The world has been preoccupied with the rush of technological progress. Relationships and people have fallen by the wayside and have become connections and users. Isolation in cities has become the norm. Nominal City, an old city encircled by a new wall, sits segregated on a peninsula off the mainland.
Nominal City, or The Wellspring of Infection as it later came to be known, began as a dark metropolis. The weak and watery sunlight shone feebly through the gray sky for only several hours of the day, before the smothering dusk fell upon the tall cluster of buildings. We now know it as the ground zero of the parseling phenomenon, the very soil fertile with meaning and words. In the germination stage of the infection, the stench of paranoia and hushed whispers filled the air. I suppose it was only fitting that in such a place every thought and stray word became enriched with such intensity of significance.
Perhaps the most distinctive thing about Nominal City is the seven floating islands of earth above, linked by giant chains to the ground. Several years ago, large areas of the city were torn from their roots and rose into the air where they have been ever since. The catastrophe of this created many victims and refugees still clustered within the city, to which the rest reacted poorly to. The memory of this event remains a stain in the collective psyche of the people.
Underneath in the craters and shadows, it smells like a dense forest of tall gray buildings with faded and peeling pastel paints. Posters are layered over each other like rings of wood in a tree. Replace the forest animals with people rugged up in their thick coats and scarves becoming anonymous figures. There’s a feeling of oppression in the concrete, the enclosing wall bordering the entirety of Nominal City and the nearby mountain range, the fall of the government and the rise of large private corporations to take over public interests. It doesn’t help that there’s a new movement, spoken of only in quiet corners. Something that might be a threat. Parselings, have you heard of them?
Words and labels define how you perceive the world. They are the keystone to understanding the difference between you and I. Parselings takes place in a world like our own, but with a simple difference – to some creatures, words have power. Parsecytes, swarms of ravenous ink-like parasitic organisms, have emerged into the world causing irreversible changes to society and our ecosystem.
When a Parsecyte invades a human host, a peculiar thing can happen. It can form a symbiosis with the host, together with becoming an entity known as a Parseling. At a glance, a Parseling is almost physically indiscernible from most other humans, save for the labels on their skin and the ink mixed into their blood. However, when brought together in groups, these individuals can be greater than the sum of their parts. The infected hosts can use their tattoos to form phrases to sculpt the world to their desires. This power has come to be known as a Parse.
You will play as a Parseling. Struggling to strike a balance between appeasing the definition of the Parsecyte within, and being a complex human being who cannot simply be defined by a few careless words. You may fall, be it on your wild conquests or even succumbing to your own powers.
This can be a curse or a blessing, but together with others sharing your affliction, the world is your oyster.
Parselings is supported by two distinct systems that have been entwined together to make a complete game. By mastering both parts of this game, you will find your journey will be shaped by your creativity. However before all of that, in order to enjoy the game of Parselings, you will need to gather a couple of things.
A deck of cards for each player
In the Choice System, each player controls a single character and a deck constructed out of a set of regular playing cards. The cards you choose will represent your character’s health and mentality. The larger the deck, the more options, and health they have, while in comparison with fewer cards, the more limited their actions are.
You will need to make some hard decisions when constructing your deck because of one simple reason: Parselings are not gods, nor are they omnipotent. They will need others to help do what they themselves cannot. As the game progresses your deck can change and twist as your character progresses through different scenarios.
A set of dice for your Game Master
Though predominantly a deck-building game, you will still need a set of dice to be shared by your group for several parts of this game. During the game players will not need these dice, rather it is for the benefit of the GM. While a lot of NPC actions could be replicated with cards, sometimes for lesser challenges it is faster for the GM to complete with dice.
- A small pool of d6s (six-sided dice) to represent any small enemies or obstacles in the campaign.
- A single d10 (ten-sided dice), d12 (twelve-sided dice), and d20 (twenty-sided dice) to help decide a Parseling’s words.
As a roleplaying game, stories are at the heart of these systems and the rules offer a systematic way of translating actions into a format that everyone else can agree upon. We are utilizing our imagination to fuel the game, putting our time and our effort to create our own fun and a story we would want to listen to. For players, this means you’ll need to be able to describe your character and what they want to do. For the GM, you’ll need to create an adventure with your players and interpret everyone’s desires in a way that everyone can enjoy.
Parselings is a game where you can tell any story that you can imagine.
Whether you are undertaking a devious deal or enacting a daring distraction, the circumstances are never the same for any two people. So why should your odds be the same? Governing the mechanical side of the game, the Choice System is built to embody the individuality of your own character, to represent how you want to play. The use of a custom-built deck of cards makes it feel like it’s more than just a gamble, that you have made choices that have directly altered your character’s fate.
Each card in your deck tells a story about your character. When playing out this campaign you’ll know what it feels like to step into their shoes, watching the cards you’ve spent and the odds change with every move you make.
Whatever happens in your story, the choice is yours.
By uniting we stand, by dividing you will fall.
If the Choice System is the gears directing the fate of your characters, Parses are the heart and soul of the game. The Parse System is where your imagination and will to co-operate truly matters, and where you may need to touch a set of dice in between sessions. Parsing is the supernatural phenomena or magic that is carried out by two or more Parselings with a simple touch and a small string of words. Through using this power to redefine the world, you’ll achieve amazing feats that would be otherwise impossible.
A Parseling’s words are determined by their perceived role in the world. These can come from anywhere – from strangers, friends and even from the Parseling themselves. All players are involved in the process of determining the potential words each character may possess. Dice are used to represent the haphazard nature of what the Parsecyte will enmesh with.
Do what you will with your gifts, but always ask yourselves, how will your words define you?