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.

May 21 2010

Game Poem 21: We Are The Only Ones Left

This is a horror game for two players. You should play at a table, somewhere quiet, where you can turn the lights low enough to still read and write, but just. Both players should know that they are in the midst of some kind of widespread attack of hysteria and violence. It must be a disease, a disease that causes normal people to go mad and kill, without hesitation and without mercy. Worse, it causes those that are murdered to rise again and continue to kill. The cycle of killing and reanimation has gone on for days and days, and in those days, the two of you have found a safe haven here, in this room. You sit quietly, listening to the screams outside. You know that these people, the infected, these… things, they are attracted to noise and movement, so you wait, patiently hoping to ride out the storm. Surviving, but for how long?

To play, find twelve pennies (or any kind of coins), six index cards or pieces of paper to write on, and one pen or other writing implement. Divide the coins and writing material evenly between the players, six pennies and three cards each. Take turns with the pen writing down the names of friends on the paper; make them people that you both know, if possible, but definitely make them people that you are fond of, or attached to in some way. After the six cards or papers have names on them, turn them face down and mix them up, and place them somewhere nearby. Place the pen in the middle of the table when you are finished. The pen is now a revolver, a gun with one bullet remaining inside. Either player may pick up the gun at any time and use that bullet to destroy a single monster, should one make its way inside. It may also be used to kill the other player, if necessary.

Once you have set everything up, allow a few moments to pass, and let the quiet settle in. Eventually, one of the players will say to the other, “So. We are the only ones left.” The other will slowly look around, maybe listen intently to whatever noises they may hear, and after a few seconds respond, “I think so. Maybe. Probably.” For the entire course of the game, be sure to speak in a low voice, almost a whisper. Any louder, and the things out there may hear you.

After this brief exchange, the players will sit in silence once more for a full minute. There is no need to use a watch or a timer – simply count to yourself slowly in your head. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. When the minute has elapsed, one of the players should draw one of the pieces of paper with a friend’s name on it, and look at the name. The player should then say to the other player, “Wait. I think I hear something. That sounds like [the friend] out there. Is that them?” Pause again for a moment, then bang loudly and sharply on the table with your fist two or three times. Allow a few seconds to catch your breath and listen again, and bang your fist another time. Pause once more. Bang. Bang. Bang. Then, silence.

The person who heard their friend outside the door is certain that they are alive, and in need of rescue. Each player should now take a coin in their hand, and begin to discuss – very quietly! – whether the wretch out there is still human, or if it is a beast, come back from the dead to find and make them one of the murdering things. At some point, each player will flip their coin and place it carefully under the paper containing the friend’s name. The player who chose the name may look at their coin before slipping it under the card or paper, but the other player must not know what the result of either coin flip was.

After a brief, intense deliberation, the players must decide whether or not to open the door. You probably should not take more than a minute to do so, for if you do, and your friend is still alive, they may not be for long. The player who did not select the name from the pile must decisively end the exchange by pounding on the table again, at which point both players must immediately fall silent. If one of the players chooses to open the door, they must now stand and say, “I am letting them in.” If neither player does this, nothing happens. Put the paper with the coins underneath to one side until the end of the game. The players will continue to silently wait.

To open the door and see what waits outside, the other player must say, “Okay.” They will then take the card or paper with the name on it, and reveal the coins underneath. If both of the coins are showing heads, the person banging on the door was indeed a living person, and you have saved them from almost certain doom! Greet them quickly and quietly, tell them to sit down and be silent, and do not speak to them again. The two players will return to waiting. However, if either of the coins came up tails, the thing outside was indeed a murderous creature, and it bursts inside! Both of the players must let out a scream at the horror! If they have not yet used the gun – the pen, as above –  one of the players may pick it up and yell, “BANG!” This will kill the monster, and you will be safe again, for the moment. The gun, however, may not be used again. Be sure that the door is secure once again, sit back down, and wait.

If the players are unable to stop the creature, it immediately kills both of them, and the game is over. You may flip coins for the remaining slips of paper, and reveal them all to see if there were any humans left alive, but it does not matter, because they will all be dead before long.

One player does decide to open the door, and the other player may simply let them, or they may vehemently disagree with them. If one player is dead set against the other letting whatever is banging on the door inside, they must pick up the gun that sits between them, point it at the other player, and declare, “I swear to god, if you touch that door, I will shoot you.” (Note that if the gun has already been used to destroy a creature that was let into the room, shooting the other player is no longer an option.) If the standing player then changes their mind, they must sit down, and the game will proceed as if nothing happened. Put down the gun, and wait. However, if they move to open the door, or take the paper from the coins, the player with the gun may shout, “BANG!” and murder the only other human that they know to have survived. Even if you have rescued one or more of your friends friends, they will not say anything at your action, but the game is still over at this point. You may again flip coins for the names that have not been chosen and reveal the rest to see what other things may have been outside, but you now know that there is at least one monster in the room.

If, after all of these choices have been made, both players are still alive – either you have decided not to open the door, the person at the door was uninfected and harmless, and nobody shot anybody – you will again turn to sitting and waiting for a full minute, counting silently to yourselves. This time, it is the other player who will draw a slip of paper with a name on it, pound on the table, and insist that someone they know is out there. Flip coins again, placing them under the name, discuss quietly, and make your decision as before. If you wish, you may even bang on the table before drawing, but this might well startle the other player, so do so carefully.

After going back and forth this way six times, either letting the banging at the door go away or succumbing to curiosity, the players will spend one last minute is complete silence, looking at one another and counting to yourselves in your heads. When this minute has elapsed, you may both stand up. The game is over, and you have survived. Congratulations. You may now look at the coins under all of the names of the people who you did not let in. Again, if there are any with two heads showing underneath, they are in fact other survivors – or, were, as by now they have most likely been taken by the monsters, murdered and left to rise again to kill others. One way or another, without a doubt, those friends are still out there, seeking other victims. But not you. Not this time.