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.

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.

Dec 1 2010

Game Poem 34: Purse Snatcher

Purse Snatcher

This is a game for two players, one man, and one woman. The male player will play the role of a female tourist who is traveling abroad, and whose purse was just stolen on the street. The purse contained her passport and all of her money. The female player will take the part of some authority figure, probably a police officer at a nearby station, who the tourist has come to for help.

There are two sets of rules, one for the male player, who is playing the female tourist, and one for the female player, who is playing the authority. The tourist will read their rules – and their rules only – first, then pass them to the police officer. Once the officer has finished reading their section of the rules, and both players are standing and ready, the game will begin.

Rules for the Female Tourist, played by the Male Player

You are a man playing the role of a woman. Attempt to portray a woman’s actions and reactions as genuinely as possible, without relying on stereotypes.

You are a female tourist traveling abroad, and your purse has been stolen on the street by a purse-snatcher. All of your money was in that purse, as was your passport. You are shaken, and desperate to have your purse found and returned to you, and you have come to a local police station to get help. You are afraid that you will not be taken seriously, but you are unfamiliar with the area and unsure if the authorities here are able or willing to lend you their aid, but you must try.

You will have a coin or some other token in your hand. If you do not have one now, find one while the other player is reading their part of the rules. This token represents responsibility for what happened. You should not leave until the other player is holding it.

You must attempt to do whatever the authority requests of you, within reason, and answer any questions that they may ask. It is probably a good idea to begin by addressing the policeman as “officer” or “sir”, but it is not necessary to do so throughout your interaction.

If the officer asks you questions about the robbery, give them as many details as you feel are necessary to demonstrate the gravity of your situation, and to help them find the criminal who stole your purse. The more details you provide, the better able they will be to solve this crime and return to you what is yours. Without your purse, your money, and your passport, you are lost and alone in this foreign country, so it is very important that you do not leave until you are completely satisfied that the authority has helped you to the full extent of their ability.

You will begin the game standing. At the beginning of the game, the officer will ask you to sit down; do so. During the game, you will be in one of three states: sitting, standing, or touching the other player.

When you are sitting down, you must do what the officer asks you to do, you must answer any questions to the best of your abilities, and you must respond to the authority as politely as possible.

When you are standing, you may begin to make stronger assertions, and make demands of the police officer who is attempting to help you. You must still attempt to follow any instructions given to you, but you are no longer required to be polite, and you may choose to refuse to answer any questions that may be asked of you.

When you are touching the authority, you must put one or both hands on their shoulders or arms. You may only make requests of the officer, never demanding action or telling them what to do, and you must behave deferentially to their authority. You may still assert your rights, but must still follow their instructions and answer their questions.

If you wish to escalate from sitting to standing, or from standing to touching, you must add some new detail to the theft of your purse that gives the crime additional weight or importance. Perhaps there was an object of great sentimental value in the purse. Maybe your tickets home were in there, and you are leaving tomorrow morning. It could be that the thief attacked you in another way in the process of grabbing your purse.

At any time, if you feel that the authority figure is not being helpful or respectful, you may challenge him. Meet his gaze, raise a fist, and close your eyes. He will say, “okay”. When he does, raise between one and four fingers, and wait for him to tell you to open your eyes. When you do, count the total number of fingers between the two of you.

If there are an even number of fingers, you win the challenge, and the officer must do one thing that you demand, or answer one question. If you win a challenge while you are touching the authority, however, they may ask something of you in return, and you must comply.

If the number of fingers is odd, you lose the challenge, and must either de-escalate your posture (go from touching the other player to standing, or from standing to sitting), or escalate by adding a detail as above and going from sitting to standing, or from standing to touching. If you lose a challenge while you are sitting, the authority may ask you to leave, and you must obey.

The player playing the police officer may not touch you at any time unless you ask them to, unless they are arresting you. If at any time they touch your shoulder and say, “you are under arrest”, the game is over, and you lose the game.

You may leave of your own free will at any time. If you leave while you are still holding your coin or token, you lose the game.

Rules for the Male Police Officer, played by the Female Player

You are a woman playing the role of a male police officer in a foreign country. You speak English well, and you will attempt to portray a man’s actions and reactions as you understand them, without reverting to stereotypes.

A female tourist has had her purse stolen, and she has come to you to make a report. You are very busy, and have many duties to attend to, you you are willing to help her by taking down her information. After the basics are covered, however, she should leave your office as soon as possible.

