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Game Review: Lost in the Rain
A long time ago I stumbled across a game about sad children in the early morning hours, and without looking too much into it, I hit order and forgot about it. It arrived. I stuck it on my shelf and never looked back. Until last week. This strange, mystical game that I had heard about online somewhere, forgot about, refound, and then eventually ordered was Lost in the Rain by Vivien Feasson. And here, my friends, is the premise:
It is said that children who get lost in the city on a rainy day end up devoured by the sirains. The only way to escape those starving creatures is to find other lost kids and stay close to them at all times.
It is also said that the sirains always find a way to seep into the most closely knit groups. By using evil thoughts, fear, hunger and loneliness, they lure their victims and snatch them, one by one, to devour them in the dark. In the end, only one lost child will find his way home.
The others will never be seen again.
Premise wise, Lost in the Rain had me at sirains who eat children. Not only do sirains eat lost children, they essentially terrorize them from the start which leads up to their inevitable consumption. Any game that talks about kids living in terror and then dying usually has me chomping at the bit to play. This game wasn't any different. I remember reading a bunch of it before I put it on my shelf. And by a bunch I mean ten pages or so. Because while the game is fun, gruesome, and dark as pitch, the game has some hurdles to overcome as well.
Fortunately, Lost in the Rain is a short game to read and an easy one to play. There are minimal mechanics and that makes it go fairly smoothly. To start, you make your children. Since it's a GMless game, everyone at the table makes a child between the ages of 6 and 12. You choose where you live, what you're afraid of, what you remember about your parents, and what you do when you're afraid. You write these down on your little character sheet, and then give each player 10 tokens.
These tokens will be used to measure how much life you have left. It's the obvious tension mechanic in the game, and given it's the only mechanic of the game, it's a good thing it works. Tokens can be taken from children by having them essentially terrorized by sirains, bullied by the other kids, or by putting sad thoughts in the kid's head. When anyone does this, they take a token from the child and it goes back into the bag. You only have ten tokens... so you can imagine how quickly your little life force goes out.
Since there isn't a GM, Lost in the Rain asks that everyone play as the advercity, or, the baddies, except the active child. Each chapter highlights one child, and that player talks in the first person, while the other players describe the world and what's happening to the child, or their own characters, but in third person. It's an interesting narrative shift that really helps keep the active player in the mind of a child, as you're talking entirely as the child, and that includes their thoughts, how they're feeling, and what they're doing.
Once each player has either hurt the child (and taken a token) or helped the child (given a token), the scene ends and a new chapter begins. The active child chooses another child and says "Chapter Five: Sara" or whatever the name of the child is. The new child takes over, the players torment them for a bit, and play proceeds until a child loses all of their tokens. When that happens, they narrate how the child leaves the group, either they run away or they disappear or they walk off into the rain, to be devoured, offscreen, by sirains. The player then says "Thus disappears Sara. She shall never find her parents."
Harsh, eh? The game is designed to be a little unrelenting, but is also a quick play. Although we played for three hours tonight, we had five children and we took a fair number of breaks. Play itself was easy to understand and enough guidance was given by the game that there weren't questions or confusion over anything. Our scenes were intense, with children being regularly put in small dark spaces, threatened by sirains disguised as drunken parents, and listening to songs sung by the voices of the dark. It was awful.
To sum it up, my character was very poor and good at picking locks. She was afraid of unrelenting wolves and hid in small dark spaces when she was afraid. Wolves chased her, often as big dogs, and she ended up in an attic when her friend, Charlotte, ran up there because she had heard a song. There, a wolf chewed through the roof and dropped down, chasing Lavender (my character) into a corner. I had one token left, so I said I tried to hit the wolf. The sirain didn't care. They took my last token. So I narrated jumping out of the window five stories up to escape. And I disappeared, never to find my parents.
While the game plays easily and the rules are so simple it's almost impossible to screw up, there are a few flaws with the book. It's about twenty minutes of reading in a book that's 60 pages long. Most of this is taken up by one paragraph (sometimes two) a page in large font. It's also, unfortunately, poorly translated from French, with a lot of awkward sentences, translation mistakes, and that sometimes means poor communication. It's not impossible to understand, it just feels poorly written with some word mistakes.
Additionally, even though the game came out in 2014, there's no PDF that I could find, and the character sheet is a jpg. This made printing things more difficult than I'm accustomed to. Now, despite the downfalls with the actual writing and production values, the game is all the right kinds of intense and I did enjoy it. I would play it again, and plan on it. That being said, the game benefits from having experienced players who know how to gm on the spotlight or jump in when they have an idea.
My group of five had two experienced gms and three people who struggled with it. As a result, things dragged a little and got a little obnoxious at times instead of staying on point and keeping it subtle. A more prepared group, or experienced group, would have played the game much faster. The world of the sirains is very loosely defined and that can leave some players unsure of what the sirains can do. For ease, I asked them to think of the demogorgon from Stranger Things, a little less amped, and in a game where none of the kids would survive.
According to Amazon, I bought the book in 2015 and am just getting around to playing it now. I'm sad I waited this long, and I'm glad I can add it to my horror games about kids collection (I have problems). If you're looking for a quick, dark game about kids running away in the rain with a surreal, horrific tone, this is a great little game. Amazon is the only place you can get it, and you can go to the author's webpage for some backup stuff, like the character sheet in jpg. I know I'll add this game to my convention backup games. I dig it and you should too (y'know, if that's your thing).
Lost in the Rain Price: $13.00 from Amazon, print only Players: 3 - 6 GM Work: Nothing other than printing and facilitating Materials: Character sheets, up to 60 tokens Feel: Surreal horror Rating: 4/5 - It delivers the child-horror, but the production value of the book leaves me with a bad taste and for sixty pages, it has minimal content