Thursday, April 17, 2014

Murder: the table game by Me


There is a video game that is part of "Gary's Mod" on the Steam video game service.  In that game all the players are put into an area.  One person is designated "The Murderer" and the others are the "Bystanders".  The Murderer has a knife and can kill the other players.  Only one of the players gets a gun, which they can drop and it can be picked up by the other Bystanders.  The trick is for the Murderer to isolate the players and kill them without alerting the one with the gun.  There is no way for anyone to be able to tell who is a Bystander and who is a Murderer aside from what they say and do.

I have come up with a sort of table top game based on this.  I did a little Google searching and did not find anyone that had done this already, but it seems like such a no-brainer that I'm sure I am not the first to do it, so I claim no right of "first".

A Game of Notes

What you will need is some form of hat or bucket and several pieces of paper.  The game is separated into Rounds and Turns.  You begin a round by writing "Knife" on one piece of paper, "Gun" on another piece of paper, and "Bystander" on all the others.  You put these in the container and the players draw them.  Until all the players have had a chance to take a piece of paper, no words are spoken.  After the last piece of paper is drawn the players are free to say what they will.  They can declare they are bystanders, they can even declare they have the gun, it would probably be unwise to claim to have the knife.

Playing a Round

The players begin the round by each getting a turn to make a case for their innocence.  They may not show their piece of paper at all, unless the person with the gun wishes to use it as proof they are not the Murderer.  The choice to show the gun is up to the player, if they wish, they may hide the fact that they have the gun.

After each person has had the chance to defend/declare themselves, new paper is passed around to the players that is blank.  If the player is a Bystander(even if they have the gun), all they can write down on this paper is Innocent.  No one is yet to share what they write down.  The player with the Knife may also write down Innocent, or they may write down the name of a non-Gun holding player they wish to kill.  All the papers are folded and put into a container.  Before the papers are revealed, the person with the gun may reveal they have the gun and kill a player using it.  This is the only way to pre-preemptively stop a murder from happening and can only be done once per round.  They can also just wait and see what happens if they wish, and not kill anyone.  After the first piece of paper is revealed, the person with the gun can no longer shoot it this round.  If the Murderer tries to kill the Bystander with the gun, without anyone knowing that person has the gun, then the Murderer is shot and dies instantly losing the game.

Each piece of paper is revealed.  If the Murderer has killed someone, they leave this game.  If the Bystander with the gun killed someone innocent, the killed Bystander killed will profess their innocence and leaves the game.  If the Bystander with the Gun kills the Murderer, the game is over.  If there are Bystanders left, the game starts a new Round, repeat the steps of the Round.  If only the Murderer and the Bystander with the gun is left, the Murderer kills him or her and wins the game.  Repeat the rounds until either the Murderer kills the Bystander with the Gun, or the Murderer is dead.

There are some scenarios that players can do to be jackasses and ruin the fun.  A point system can fix this and I've wrote down a few, but I'm not sure I want to go the points route.  I think this will work good enough for some light fun.  A simple, quick rule that will encourage Gun holders to fire and Murderers to murder is that for each person dead at the end of the game, the Murderer gets 1 point, for each one alive at the end of the game the Murderer gets -1 point.

Friday, April 4, 2014

The John Doe Era: a group story building idea

I came up with an idea the other day for a Savage World game, and thought it could be used in several other games as well.

Savage Worlds has this mechanic that happens during down times(like if the group is camping for the night, or staying in a motel between cities, etc) where you invoke an "Interlude".  In the Interlude, a character is given a chance to expand their character's story and personal life out of the context of the game.  A trend that started in the Happy Jack's podcast circle of friends was that the GM would get an Interlude out of someone without them realizing they were Interluded.  Speaking from experience, it is hard to get an Interlude going without people realizing, and without that, the Interlude can feel artificial and out of place at times.

My ideas lead to me doing directed and cooperative Interludes.  I would pick something that happened in the last session and ask the player to talk about it with the group in character.  Maybe the character had questions about why someone did this or that, or why someone could not do this or that, this leads to some pretty good discussions.

