Dec 3 2010

Game Poem 35: Warriors of the Celestial Emperor

Dragon Phoenix Tiger Tortiose

For centuries, the earth-bound warriors of the four celestial clans have fought each other to gain the favor of the gods. This battle will continue for many years to come, each element defeating the one before it, and defeated in turn by the next, as the great martial cycle wheels on through eternity.

This is a quick fighting game for two to four players, each taking on the role of a warrior from one of four ancient clans of warriors, vying against each other for the favor of the Celestial Emperor. This fight is but one of many, each victory bringing their order of martial artists to final victory.

To play, you will need a regular deck of playing cards. Each player will take the thirteen cards from one of the suits in the deck, as each suit represents a different school of warriors:

  • Diamonds: Dragon Clan, from the East. Represents the element of Wind. Their color is Green, and their season is Spring.
  • Hearts: Phoenix Clan, from the South. Represents the element of Fire. Their color is Red, and their season is Summer.
  • Spades: White Tiger Clan, from the West. Represents the element of Metal. Their color is White, and their season is Autumn.
  • Clubs: Tortoise Clan, from the North. Represents the element of Water. Their color is Black, and their season is Winter.

Each clan has a distinct fighting style. Dragon Clan warriors are swift and precise, and are said to sometimes be able to focus their energies to move the air itself against their foes. Phoenix Clan style is volatile and explosive, and adepts of this school can burn their opponents with a touch. Fighters of the White Tiger school are aggressive and relentless, and are skilled in the fabrication and deadly use of all manner of weapons. Finally, the Black Warriors of the Tortoise Clan have formidable defenses and a methodical fighting style that is bolstered by their power over water, both moving and still.

If there is a member of the Tortoise Clan present in this battle, they will describe the setting where the fight will take place. (If there is no Tortoise, then the White Tiger will detail the setting, or a Phoenix if there is no White Tiger.) Are the warriors meeting somewhere deep in a bamboo forest, next to a bubbling stream? Are they perched upon a cloudy mountaintop, or do they face each other in the moonlight atop the roofs of a village in the hills? Do they fight among the stones of a ruined temple, or in the courtyard of a palace?

Once your environs are decided upon, it is time to begin the fight! Dragon Clan warriors will always attack first, followed by each subsequent player in the cycle: Phoenix after Dragon, then the White Tiger, and then Tortoise, and back around to Dragon. It may be helpful for the players to sit in order, but it is not required.

To make an attack, the fighter will choose someone as a target, describe how they wish to attack that target, and place a card from their hand face down in front of them. Remember to be colorful and vivid in describing your attack, using any and all elements available to you, whether they be part of your Clan’s style or a piece of the setting. A Phoenix may lash out at their opponent with a whip of flame, or perhaps a White Tiger will slash their target with their dual Singing Jade Swords. A Dragon warrior might strike his foe with the legendary Coiled Cloud Fist, or maybe the Tortoise will maneuver his enemy towards a cliff that overlooks the sea, intending to send him over the edge, and onto the rocks below!

Whatever the attack may be, after the initiator has laid his card, their target will choose a card from his own hand and play it to the table as well. The players will then flip over their cards and compare the values. If the cards are of equal value, then the round is a tie, and both cards are discarded. The target of the attack may describe how the attack was nullified, but no advantage was taken by either side.

However, if one of the cards is higher than the other, the person with the high card wins this round of the battle. (Aces are low cards, and are beaten by every other card.) The victor describes how they either strike a powerful blow upon their enemy, if they were the attacker, or easily turn away the attack of their aggressor, if they were defending. After the victor describes their present success, the loser of the exchange then tells how they move away, into a different part of the setting, or alter or re-frame some part of the environment. So, for example, if a Dragon was successful in slamming a Phoenix warrior into the ground with a great gust of wind, the Phoenix may describe how they kick-spin up and run upstairs to the second story of the tavern, setting the room ablaze behind them, or they may blind the Dragon Clan fighter for a moment with a flash of heat, allowing them to run into the street outside. Perhaps a Tortoise Black Warrior sidestepped a White Tiger’s spear thrust, grabbing the weapon and neatly snapping it in two; the White Tiger may respond by flipping backwards and grabbing a pair of swords from the wall, or leaping up onto a chandelier!

