Feb 9 2011

Game Poem 37: We Are True Men

We Are True Men is a game poem for two or more male players. You will need something to drink, and a glass for each player. The beverage may or may not be alcoholic, but it is strongly recommended that it is.

The players in this game will play the roles of soldiers from an ancient empire. They may choose to be Romans, Macedonians, Vikings, Egyptians, Persians, Mongols, Samurai, Carthaginians, or men of any other well-known imperium, whether from the real world, or entirely fictional. Whomever they serve, they will be great warriors who have served together for many years, fought in and won many battles, and who know each other better perhaps than they know themselves.

The soldiers of the empire are gathered together tonight, the evening before their greatest battle. Although you have never seen defeat before, this will be a fight like none other, and it is very likely that you will die on the field tomorrow. The players will identify their enemy, and decide they are fighting, and why the battle tomorrow will be so great and terrible. The enemy may be historical or fictional, but they must be named. The dangers that you will face in the morning must be described in detail. This is an enemy greater than any other, and you have all survived many years of war, and you know that even though you may die, your death will be a noble and glorious one.

At the start of the game, the soldiers are gathered in their camp on the night before the fray to come, drinking and telling stories of your past triumphs in battle, bonding with your brothers in arms before facing the carnage that will surely follow the next day. When all of the players have come together, drinks in hand, the boldest of them will come forward and raise his glass in a toast to the greatness of the assembled company, and their valorous triumphs past. He will point to another player, name them, and describe a specific moment of significance of theirs from a previous battle. Perhaps he showed great bravery in the face of overwhelming odds, saved the lives of his fellow warriors, or lead his men to certain victory; perhaps he is simply a masterful soldier, who has slain his enemies in some spectacular fashion.

Whatever the great deed may have been, after the tale has been told, all present will cheer their comrade, raise their glasses to join in the toast, and drink heartily. The player who received the honor of a toast must then approach the one who gave him the accolades, and make some physical sign of brotherhood with him. A clasped arm, a strong hand on the shoulder, a sportive blow to the chin, a manly hug, whatever seems appropriate. They must then declare, “WE ARE TRUE MEN!”, which will be met with another cheer from those present, as they make a bold statement relating the praise that they have just received to how fate will treat him in the coming battle. He may describe the manner in which he will defeat his adversaries, or how they will die with honor, or how he will throw himself on the sword of an enemy, trading his life for that of one of his brothers here.

That player will then turn to another, singling them out, calling them by name and similarly describing a heroic act that they have performed in a previous battle. Again, all present will cheer, toast their comrade, and drink. Again, the player who was toasted will make some physical act of fellowship with the one who toasted him; this act must be somehow greater than the previous ones. It must be more forceful, more intimate, or showing that the two men are closer to one another than they were earlier. This is important: each sign of brotherhood must be physical, and they must escalate in some way as the game progresses.

After the physical act, the player who was toasted must again declare “WE ARE TRUE MEN!”, lead a cheer, and relate their commendation to the coming day. After their boast, they will call out another player, toast them, and the game will continue around in this fashion until it has reached its end. As the game progresses, as the warriors drink and toast each other, their behavior will become more intense. It is possible that previously unspoken rivalries will be aired; it is possible that garments will be pulled aside to display wounds from past conflicts; it is possible that the men will simply embrace, drink, and sing together songs of victory – or grief for brothers lost.

This circle of boasting and tribute and rugged bonding will go on through the night, becoming more ardent and enthusiastic until the sun comes up, or until all of the warriors have run out of drink. (If you wish to continue playing, you may always refill your cup as many times as you like, of course.) When the evening ends in whatever way it may end, hail your brothers in arms once more with the cry, “WE ARE TRUE MEN!”, put out the campfire, and return to your tents. If there is any thing that you wish to do or say to your fellow soldiers before you go to do battle in the morning, now is the time to do so, for tomorrow it is very likely that you will die, and the things the need to be done or said will be left undone and unspoken for all time.

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.