Geeks of a certain age remember the novel Watership Down by Richard Adams, which told the story of a desperate band of rabbits fleeing their doomed warren. Geeks of perhaps a slightly younger age remember the movie based on the book … and the nightmares it gave a generation. As a 46-year-old Gen Xer, I fall into the latter group, but I never had the nightmares. I loved the book, and by extension, the movie, but through a quirk of timing, I never got to play Bunnies and Burrows, the 70s-era role-playing game they inspired.
I may get my chance. Frog God Games is running a Kickstarter for Bunnies and Burrows 3rd Edition. The Kickstarter webpage nicely summarizes the game:
Bunnies & Burrows (B&B) is a role-playing game (RPG) that features animal characters contending with enemies and hazards in a world of nature. Published by Fantasy Games Unlimited in 1976, the game centered on intelligent rabbits. It introduced several innovations to role-playing game design, being the very first game to allow players to have non-humanoid roles, and the first to have detailed martial arts and skill systems. Fantasy Games Unlimited published a second edition of the game in 1982, and the game was modified and republished by Steve Jackson Games as an official GURPS supplement in 1992.
As rabbits, player characters are faced with dangers mirroring those in the real world. The only true “monsters” in the game are humans, but there are many predators, traps, and natural hazards. The characters’ position in the food chain promotes an emphasis on role-playing and problem solving over combat.
Looking back, what drew me to Watership Down as a kid was the world building. I loved the story of Watership Down to be sure, but it was the world that drew me in. The folk tales of the rabbit hero god El-ahrairah. The idea that rabbits could count … but only up to four. The role of prophecy. The culture of rabbits … and the corruption of that culture in the various warrens that the heroes visited. It drew me in and led me to read the book many, many times.
Bunnies and Burrows looks to capture that world, but it also builds on it. The new game adds more playable animals (raccoon, squirrel, chipmunk, skunk, porcupine, opossum, jackrabbit, or armadillo), a full herbalism system, a pursuit system, and an expanded bestiary. I don’t know if this is a game I’d ever want to run a full campaign for, but I think it’d be awesome as an occasional convention game.
I added it to my Autumn 2018 shopping list. I may not be able to back the Kickstarter, but I’ll certainly be following it.
- Watership Down (Amazon)
- Bunnies and Burrows 3rd Edition Kickstarter
- GURPS Bunnies and Burrows
- Fate Core Bunnies and Burrows
- Bobgoblin’s Bastion: Bunnies & Burrows – The best Old School RPG you’ve probably never heard of
- io9: Dystopian Rabbit Masterpiece Watership Down Returns as a New Animated Series
- BBC: Stellar cast announced as classic novel Watership Down lives on with new mini-series
- IndieWire: ‘Watership Down’: Wes Anderson, Guillermo del Toro & More Describe Story’s Impact Ahead Of New Miniseries
Featured Image Meta
A still from the Watership Down animated movie (the inspiration for Bunnies and Burrows). Credit: The Criterion Collection (and io9 for the still inspiration).