The copy of Naked Lunch that I read bore the strapline “The Book That Blew ‘Literature’ Apart”. That was kind of how I felt when I watched the film, although compared to the book the film is relatively linear. It has mind altering substances, telepathy, typewriter fetishism, implied spy-vs-spy wars between unknown agencies, and Julian Sands as a big gay centipede. It also awakened my interest in Howard Shore’s film music, and has coloured my approach to running games forever.
OTE is the Naked Lunch as a game. It’s what happens to Fred Madison at the end of the Lost Highway when you’re not sure if he’s alive, dead or dreaming.
I have the second edition, but the one I wanted was 1e with the two figures standing on the edge of the abyss. They could easily be Edith and Freddie from The Invisibles. The 2e art is much less coherent, although the interior layout is probably better.
Now here’s the confession: I haven’t actually read the book all the way through. It’s been sitting on the shelf as one of my aspirant games that I will run one day, some day. If you want a proper review complete with Burroughs quotes, look here (and another blog post here). But before you go there please read the Plea to Reviewers, quoted from page 6:
Much of the enjoyment in playing OTE comes from not knowing what you are up against. To the extent that the bizarre secrets and plots in the GM’s chapters become common knowledge among games, the players’ ability to enjoy the game will be diminished. Please, for the sake of gamers everywhere, keep these secrets to yourself as much as feasible.
This goes for the rest of you gamers as well.
p>I can tell you as a single volume, it’s great value for money. Tweet’s system is minimalist (a trend he continued with Everway) and the whole player’s chapter comes in under 30 pages. Chapter Two is for players of experienced characters, and covers the island of Al Amarja in another 7 pages. After that it’s all for the GM. You get people, places, the city, power groups, a selection of plots and game hooks. Oh, chapter 9 features some handouts for players (a business directory, a local newspaper – the sort of things you can give them when they arrive on the island).
In fact, there’s so much in the core book that I wonder if I would ever have time to run it all. OTE is a fantastic product. To celebrate its 20th anniversary there’s a deluxe copy coming out that I’m seriously tempted by. Hmm, deja vu.