Thursday, October 27, 2016

Oculus Review- Ah yes here it is!

Oculus, to me, is barely a game. I do not think it deserves the shackle of ‘game’. Oculus is a writing exercise placed into RPG terms. In the exercise you play an unnamed character using a vague instrument- the oculus, to look up an infinity of worlds through the eyes of what the game calls a familiar, with a character sheet to fill out as you see the person’s attributes.

One looks through these eyes until your interest wains (the seeing and the interest are the parameters of the oculus instrument). The ‘player’/writer is to write down everything they see into their notes. The seeing is generated by the lens of the oculus which is a set of two tables of random descriptions. Roll a d20, look on the table (entitled ‘Focus), get a word, and start writing. If one needs clarification you can roll again and look at the second table (called Lens). The words are preferably vague like ‘Conspire’ or ‘Ancient’ giving the playing writer (or is it writing player?) the freedom to go where they wish without being tied down to only one genre.

So where is the RPG part, so far it sounds like writing. The familiar has a character sheet with abilities ranging from +4 to +1 (much like Risus). In a resolution action (pick a lock, defeat an enemy, climb a wall) a d20 is rolled against a favorable to alarming table (much like FUDGE) and the result is placed into the unfolding story.

But what takes oculus from the world of simple writing exercise to a surreal experience is the transcendence points- where the oculus viewing follows the writing player into their reality. When the oculus closes and the game is over, the player walks away. But if the player thinks of the experience, of the viewing, if something reminds them of the game-play, you add a point to the transcendence bank. These can then be used to ‘fudge’ the familiar’s dice rolls in a critical situation when the viewer returns to the Oculus. This made me carry around the oculus as a journal and be in constant communication with my familiar. And at times, he needed it.
It is a remarkably simple system that works wonderfully. The Oculus pulls the writing player into a universe. The rules themselves suspend reality completely (well at least for me, my brain is always looking for ways of suspending reality). Best of all, the writing never suffers, never is cut by the need of rolling dice or referring to a rule. The writing player could go pages and pages with one word, or just two, the dice forgotten until a resolution wall is hit- which is rare.

 All in all, I go to my Oculus when I feel blocked or when I can’t think of what to play, or get bogged down in a system’s rules.