A few decades ago it seemed like every game had some mini-game type mechanics to handle situations outside the regular scope of the game. Lately more games have their scope so narrow that their mechanics are close to those mini-games of the past. Take that to its natural conclusion, and you get Don't Let Us Die. A supplement that can be used with any game, and adds mechanics for the PCs to help a desperate village survive a harsh winter. While it delivers on its premise without dazzling, it's in its auxillary content it excels.
The first two chapters sets up the situation. Winter is hard, a village is in need, and the PCs are the solution. The supplement lays out the ground work for how this situation could arise. It gives attention to both the mechanical and roleplaying side; showing how to immerse the players into what is basically a dry numbers game.
In the second chapter, it falters somewhat. It begins by stating that there is only one unbreakable rules, then follows by describing two. One of which is that all players must now all the rules perfectly. It might be a simple game, but still; pretty harsh for an unbreakable rule.
Live and let die
To survive winter, the players and village must survive a set number of rounds. Each round is divided into steps. Here food, fuel and medicine is found and consumed, and people starve, freeze and cough to death. Pretty harsh. The rules demand you track certain aspects of the village, but nothing too complicated. A round might be a week or a month; a "person" might be a household. It is all very flexible. Frankly, even though the supplement assumes a gritty, medieval fantasy setting, you could easily use this for a mining colony on an asteroid, low on energy, air and water.
The mini-game itself is streamlined and simple, but I do miss some more talk about how roleplaying could fit into it. That is what sets this apart from a dry board game. For instance, I could see myself having this run in the background of a campaign, having rolls being made at the end of each session.
The beauty of winter
The next three chapters contain as assortment of tools for the mini-game. This is where the real gold is! The game sheets made for tracking the village's situation and resources are superb. There are also several tables of random events that could easily spark an entire session of play. Some of the creativity here is worth the supplement alone, which makes it even odder that roleplaying gets so little emphasis earlier in the supplement.
Finally there are map tools and tiles, suitable for constructing your own village. Again, beautiful work. Overall, the quality of the art and design of the supplement is amongst the best this year. Not because of any costly art work, but rather thematic and purposeful illustrations. Its black and white illustrations of crosses, leafless trees and wooden hovels, really enhances the feel of the entire product.
In many ways, this product sells itself short. It might not seem that interesting given the limited application of its mechanics. There is more than meets the eye. The tables, maps and illustrations are very useable for those that want some tools and inspirations for their depressing, little village. And when winter finally does come, you have the mechanics waiting.