Jun 28 2010

Game Poem 26: The Leaves Will Bury

This game is for a few players, somewhere around two to five. You will need a pen, and twenty or thirty small pieces of paper to write on. The players will choose someone, a person that they all know, or create a fictional person that they will all come to know. Either way, the players will choose the name of the person and write it on one of the pieces of paper.

Working together to inspire each other, and to prevent duplication, the players should each write down a number of facts about the person, one per piece of paper. Note their birthday and their age, write about their appearance, what color their hair and eyes are, how tall or short they are, what their skin is like, and so on. Add more details, one per paper, about their personality, what they liked, what they hated, how they talked, how they laughed, whether they seemed bitter or cheerful, if they always complained or always smiled, what kinds of things they believed in, and so forth. Talk about and write down things surrounding them, their prized possessions, the people that they loved and despised and tolerated, how you all know them. Note down what kind of car they drove or what kind of bike they rode, what their favorite books and movies and games and music were. Add anything that comes tom mind, until you have twenty-five or thirty facts about the person. Take all of the slips of paper, and shuffle them roughly into a stack that everyone can reach.

This person has recently died, and you have all gathered together because of them. You will play a scene as yourselves that takes place at or just after the person’s funeral. Players should talk about the deceased respectfully, but not necessarily mournfully; everyone is allowed their own feelings and perspective about their late acquaintance. Reminisce as you wish, discussing what the person was like, using the details written on the pieces of paper as reminders, trying to work most – if not all – of the elements that you’ve written into the conversation. After a few minutes, no more than five, the conversation will end, and you will all finish up, give your regards, and say goodbye to each other.

Years pass. The players should take turns picking out and discarding slips of paper, until about a quarter of them are gone. You may wish to get rid of the less important details first, but that is your decision. Tear each of the discarded papers in two, and let the pieces fall to the ground onto their grave.

The second scene takes place several years after the person’s death. Each player will play themselves once again, only much older this time – possibly nearing the end of their own lives. You have all come together again for some special reason – decide why amongst yourselves – and the conversation will inevitably drift to the topic of your old deceased friend. Talk about your former acquaintance for a little while, using only the details that still exist on the remaining pieces of paper. You may remember something of one of the facts that was lost, but you will be unable to bring it to mind. After a few minutes, the conversation will turn to another topic, and the scene will end.

Years pass. The players again take turns picking out and discarding slips of paper, until only about half of the original pieces of information remain. Tear each of the discarded papers in two, and let the pieces fall to the ground onto their grave.

The third scene takes place many years later. Each player will play someone from the following generation, someone who lives on after the player’s own death. Perhaps a child or a grandchild, or a student or a young friend who is now grown. Decide why you have all met now, and have a conversation that begins with someone recalling an old friend of their parent or grandparent or teacher or whatever you choose. You will all have some kind of connection to this person in some way, but you will only be able to recall the facts that exist on the remaining slips of paper. You may try to recall the other details, but you will fail. The conversation will soon return to more present topics, and the scene will end.

Years pass. The players once more take turns picking out and discarding slips of paper, until only a few remain. Tear each of the discarded papers in two, and let the pieces fall to the ground onto their grave.

The final scene takes place at a much later date, perhaps a hundred years or more in the future. The players will each play someone who was associated somehow with their previous character; again, decide why you have all gathered together. One player will bring up the deceased person in passing, and the others will discuss their life with some amount of curiosity. Again, only the few details that exist on the remaining slips of paper may be used, and again, the conversation will inevitably turn to another topic, and the scene will end.

Years pass. The players take turns tearing each remaining piece of paper in two, letting them fall to the ground onto the grave. The players will have one last conversation, as themselves, on any topic, but will not mention any of the facts from any of the discarded pieces of paper, except perhaps the fact that they knew someone once who died. Nothing else about the person may be recalled. Inevitably, the conversation will go where it will, and the players will realize at some point that the game has ended. Leave the fallen papers where they lie until someone decides that it is time to clean them up and throw them away.

Jun 19 2010

Game Poem 25: Danse

The Danse requires at least three players, but will greatly benefit from more – try it with a half dozen, at least. In addition to a number of players, you will also need several regular six-sided dice, approximately twice as many dice as there are players. One of the dice must be of a different color than the rest, preferably one red die among a number of white dice. The players may also wish to each fill a glass to drink from as they play.

