Aug 25 2010

Twenty-Four Game Poems book at Lulu!

This was ready a few days ago, and me being me, I just realized that the place that I should be promoting it is right here. So, here it is!

The very same edition of the Twenty-Four Game Poems book that I printed up in a limited edition for GenCon 2010 is now available for purchase on It’s not signed and numbered, but it is thoroughly edited and laid out all pretty, so if you weren’t able to get your hands on a copy, now you can!

This took an awful lot of time and effort to put together, but it was totally worth it. I imagine that I’ll do another edition in six months or so, so if you’re liking what you’re seeing, keep your eyes peeled…

(I also have three new game poems lined up and ready to go once I make with the writey-writey and editing and whatnot, so those should be coming out sometime this week, barring disaster or sloth.)

Aug 14 2010

Game Poem 31: Bear Season

This game requires around four to six players. Together, you will play the part of a bear in its natural habitat, each of you taking on a different aspect of the animal. Each player selects a part of the bear to embody, no two choosing the same. One player may portray the teeth of the bear, another the claws; one may choose to speak for the bear’s nose and sense of smell, and someone else may take the part of the bear’s eyes, and tell what it sees. Someone may choose to be the bear’s hide and fur, or its stomach, its hunger, driving it towards food and prey, or the bear’s heart, its courage and instincts, or its fear and wariness towards mankind.

Oh yes, there is also a hunter out there somewhere. Perhaps he hunts the bear, or maybe he is after some other game, and has merely wandered into the bear’s territory. Will they cross paths, and if they do, will one pose a threat to the other, or will they find a way to pass each other without a confrontation? Choose an object, a marker to show where the hunter is in the circle of players. If you can find an arrowhead, or a spent shotgun shell, or something similar to represent the hunter, excellent. If not, any kind of stone or metal marker will do.

Select one player to hold the hunter’s marker to begin. The player on their left will begin the bear’s story by taking on the role of Nature, and set the initial scene that the bear finds itself in. They will describe the season, what time of day it is, and the bear’s surroundings. The bear may find itself swatting trout out of a rushing stream on a sunny summer day, or curled up sleeping in a hollow, waiting for the last winter snows to melt away. It may be rummaging in leafy underbrush of the forest, or climbing a tree to find a meal of tasty fruits and acorns, or snuffing around after a mate in the spring.

Once the stage is set, the Nature player may add a detail or two, something that might interest or intrigue the animal. In turn, the other players will describe how their aspects of the bear would react to the the setting and the details presented. If the bear finds a burrow, its nose may smell a litter of baby foxes, its claws may wish to dig it out, or its sense of curiosity may simply growl into it, to see what happens. In a winter storm, the bear’s fur may simply wish to seek shelter under a snow drift, but its stomach may wish to press on to fill the bear’s belly before settling down.

The one restriction on the aspects’ descriptions is this: if a player holds the hunter’s token, they must incorporate an element of danger into their part’s bit of narration. Does the nose smell a human nearby? Perhaps the ears heard the crack of gunshots in the distance. Or is that the howl of wolves? The hide may be reminded of an old scar, or the heart may remember being bested by an older bear in a scrap last season. Whatever it is, the additional narration must potentially pose some kind of direct or indirect jeopardy to the bear.

When all the other players have described what their aspects sense or desire, the Nature player chooses one of them to focus on over the others, and tells the brief tale of how the scene is resolved. Does the bear eat its nuts and berries and fall asleep peacefully under the oak tree? Does it find a place to hibernate through the winter, or find a mate in the spring? Is it bitten on the snout when it goes digging recklessly into a badger’s den, or clumsily fall into the river while fishing? Or was that indeed a pack of wolves howling into the night, harrying the bear until the dawn?

Normally, when the scene is ended, the player who holds the hunter’s marker passes is to the player on their right. However, if the Nature player chose the description that held additional danger, the one described by the player holding the hunter’s marker, the hunter’s marker will immediately pass to that player who took the role of Nature. The player on their left will then become the new Nature player, and set a new scene for the bear to experience and react to.

One thing. If the player who is playing the role of Nature begins their turn describing a scene, and they also hold the hunter’s marker, they must incorporate the hunter himself into the scene. The hunter’s presence must by physical and immediate. All of the bear’s aspects must directly address the hunter’s sudden appearance in their reactions. When choosing an outcome, the Nature player must resolve the conflict between the hunter in the bear in some way. The scene will not necessarily end with the demise of the bear or the hunter, but if it does, the game will end when that scene ends. If both the bear and the hunter survive the confrontation, pass the hunter’s marker and the role of Nature as usual, and continue until one of them kills the other, or until you feel that the bear’s story has been fully told. If both carry on through this story, it is entirely possible that one or both of them will appear the next time this game is played.

Aug 10 2010

Game Poem 30: The Winter Hunt

It is winter. You are the Siverati, a tribe of people who have lived here since the First Ages. This year, there was a sickness that struck down many of your number. Winter arrived early. Food has been in short supply, and game is scarce this season. There are few of you left. Spring will come in four weeks. In four weeks, the sun will return. If you can survive the winter, the rivers will thaw, and those who remain will have plenty to eat. Still, the game is scarce this winter. To rely on the traditional ways of hunting will mean certain starvation. The tribe’s only recourse is to return to the old ways, to enter the Dream.

