Cast Away Puts The Survival In Survival Horror

Fun for a short campaign of folks interested in survival gaming.

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Survival is one of the big themes in Mork Borg style games. It’s the end of your world as you know it, whether your world is one of fantasy, cyberpunk or even pulp duck adventure. Cast Away, from designer Matthew Chiamis, applies the Mork Borg aesthetic to a classic survival scenario. It’s also one of the first Borg family books that puts the emphasis on survival (though there’s still plenty of horror). The designer sent along a digital copy for review. Is this book worth a three hour tour? Let’s play to find out.

Cast Away sets players in a classic survival situation. They are part of a shipwreck and wash ashore on a desert island. They have to do all the things one might expect in this situation such as find food, build shelters, make fires and put together a plan to get off the island. That means doing battle with dehydration, heat exhaustion, food poisoning and other basic survival issues. There are several conditions to worry about on top of the issue of fatigue. Taking action to survive is exhausting and the fatigue stats acts a little like the morale stat in Mork Borg. You test against it as it slowly increases until the character gets a full night’s sleep. Players have to find a tricky balance between taking action to survive, resting to remove penalties and figuring out how they are going to get off the damn island.

This being a fantasy RPG there’s more to the island that meets the eye with strange creatures, hidden temples and other issues beyond survival. The implication is that the setting is somewhat equivalent to the age of sail based on the equipment that players can begin with such as flintlock pistols and cutlasses. Exploring the island can mean magical artifacts and resources that can be used to make life easier but it also means coming face to face with beasts like the hermit crab the size of a shipwreck or the blank masked cultists looking for victims for their volcano god. Hiding out at the camp isn’t the best idea either; one of the conditions is cabin fever and the best way to cure it and regain the lost Presence points is by heading out into the jungle. If the authors wanted to keep the naming conventions of other titles, Lost Borg might have been a good fit. Fans of that mystery show could probably do a pretty good version of it with these games by updating some of the starting equipment and locations.

On its own, Cast Away seems like it would be fun for a short campaign of folks interested in survival gaming. I never thought I would have been charmed by a book that dug down into different difficulties for lighting a fire with a tinderbox, flints and rubbing sticks together. The key is that the mechanics still adhere to the light touch of the Borg family. Tracking multiple conditions seems fairly easy since each tops out at four levels to track. The book could use a touch better organization but it's small enough that finding things doesn;t get too complicated.

It also seems like an excellent resource to lift mechanics for other games in the family as well. Pirate Borg is the most obvious choice given the nautical themes. I could even see the game shift from high sea adventure to survival on an island after the player’s ship gets wrecked in a naval battle or an unnatural storm. There are more traditional elements to steal like the monsters, locations and treasures too. But I can also see these rules being used for something like Death In Space for players trapped on a space station over a dying planet.

Cast Away digs into the survival aspect of survival horror with some interesting options. If Mork Borg games are about choosing how your character dies in an apocalypse, some players might opt for hardscrabble survival to the bitter end rather than sliding down the gullet of an impossible monster.
 

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Rob Wieland

Rob Wieland

I've always wanted to run a "Survivor" style game in that the PCs who survives get a cash prize. Really put some motivation into risking it all for some treasure and backstabbing your party for profit.

Build a dungeon have a gp to real world cash equivalent scatter some small treasures and a huge one at the end. Set 12 strangers lose and see what happens. No One PC is strong enough to brave it him self, but also as resource dwindle thing get dramatic.

The hard part is DM is objective and imagine the rules lawyer ing when $5k is on the line.

I don't watch actual play, but I could enjoy a more cutthroat less scripted game show style experience.
 

GMMichael

Guide of Modos
I've always wanted to run a "Survivor" style game in that the PCs who survives get a cash prize. Really put some motivation into risking it all for some treasure and backstabbing your party for profit.

Build a dungeon have a gp to real world cash equivalent scatter some small treasures and a huge one at the end. Set 12 strangers lose and see what happens. No One PC is strong enough to brave it him self, but also as resource dwindle thing get dramatic.

