I must admit the first thing that drew me to Summerland was the gorgeous cover art.
The game is a post-apocalyptic rpg set after the appearence overnight of a vast forest covering the world. PCs are Drifters, traumatised people who, because of their traumas are able to resist the Call that summons normal humans into the deep woods (never to be seen again) but at the same time prevents them from integrating into human society.
The setting leaves a lot to the imagination, and I personally like that. I rarely use written supplements, but I really like games that present single strong ideas that I don’t have to carefully mine the text for. Yes, there isn’t really any given reason for the sudden apocalypse, and I’m fine with that. The game has a clear objective which is to plunge the players into a vivid world that’s completely believable – and the spirit of the game just leaps off the page, unlike some games I’ve bought.
The game system treats stress and trauma in very interesting ways. But what I mainly want to talk about is dice. The mechanic is for the player to make a case for using Qualities (aka stats) and Tags (aka skills or advantages) to give a Score for a particular task – the higher the better. But then the GM sets the difficulty, and tells the player to roll a number of d6 – the harder the task, the more d6 the player rolls. If they roll under they achieve their Intent, and if they don’t – there are Consequences.
This does two interesting things:
Firstly, it makes the difficulty of a task very tactile. If a player is told to roll 2 dice she knows it’s going to be fairly routine; but if she has to roll four dice, she can feel it’s going to be a slim chance.
Secondly, the dice are both added and individual successes counted. For example characters can invoke their personal Trauma; when they do, if any 1s are rolled they can be applied to the Trauma score.
Summerland is the kind of RPG that will polarise opinion; for me it’s kind of like Everway – a very focused an minimal system with a very open world. That’s my kind of game.