After both sides get a chance to briefly describe the outcome of the attack, each player will take the card that the other player laid down and put it into their hand. After this exchange, each player will choose a card to discard from their hand – not necessarily the same card they just picked up – and place it on the table, face down. The winner of the attack will take these cards as a “trick” and place them in front of him to indicate that he has scored a victory. Neither player may look at the discarded cards.

When the round has ended, the next fighter in the cycle (Dragon -> Phoenix -> White Tiger -> Tortoise) will choose someone to attack, and proceed as above, describing their attack and playing a card, the target defending, and so on. Anyone may attack anyone else on their turn, until their hand has dwindled down to one last card. A player holding only a single card may neither attack nor be attacked, and must place their last card face-down in front of them to indicate that they are no longer in the fight. When no player is able to attack another player, either because they have only one card, or because there are no targets available with more than one card, the battle has ended, and it is time do determine the ultimate champion.

First, if there is a player left who has more than one card in their hand, they must discard down to a single card. However, each one of the cards that they discard counts as a trick for them! So, if the Phoenix won four rounds of fighting, and was the only one left at the end with three cards, they would discard two cards, down to one, which would give them six tricks total for the endgame. (This is a good reason to keep track of how many cards the other players have, and make sure that nobody is just standing by and not participating in the battle!)

Once every player has a single card left, everyone will reveal what their last card is. Each player will count the number of tricks that they have taken, and if there are one or more players whose final card is equal to or lower than the number of tricks that they have taken, the player with the highest card that is lower than the number of their tricks is the final winner of the fight! Ties are resolved by highest number of tricks taken, and then, if there is still a tie, by reverse order of play, beginning with the Tortoise, then the White Tiger, then the Phoenix. If no player has a final card whose value is lower than or equal to the number of tricks that they have taken, then the player who has the final card with the lowest value is the winner; ties here are broken the same way as above.

The ultimate winner may take a moment to describe how he has vanquished his foes, and then the other players may tell how they intend to return to fight again, continuing the warriors’ cycle.

May 19 2010

Game Poem 19: Gotcha Covered

This is a game poem for at least three players – it should work well with up to six or seven. As a group, choose some kind of fictional large-scale issue that you’d like to resolve together. Something like rebuilding a village after a natural disaster, funding and building a museum, getting a group of fourth-graders ready for a big concert, or overthrowing an oppressive totalitarian regime. Something that would make a great feel-good summer movie. You’re going to be trying to accomplish that thing, helping each other out along the way.

Everyone should be sitting in a circle, roughly, either on the floor or around a table, and everyone should be able to reach all the other players. If you have to stand up or move around to do so, that’s fine. All the players should put their hands down next to each other, so that they create a big ring of palm-down hands. Anyone can start the game by moving one of their hands out into the ring, tapping the table or the floor, and saying, “I’m going to start by…” and stating what they are going to try to do, what small step they are going to take to start solving the large issue in front of the group.

Things are not that easy, however. Now, another player must say why that action is difficult or dangerous. For example, one player may put their hand out and say, “I’m going to start helping out the village by digging a well.” Now another might reply, “Unfortunately, the ground here is dry and rocky, and it is difficult to dig.” When an obstacle is presented like this, the first person should say something like, “Well, I guess I’ll need some help, then.” and turn their hand over, so that it is facing palm-up.

To overcome the difficulty that has been presented, another player must come to the first player’s aid. They do this by knocking softly on the playing surface, and placing one of their own hands palm-up on top of the hand of the player in need of assistance. They then say what they do to overcome the problem that is preventing the completion of the task – “No problem, we can build some digging machinery, and use animals from the village to drive it.” – and then turn the two hands back over again, palm-down on top of each other. Progress has been made!