To play the Winter Hunt, you will need a fair-sized group of people. Five to eight hunters would be ideal. If there are fewer than five players, each of you should play two hunters apiece. To play, you will need four coins for each hunter. There are a few areas of concern, places that the coins will move in and out of. The first is the tribe’s food supply. Put one coin for each hunter into the food supply. Each of these coins will feed one person for one week The second area is the hunting grounds. Put one coin for every two hunters in the hunting grounds. These first coins will each stand for one small animal. The final area is the draw pile. Put all of the remaining coins in the draw pile. These coins represent only potential.

To begin the first week of hunting, each tribesman will take one coin from the food supply, leaving it empty. Since there is so little game in the hunting grounds, some of the hunters will need to enter the Dream to ask more animals to come to you. Without discussing who will take which role, each player will decide whether their hunter or hunters will hunt or dream by secretly choosing heads or tails on each hunter’s coin. When all have decided, everyone will reveal their coins at the same time, place their coins back into the draw pile, and the Dream will begin.

The dreamers, if any, must decide how many animals they will call upon, and how large they will be. The dreamers must form groups of one, two, or three. Each group of dreamers will describe the game that they wish to summon to the hunting grounds. A single dreamer will call small game, snow rabbits or squirrels. Two dreamers may call something larger, perhaps a wild pig or a deer. Three dreamers will be calling the largest game possible, something the size of an elk, something that will feed many tribesmen well. The groups of dreamers will throw their coins in turn. As long as one dreamer in a group throws a head on their coin, the animal that they have summoned will appear in the hunting grounds. Place the successfully summoned game into the hunting grounds by placing the single coins down, or stacking the coins in twos and threes. Successful groups of dreamers must tell together how the game answered them, and agreed to enter the hunting grounds. Unsuccessful dreamers must speak together to tell how the animal that they asked to come to them refused the call.

Now, if there is game to be had, the hunters will take their turn. Again, the hunters will go out in groups, this time of any size. A single hunter may go into the hunting grounds alone, or all the hunters may go in one large group. In turn, the groups of hunters will tell which game they will seek. Whichever animal they wish to hunt, that group of hunters must throw their coins and reveal enough heads to match the size of the animal. A single hunter may throw one coin to bring back a small animal, or a half-dozen hunters may band together to bring down a three-coin moose – a grand feast for those who hunger! Whatever the size of the band of hunters, if they do not throw the necessary heads to succeed in their hunt, they must each tell the tale of how they failed to bring back food for the tribe. If they are successful, though, each hunter must each tell the story of their skill and bravery as they bring the game back to the tribe’s food stores.

A small one-coin animal will add three coins to the food stores. A medium-sized two-coin animal will add seven coins to the tribe’s stores, and a large three-coin beast will add fifteen coins to the food supply. Clearly the larger game are more difficult to bring back successfully, but the risk may well be worth it. It is possible, of course, that there are no animals in the hunting ground this time. In that case, tell the tale of how the hunters sit around the dying fire, perhaps cursing the Dream for abandoning them, or pleading with it to send them just one small bird to quiet their growling bellies.

At the end of the hunt, the tribe must eat. Each hunter must take one coin from the food supply, if possible. If there are not enough coins to feed every hunter, the tribe must decide in some way who will eat and who will starve. If a hunter starves, they die, leave the game, and must describe their fate. Do they lay in their beds until they are too weak to awaken, or do they walk into the snows, never to be seen again? When a hunter eats, they must tell tale of their meal, how it makes them feel, to eat when others do not. They must tell of the thanks that they give to the animal that surrendered its own life for theirs, and they must tell of the thanks they give to the Dream, which brought them everything that they have.

When the consuming of food and the fates of the dead are dealt with, a new hunt must begin. Each surviving hunter will again decide whether they will hunt or dream, and secretly set and reveal their coin. The coins will be returned to the draw pile, the dreamers will dream, the hunters will hunt, game will be caught and eaten, and some will likely starve to death again. This cycle will take place four times, until winter breaks, and the sun returns to the land of the Siverati. If any of the hunters have survived, they will find fresh game again in the spring, and their tribe will flourish once again. If all of the hunters have starved to death, then all of the Siverati have returned to the Dream once more, perhaps to be reborn again one day.

Aug 10 2010

Three Weeks Behind

Okay, so the official excuse is that I spent two weeks doing daytime childcare in addition to regular work and editing and laying out and finishing the artwork for the Twenty Four Game Poems book that I released at GenCon this year.

Then I went to GenCon. Which was awesome.

So, the reality is that I’m at least three weeks behind. I’d like to call for another game-a-day run to make up for it, but, to continue the bummer that is reality, work is picking up this week, and I have a lot of post-travel catching up to do. The good news is that the book was very well received at the con, so I really do feel like I’ve been spending my time doing something worthwhile. As long as people are enjoying the games, I’m counting it all as a win.

But, enough jibber-jabber. Back to writing – there will be a new game poem up in the next day or so, with plenty more to come! I expect to be caught up by the end of next week – that should take us to number thirty-three or thirty-four – and after that, keep up all regular-like.