Character advancement is a staple of roleplaying. Character deterioration is less common. Fiction is replete with heroes who lose everything to achieve victory, stories with pathos, so cathartic to roleplay. Becoming fulfils that niche by upending the concept of the “player party”, underlining the tragic loneliness of the sacrificial saviour. What does that mean in practice? One PC. Three GMs.
A session begins by choosing a quest, which details a hero, their journey, and the three forces conspiring/competing to destroy them (known as “Fates”). Becoming has four: a fantasy Hero’s Journey to overthrow a tyrant king; a sci-fi adventure about finding humanity’s new home; a Blair Witch-style doomed walk in the woods; and a wartime zombie horror (I’ve not played this one). The diverse range of settings provide replayability, which is vital for one-shot RPGs. But the quests also provide structure in play. Each Fate GMs three scenes, but the other Fates remain active when not GM’ing: offering aid to the Hero so they can triumph in the short-term, if they’ll sacrifice Assets that benefit them in the long-term. These constant Fasutian bargains keep the game alive, as every subverted Asset transfers points from the Hero to one of the Fates. Unlike most RPGs, this game has winners and losers.
Becoming is missing some crucial rules guidance, such as the order in which Fates offer bargains and resolve their outcomes, which has a massive impact on who wins the game. It’s also somewhat impractical to arrange sessions, since it requires exactly four players, no more, no less (the three player variant lacks the energy of two Fates presenting competing bargains). And it’s a pretty stressful game for the Hero. I’m not sure why, the social pressure of being outnumbered by an opposing group shouldn’t be more burdensome than normal GM’ing. It might be because the game is directly competitive. Based on my anecdotal experience, it’s extremely difficult for the Hero to win.
Becoming is a great starting point for new GMs, who don’t yet have confidence to run full sessions. And it’s infinitely expandable, with a supplement of new quests already released, and advice in the rulebook for how players can create their own. I’ll try that myself: the experience of playing Becoming is so unique that I want to understand it better. It’s certainly something I would play again, and would recommend to anyone intrigued by its unusual premise.
(I never review a game I haven’t played or run. Check out https://michaelduxbury.com/category/reviews/ for more RPG reviews.)