When addressing the other player, you will always refer to her as “ma’am” or “miss”. Attempt to be polite and efficient, but do not allow her to make unreasonable demands of you or your time. You have many other pressing matters to attend to, and you see robberies like this every day. You will ask for details about the purse snatching, note them down, make some attempt to satisfy whatever concerns she has, and ask her to move on. It is not your duty to track down her purse, her money, or her passport, nor is it to be her travel agent or counsellor. You will take down the necessary information to make a full report, and be done.

You will begin the game standing. At the beginning of the game, you will ask the tourist to sit down, and she will do so. Do not begin asking questions or anything else until she is seated.

At some point, the tourist may challenge you, and try to force you to do something or answer a question. She will do this by raising her fist and closing her eyes. When she does this, you may close your eyes, say, “okay”, and hold up between one and four fingers. After you have done this, tell her to open her eyes, and you will count the total number of fingers raised between the two of you.

If there are an even number of fingers raised, she wins the challenge, and you must do your best to accommodate her request, or to answer her question. After that, you are no longer required to do anything that the tourists asks, unless she wins another challenge. If she wins the challenge while she is touching you, however, you may ask anything of her in return, and she must comply.

If there are an odd number of fingers raised, you win the challenge, and she must either go from touching to standing, or from standing to sitting, or she must escalate her position by adding a detail to her story about the purse-snatching, and go from sitting to standing, or from standing to touching. If the tourist loses a challenge while she is sitting, you may ask her to leave the station, and she must do so.

You never have to do anything that the tourist says, or answer any of her questions unless you lose a challenge. As the authority in this situation, however, you have some special conditions that affect whether or not you may close your eyes during a challenge.

  • When the tourist is seated, you may choose whether or not to close your eyes during a challenge.
  • When she is standing, you must always close your eyes during a challenge.
  • When she is touching you, do not close your eyes during a challenge.

Since your eyes may be open during a challenge, you will be able to determine whether you win or lose by choosing the appropriate number of fingers to raise. Do not abuse this power to simply win every challenge; save your power for when it will benefit you the most. Most importantly, do not allow the tourist to know that you are watching her while her eyes are closed.

During your conversation with the tourist, you may move around the room as you see fit, as long as you can easily see her when she is initiating a challenge. You may never touch the woman unless she tells you to, unless you are arresting her.

At some point, the tourist will attempt to pass responsibility for the crime that she is reporting to you by passing a coin or some other token to you. Do not take it into your hand. If you do, you lose the game.

After fifteen minutes or so have passed, you will note that you have another urgent appointment to attend to, and you must bid the tourist good day. She may not stay in the office – she must leave, and if she does not do so of her own free will, you must make her leave. If you order the tourist to leave, and she does not do so, touch her shoulder and say, “you are under arrest”. She will then go to jail; this means that she loses the game, and you have another stack of paperwork to do now.

Jul 3 2010

Game Poem 27: Achilles’ Heel

Achilles’ Heel is a game for two players – one will play a super-powered hero, the other their nemesis. Choose who will be the superhero and who will be the supervillain, and quickly choose names for your new personas – Captain Fantastic and Doctor Midnight, for example. Find ten cards or slips of paper to write on, and fifteen pennies or tokens of some kind. The hero will quickly write down ten things on the slips of paper, numbering them from one to ten. (Obviously, the players may collaborate on the ten things if the hero is having difficulty coming up with them.) The things may be objects, actions, places, emotions, anything. Two of these things will be the only weaknesses that the hero possesses – otherwise, they are completely and totally invulnerable.

Place the ten slips of paper into a hat or a cup or some container where they may be pulled from randomly. Both players will take four pieces of paper from the container, note down the numbers of the items that they pulled, return them, and mix them up well. The things written on the two slips of paper that were not chosen represent the hero’s vulnerabilities. Everything else will be useless as a weapon against the hero, but each player only knows what four of those things are, so the vulnerabilities still remain largely unknown.

Once the setup is complete, the players will engage in a series of five “episodes”, which will culminate in a final battle between the hero and his nemesis. In each episode, the villain will randomly draw two of the slips of paper from the container, and present a brief scenario where the hero must choose between two situations or outcomes that involve the elements drawn. So, for example, if the villain drew “radiation” and “fear of birds”, they might describe a scenario where they must disable a nuclear reactor that the villain has rigged to blow, while the nearby city is being attacked by mutated crows. Alternately, they may combine the two pieces – the reactor may be protected by the giant, twisted birds.

