2015-03-30 : Dirty Tricks in My Games

In my game Murderous Ghosts, there are two dirty tricks.

1. On the bottom of every page in the explorer's book, there's a note: "If you've had enough and you're ready to stop playing, turn to 48 instead." On page 48, spoilers! You wake up safe in your bed and it was just a bad dream. This is, as you'd guess, basically never a satisfying ending to the game. Furthermore, the corresponding page in the ghosts' book says that congratulations, you've won by frightening the explorer player into quitting.

So one way to win Murderous Ghosts, as the ghosts player, is to make the game so unpleasant for the explorer player that they'd rather quit than keep playing.

2. In the explorer's book, it says that if you manage to resolve the violence that keeps the ghost here, seeing the ghost to its eternal rest, you win. In the ghosts' book, though, it says that explorers who are trying to help ghosts to peace are extremely easy to murder, so one strategy is to drop false hints, and use the explorer's curiousity and compassion to draw them into a situation they can't escape.

When you're playing with an unexperienced explorer player, the text of the explorer's book is your lying accomplice.

I'll stand by both of these dirty tricks as essential pieces of Murderous Ghosts' game design. Small as they are, the game wouldn't work without them; it wouldn't be the game I wanted to create. When I designed Murderous Ghosts, I included them on purpose.

On the other hand, I must and do recognize that they limit Murderous Ghosts' appeal. Including them in the design means that some people who play the game have a bad time and never play it again, and tell their friends it's not good, and so on. When I included them in Murderous Ghosts' design, I had to accept this.

Most of my games include dirty tricks, traps for the players to stumble into.

In Apocalypse World, the hardholder is a trap, and the hardholder's -2weird stat line is a double trap.

In Dogs in the Vineyard, "yes, your gun can be big and excellent, and in fact you can have as many big and excellent guns as you want" is a trap. Taking the blow when you're just talking is a trap, in that it gets you used to taking the blow when the danger is small, so that you aren't appropriately wary when the danger is greater.

Rock of Tahamaat, Space Tyrant is nothing but a big trick on Rock of Tahamaat's player, who can only watch events unfold with increasing helplessness and desperation.

You can win The Doomed Pilgrim basically only if you can trick or trap the internet into playing to lose. Midsummer Wood is similar.

Spin the Beetle is my only honest game!

2015-03-23 : The Vengeful Demon of the Ring as a Con Game

Suppose that I'm organizing a smallish local convention, a Saturday-Sunday con for 50-75 attendees. I include in the registration material this note:

I'm glad you're coming! During the con, there will be a number of secret games in play. You might be involved in one or more of them, with or without your knowledge. If you suspect that you're an unwitting player in a game, you aren't under any obligation to behave any particular way - feel free to play along, to ask questions, to object, or whatever else you choose to do. Especially, never let the possibility that it's a game make you do anything that makes you unhappy or uncomfortable.

Also, the con's scheduled games always suspend the secret games, so don't worry about a secret game messing up the games you're here to play.

...With a similar note attached to the secret games: No play allowed during a con game, only outside of sessions.

Suppose that you're coming to the con, and that you read this note.

Question 1: For those of you who see an ethical problem with playing The Vengeful Demon of the Ring, does this note resolve it?

Question 2: In the note, have I used the term "unwitting player" correctly?

Question 3: If someone chooses you to be a demon player at the con, without your knowledge as always, are you a player? Are you an unwitting player or a witting player?

2015-03-20 : High Five the ISS

High Five the ISS
a game for any number of players

The Object of the Game
Jump up and touch the ISS with your hand.

1. No turn taking required.

2. Whenever you want, jump as high as you can and try to touch the ISS with your hand.

3. You can do anything you can think of to better your chances. Examples: go outside instead of jumping inside, climb a ladder and jump off the top, use a trampoline, find out when the ISS is overhead and try then.

4. No bonus points for getting hurt, so use your judgment.

5. First person to touch the ISS with their hand wins forever.

6. No points for getting closer than someone else. It's all or nothing.

Special Rule
Everyone who's ever worked on or served on the ISS honorarily wins forever. I think we can all agree.

I'll be honest, I'm no good at this game, but it makes me laugh.

2015-03-17 : The Vengeful Demon of the Ring

The Vengeful Demon of the Ring
a roleplaying game for three players, one unwitting

The Object of the Game
The object of the game is to win three wishes from the demon player, then grant them their freedom, without ever letting on that they're playing a game with you.

The Players
You're an "adventurer player." You know that you're playing the game and you know the rules.

Choose one friend to be an adventurer player with you. Explain the rules to them.

Choose another friend to be the "demon player." If they figure out that they're playing the game, you lose, so don't tell them!

The Story
You and your fellow adventurer have discovered, in some isolated place, a magical ring, to which answers a powerful and impatient demon. It might grant your wishes, or it might fly into a rage and destroy you both.

Making Wishes
Take turns with the other adventurer player, asking the demon player to do you favors.

Imagine yourself as an adventurer, asking a demon to grant your wishes. Imagine yourself making bold or cunning demands, as you like, but in real life, ask for simple favors. Ask in code. The code is this: the favor you ask must share initials with the wish you're making as an adventurer.

"Would you get me a glass of water?" = "I wish for great wealth!"

"Would you mind lifting your elbow?" = "I wish for life everlasting!"

"Would you please take this lamp?" = "I wish for true love!"

It's your responsibility to remember what you've wished for. When you have the chance, take a moment aside with the other adventurer player to explain the wishes you've made so far.

Interpreting the Demon Player's Responses
If the demon player does what you ask, the demon grants your wish.

If the demon player declines, so does the demon.

If the demon player becomes suspicious, imagine the demon becoming impatient with your wheedling and showing the beginning of a rage. You'll have to do your best to assuage the demon player's suspicions, press your luck, or else abandon the game.

If the demon player becomes frustrated, demands answers, or guesses that you're playing a game, the demon gives in to its explosive fury and destroys both of you adventurers outright. The game ends and you've lost.

So the challenge of the game is to come up with a wish, translate it by initials into a harmless request, and then ask your friend to do it for you, but without raising your friend's suspicions.

Ending the Game
If it happens that the demon grants you two adventurers, between you, three wishes, then it's time to end the game.

One or the other of you must do a favor for the demon player, unasked, whose initials are "GF," for "I grant you your freedom." For instance, you could bring the demon player a glass of fruit or a giant flower.

This ends the game. One of you adventurer players has won.

Sometime after the game, compare wishes with the other adventurer player. Whichever of you made and was granted the better wishes - more wishes, grander wishes, cleverer or funnier wishes - wins the game. This is a matter of interpretation and it's possible that each of you will consider yourself to have won.

Don't Let On
The demon player never needs to know that you've played a game together or what the outcome was. If they find out after the game ends, the result stands - it's too late by then for the demon to destroy you - but still, try not to let on.

If you're like me, you have some friends who won't mind being made to play the demon, and other friends who'll be bothered by it, even though it's harmless. It's your responsibility to choose which friends you play with.

The End

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I'm making a game with my 9-year-old.
Rhinoceros Joust!

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