Several years ago I ran a long running fantasy ttrpg called Stonebridge. The entire game took place in a small fortified town based on a map that I discovered while searching the internet. Before the initial start of the campaign, the players helped to identify key areas of the city, some of the residents, and major locations. This investment into the setting not only helped to flesh out the community, but also made the players feel invested. When I first heard of Beak, Feather & Bone, I could not help but be reminded of Stonebridge.
Beak, Feather & Bone (BF&B) is described as a zine length game. Truly, from cover to cover the PDF is only 32 pages. However, BF&B is not a true RPG, but rather a mildly competitive, map labeling and storytelling RPG. As noted in the book, BF&B takes inspiration from The Quiet Year and Powered By the Apocalypse. The goal of each game is to take an unlabeled map (There is one provided) and to bring life to it by describing each building. By the end of the game you should have a well described settlement, useable for any (genre specific) RPG.
In order to play BF&B you will need playing cards, pens/pencils, coloring utensils, a map and some note cards. Players take on the role of a faction of ravenfolk representing some aspect of society. Said factions could be anything from farmers or soldiers to mages, and much more. Players can even make up their own faction as long as it fits with the setting or map.
One by one, players will draw cards and use the suit along with the face value to help determine the both the purpose and importance of the area (on the map) they choose. The same player will color in that area for their respective faction and describe (on a notecard) it’s Beak (reputation), Feather (outside appearance) & Bone (actual function/purpose). Players are encouraged to be as creative as possible in this regard.
There are other added steps to the a player’s turn depending on the type of card drawn, and the game ends when the entire deck has been used up. The length of a typical game depends on the number of players (somewhere between 1-10). So a bigger group will go through the deck quicker compared to a smaller number.
It should be no surprise from the intro that I love the idea of a cooperative city building game. BF&B is an exercise in creativity. Additionally, this is a short game with minimal investment. Even better still, BF&B may appeal to players who do not like the role playing/improv aspect of shorter games like Fiasco.
There are some who may scoff at the idea of a game that is so rules light. BF&B is not robust game by any means, but it is also not meant to be. There is also one other nit picky aspect that must be mentioned. Much like The Quiet Year, BF&B lacks an end game. True, there is a “winner” but at the same time, the map is left as is. Some may find the lack of a true end game rather unfulfilling.
If you like maps, creativity, city building, and have a few short hours to spend, this is the game for you! The settlement you create could inspire an entire campaign! You can purchase the entire game including maps for $5 on Drivethrurpgs or through the BF&F website.