“Story games” are some of the more wonderful places to look for unorthodox ideas. Because of the narrative-focused framework, it becomes easy to get everyone playing anything – you don’t have to focus on the accurate logistics of being a magical German hamster-like creature (that isn’t a hamster, don’t call it that!). All you’re required to do to immerse yourself is get into the setting and narrative of being a magical German hamster-like creature. This is not an idle metaphor, because today I’m reading the narrative-focused RPG Michtim: Fluffy Adventures by George Mir. This adorable game is simple to play and offers a lot of fun for beginning and veteran gamers alike, of all ages, and deeper complexities for those willing to look.
In Michtim, you play as one of the eponymous little creatures, present throughout all of the artwork. Michtim live hidden from humans but within proximity of them. Michtim are often forced to act against humans in order to preserve their own homes, but they have different ideas about that. The premise of Michtim is that humans are trying to build a parking lot within Michtim habitation, and they must conduct missions to prevent this from happening. It is a d6-based game that makes use of tokens (such as poker chips), as well as tiny glass beads, known to the game as Mood Markers and Karma Markers.
The game contains a lot of useful information for getting into the world of the Michtims. These tiny creatures use a few German words in their speech, which are provided into a useful Lexicon in the beginning. None of the words are very difficult to remember, and they have alternatives in English. After the Lexicon there is a description of Michtims biologically and socially. Their culture is presented in enough detail to get you started (a couple pages). Michtims have a very colorful and interesting world, particularly with their relationship to humans. There’s a bit of an environmental message, but it is not heavy-handed and each Michtim group handles it differently. Some even sympathize with humans – because they like stealing human stuff!
In Michtim, characters are rated using Emotions. Each Emotion is connected to certain actions, and the higher that emotion, the easier it is for the character. Emotions are your character’s stats, in essence. When performing actions rated by Joy, or Fear, the higher your Joy or Fear, the more dice you roll and the better your chances. However, if you roll all your dice, you will only score a single Hit, which rates the effectiveness of your action. You have to gamble by giving up some dice in order to score extra hits. So you can either go the safe route, or try to finish tasks much more quickly by giving up dice.
Of course, Emotions also affect your character’s behavior. When characters roll particularly well, they get Mood Markers that give them further bonuses to those actions – but anything that distracts them from their current high mood is rolled at a penalty instead. So a very Angry Michtim can get overzealous in a fight, and hit much harder, but then suffer penalties to doing anything but fighting – for example, it will take penalties to Fear actions like hiding or evading, so it will have to stay in the fight as long as it’s that angry. Players can give up their Mood Markers for extra dice to their Mood Actions, however. So if that Angry Michtim wants to cool down a bit, it can get REALLY mad for a stretch, get rid of the mood markers with an Angry action, and then perhaps switch gears. Michtims are all about their emotions, and this mechanic illustrates that well.
Michtims also have Callings, which give them certain abilities. Every Michtim begins with one Calling but can earn more through Experience. Michtims can have up to three Callings at a time. However, every Michtim can change Callings in the course of the game, if necessary. So if you don’t want or need your Bard calling for now, there is a way to change it to another one. Michtims have tools like Gear and Weapons, as well as technology stolen from humans. There are even Cyborg Michtim called Cybertooths. It’s pretty awesome. Finally, you have allegiance to a Haus of Michtims. Each Haus has certain virtues that your Michtim can strive to uphold. Act virtuously, and you receive useful karma points. Each Virtue also has Sins against it. If you commit those Sins, you fill in Sin markers, which prevent you from earning Karma Points.
Michtim is a very simple and flavorful little game. You can have a little cyborg hamster (don’t call them that though) hashed out in a few minutes after reading through the book, which is only 118 pages, and many of which don’t have a whole lot of text in them to begin with. The layout is slick and cute, with many big, representative icons such as the heraldry and chapter markers, and images of Michtim in various roles. The only issue I have with it is that character creation information is near the back of the book. It’s a small enough section that I think it could’ve been closer to the start, but this is a very minor criticism, as the book functions well overall. There’s a section with tips for the GM, including for generating a random d6 table of plot hooks for your locations so you can randomly come up with a story without much fuss. Included in the book is an example scenario. I hope more of them are made just so I get to see more of those cute emotion statblocks for enemies!
Michtim: Fluffy Adventures will delight any gamer who is a fan of simple, narrative-focused games, who wants something quick and different to play, or for fans of cute, cuddly animals. It has a few neat touches, such as the Secrets section and the Ultimate powers, to appeal to fans of longer campaign play and “leveling up” their characters. It is of obvious utility for gamers with children, who will likely appreciate being cute hamsters (don’t call them that, though) trying to save their forest, and for whom it is probably easy to grok the simple dice mechanic, and that your actions are based off your emotions – if you’re Angry of course you’d fight better! But for anyone who’s into storygames, it is a neat thing to keep on the shelf. It is charming, quick, entertaining game with some unique touches, that you can bust out and play on any game night regardless of present company and have a lot of solid, fluffy fun with. And for only $10, it is also very affordable.