The players will take on the roles of the hosts and guests of a lavish party, an extravagant affair that takes place within the walls of a grand mansion while a plague sweeps across the country outside. However, as you may well know, and will surely learn, death may not be held in check by iron gates and stone facades, nor by purses full of gold and goblets full of wine. This will be the tale of how even the noblest fall to the pestilence, and the reaper takes his due on all men.

One player will take the colored die – we will assume that it is red from this point – and give it to the person who will play the host of the party. In doing so, introduce yourself to the group – tell them your name, your title if any, and what your relation is to the host, familial or otherwise. Describe your manner and your station briefly, and describe how you came to be invited to this most exclusive of festivities. If you are related to the host, tell us how, and what your feelings toward your kinsman are; if you are a dear acquaintance, or a partner in business, or a lover, or a cherished old friend, provide whatever level of detail that seems proper to the relationship. When the first guest has finished, someone else will take another die – one of the white ones – and give it to them, introducing themselves similarly. Once they have made their acquaintance to the other partygoers, another guest will give them a white die of their own, and make their own introduction, and again and so forth, until finally the host hands the last guest a die, and at last properly introduces themselves to the gathering, and bids the revel to begin in earnest.

The Danse is to be played out in a series of rounds. Each round commences with the player who holds the red die, so the host of the party will begin the first round. This first player describes what they are doing at the party at this moment. (If the players have drink, they may take a sip from their glass as they do so.) Now, close to the beginning of the festivities, the revelers’ activities will be primarily light and gay – dancing merrily, flirting and gossiping, telling amusing stories, taking advantage of the banquet that has been laid out before them. Do not take a long time to recount your folly; let your description be brief but rich in detail. The other players may raise their glasses as well, and cheer those exploits that they find pleasing.

Now, the current player will roll their die. If they roll a two, three, four, five, or six, then he or she may continue on blithely, and play passes to the person sitting on their right. The next player will describe their behavior at the party similarly, and cast their dice when they have finished as well. Play continues on this way until someone rolls their dice, and a one appears.

If on your turn, you throw your dice and any should come up a one, then the plague has found you. You will be silent for the rest of the game. Drain your glass, and give your die (or dice) to any single player. That person will tell the others how they found you among the revelry, where in the mansion your body lay and how death has ravaged you. This news is, of course, troubling to all those gathered, but there is nothing but to carry on, so the player with the red die will describe how the corpse is disposed of (discreetly, of course), and they will pass the red die to any other player, and take a new white one from the supply to replace it.

A new round now begins with the new holder of the red die, and each player will take turns recounting their actions at the party and rolling once again, until death claims another. At this point, you will notice, some players will be rolling more than one die on their turn, and more still will be rolled as the game wears on – this is simply the nature of things.

Play continues this way, with party guests (and, inevitably, hosts) succumbing to the epidemic, emptying their glasses and passing their dice on, describing more and more desperate acts as the night progresses and the company dwindles. Polite conversation turns to bitter accusations and recriminations, innocent flirtation becomes outright lechery, and the normally refined enjoyment of a simple meal may degenerate into an orgy of gluttony and inebriated debauchery. Any deeds that are described by any of the players should be treated as fact, regardless of their consequences, but they party guests must remain inside the mansion, and may not take the lives of any of the other guests outright – that is the sole purview of the pestilence that stalks the halls of this doomed revel.

Eventually, there will be but two that remain, and then one. The last surviving player will continue to describe his or her actions alone, rolling their copious supply of dice each time, until they too succumb to the plague. When the final partygoer has met their end, set all the empty vessels and dice aside. The party is over, and death has won the game again, as always.

Jun 11 2010

Game Poem 24: The Knight, the Rogue, the Princess, and the Dragon

The Knight, The Rogue, The Princess, and the Dragon is a quick little story-telling game for four players. Take the face cards and aces from a deck of regular playing cards, and distribute them to the players, so that each player has the Jack, Queen, King, and Ace of a suit. Each player should shuffle their four cards and place them in a pile face-down in front of them. For the purpose of this game, we will refer to the cards as the Knight (the King), the Princess (the Queen), the Rogue (the Jack), and the Dragon (the Ace).

