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So, There’s an MN State Fair-Themed RPG Called ‘Butter Princess’

The tabletop game that asks: 'When a 90-pound butter bust is on the line, how far will you go?'

Brian Sago|

Below, you can watch creator Brian Sago carve his *own* butter bust from two pounds of Hope Creamery butter.

Like many of us, Brian Sago's first encounter with the Minnesota State Fair left him equal parts fascinated and freaked out.

This was several years ago, when he was new to Minnesota. During a bicycle ride to familiarize himself with these new surroundings, he pedaled into the fairgrounds from the west, near the University of Minnesota's campus, where it's not marked—you don't know what, exactly, to make of the ghostly setting you're passing into.

"It was deserted," Sago recalls. It was the first snowfall in November, and the place was eerily quiet. "I thought I rode into the Twilight Zone, and was going to have to live out the rest of my life eating stale popcorn on the fairgrounds."

His curiosity around the fair only grew when a friend told him he should submit his art there, since it had such wonderful exhibits. Was this some sort of hazing ritual for people new to the state? Aren't state fairs more about ornate chickens and combine harvesters?

But when he finally did visit, Sago says his understanding was "transformed."

"It's the weirdest place I've ever been, but it's also the collective, weird imagination of hundreds of thousands of people," he says. "It's not any one person's vision, if that makes sense."

In trying to make sense of it all, he wrote a book. And that book that would eventually become Butter Princess, a tabletop role-playing game released last year.

Sago grew up with role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons, and more recently, he's been into Jesse Ross's Trophy Dark, which is a sort of reaction to those traditional RPGs. Rather than the colonial framework of D&D—you go in, you kill the monsters, you take their gold—Ross wrote a scenario where the forest doesn't want you there, and is actively trying to repel you.

"I realized that fit the Minnesota State Fair," Sago chuckles.

Butter Princess is inspired by that kind of dark fantasy structure, but it's about attempting to steal one of the 90-pound butter sculptures from the State Fair's Dairy Building. All of the characters in the game have a role related to the butter bust: some want to steal it, some want to preserve it. It's a little bit silly and a little bit tragic, with some horror elements thrown in—and you can dial up any of those aspects as much as you want during gameplay.

"You know your characters are doomed to failure, but it's probably gonna be pretty funny as they get there," Sago says. "If you've seen Fargo or Drop Dead Gorgeous, this is in keeping with both of those."

Sago, an artist and teacher at The Blake School, has been an illustrator and play tester for other games in the past, though this is his first published game to hit the market. And he clarifies that he's not encouraging anyone to attempt such a heist. "But if you could pull it off, holy cow," he says, pun presumably unintended.

For folks who are familiar with role-playing games like D&D, certain hallmarks will be familiar. It'll take four to five hours to play, which you can split into two sessions of about two hours each; gameplay is ideal at three, but you can play with between two and five (plus a GM). But if your understanding of role-playing games begins and ends with the whole "murder-monsters-in-the-dungeon" kind of thing, let Butter Princess be the proof that these games have changed a lot. They can be goofy, and unpredictable, and hilarious, and downright bizarre.

Ultimately, Sago hopes Butter Princess will get people to have some fun telling stories with their friends. It might even leave you with a greater appreciation for both the highs and lows of the Great Minnesota Get-Together. Since the game's release, Sago has found himself playing one slightly unexpected role: ambassador for the Minnesota State Fair.

"As people who are not from Minnesota have played it, they've kind of come back to me with feedback saying, 'We thought you made up the Miracle of Birth Barn, and we looked it up and found out that's real,'" he reports. "Everything they thought I made up—it's real."

You can get a print edition of Butter Princess via Exalted Funeral, or locally at Source Comics and Games, the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, or Illgot & Gaines at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival. Digital copies are available through DriveThru RPG and Itch.

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