Continue this way until there are no lone hands left on the table. There should be a good tangle of two-hand stacks right now; take a few moments to sit quietly and contemplate the good work that you have begun.

From here on out, things become harder. Stacks of two or more hands may be used to attempt an action that will help resolve the overall problem, just as single hands did in the first part of the game. A person who has their hand on the bottom of a stack may announce that they are doing something larger to that end, like, “I’m going to try to convince the people in town to help build a wind farm!” Again, another player must say why there might be a problem with that – “But there are oil interests in the area that have resources to oppose a wind power operation.” – at which point the entire stack turns over, so that the initiator is on the top, palm up. And again, someone must announce that they will help by taking their hand off the top of another stack, knocking, putting their hand palm-up on the others, and offering their solution: “We convince the oil companies to buy shares in our windmills, so that they profit either way.” Then the whole stack flips over palm-down again, one deeper, with the new helper on the bottom.

Now, this leaves a lone hand out on the table (or ground) again. This is no longer an active, helping hand. From this point on, when someone leaves the top of a stack to help a palm up stack (or to resolve a block, explained shortly), that lone hand becomes a fist, or a “stone”, some very concrete thing that blocks the progression of the players’ efforts. As long as there is a stone on the playing field, the large-scale issue will not be able to resolved. When your hand becomes a fist, narrate a very strong impediment to the players’ goals, and leave your “stone” out for everyone to see until someone takes care of it.

The only way to make a blocking fist go away is for someone at the top of a palm-down stack to sacrifice themselves to do so. At any time, a player may remove their hand from the top of a stack and cover the fist with it, saying how they dissolve the block. So, if someone becomes a fist, and says that “An unexpected hurricane crashes ashore, knocking down towers and further befouling the water supply.” someone may peel off the top of another stack and respond, “The disaster attracts the attention of neighboring peoples, who were not as badly hit, and are able to help rebuild.” (Keep in mind that if you jump off of a two-hand stack to resolve a block like this, the hand that you leave alone will become another block itself.) Once the “stone” is taken care of, both the fist and the resolving hand are removed from play – place them behind your back, and carry on.

Play will continue in this manner, helping each other by building larger stacks and taking care of blocks when they arise, until there is only one large stack of hands remaining, with no unresolved fists in the play area. When this happens, the overall issue is finally taken care of, once and for all. The person with their hand on top of the stack “wins”, and they have the opportunity to speak for a short time and describe how the village is saved, or the performance goes splendidly, or the evil duke is toppled, or whatever goal you have set for yourself is completed decisively. After the initial wrap-up, they take their hand off the top of the stack, and then each player with a hand below them gets to add a smaller detail as they remove theirs, until the stack is gone, and the story is ended.

However, if there are only fists remaining, and there are no stacked hands left to take care of them – or nobody is willing to resolve them! – then the larger matter is left unsettled, and the players as a group have failed. The players with fists on the table may open them one at a time, describing how their failure has caused a ruinous end, until there are none left. Better luck next time.

May 7 2010

Game Poem 16: Time Flies Like A Banana

This is a game-within-a-game, or perhaps an instance of a kind of meta-game, or a sense-of-a-game-layered-on-top-of-a-game, or maybe something less interesting than that. Maybe it’s just fun.

You’ll need at least three players, and probably not more than five. The simple game that you will be playing is called “Five” It is simple, and I’ll tell you all about it here. The other things that you will be doing are less simple, and I’ll tell you what they are here, but I won’t tell you how to do them. Each time you play may be different – you may want to try several times to get the hang of it.

The simple game consists of several rounds. In each round, the players will count one-two-three-GO! On the “go”, each player holds out their right hand with one, two, three, four, or five fingers extended. The player who is holding out the lowest unique number of fingers wins a point. So, if you throw a two, and the other players throw a two and a three, your two is not unique, so the three will win a point. Clear? Keep track of your points on your left hand. When someone gets their fifth point, they will yell “FIVE!” and win the game.

