankly, inspired. Border Riding sounds like a game that has thoughtfully approached its thematic goals at every level - abstract rules, practical play and physical representation.
The Kickstarter campaign for Border Riding will be live through July 21st in order to crowdfund both printed maps and a plaintext version that will work with electronic readers and other accessibility devices. Digital fulfilment will begin in September, while all physical rewards are currently planned to be underway by November of this year.