Once the scenario is laid out, the villain will take a number of coins from the supply and divide them between the two elements. In the first episode, they will only take one, in the second they will take two, three in the third, four in the fourth, and five in the fifth. So, in the initial episode, one slip of paper will have one token next to it, and the other will have none; in the final episode, they will have zero and five, one and four, or two and three. The hero will then choose one of the situations indicated by one of the slips of paper to attempt to resolve.

If the thing on that paper is one of the ones that either of the players chose during setup, the hero is invulnerable to that thing, and they succeed in saving the day all around! The hero takes the coins from that item, and the villain takes the coins from the other. The superhero may now quickly describe exactly how they thwarted their arch enemy’s diabolical plans. For the purposes of narration, assume that the hero has whatever powers necessary to do what needs to be done – flight, super strength, laser eyes, telekinesis, whatever. The day is saved!

If, however, neither player has the chosen element noted down, the villain has discovered one of the hero’s weaknesses, and the hero fails to foil their evil deeds! The villain takes all the tokens from both pieces of paper, and narrates how they used the hero’s vulnerability against them, incapacitating them long enough to execute their nefarious plan – this time! The hero is not completely defeated, though, and will return in top condition to fight the forces of darkness once again in the next episode…

After all five rounds have run their course, both players will have a number of coins in front of them. There will be one final episode that will decide the fate of the two mortal enemies once and for all. Decide together how and where this ultimate battle between good and evil will take place, and then, starting with the hero, each player will put forward one token and narrate an action, either telling how they attack the other player or defend themselves or react to the last action. Eventually, one player will run out of tokens – that player will be defeated, and the victor will describe how they put an end to their adversary for good. Will Captain Fantastic stop his fearsome foe’s fiendish machinations for all time, or will Doctor Midnight extend his shadow across the entire world? Only you can decide!

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.

Mar 17 2010

Game Poem 9: Goofball

This is a game for two players. The players may be of any gender. One player will be the Lover, and the other player will be the Beloved.

The Beloved sets a timer for fifteen minutes, or uses a watch of some sort, and keeps an eye on it.

The Lover should pay as much attention to the Beloved as they can. Maintain eye contact if possible, move physically closer, as close as you are comfortable. After a few seconds, the Beloved should note something about the Lover, and compliment them on it. They have nice eyes or a bright smile, their clothes look particularly good today, they seem very happy. The Lover thanks the Beloved, and returns the compliment, telling the Beloved something that they appreciate about them, or find particularly pleasing. Continue this exchange of compliments for a minute or so.

Pause for a moment, and look each other in the eyes. Feel the connection. The Lover says, simply, “I love you.” The Beloved pauses for a moment, looks away, returns to meet the Lover’s gaze, and replies, “I love you.”

For the next minute or two, continue taking turns looking into each others’ eyes, smiling, and saying, “I love you.”

Just before the timer reaches the three minute mark, the Beloved looks away, and is silent for a short while. Just after the three minute mark is passed, the Lover attempts to reconnect by catching the eye of the Beloved again, and saying again, “I love you.” The Beloved looks away.

For the next ten minutes, the Lover may only take two types of actions. They may continue to reestablish the bond between the two players, making any kind of contact and saying only the words, “I love you.” The Beloved may respond to this in any way besides saying, “I love you,” or any acknowledgment or variation upon those words. The Lover may also follow their statement by taking a single dollar bill and tearing it up in front of the Beloved. Then, and only then, may (and must) the Beloved smile, look into the eyes of the Lover, and respond, “I love you, too.” This warmth will last for ten seconds or so, then fade away.

Continue play in this manner until there are only two minutes left on the timer. At this point, the Beloved’s reactions change in two ways. First, every time that the Lover says “I love you” to them, they must respond with disdain, contempt, or verbal abuse. If the Lover attempts to get physically close to them, the Beloved tries to get away. However, if the Lover decides to tear up a bill larger than one dollar, the Beloved declares their love for them more strongly than before. After a few seconds, however, they must return to their loathing.

When the timer reaches fifteen minutes, the Beloved must leave the room. The Lover may no longer speak, but may collect up what he has destroyed, and attempt to put things back together.

Mar 4 2010

Game Poem 7: The Sign of the Great Old Elder God From Beyond

This is a game for two players. One player will take the role of the mad worshipper, bent on manifesting the Great Old Elder God From Beyond here on Earth, and the other will act as the avatar of the Great Old Elder God From Beyond itself. (You may play the game multiple times, alternating roles, at your own risk.)