Starting with the youngest player, take turns flipping over the top card of your stack until someone turns up their Knight. That will be the starting player. If any of the other players have not turned over a card yet, they should do so now, so that everyone has at least one face-up card showing. The starting player begins the story by holding up the Knight and saying something like, “Once upon a time, there was a brave (or rich, or young, or ambitious, or proud) Knight…” They may describe the Knight however they like, telling the other players what he looks like, how he behaves, or what he thinks. Just take a sentence or two to do this, and then hand the Knight to one of the other players. That player puts the Knight card that was given to them face-up under their draw pile, and continues the story.

To continue the story, the new storyteller takes the card that they have turned face-up in front of them, and proceeds to tell how the Knight encounters or interacts with that new character. For example, the Knight may know the Princess that the new storyteller has in front of them – describe her as beautiful, or as a tomboy, or generous, or vain, or lonely, or how she loves cupcakes, or perhaps she is the Knight’s sister. Or, if the new storyteller has a Dragon in front of them, they may tell how the Knight heard an old tale about a rich dragon sitting on a pile of gold in his cave, or he may meet a tiny baby dragon stuck in a tree, or he may have to defeat a dragon to rescue his King, or the dragon may be his steed, or anything! A Rogue may be incorporated into the story by having him try to trick the Knight somehow, or rob him while he sleeps, or maybe he wants to become a knight himself somehow. The new storyteller’s card may even be a second Knight, in which case they may either further describe the original Knight, or tell more of his past adventures or his motivations or who he serves, or it may be another actual knight in the story who he meets, or who he has fought with, or who is is friend, or his captain, or his rival. Any of these things – or anything else the new storyteller may think of – are wonderful ways to continue the story.

Once the second player has added their piece of the story, and how their card connects with the Knight at the beginning, they then take their character’s card and give it to another player, just as the first Knight was given to them. The new storyteller takes that card and puts it face-up underneath their draw pile, and if they don’t already have a card face-up in front of them, they must turn over a new one now, and continue the story in the same way. The Princess told him this, or the Rogue attacked the Dragon sneakily, or the Knight challenged her to a game of chess, or the Dragon flew off with something valuable, or anything that you can imagine. Play continues this way, with each player adding a new bit according to the card that they have showing, giving that card to the next player, until every player has used all four of their cards in the telling of the story. (Make sure not to pass your character card to a player that has already used all four of their cards!) Eventually, all the players will wind up with a pile of face-up cards that have been given to them by other players, and there will be one player holding a character card, with nobody to give it to after they have added their bit to the story.

This last player should place their final character’s card face-up in the middle of the table. You should have a relatively involved little story spun out now, but how to end it? Well, as the final card is played to the table – this will become the “story pile” – that player may begin to wrap things up, telling how that character has succeeded in whatever they need to do to get what they need in the story. Maybe it’s a Knight card, and he has retrieved the queen’s necklace from the Dragon’s swamp. Or perhaps the Princess has finally trained the Dragon to be her new pet, or the Rogue has become the new king. Maybe the Dragon has even managed to eat all of the other characters at this point!

But this is not the end! All of the players may now look at the card on top of their face-up pile of cards that they have received from the other players, and if they can play a card on top of the story pile that beats the card that’s currently on the top of the stack, they may add something that allows their card’s character to reverse their fortune and achieve their desires instead! The cards beat each other in the following manner:

  • Knight slays Dragon
  • Dragon captures Princess
  • Princess charms Rogue
  • Rogue deceives Knight

These are not necessarily strictly the actions that happen in the story when one card beats another, but they are just a handy way to remember which card beats which. Of course, if you want to use those elements in the story as the end twists and turns, please, feel free to do so!

Eventually, there will come a point where none of the players are able to play one of their cards onto the story pile. Or perhaps all of the players decide that they like the ending as it stands, and do not wish to play another character card, even though they are able to. The player who laid down the last card on the story pileĀ  may finish up the story with a sentence or two, wrapping it up with a moral or a happily aver after if they wish.

Of course, that may not be the true end of the story, but just the beginning of the next one…

Jun 4 2010

Game Poem 23: Accord

You will need at least three or four players to play this game, but more is better. Try playing with up to a dozen or so, and see what happens.

