Visigoths vs. Mall Goths is a Tabletop RPG and Dating Sim by Lucian Kahn.
Set in 1996 at a Los Angeles shopping mall, the game brings together two types of goths: the Visigoths who raided ancient Rome and the mall goths who raid shops for the latest clothes and gadgets. Also, there are a lot of bisexuals.
This game is described as "a surreal combo of The Craft, Empire Records, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, and Clueless," and that only touches the surface of 90s gags and homages. The players roleplay through the day in the life of the two types of goths fending for control over the Mall. Ultimately, this RPG is both a revelry of the 1990s mall aesthetic and a reclamation that defies the worst parts of the time period. The rulebook comes with a standard setting simply called The Mall, numerous NPCs as mall clerks, and six "adventure episodes" suitable for both one-shot or campaign play.
Visigoths vs. Mall Goths was funded through a Kickstarter campaign that ran from October to November 2019. Later on, the game was nominated for a 2020 Ennie Award for Best Writing.
The final game was released April 2020, and it can be purchased at retailers such as Itch.io and Indie Press Revolution.
This game provides examples of:
- Accidental Time Travel: The Visigoths did not intend to travel to the future, and the Mall Goth who transported them to the 90s is described as "careless."
- Amusing Injuries: Unlike most tabletop RPGs, Visigoths vs. Mall Goths doesn't track physical damage but rather emotional damage, and all physical fights always result in hurt feelings for both sides. Accordingly, injuries in-game are trivial and fleeting at most, rather than serious. As one example, a spear stab would result "in the spear [passing] right through you like you're Wile E. Coyote."
- Anachronism Stew: Asides from the Visigoths? While most of the references are true to the time period, some of the names are more modern references for the sake of Rule of Funny. For instance, the store Big Disc Energy plays off a 2019 meme.
- The Cameo: Parodied through one of the random passageways events, where the goths can run into a 90s celebrity. Suggested options include Leonardo DiCaprio, "The Artist Formerly Known as Prince," and "Whoopi Goldberg in a nun costume."
- Cast Full of Gay: As the tagline suggests, there aren't just a lot of bisexuals, but also a lot of NPCs across the LGBTQ spectrum, with every NPC labeled with their orientation or gender (or lack thereof).
- Eternal English: Averted. The Visigoths had a year between arriving in the 90s and the beginning of the game to learn English. Meanwhile, Vulfi of Lemon Theodosius insists on only speaking Gothic, drawing attention to the linguistic difference between time periods.
- Fantasy Kitchen Sink: The most integral speculative element is the Time Travel that hoisted the Visigoths on the Mall Goths. Both factions also have magic users. Beyond that, the store Dracula Videos is owned by "an actual werewolf," the Invisible Priest may be a ghost, and the mechanics behind the Mall Boss's magic powers are left to the table to argue over. Throw in all of the elements that the adventure episodes introduce, and it's clear that the 90s called and wants its fantasy sink back.
- Fish out of Temporal Water: While the Visigoths adapted enough to learn English and open up shops in The Mall, they still retain most of their proto-Germanic identity, including their style and religion.
- Game Master: The game has a standard GM, dubbed the Mallrat.
- Goth: Beyond the title, Visigoths vs. Mall Goths explores the trappings of both kinds of goths.
- Goth Girls Know Magic:
- On the Mall Goth side, the Witch has a list of "witchcraft powers" as character skills, especially the power to imbue spooky energy into objects. Despite the name, the Witch isn't limited to female characters.
- On the Visigoth side, the Runecaster's abilities revolve around runes, which grant items powers such as invisibility and levitation.
- The Mall: All of the gameplay and setting material centers around a place simply called The Mall.
- Ouija Board: In an atypical use of the item, a careless Mall Goth's Ouija board is responsible for the Visigoths time traveling to the 1990s.
- Power Glows: Due to time-travel hijinks, some of the Visigoths are glowing. One of the character options for Visigoth players is choosing whether their character is still glowing, no longer glowing, or glowing a little bit.
- Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory: A Goth who use the special item Digital Watch to rewind time by six seconds will be the only one who remember the original timeline, leaving everyone else oblivious.
- Serious Business: For starters, the central conflict concerns the two types of goths fighting over who can gain control of...who gets to hang out at the Mall. Many of the adventure episodes specify the exact stakes, but for the player characters, it is a matter of their social lives.
- Sitcom Arch-Nemesis: The two goth groups take their rivalry rather seriously, since what's at stake in their mutual conflict is the most important thing to a 90s teen in LA: the right to hang out at The Mall. While the two sides have an adversarial relationship, all physical conflict merely results in Amusing Injuries and hurt feelings.
- There Are No Police:
- The book states that the game has no security guards and no guns. A sidebar explains that the mall can not afford security guards.
- However, the FBI do make an appearance in "IRC and Aliens," which comes with a content warning for law enforcement.
- Teens Love Shopping: The player characters are teenagers in the Mall. With the special items and activities sprinkled throughout the book providing mechanical and fictional benefits, players are incentivized to play goths who love shopping.
- Time Travel: The central faceoff is caused by a Mall Goth accidentally summoning a community of Visigoths into 1996 with a Ouija board. While the Visigoths don't have a means of returning to their own time, the description of the Digital Watch item suggests that they do have hope.
- Token Rich Student: One Embarrassing Trait for a Mall Goth is to secretly be a "prep school student," which the Mall Goth can reveal by flashing their school uniform or graphing calculator.
- Traveling at the Speed of Plot: Adventure episodes are divided into timeslots, which a timeslot being filled by one scene per team per store. This means that time is dictated less by simulation and more from how much or little time each group spends in a place. Meanwhile, any action in the passageways don't advance time.
- Unnaturally Looping Location: In the style of a 90s video game Wrap Around, exits on one side of the mall always pops out the player on the other side of the mall. This does allow for a Scooby-Dooby Doors chase.
- Versus Title: The "vs." in the title is an element of the game's throwback factor, although the rules point out that even as the two groups of goths are adversarial in the fiction, the gameplay itself is cooperative.
- World of Pun: Most of The Mall's stores has a punny name, with many items following a Flintstone Theming.
- For example, Play Gaul is a sporting goods store with special items such as The Hacky Sack of Rome and Umpire: The Masquerade.