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Author Topic: [Game Chef Competition 2011] The Tragic Life of Bill Spear  (Read 2202 times)
MatrixGamer
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« on: July 15, 2011, 11:03:17 AM »

Here is the first draft of the game. I'm open for feedback.

THE TRAGIC LIFE OF BILL SPEAR: GAME CHEF COMPETITION
By Chris Engle
7-15-11

Theme: Shakespeare
Ingredients: Daughter, Exile, Forsworn, Nature

INSPIRATION

This is what I thought when I looked at the ingedients.
 
Shakespeare – tragedy – high school English class – high school
Exile – alienation – teenager
Nature – biology – hormones
Daughter – heroine – object of desire – the girl
Forsworn – forswear – renounce – self – self loathing

Which adds up to a self loathing high school teenager hopped up on hormones who is unable to get the girl.

I think the tragedy of our teenage hero’s life is not found in his actions but in his head. Shakespeare’s plays give us a window into the mental state of their heroes. After all Hamlet would be pretty short if it just dealt with action. It is the mental anguish that we want to see so we can gain pleasure from our hero’s pain. To this end the game takes place inside Bill’s head as he struggles with his inner Romeo, Othello, Hamlet, Lady Macbeth, King Leer, and Falstaff.

MEET BILL SPEAR

Bill Spear is an average 15 year old Freshman. His family recently moved to the suburbs of a major US city. He knows no one and is sent to an unforgiving high school where he must make his own way. At every turn he confronts his own inadequacy. His life is a tragedy. The purpose of the game is to walk with him through a small but agonizing slice of his total degredation.

What a nerd!

WELCOME TO HELLSGATE HIGH

Hellsgate is your typical middle class suburban high school. Think back to you time in high school. It’s like that. If you didn’t go to high school in the US then think about Sunnydale High School in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” it’s like that.

The people Bill will interact with are: The nerd, The jock, The cheerleader (object of desire who won’t give him the time of day), a helpful teacher, and a sadistic coach. Bill’s parents, siblings and other people may be added in as needed.

The game begins on Bill’s first day of school but scenes may jump days, weeks or even months. It’s all up to the game master.

MATERIALS NEEDED

Paper and pens
2d6 per player
30 or so re-roll tokens
3 to 7 players (best at 5)
2 hours to play

SCREWED – THE GAME ENGINE

Screwed is a game about what goes on inside a person’s head. The players represent the self talk we all have. The game master presents the players with situations and the players fight over what Bill thinks he should do, then the GM takes that fantasy and tells the players how it really turned out. Maybe things will turn out well (if the players come up with a reasonable action) but often it goes badly wrong because secretly all the players want Bill to be screwed.

ROLES

Players can skip using roles and make up whatever thoughts they want but to keep this game Shakespearean I urge the players to divvy the following roles so they have inspiration on how to act. They get to speak in the voice of the role and try to get Bill to do what they would do.

ROMEO: The impulsive boy who is ruled by his lust and emotions.
OTHELLO: The jealous outsider who trusts no one.
HAMLET: The indecisive boy who fears to act, until he overreacts.
LADY MACBETH: The guilt driven wretch who is self loathing/self destructive.
KING LEER: The king who trusts the wrong person and then wallows in it.
FALSTAFF: The self indulgent buffoon who is at heart a coward.
GAME MASTER: The GM is the devil’s advocate of the game. They don’t have a voice in Bill’s brain but instead get to inflict “reality” on him. It helps to be a little cruel. The GM has two jobs: Make up the scenes Bill faces, and keep the game running smoothly.

ORDER OF PLAY

1.   The GM makes up the scene Bill faces
2.   The GM picks which player goes first
3.   Openning thought
4.   Repond or challenge
5.   2nd response/challenge
6.   3rd response
7.   Consequences
8.   
SETTING UP SCENES

Bill is an awkward teenager. Each scene deals with a problem he might face. If Bill can only manage the problem well he will achieve social success but the risks are great. If he does not handle things well (and how many teenagers do?) he faces social ridicule.

The GM makes up the scenes. It is best to put Bill is a highly embarrassing, awkward situation. Be cruel.

The GM then picks which player starts the turn. They may ask for volunteers if they like but in the end the GM picks.

THE OPENNING THOUGHT

The first player makes up a few sentences about what Bill should do in the situation. Keep it brief and try to include your role’s perspective on what makes sense.