The hard part is DM is objective and imagine the rules lawyer ing when $5k is on the line.
I'd think the hard part would be keeping players entertained after their characters get voted off the island. I wouldn't mind controlling some of the island creatures, or maybe play through "cut scenes" as an evil cultist. Also, keep the prize money low and the players won't actually plot to kill each other (or lawyer the rules).

Cast Away reminds me of the CRPG Salt and Sanctuary. And makes me want to brush up on the Mork Borg rules.
 

Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
I've always wanted to run a "Survivor" style game in that the PCs who survives get a cash prize. Really put some motivation into risking it all for some treasure and backstabbing your party for profit.

Build a dungeon have a gp to real world cash equivalent scatter some small treasures and a huge one at the end. Set 12 strangers lose and see what happens. No One PC is strong enough to brave it him self, but also as resource dwindle thing get dramatic.

The hard part is DM is objective and imagine the rules lawyer ing when $5k is on the line.

I don't watch actual play, but I could enjoy a more cutthroat less scripted game show style experience.
You're basically describing Deathmatch Island, which will be out next year. I think it's possible to do a late backer thing on Backerkit right now.
 
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Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
I bought this to use with Pirate Borg. The campaign is very Lost (the spooky masked guys are even called The Others). The way to "win" the campaign and escape the Island (another Lost-ism -- the island is "The Island") is to explore each of the weird areas on the Island and recover the magic items from there, which are then used in the final puzzle dungeon enabling an exit to ... somewhere. And somewhen.

So, as is, the campaign doesn't fit exactly into Pirate Borg, but it'd be easy to skip the campaign play and use the rest of it. The shipwreck hermit crab is great, as are other of the creepy critters on the Island. And the survival rules could definitely add heft to a Pirate Borg game. One of the longest sections of the Pirate Borg adventure Buried in the Bahamas has the pirate PCs shipwrecked on an island, trying to get off. These rules would make an already dangerous island (although it's nowhere near as rough as The Island) a more challenging segment of the adventure.

And while it's not as well organized as the best RPG books, it's worth noting that Castaway is much more easy to navigate and parse than many other Mork Borg books, while still having attractive art and layout.
 
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You're basically describing Deathmatch Island, which will be out next year. I think it's possible to do a late backer thing on Backerkit right now.
And they are cutting the dangerous island games with flashbacks plus a meta element about whether or not the players are there to win or to blow up the game.

I'm looking forward to it and hopefully a review will turn up here.
 

I'd think the hard part would be keeping players entertained after their characters get voted off the island. I wouldn't mind controlling some of the island creatures, or maybe play through "cut scenes" as an evil cultist. Also, keep the prize money low and the players won't actually plot to kill each other (or lawyer the rules).

Oh I want eliminated people to be out of the game. Another penalty for dying. And I want back stabing and betrayal so a big prize is a most for motivation. We can all play competitive games like Risk that have eliminations and Poker were we take each others money. So as long as every one knowes the deal up front shouldn't be a friendship breaker.
 



Paragon Lost

Terminally Lost
I bought this to use with Pirate Borg. The campaign is very Lost (the spooky masked guys are even called The Others). The way to "win" the campaign and escape the Island (another Lost-ism -- the island is "The Island") is to explore each of the weird areas on the Island and recover the magic items from there, which are then used in the final puzzle damage enabling an exit to ... somewhere. And somewhen.

So, as is, the campaign doesn't fit exactly into Pirate Borg, but it'd be easy to skip the campaign play and use the rest of it. The shipwreck hermit crab is great, as are other of the creepy critters on the Island. And the survival rules could definitely add heft to a Pirate Borg game. One of the longest sections of the Pirate Borg adventure Buried in the Bahamas has the pirate PCs shipwrecked on an island, trying to get off. These rules would make an already dangerous island (although it's nowhere near as rough as The Island) a more challenging segment of the adventure.

And while it's not as well organized as the best RPG books, it's worth noting that Castaway is much more easy to navigate and parse than many other Mork Borg books, while still having attractive art and layout.
I'm going to be lazy and say as a "All In Backer" of the Kickstarter... What Whizbang said. 👆:D
 

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