The Warren's designer wanted to create a "light-footed" game that's easy to learn but filled with "creative constraints."
A couple weeks ago, we reported on The Warren, a tabletop RPG aimed at dropping players into the paws of defenseless rabbits struggling to survive in a cruel wilderness. While it might initially sound odd that players would ever prefer to play as fluffy bunnies rather than armored adventurers, the game's successful Kickstarter campaign has been indicative of one definite thing: role-playing as rabbits is something that people want to do.
The appeal of that idea isn't much of a mystery to the game's designer Marshall Miller. "For me, the fun of role-playing comes not from the boundless possibilities but from the creative constraints," he said, speaking to The Escapist. The Warren's focus on rabbits, in turn, is an attempt on his part to create an experience where players can't rely on magic spells or brute force to overcome obstacles. "Rabbits may compete among themselves, to bolster their statuses or help establish the kind of community that they want to live in, but there's no way they can meet a dog or an owl or a man or a tractor-driven multi-crop thresher head on." Stripped of the power to fight, players will instead have to fall back on their wits and find alternative methods of attaining victory.
Despite this focus on forcing players to think outside of the hack-and-slash box, Marshall also wanted to make a game that reduced its mechanics down to something that was, ultimately, easy to pick up. "One of my goals for The Warren was to make a light-footed game that was easy to teach, run, and wrap up at conventions," he explained. Focusing the game on rabbits made this easier because they naturally can't use a lot of the modifying equipment and tools that can make other rule sets seem so convoluted. "The Warren has only one playbook with a couple options for [each] rabbit." This brevity allowed Miller, and the game's publishers at Bully Pulpit Games, to produce a system where individual sessions don't have to take too long but can still tie into longer and deeper campaigns.
The Warren, of course, isn't the first RPG to base itself on the plight of rabbits. Back in 1976, for instance, Fantasy Games Unlimited published Bunnies & Burrows. Similar to The Warren, it emphasized role-playing over battles and pit players against a merciless natural world. That game would go on to be revised and published multiple times. We'll have to wait and see, of course, if The Warren enjoys a similar longevity. If its success at Kickstarter is any indicator (it's raised five times its initial goal), it might have a chance.