The GM should jot down a brief summary of the thought.

GO LEFT AROUND THE TABLE

Play goes left around the table. Players may go around up to three times before the scene ends. Each player gets to respond to, or challenge the thought.

RESPONDING

When a player responds they “Yes and…” add a few sentences to the thought.

If no one objects, the thought is added without a roll.

If even a single player objects, the active player rolls 2d6. If they roll 5+ their thought is not repressed. Whether they make the roll or not they get a “re-roll token”.

CHALLENGING

If a player does not like what the others have come up with they may challenge the line of thought and start off a new line of thought. After the GM jots down the summary the player’s pick sides. Everyone rolls 2d6. The high roller wins for their side, re-roll ties.

If the challenge wins, the GM draws a line through the other ideas leaving only the ideas the challenger endorsed left. If the challenger loses the roll they get a re-roll token.

SECOND ROUND

When play comes back to the first player, The players get a second shot at responding to or challenging the thought. Players do not have to act here. They may pass and collect a re-roll token.

THIRD ROUND

The third time around the players may no longer add to the thought they can only try to supress it. If they roll 10+ the thought is repressed and Bill stands there like an idiot not knowing what to do. Player may supress supressions. If a player passes they get a re-roll token.

RE-ROLL TOKENS

Players may pay a re-roll token to the GM and re-roll their roll OR force another player to re-roll their roll. This allows player to tactically mess with one another to try and get their way.

CONSEQUENCES

After all the rolling is done Bill trys to act out the fantasy of what happens. The GM tells the players what actually happens. The more Bill’s fantasy requires other people to behave the way he wants them to, the less likely it is to work.

The GM is most cruel in this phase of the game.

THE NEXT SCENE

The GM makes up the next scene of the game. This may be what happens right after the last scene or be days,weeks, or months later. It is best if it follows the natural consequences of Bill’s actions.

It is a good idea to move from disaster to disaster. Nothing is more boring than “They lived happily ever after.”

ENDING THE GAME

The game lasts one to two hours or to whenever the GM or players think they have told a complete story. Since this is a game about life it usually won’t have a clear ending, that only happens in plays.

DEBRIEFING

If you are running this game in school then don’t make it last more than half an hour and then do a half hour debriefing session during which the player talk about what they learned. Research shows that this is where the real learning of the game occurs.

THE ROLL OF THE GM

The GM makes up scenes and consequences but just as important to a fun game is that they keep things moving. The GM needs to be very directive. They ask the first person what their thought is. They ask the next player “Respond or challenge?” When players need to roll, the GM asks them to “Roll!” A good GM can keep the game moving quickly, which keeps everyone’s energy up. Let the pace slow and the game will die. If a player can’t make up their mind then skip them and come back later.

TABLES AND PLAY AIDS

Resist Supression: 5+ resist supression

Challenge: High roller wins, re-roll ties.

3rd Round No: 10+ to supress the fantasy

Re-Roll Tokens: Pay a token to get a re-roll or force someone else to re-roll

You get a re-roll token if someone makes you make a supression roll or if you lose a challenge. You may also get one for passing in the 2nd and 3rd time around the table.

EXAMPLE OF PLAY

The players are sitting around the table: Romeo, Othello, Hamlet, Lady Macbeth, King Leer, and Falstaff

Setting the scene:

GM: Bill goes to the school office on the first day of class. The nerd is suppose to guide him around but doesn’t. Bill ends up coming into class late. Everyone (including the cute girl) is staring at him. The teacher asks him why he is late…

Who wants to go first? Hamlet volunteers.

Hamlet: Bill mumbles something and sits down.

GM: Next!

Lady Macbeth: Yes and the class laughs at me and I feel horrible. I’m such a loser.

Falstaff: I object. I’m no loser.

GM: Roll!

Lady Macbeth rolls a 5 so her thought is not repressed. She then collects a re-roll token.

King Leer: Yes and the cheerleader tells the jock to be nice so I think she likes me. I feel good again.

GM: Next!

Falstaff: Yes and I try to resurrect my social death by making a smartass remark to the teacher.

Hamlet: Bad move, you don’t want to turn the teachers on us.

GM: Roll!

Falstaff rolls a 4 so he repressed the joke and collects a re-roll token. The GM puts a line through his thought.

Romeo: Yes and I try to take to the girl after the class.

