Game Poem 18: First Impressions

First impressions, indeed...

This is a game in which you play fantasy adventurers at a speed-dating style dungeon party hookup event. Everyone is looking to form up with a party to go adventuring, ransacking some old ruins, storming a wizard’s tower, rooting out a goblin encampment, what have you. Going out to kill monsters and take their stuff. You can’t do that kind of thing alone, of course, and hanging out at Ye Olde Tavern has become a drag, so here you are. First Impressions is ideally played with an even number of players, but if you have an odd number, one player will just be sitting out for a couple of minutes before jumping back into the rotation. All you need to play are a timer, some paper and writing implements, and a bunch of counters or tokens, like pennies or glass beads.

Give each player pen and paper, and a number of counters equal to half the number of players, rounded down if necessary. So, in a game with six or seven players, each player should have three tokens. Next, sit down together, and have each player  quickly fill out a character sheet. Write down your adventurer’s name and gender at the top of the sheet – it can be anything, so don’t think too hard about any of this! Okay, now everyone needs to write down what class they are – everyone choose one from the following list, each class may be used exactly once, no duplicates:

[ Warrior | Priest | Wizard | Rogue | Hunter | Knight | Barbarian | Shaman | Monk | Bard ]

If there are more than nine players, make up some more! (And get comfortable, because you might be here a while…) Next, everyone write down what race you are. It’s okay if people duplicate here, but there should be a good mix of fantasy races in the group. Choose from the following standard list, or have fun and create new ones:

[ Human | Elf | Dwarf | Hobbit | Half-Orc | Dark Elf | Gnome ]

To finish up making your character, quickly make up and write down three last things: where your adventurer hails from (Amanoth, Garraton, Bloodmoor, Glenvale, Derbyshire, whatever), a special item or ability that your character possesses (the flaming sword of legend, a seat on the duke’s council, the ability to drink an ogre under the table, etc), and a great deed that you have done or something that you might be known for (banished a demon lord back to hell, swindled the thieves’ guild, led the king’s army to victory, kept last season’s crops from blight, and so on). Again, these can be anything, so don’t take too long to write these down. It should take less than a minute or so for everyone to make their characters, so just throw down the first thing that springs to mind, super-cool or not, and make with the speed-matchups!

Okay, so here’s how the dungeon crawler speed-dating works. Form up in two lines, so that everyone is paired up with another random person. If there’s an odd adventurer out, they can make themselves useful by keeping time for now. Depending on how many people you have, set the timer for two minutes or so; if you’re short on folks or feel like a longer game, go longer – with a whole mess of people, keep it around a minute. When the timer starts, go! Say hello, introduce yourself, and get to know each other. Ask the other person what kind of quest they’re looking to get in on, what their favorite weapons or spells are, how they like to split up the treasure, where they got that fantastic longbow, do you have a nemesis? Be as charming and interesting as useful-sounding as possible. You might want to jot down a few notes while you’re talking, but try to focus on the person you’re speaking to. You only get one chance, and it doesn’t last long! When the ending timer goes off, thank your partner, and move one person to the left. If you’re the one sitting out, rotate in – if you’re moving out to the oddball slot, grab the timer and start it a-tickin’.

Once every player has had a chance, however brief, to get to know everyone else, the speed-dating part is over, and it’s time to make judgements and see who gets to go delving with who. Remember those counters that you got at the beginning? Find the adventurers that you felt the best connection with, and give them one token each. You can only express interest in about half of the other players, so choose wisely! Once everyone has split their professional affections among the other adventurers, go around and see who has the highest number of tokens – that is clearly the new party leader! If there’s a tie among two or more, co-leaders are totally kosher. The new head honcho may then select adventurers to join the party at their discretion, one at a time. If they choose to join up, great! If not, move on. Once you have collected a number of adventurers equal to half of the total players (rounded down, again), you’re done! Go forth and start plundering!

And for the unwanted leftover players, I hear that there’s a shady-looking elf sitting at one of the tables in the back of the Green Dragon Inn…

Super Exciting Bonus Throw-Down Alternate Ending!

Sometimes, you don’t find adventure – adventure finds you! Before you can see who has how many tokens and who is the prom king or queen of this adventure squad, the door bursts open, and a bunch of bad guys swarm in! Take like ten seconds to quickly decide as a group what kind of adversaries you’re now faced with – rampaging orcs? disgruntled dragon-men? drunk and/or surly bandits? a gang composed entirely of the characters’ nemeses? – and get to brawling!

Each round of combat goes like this: Everybody picks a partner super quickly, like one-two-three-go. If there’s an extra person left out, sorry, you fall to the intruders. Take a sentence or two to narrate your demise and quietly bow out. If you’re paired up, compare the number of tokens that you each hold.

If the two players hold different numbers of tokens, the person with the lower number is taken down by the bad guys – again, take a moment to tell the entire group how you go down fighting. The player with the larger number of tokens survives, but at a cost – remove a number of counters equal to your partner’s number, and describe how you battle on. (So, say, a wizard with five tokens allies with an archer holding two. The archer is devoured by flying monkey-gators, and the wizard fire blasts them out of the air, but is left with only three tokens afterward.) If, however, you and your partner have the same number of tokens, you are well matched, and both survive the round. Tell the others how you kick ass, and the two of you will go on to the next round as a single monster-stomping duo, with a strength as a unit that is equal to each player’s individual strength. (So you’ve got a barbarian and a bard both holding three tokens; next round, they’re treated as a single character (a bardbarian?) holding three. Get it? You will.)

After each group has figured out who lives and who dies, start another round, and continue going on like this until there is only one character left, or you’ve wound up with an elite super-group of baddie beater-uppers. Pay your respects to your fallen comrades, and try not to step on their bodies on the way out the door – to adventure!

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