Mar 31 2011

Game Poem 40: The Pact

The Pact is a game for two players. The players were best friends as children, and at some point, made a promise to each other, like children do, that if one of them was ever turned into a vampire that they would turn the other one into a vampire as well, so that they could be best friends together forever. At the time, both children knew that vampires didn’t really exist, of course, so after a while the promise was forgotten as juvenile fancy, and there would be no further talk of vampires as they grew up together.

Play begins sometime after childhood, and follows the friends through their lives. The goal of the game is for the players to stay together, and avoid murdering each other.

Before starting, you will need to find a regular deck of playing cards. Remove all of the clubs and spades, and one heart card; shuffle the black cards together and, without looking at them, deal out a deck of fifteen black cards. Add the heart card to those, shuffle them well, and deal a stack of eight cards face down to each player. One player should now have a stack of cards with a random mix of eight spades and clubs, and the other will have seven mixed black cards and one heart, but neither player will know who has which cards yet.

The game will consist of a series of seven short scenes or conversations that take place between the friends throughout their lives. Each scene represents a specific period in a player’s life: their teenage years or high school, college age, their early twenties, early thirties, forties, their retirement, and finally their old age. The players will most likely remain close friends during these years, interacting with each other as friends do; at the very least they will find an excuse to meet every once in a while to catch up with each other.

Every scene will begin with each player looking at the top card in their stack, noting it privately, and then putting it aside. If they draw a club, their side of the interaction will be a positive one, or good things will have happened to them, and they will share their happiness with their friend. If their card is a spade however, they will behave negatively towards their friend for some reason, and that reason will likely come up during their conversation at some point. They will still be friends, of course, but it’s possible that something bad has happened between them – perhaps a betrayal or loss of some sort. The two friends may have pulled similar cards, or opposite ones; the key is to interact with each other genuinely, behaving as dictated by the card drawn without being so extreme as to put the other off, one way or another.

Each scene between the players shouldn’t last more than a few minutes, five or six at the most. When it is time to move on, the players should find a reason to part, turn up their next card, and jump forward in time to play out the next scene.

At some point during the game, one of the players will turn up the heart card. This means that they have somehow become a vampire. The specifics of how this happened is not important, and should not be discussed with the other player. It is now up to this player whether or not to honor the pact that they made as children. If they choose to curse their old friend to an eternity of undeath, effectively killing the person that they’ve known their entire lives, they may do so at any time after they’ve received their heart card by showing it to the other player. If they do decide to turn their friend into a vampire as well, the game ends immediately. Put away the cards, and do not speak of it again.

However, if the vampire player wishes to spare their old friend, they will simply behave as though the heart card, and every other card they turn up afterwards, is a spade. They may now see their friend as beneath them, a source of food, as mere cattle at worst, or weak, shivering prey at best. Perhaps they fear for their friend’s safety now, and prefer to maintain a certain distance between them, so that their old companion may live out the life that they themselves no longer can. Perhaps they pity them, seeing them as inferior to what they have become, or it could be that they wish to spare their friend the pain and thirst they now know, or maybe they simply believe that the mortal player doesn’t deserve the gift of death and life that they have received.

Whatever the reason, the vampire will continue to push their friend away, no matter what card they turn up in subsequent turns. They will never reveal the reason for their coldness – unless they decide to turn the other player – but they will go on treating their childhood friend worse and worse, until the very end. (A note on aging and looks: For the purpose of this game, the vampire may alter their physical appearance to take on whatever age appropriate, so as not to alert their friend to their ghastly condition.) They must be careful to not be too obvious as to the reason why they are behaving so – at any time, if one player believes that the other has been turned into a vampire, they may destroy them instantly by revealing a spade card that they have just drawn. This will kill the other player whether they are a vampire or not, so be careful – murdering your friend will cost you the game. Either way, end as above, as if one player had turned the other, quietly.

Through seven ages, the friends will come together, reminisce over their shared history, discuss changes in their lives, speculate about their future, or just enjoy each other’s company. As time goes on, the relationship may become more and more strained, or they may find a way to look past whatever lies between them, and remain close and true to each other until the time comes for old age to finally take one of the two.

At the end of the seventh turn, the players will draw their eighth and final card from their decks. At this point, one of them will know for sure that they are a vampire; the other will know that they are not, and will end the game by announcing, “And then, I die…” The vampire player may finish in one of two ways: by saying, “…and I don’t.” Or, if they wish to turn their childhood friend in their very last moments, they may say, “…no, you don’t.” In either case, they reveal their heart card, wherever it may have come up in their lifetime. The dead may go on living, but the game has ended.

Mar 10 2011

Game Poem 39: EDP

EDP is a game poem for a handful of players, somewhere around four or five.

