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.

May 18 2010

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!