To begin, decide how powerful the Great Old Elder God From Beyond will be. Some Great Old Elder Gods are worse than others. Give the avatar a number of tokens – stones, coins, nails, pieces of candy, teeth, whatever you have at hand – to denote exactly how terrible they actually are, with fewer tokens being worse. For example, you may give the avatar of the GOEGFB five tokens if they are just plain horrible, or even just a single token if they are quite horrible indeed.

The avatar of the Great Old Elder God From Beyond then asks their foul master to deliver unto them an action that the worshipper may perform that will allow it to assume a monstrous form in our plane of reality, and lay waste to the insignificance of human civilization. This may be something as simple as touching one’s nose with the left index finger, or as complicated as jumping up and down on one foot while rubbing your belly and whistling “Mean Green Mother from Outer Space”. The difficulty of the action is entirely up to the avatar, depending on how sadistic they think the Great Old Elder God From Beyond is feeling today.

Once decided, the avatar declares, “BEGIN, MORTAL!” The worshipper may then begin asking questions about the summoning action, which must be able to be answered with a “yes” or “no”. The avatar of the Great Old Elder God From Beyond must then answer the question to the best of their ability. If the question is unclear or unable to be answered, the avatar may simply respond by bellowing “MY MASTER IS DISPLEASED WITH YOUR INQUIRY!”, and the summoner may ask another.

If the avatar answers the supplicant’s question in the affirmative, bringing them one step closer to bringing ecstatic devastation to mankind, the worshipper becomes just a little bit more unhinged. After answering “yes”, the avatar of the Great Old Elder God From Beyond must choose one of the words that the asker used in their question, and declare it forbidden, stricken from their mind. The worshipper may not speak the word, but they may emit gibberish from their mouths in place of it.

For example, the worshipper may ask, “Shall I touch a finger to my forehead?” The avatar answers, “Yes, and you are now forbidden to utter the word ‘finger’.” The mad god’s servant may then ask, “Do you wish me to use my pinkie?” or “Must I use my middle galbahrah to summon you?” Bear in mind that the worshipper may only ask questions verbally – they may not use physical gestures (“Do I use *this* finger?”) to get information. If these strictures are broken – if the worshipper uses a forbidden word, or physical gesture to ask a question – then that question is stricken, and they must give the avatar of the Great Old Elder God From Beyond one of their tokens in compensation for their transgression. If they have lost their last token in this way, the GOEGFB immediately strikes them down where they stand, and they lose the game.

Alternately, if the avatar is able to answer the worshipper’s question “no”, then the avatar must give the worshipper one of their tokens. If the avatar has run out of tokens, and cannot give them one, they may demand that the inquisitor immediately attempt to summon the Great Old Elder God From Beyond, on pain of being torn limb from limb by invisible demons. This is most unpleasant, and is to be avoided at all costs. The avatar may also demand that the worshipper attempt a summoning if they cannot formulate an understandable question – it is possible, nay, likely, that so many words will have been elided from the questioner’s mind that all they can do is spout unrecognizable gibberish. If this is the case, the GOEGFB may demand that the avatar remove all tokens from play, as the worshipper makes one last desperate attempt to interpret their demands.

The worshipper may attempt to summon the Great Old Elder God From Beyond at any time – or when required to, as above, when the avatar is unable to give them a token for a negative answer. The summoner announces that they are beginning the ritual by discarding a token, and attempting to perform the action that they believe will bring ruin to the worthless insects that crawl upon our world. If they successfully perform the action that was communicated to the avatar by his dark overlord, then the Great Old Elder God From Beyond is able to manifest upon the earth, wreaking destruction and havoc to the great delight of its followers. Hooray! If the attempt fails, and the worshipper has not discovered the correct action to bring about the End of Man, they must give another token to the avatar, and continue trying. If they have lost their last token by doing this, the Great Old Elder God From Beyond becomes extremely displeased with their failure, and is able to breach into our dimension just long enough to consume their degenerate worshipper, and drive the avatar into utter madness and despair. Way to go, guys.

(A simpler version of this game may simply eliminate all of the foolishness with the tokens, and simply focus on the elimination or gibberish-ifying of the worshipper’s vocabulary, and their ridiculous attempts to fulfill the wishes of the Great Old Elder God From Beyond and its avatar. Continue until the proper summoning action is discovered, or until there is no sensible language left available to the summoner. Have fun destroying the world!)