That’s it for the game of Five. You may want to play it once or twice to get the hang of it.

Now, to play this game, you will all be playing the same game of Five, but only one player will be playing it in real time. If you have three players, one will play at regular speed, one will be playing at half-speed, and one player will play the game at double speed. If you have four players, have the extra player decide whether they want to play fast or slow, and they will play even faster or slower than the half- or double-speed player. With five players, have them play on the other end of the spectrum, even slower or faster again. With more, it’s totally up to you.

This is going to get a little bit crazy. All of the rules still apply, just at different speeds. If you’re playing fast, make sure that you’re still playing with everyone else, not just throwing numbers by yourself. And don’t keep playing when you finish the game before everyone else! Do whatever you’d normally do when you’ve finished, and everyone else is halfway through or so. Likewise, slow players, don’t stop until your game is done! It will take you twice as long to complete your game, so make sure that you play the whole thing.


Apr 12 2010

Game Poem 13: In|Compatible

In|Compatible is a game about romantic relationships for three players.

To set up, find yourself a regular deck of playing cards. You will be building four decks that represent your potential partners in the relationships that you will be playing out over the course of the game. Each deck starts with six cards of a single suit; so, begin with a deck of six hearts, a deck of six diamonds, a deck of six clubs, and a deck of six spades. (The number values on the cards no not make a difference.) After building the first half of the decks, shuffle up all the remaining cards, and then deal out six more cards onto each of the decks, so that you wind up with four stacks of twelve cards, and each stack will be at least half all one suit, and a good mix of suits for the other half. Don’t look at the two (hopefully) left over cards! Put them face down to create a discard pile somewhere in the middle of the play area.

Now that you’ve created the four decks that represent the four romantic partners, you will assign a name to each one. If you’re playing with two or three female players, you will all be playing men in the game, so you should give each deck a female name. Likewise, if you’re playing with two or three male players, you will all be playing women in the game, so you should give the partner decks male names. (If you feel like mixing it up or challenging the heteronormativity of the setup or anything, feel free to mix up the genders of the players and partner decks any way you like, as long as all the players are okay with it.) Shuffle up each of the decks really well, mix them up in a random order so that you don’t know which one is mostly which suit, and place them near index cards or pieces of paper that say what their names are.

Once the partner decks are constructed and named, each player will secretly choose a suit that represents their own personality. It’s totally okay – good, even – if more than one person chooses the same suit! Write down your suit, and if you want to think about what that suit might mean to you, personality-wise, cool. Once you’ve done that, each player will choose a random deck to start with; this deck represents the person that you’re in a relationship with at the beginning of the game. There will be one “single” deck left over, so put that in the middle where everyone can see what’s going on with it.

The game is played in twelve rounds, each of which will represent some amount of time that you have to deal with being in (or out) of a relationship with one of the partners represented by the decks you’ve just built. Each round will be scored, and when the twelve rounds are over, the player with the most points wins! Begin with the player who’s been in a relationship the longest, or if none of the players are currently with someone, begin with whoever has been in a relationship most recently. Give the start player a coin or token of some kind to note who they are.

Here’s how a round goes. First, turn over the top card on the “single” person’s deck, just to show everybody what they’re missing out on. Then, the starting player will describe some kind of event where there is potential for conflict in their relationship. If it’s early on, it might be deciding what movie or restaurant to go out to, or whether to stay in or go out at all. In the middle stages of a relationship, the conflict can be more serious, with higher stakes – maybe an argument over friends, or jealousy, or job or money issues – and later on, you might be talking about whether you should move in together, get married, think about children, and so on. Whatever you choose, make it brief, and make sure that there is a clear point of decision. When you reach that point, turn over the top card on your current romantic partner’s deck, and compare it to the suit that you have chosen for yourself. (Clearly, after the first comparison, it will no longer be a secret to the other players.)