The term “EDP” is an acronym, generally used by law enforcement officers. It stands for “Emotionally Disturbed Person” and refers to a situation involving someone experiencing a severe emotional disturbance.

The play will be set in an institution, or in a questioning room in a police station, or someplace similar. One player will be designated the EDP. The character played by this player is entirely sane and rational, and must convince the others of this fact. The other players have brought the EDP to this place because they are convinced that they are seriously mentally ill, and must be held for their own protection, or the protection of others.

Each player, including the EDP, begins with one coin or token. These tokens will be used at the end of the game to determine the winner.

To begin, the interrogators will ask the EDP to tell them once again if they know why they’re there. The EDP will describe the circumstances that led them to be taken into custody. This could be some kind of scene or public arrest, or perhaps the authorities just showed up at their home one afternoon and brought them in without telling them why. It is entirely up to the EDP to provide these details, and the interrogators must accept whatever they say as true.

The disturbed player must continue to convince their captors that they are balanced and stable, but their examiners will attempt to twist their testimony into a light that shows how completely deranged they truly are. Every piece of evidence that the EDP might be of sound mind should be reframed to demonstrate their insanity. The interrogators, however, may not fabricate facts or details from whole cloth; they must turn their clearly unstable detainee’s assertions against them. The more that they insist that they are sane, the crazier they must be shown to be.

If, however, at some point, one of the interrogators begins to believe that the EDP is, in fact, in their right mind, they may declare them sane, and excuse themselves from the questioning. They will hand the EDP their coin or token, touch them on the forehead, and become a voice in the head of the disturbed person. Whatever they say from that point on will only be heard by the EDP, even though they say it out loud.

The EDP still believes that they are sane, but now they have a new voice inside their head telling them things, telling them what to do, telling them how much trouble they’re in, telling them that everyone is against them, telling them to behave normally, telling them that they’ve got to escape, telling them that it’s no use, telling them that their captors intend to torture or kill them, and so on. Press them hard. It is the duty of the EDP to respond as if these voices are truly coming from inside their own mind, but to continue to convince the interrogators that they are fine, and they should be released.

When the disturbed player has a voice in their head, they may release it by giving them all of their tokens, touching that player on the forehead, and dismissing the voice aloud. The dismissed player is no longer able to speak or interact with the scenario, but keeps the tokens they’ve collected for scoring purposes. If there are more than one voice in the EDP’s head, only one may dismissed in this manner at a time; if the EDP has no tokens to remove a voice with, they must wait until another player declares them sane to do so.

The game ends after a predetermined amount of time, or after all the interrogators have declared the EDP sane. If time runs out before the EDP can convince everyone else that they are truly not deranged, they will remain in a facility for the foreseeable future, and the non-disturbed player with the most tokens wins. If, however, the EDP manages to talk all of the interrogators into believing that they are sane, they win the game, regardless of how many tokens they have. They will, of course, have some extra psychological problems now, but those can be sorted out next time…

Mar 1 2011

Game Poem 38: Memoir

Memoir is a game poem is played by a single person. You. Over the course of the game, you will be remembering and discovering the diaries of your future self.

To begin, you will need to gather a few of your own personal artifacts, like photographs of yourself with friends or family, a few objects that you might find around yourself, mundane or significant or anywhere in between, and so on. These are the things that others might pick up and immediately know that they belonged to you, or things that invoke certain feelings or memories for you, even if they have no meaning to anyone else.

You will also need to collect a few items that do not belong to you, and do not have any familiarity or bearing on your present day life. These might be photos of someone who looks similar to you, but is much older, some objects that you’ve never seen before, or that mean nothing to you, or any random thing that you might find that does not immediately resonate with you, and make you say, “this is mine.”

The game also requires that you have somewhere private to write. This may be an open text document on your computer, or a fresh notebook or pad of paper, or whatever you feel most comfortable with. You will also need a timer of some kind, that will be set for fifteen minutes.

Settle down someplace quiet, and place the items and photos that you have assembled in front of you. When you are ready, close your eyes, and envision what you would imagine your life might be like in five years – or ten, or twenty, or forty. Only take a few moments to do this. Breathe. Open your eyes.

Write a date at the top of your diary entry, a date some number of years from now. Breathe. Look at the objects set out before you. Let them tell you what has happened in the years between now and the time ahead. Now, start the timer, and write an account of your future self’s life. Write as yourself, in the first person, as if what you are writing is absolutely true, as you remember it. Write without stopping for fifteen minutes, without thinking, just get the words down.

When the timer ends, you will finish your current thought, and be done. Close the document, or put away your notebook, and let it sit for a while before going back to read it again.

You may obviously play this game as many times as you like. If you wish to collect the pages of your future memoir together in some way, be sure to save them and keep them somewhere safe. When the time comes – or when the date that you have written at the top of each entry rolls around – take them out and read them again, and think about how the person who wrote them has lived their life.