Xaz Irkalla is a game with evocative art about some dark-ass world, that is apparently based on the Strain survival-horror system (I don’t know what that is). I did back a copy on their Kickstarter way back in the day, but haven’t looked at or played it yet. It came up as an option at Games on Demand, and it was also an opportunity to play with some new friends.
The setup for this game did not have us come in as a band of adventurers prior to this scenario. Instead we all find ourselves torn away from our respective worlds unwillingly, and thrown into a strange crypt-horror world.
We each started with a partially filled pre-generated character sheet, but all it lists are a few traits and skills. Mine said that - other than owning a Rotten Club - I had the Aberrant trait of Wings (I can glide and take no falling damage), and I had the Specialties (aka skills) of Justice, Wasteland, Privileged, Industrious, and Merchant.
That settled it… I was going to play a Star Frontiers Yazirian, torn from her spaceship. Urbane and well spoken, educated, cautious but not intimidated, her cleverness and survival instincts would hopefully see her through.
The scenario we ran through sounded like it may have come either out of the game book itself, or something that Adam had whipped up prior… a horrible underworld of coffins and creatures, mazes and lost beings and the horrors that have put them there to torture them.
We started individually in coffins, and had to struggle out (which provided us with some very basic training in the dice mechanics of the system). Adam was evocatively painting the scenes, and I think the expectation was to dive into the puzzle and dungeon crawl of the place.
But, that’s not my primary motivation, if you’ve played story games with me. I had to put pause on the game, because, I mean, I just remember crashing in my space ship, and like, who the hell are these other creatures? There was strange barbarian viking creature, a little hobbit, a weird stone golem being, and a nautilus-like creature from an underworld landscape. From what I could tell, I was the only space-faring creature among these simple beings!
So yah, I felt like I did hijack the scene maybe a few times, so we could do a little character building and bonds. I mean, it may have happened without me, but sure as hell I wouldn’t let it not happen if I was there.
As we continued through the adventure, I found the system had some things I thought I might like: an escalating stress-type track, and Specialties that were similar to Fate aspects in that they were very fill-in-the-blank and creatively worded.
As the game continued, however, I found that I didn’t really connect with the mechanics, and most of it didn’t get realized to any great degree in our play. I know Alejandro had a few poor rolls and suddenly found out how difficult life gets when that stress (“Doom”) track gets filled, but as the session wore on, we did work relatively well as a party to get some things done.
Adam had one situation occur where we each had our loved ones (from our other worlds) being held captive in some torturous way. Because we could see each others’ loved ones, I could not let this go by, and we probably spent at least 5-10 minutes talking about what they looked like, and who they were. Every time a strange scene occurred - even if it was a hallucination, such as a room that tried to evoke our feelings of lust or desire - I reached out to all the players to find out what their characters scenes looked like. To me that was the core of my enjoyment in the session, which again speaks more toward my style and interest of play, I suppose.
I would say that I probably wouldn’t run to play this if given other options, but if you are into OSR or trad style play, and like horror and dark settings, you may get some enjoyment out of this.