If the card that you’ve revealed is the exact same suit as your chosen suit, that’s great! Take a couple of sentences to narrate how things were resolved perfectly, with the best possible outcome for you and your partner. If your mate’s card is the same color as your own chosen suit, that’s still pretty good – the person on your right will describe how they reacted positively, or how the outcome of the situation came out fairly well for you. However, if the card you’ve turned over is one of the two suits that is the opposite color from the suit that you’ve chosen (black for hearts or diamonds, red for clubs or spades), then things have gone very poorly. The player on your left will describe in detail how things went terribly wrong, and decide just how very badly the conflict went for everyone concerned. However the incident was resolved, hang on to the card that you’ve turned over. Put it somewhere safely nearby, and let the next player have a go.

The players will continue around setting up a situation, revealing the top card on their relationship partner’s deck, and either describing the outcome or having it described for them, until all three players have gone. Once everyone’s done their thing for the round, you all have the opportunity to decide whether to stick with the relationship you’re currently in, or end the relationship, and swap your current deck out for the single person’s deck in the center. If things are looking bad enough, a player may even choose to break up with their current partner, and remain single for a round or two! (In which case there would be more than on single deck available to the other players…) Starting with the beginning player, each of the players will make this decision, either keeping their current partner deck or trading them in for a new one, and once everyone has done so, pass the start player token to the left, and begin the next round.

Once all twelve rounds have been worked through, each player should have had the opportunity to make a dozen decisions through a dozen beats of their love lives, and act as the starting player four times. Once that’s all done, each player can take the opportunity to narrate a short ending to their relationship story, and then calculate their scores for the game.

Scoring works like this. At the end of the game, each player should have a stack of twelve cards, chronicling the events of their relationships. (Fewer, if they chose to remain single for a round or more.) Each card that is the exact same suit as the suit that you chose at the beginning of the game is worth three points. Each card that’s the other suit of the same color as the suit that you chose is worth one point. Each card that is the opposite color of your suit is worth negative two points – subtract two from your final score for each of these! Add up all your cards, and then, if you stuck with the same relationship partner deck throughout the entire came, double the number of points that you have. Whoever came out with the most points wins at life. Congratulations! Or, better luck next time, as the case may be…

Feb 27 2010

Game Poem 6: Slower Than Light

Find three to five players. You will each be going on a long journey, traveling far away from the others. You will still be able to stay in contact with each other, although as you travel, the distances between you will become greater, and the time it takes the messages to travel between you will increase. But still, you will continue to write, to maintain the threads of connection.

First, agree what kind of journey you will each be embarking upon. Perhaps you will be blasting off into deep space in silver rocket ships, jetting further and further away from each other into the cosmos, or you might be exploring the oceans on old sailing ships, or trekking across undiscovered country with your caravans. Whatever your journey may be, you will be mostly isolated, individually, with the brief letters that you send to each other as the only contact with other people.

Now, each of you will need several small pieces of paper, or index cards, and a something to write with. You will keep the first one for yourself, to keep track of how far away your friends are. Write each of the other players’ names on the paper, one per line. This will be your message log.

Now, choose one to write a message to, and make a hash mark next to their name on your message log sheet. Take a new piece of paper and write them a short message, no longer than a sentence or two, taking maybe thirty seconds or so, but absolutely no longer than a minute. The message may be about anything – what you’ve done or discovered on your journey, a question about how they are doing, passing on greetings from another traveler, or anything else that springs to mind. When the message is written, fold the paper in half, and write “From (your name), To (their name)” on the outside. It might be nice to hold the folded paper up so that everyone can see that you are finished.

Once everyone has completed their letter, or the minute is up, hand the paper to the person it is addressed to. Each player will take a moment to quietly read their message to themselves – either silently, or out loud, in a soft voice, if they choose. Keep the message that you have received safely next to you. When everyone has read their message, it is time to write another.