The players begin by getting into a circle. Choose one person to be the starting player. They will take a deep breath, and start humming or singing a single steady note, holding it as long as possible. It doesn’t matter what the pitch or tone of the note is, as long as you can keep it going steadily for a little while. As the first player begins to sound their note, the next player to the starting player’s left will start to breathe in deeply, and when they have inhaled fully, begin to sing or hum a second note. This second note may be the exact same note as the first one, it may be shifted up or down an octave, it may be a note that is in harmony with the first one, or something totally not in harmony at all. Again, it doesn’t matter what the second note is, as long as it is steady, and can be maintained for a good while. When the second person begins to sing or hum their note, the next person in the circle should begin to breathe in deeply, and when they have taken in all the breath they can, begin another note, in the same way as above.

Listen to the chord that you have created. It may not be part of a scale, or in harmony, or whether it is beautiful or ugly, but it is your chord nonetheless. Do not stop. As the third player makes their sound, the next person should begin to breathe in, and then sing their own note, adding to the chord. And when they begin, the next person will breathe in and sing, and the next, and so on.

Hold your notes as long as you can, but if you run out of breath, that is totally fine. Just sit and listen until your turn comes around again. As the chord progresses around the circle, there may be more people singing at some times, and fewer people singing at others. Maybe the chord dwindles to just one or two singers. Maybe everyone is sounding their note at once, forming an impromptu orchestra of voices. All of these things are perfect.

So, as each person begins their sound, singing or humming or whistling or whatever they can do to use their breath to make a note, the next person in the circle to their left will breathe in as deeply as possible, and when they have filled their lungs completely, they will begin to form their sound as well, each person adding to the group’s chord. And as players run out of breath, their sound drops from the chord, changing it once again. Around the circle, all the way around, until it becomes the starting player’s turn again.

When the chord reaches the first player once more, instead of singing a note now, they should listen to the music that the group has created, draw in a deep breath, and begin telling a story, in first person, that the sounds inspire in them. It doesn’t matter what it is about, just let the group’s chord enter your mind, let go, and say the first thing that comes to you. What is the music like? Can you think of an adjective that describes what you are hearing? Does it remind you of the notes from a popular song, or the score from a movie? Doe it make you think of a group of animals, or machines? Just open your mouth, and begin with “I was…” or “I am…” or “I always…” or “I never” or “Once, I…” and let the rest of the words just flow from there. Your story should be short, just a few sentences, not more than the duration of a few breaths. Maybe you can even tell it in one long breath. When you have finished, just wait and listen to the chord.

As soon as the first player begins telling their story, the next person in the circle, on their left, they should begin breathing in again, and continue by singing a new note, maybe a different note than they were singing before, or maybe the same one, with a different tone to it, or perhaps the exact same thing. Whatever feels right. They will continue singing over and along with the storyteller, holding their note as long as they can, and letting it end when it needs to. Again, as before, as one person begins their note, the next person breathes in, and when they have taken the deepest breath they are able to, begin their new note as well, and so on, around the circle as before. The chord continues and changes and grows and shrinks and evolves as the storyteller finishes their tale, and when they have finished, they may join in the chord again, as well.

When the storyteller ends their story, let the chord continue to live and change for a while, breathing and singing around the circle, until someone else feels like it is time to begin a short story of their own. They will breathe in and begin their brief first-person narrative, as the next person breathes in and continues the chord with their own note, and around again, until they have finished and rejoin the chord again, as the first player did before. This may happen any number of times. Hopefully, every player will have an opportunity to add to the story at least once, and if they feel like it, a player may be the storyteller more than once, but you should take care to make sure that everyone who would like to narrate has a chance to do so.

Once everyone who fells like they would like to tell their story inspired by the music has done so, the game will begin to end. When everyone is done telling their story, the chord will progress around the circle at least once more by itself, and then someone – perhaps the first player, the initial storyteller – may signal the end of the game by simply breathing in and letting their breath out in silence. Pay attention to the person on your right as they end, and when they finish their role in the group’s chord, breathe in and do the same, exhaling silently instead of singing a note. Eventually, the next player in the circle will do the same, until the last person finishes their sound, and everyone is silent. At this point, all the players should take in a deep breath together, and release it, and the game has ended.