The new idea, though, is something I feel is one of the best I've come up with in a while.  When explaining it, I used the name John Doe, so that's why its called the John Doe era.  I was watching The Walking Dead the other week, and in it the group skips ahead about 9 months.  You are not specifically told what happened in those 9 months aside from the fact that the group because more like a family to each other, and a whole lot of surviving happened.

I thought to myself "what if I skipped ahead a certain amount of time, and told my players that someone had joined the group and now is not a part of the group anymore".  This was the era of John.  At the interludes I would ask the person something about that time.  "its nights like this that remind of why you liked John, maybe you want to tell the group a good memory"  or "one time you saved John's life, why did you never tell the group, and what happened that day?" and after the character of John is built, I pull out the big one, "why is John not with the group any longer".  It is completely up to the players to build this character that they never played with.  It is up to the players to give him personality without the GM judging or coercing.  John could be good, he could be an asshole, he could have left over a disagreement, he could have been killed, its up to the group.

Its collaborative story telling that is out of the hands of the GM, and a lull in the action, during an Interlude or another such time in other games would be a perfect time to let the GM have a break, and to let the group control things a bit.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Lord of the Rings: Living Card Game FFG

Not really a review, more of a "hey check this out".

Lord of the Rings: LCG is a card game made by Fantasy Flight.  Its a living card game, meaning that you do not buy randomized packs and need to trade or find rares and uncommons to compete.  The "boosters" are always the same cards, and always the max number of them you can have in a deck.  The expansions come a couple of times a year and are basically 3x the boosters with new characters to be as.  When it comes to Lord of the Rings:LCG, you buy your starter set, and whatever else you feel like getting, and you're done.  Why?  Well its a special game.

There is no competing with other players in LOTR:LCG, because you play it cooperatively.  It doesn't matter if Tom has 10 booster sets and 2 expansions, because that only HELPS you, because you're on the same side.  In the game, you and your friends are presented with a series of randomized quests that come from a deck that makes your story.  Both of you pull from a deck that you make from your own cards to try and proceed through the quest.  Quests have varying difficulty and special rules set up from the get go, so there's plenty of reasons to play a quest multiple times.

The additions to the game come as booster packs with a new character, a new quest, and new cards that support this quest.  Some of the cards are new monsters, some of them are new equipment or events.  A couple of times a year there is an Expansion released.  This expansion is typically 3x the amount of cards as a booster.  You get several new heroes, quests, and all the cards needed to support it.  For example: one of the first boosters adds "The Hunt for Golem", and a Bilbo Baggins card as a character.  One expansion adds Moria, 3 dwarven characters for you to play, and 3 new quests to partake that happen inside Moria.

The game can also be played as a sort of super solitaire, but the harder quests are typically too strong for this play.  Its not impossible, but its better to use the weaker quests to practice on.  Practice you will need, because this game is hard.  If you are not cheating, you will likely be trying to finish the 2nd quest in the starter deck for many many sessions.  The 3rd one will wipe the floor with you until you're a veteran.

Reviewy type stuff?  The art is amazing.  The pictures are not abstract, and the action in them is inspirational while playing.  It sets the mood perfectly.  The theme of the game works.  There is another living card game set in a popular science fiction universe where you will fight space ships with your overly large horned rams... its silly.  Lord of the Rings:LCG is perfect.  You gather a group of adventurers.  You equip them with legendary weapons and armor, and you slay monsters in locations while trying to finish a quest.  There is no abstraction, you actually make a story as you go.  You are ALWAYS happy to see Gandalf.  If I have one complaint about the game, there are too many little pieces for my liking.  To give the game makers credit, there's a  lot less little knick-knacks than Fantasy Flight usually puts in games, but its still a lot for this type of game.

Chances are you're going to play it wrong the first few times.  Either watch someone on Youtube explain it, or play with someone that really does know how to play.  Its ok though, even playing wrongly, you'll have fun.  It really does scratch that deck making itch that I have been missing since quitting Magic.  Unlike a lot of "Magic" alternatives, you will be making, refining, and altering deck lists just like if you were playing Magic.