Every message that you send after the first is likely to take longer than the last. Decide again who you will write your letter to. (Remember that you will only be writing a sentence or two, at most.) If you are once again writing to someone who you have not sent a message to yet, do the same thing as the first message – put a hash mark next to their name on your message log, write your message on a new piece of paper, fold it up, put your name and theirs on the outside, and once all the messages are done, hand it to them to read.

However, if you have already sent someone a message – you will know by the hash marks next to their name – it will take longer for them to receive it this time. Write the short missive as before, fold the paper, but when you write your name and theirs on the outside, draw an empty check box next to their name, one for each hash mark after their name on your message log sheet. Once you have done that, add another hash mark, and when it is time to pass the message on, hand it to someone else, anyone who is not the intended final recipient. They will hold on to it for the next round.

(This means that the first letter that you send to someone will arrive immediately, as the first one did, the second letter that you send will take an additional round of messaging to arrive, the third one will take an extra two rounds, and so on. One extra message round – one empty check box – for each letter that you’ve sent them previously.)

So, what do you do when you receive a letter in transit, one that is not addressed to you, which has empty check boxes next to the recipient’s name? When you first get the message, tick off one of the check boxes. Then go ahead and write your own letter to whoever you choose, and remember to mark them off in your log, and add the appropriate number of check boxes next to their name. Now, look at all the outgoing messages that you have in front of you, including the one you’re sending right now. If a message has no unchecked boxes on it – either this is the first message to that recipient, or all the boxes have been checked off – you may simply hand it to them, and they will read it immediately. If there are still unchecked boxes on the letter, however, you must continue passing it to someone who is not the noted recipient (maybe even the original sender), until it has traveled long and far enough to reach its final destination.

Continue writing and passing and reading messages in this manner for a dozen or more rounds – about fifteen or twenty minutes worth. When everyone agrees that they have written their last message, it is inevitable that there will be many undelivered letters floating around. Take a few rounds to pass the messages around, without writing new ones, checking off the boxes until the last letter reaches its destination. Do not read these messages now, however – take them with you, and read them later, when you are alone.

Feb 10 2010

Game Poem 3: Three Old Men

This game requires exactly three players. The three players will play the parts of three old men in a retirement community: Charles, Peter, and Michael. Each of these three men wish each the others dead. If there are more than three people who want to play, they may watch (as other residents of the retirement community), but may not intervene, and must remain silent for the duration of the game.

Beginning with the oldest player, each player chooses one of the old men to play. Charles is wealthy, and is willing to pay people to carry out his malicious intentions for him. Peter carries a heavy walking stick that he imagines that he will use to cave in the skulls of his enemies. Michael keeps a straight razor in his pocket, and he fantasizes about drawing it across the throats of the other two. In any life-or-death conflict, and only in a life-or-death conflict, Charles will win over Peter, Peter will win over Michael, and Michael will win over Charles.

Charles, Peter, and Michael have known each other since they were boys, and have shared much of their lives together. Now, every day, the three old men sit together and complain. They complain about their health, women, the weather, politics, the other people in the community, taxes, their children, people of other races or social classes, but especially, they complain about each other, and the wrongs that they perceive have been perpetrated upon themselves by the other two men.

The player who has chosen Charles begins by reminding one of the other two men of something that they did to annoy, slight, or injure him. This could be anything from borrowing money and not repaying it, to running down his daughter-in-law with an automobile, to taking the last good seat at lunch. It can be trivial or serious, but the complaint must be genuine, and bitterly felt. The accused man may choose to defend himself or not, but must very soon thereafter tell one of the other men why they have wronged him, in the same manner, and that man must lodge a complaint against one of the others again in turn, and so on. Each accusation leveled against one of the other players must be of increasing significance to the accuser – Charles spilling grape juice on Peter’s white pants may not be objectively worse than the fact that Michael slept with Peter’s first wife while he was away fighting Germans, but dammit, he liked those goddamn pants.

Two things may modify this circle of escalating indictments.

