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Butter Princess is a Minnesota State Fair 'game of indulgent doom'

Minneapolis teacher Brian Sago created the role-playing game, inspired by his own experiences at the Minnesota State Fair.

MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota — Few traditions at the Minnesota State Fair are as iconic as the butter sculptures of Princess Kay of the Milky Way and her court.

A Minneapolis teacher is taking it to the next level by creating a role-playing game with the tagline: When a 90-pound butter bust is on the line, how far will you go?

"The impetus for this is that Midwestern blend of horror and comedy or sort of a tragedy in comedy. It's kind of in the same vain of Fargo or Drop Dead Gorgeous. This is you playing out your own story, or your own version of that," said Brian Sago, author of Butter Princess.

Sago, who is an art teacher at The Blake School in Minneapolis, can recall his first experience with the Minnesota State Fair. After moving to Minnesota and exploring the Twin Cities on his bicycle, he accidentally entered the state fairgrounds in the middle of November.

"It was that very first snowfall, started right then. So it was very quiet, snowflakes falling, and I thought I was trapped there. It was like this Twilight Zone thing. I'm like, 'I'm going to have to live off of stale popcorn for the rest of my life.' This is just me in this weird fairground," Sago.

His fascination with the Minnesota State Fair only grew when his friend encouraged him to enter his work in the art exhibition. When Sago finally visited the fair, "The overall experience kind of blew me away... So I wrote a game about it as a way to kind of encapsulate or record that weird experience that I had."

Credit: Brian Sago

Butter Princess is tabletop role-playing game involving the attempted heist of a 90-pound butter sculpture at the Great Minnesota Get-Together.

It's described as "a game of indulgent doom."

"A lot of people have heard of Dungeons & Dragons. This is within that same idea. It's just a much simpler rule set. You're collectively telling a story with friends and one person has read the book in advance and kind of has a gist of where the story's going to go. But it's relying on everybody else at the table to give their ideas," Sago said.

The game has five rings, similar to acts in a play. For example, ring 2 is "Hope at the Miracle of Birth Barn."

"I've had people play the game who are like, 'That doesn't exist. That's not a thing.' They look it up online and they find out that actually the Miracle of Birth barn, for instance, is a real place. It's not something I made up. So there's very little of my imagination in this," Sago.

But the game allows players to be as imaginative as they want. Characters have different roles. For example, some want to preserve the butter sculpture.

Meanwhile, Sago said others, "Want to steal it for a private collector. Some people want to take it home and sacrifice it to the spirit of dairy on a home alter."

Dice help determine if a move succeeds of fails.

"Role-playing games give you that opportunity to experience something that you wouldn't otherwise be able to do like actually steal a 90-pound bust of butter," Sago said.

For those unfamiliar with RPGs, Sago recommends watching examples online. You can find videos of Butter Princess on Youtube, including one here.

Sago teamed up with illustrator Mike Martens for the RPG. The game has been around in a digital form for a couple of years but was formally published last year.

In the beginning of August, the Indie Groundbreaker Awards named Butter Princess the winner for Best Graphic Design. It was also nominated for Game of the Year.

Butter Princess is recommended for ages 12+ with 2-4 players and one gamemaster. It's estimated to take four to five hours, often played in two sessions of about two hours. 

You can buy the print edition for $20 through Minnesota Center for Book Arts; Source Comics & Games; Exalted Funeral; and Illgot & Gaines at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival, booth #505. You can also contact Sago at bsago@yahoo.com. Digital copies can be purchased for $12 at DriveThruRPG or Itch.

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