First, if anyone feels that their accuser has gone too far, struck them so deeply that they have no recourse but to finally make their stand, they may stand up and bellow, “God Dammit! That’s enough!” When a player makes their stand against their accuser, they initiate a life-or-death conflict, describing how they intend to at last end the life of the miserable bastard. The man who is being attacked then describes the outcome of this conflict, remembering the rules above: Michael will always kill Charles, Peter will always kill Michael, and Charles will always kill Peter.

After one of the men is dead, the remaining two must pause, lock eyes, and regard each other before deciding what to do next. If one of them wishes to make a move against the other, now is the time. If a conflict results in one man remaining alive, alone, that man is the winner, and may take a sentence or two to describe what happens next, before fading to black.

The second thing that may be done within the circle of recriminations is to, when accused of a wrong by another man, instead of returning another accusation to one of the other two, to simply complain about something else. It’s been colder this year than previous years, and my joints ache. Did you see that news story about that lady on welfare? It’s been a month since my birthday, and that no-good grandson of mine still hasn’t called. When a man issues a general complaint instead of lodging an accusation against another man, the others may either continue to respond with accusations as before (“Yeah, well I wouldn’t visit an old louse who cheats his friends at cards, either!”) or respond with another general complaint, either in agreement with the previous one, or on another topic altogether.

If it happens that all three men make general complaints without accusing another of wrongdoing, the game has ended. Each of the men in turn must look into the distance and say, “Yep.” Then they all walk away, and will return to begin again the next day.

Jan 6 2010

Game Poem 1: Stone and Feather

The game begins with three to six players sitting in a circle, or at a table. In the center, there is a single feather, and one small stone for each player. (If a feather or stones cannot be found, feel free to substitute as needed.)  Whoever has flown most recently will begin, and describe in one brief sentence what type of bird they are. What color are you? What are your eyes like? Are you large or small, sleek or clumsy, predator or prey? The only restriction here is that the bird must be able to fly.

Once everyone in the circle has described themselves briefly, the first player will take the feather from the center and describe his or her nesting place in a sentence or two – high in a tree? in a crag by the sea? deep in the desert? a post in the hunters’ camp? – and then tells the others what it is like to take to flight, to leave the nesting place and to go in search of something. You may be searching for food, a mate, someone to play with, a place to stretch your wings in the sun and wind, anything. After a moment, this bird will take a stone from the center and put it in front of themselves, and then pass the feather to another player who does not yet seek something. They will describe taking off in the same way, until every player has done this.

When every player has taken a turn describing taking off in search of something, the feather may next be passed to anyone who has a stone set in front of them. Any bird who receives the feather this way will then describe what they see below them as they fly. Take a few sentences and describe the landscape, or the sea beneath you, the quality of the air, the weather, the sensation of the wind flowing over and through you. Do you see people? Animals? Natural or man-made structures? Nothing? Nobody? Do you have a sense of what it is you seek yet? If you remember something that another bird described, or the one who passed you the feather, and that affects your description, marvelous. If not, that is also fine. After a moment, this bird will pick up its stone, and pass the feather to another player who still knows that they seek something by the stone in front of them. They will describe their flight in the same way, until every player does this.

When every player is holding their stone, the bird who holds the feather places it back in the center, and pauses for a moment. Look around at the other players, and choose one to place your stone in front of. That bird will take a couple of sentences to briefly describe what ends their flight. Do they find the thing they sought after? Do they return to their nesting place, or is their flight interrupted terribly? Do they find something new to search for, or are they contented? If they remember something that another bird described, or the one who passed them their stone, and that affects their description, wonderful. If not, that is also fine. After a moment, that bird’s story is over. They look at the other players, and choose one who still holds a stone in their hand, but has no stone in front of them, and places their stone in front of them. They will describe the end of their flight in the same way, until the every player does this, and every player has a stone in front of them again.

Take a moment, and one by one, each player will choose to return their stone to the center alongside the feather, or keep it with them. If they wish to take a sentence to explain their choice, they may, but it is not required. When everyone has chosen, give the feather to one player. They will begin the next game, next time. Leave the stones where they lie.