Hamlet: Talk to the girl?!? Didn’t you see her boyfriend?

GM: Roll!

Romeo rolls a 12 and wins. He also collects a re-roll token.

Othello: No! None of this happens. I make an excuse to the teacher and blame the nerd for ditching me.

GM: Pick sides and roll!

Othello and Hamlet are for making the excuse. Everyone else is against them.

Romeo 10, Othello 10, Hamlet 6, Lady Macbeth 7, King Leer 2, and Falstaff 11

Falstaff rolled highest so the challenge is supressed and Othello gets a re-roll token that he can use next turn.

That ends the first time around the table. Next time around…

Hamlet takes a token

Lady Macbeth: The cheerleader was dating the jock but they broke up because he was such a jerk.

No one challenges this.

King Leer takes a token.
Falstaff takes a token.
Romeo takes a token.
Othello takes a token.

That ends the second time around the table. On the next go around people can only say “no” to the whole thought.

Everyone passes and takes a token except for Othello.

Othello: NO!

GM: Roll!

Othello rolls a 9, just shy of 10 so the objection fails.

Othello: Should I do a re-roll? If I don’t I’m certain this isn’t going to work out well. Hmmm… No. I’ll let it pass.

Consequences:

GM: So Bill walks into class and is laughed at. The cheerleader is nice to him but when he tries talking to her after class the jock confronts him. “What are you doing talking to my girl? Punk!” The cheerleader doesn’t stand up for him this time.

The next turn:

GM: Lunch later that day. Bill runs into the nerd who makes up for ditching him by buying him a cookie. They get to talking about the social order and how unfair it is. Bill is seething with anger…





 

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Chris Engle
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http://HamsterPress.net
Dan Maruschak
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« Reply #1 on: July 15, 2011, 12:37:32 PM »

When I first read it I wasn't able to follow the Respond/Challenge mechanic. I think I get the idea that you're basically building up a chain of related thoughts when you use the Respond option (and each link in the change can be individually challenged via the objection mechanic), or trying to scuttle the entire chain and start a new one when you use the Challenge option. Is that right? If so, I think that the distinction I missed on the first readthrough was the difference between objecting to the link or challenging the entire chain. Also, I think my normal definitions of "Respond" and "Challenge" are similar enough that I had a hard time keeping the game terms straight. I think it would have been easier for me if it was something like "Build" or "Expand" instead of "Respond".

Right now you're using a fixed sequence, which will always result in the same people building on or objecting to your contributions in the same order. I'd be worried that it might seem tedious or frustrating if certain patterns build up, especially since you want the players to have strong POVs. Have you looked at varying or randomizing the order at all, so Romeo isn't always followed by Hamlet, or is the fixed order something that's important to the design?

I didn't really pick up on a strong reason that I'd want to use the re-roll tokens (this might be an artifact of the presentation -- there's a lot about how you get them, but so little about how you use them that I actually missed it on my first readthrough). It seems like they're another avenue to object to things, and I have the (perhaps incorrect) idea that I would already have plenty of opportunities to do that for free, so I'm not sure why I'd want to pay for them, too.

I think I like the "stand there like an idiot not knowing what to do" concept from the POV of modeling how people actually respond to the world when they're experiencing anxiety. I'm not sure how it would actually feel in play, but the idea of shooting yourself down for fear of catastrophic consequences certainly has some resonance with real people.
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MatrixGamer
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« Reply #2 on: July 16, 2011, 11:33:23 AM »

Thanks Dan. This is very helpful. I want to do a more graphic version of the rules that should make the flow of play more clear, and I can tweak the terminology.
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Chris Engle
Hamster Press = Engle Matrix Games
http://HamsterPress.net
MatrixGamer
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« Reply #3 on: July 17, 2011, 03:42:34 AM »

Here is a second draft of the game.

THE TRAGIC LIFE OF BILL SPEAR: GAME CHEF COMPETITION
By Chris Engle
7-16-11

Theme: Shakespeare
Ingredients: Daughter, Exile, Forsworn, Nature

INSPIRATION

This is what I thought when I looked at the ingedients.
 
Shakespeare – tragedy – high school English class – high school
Exile – alienation – teenager
Nature – biology – hormones
Daughter – heroine – object of desire – the girl
Forsworn – forswear – renounce – self – self loathing

Which adds up to a self loathing high school teenager hopped up on hormones who is unable to get the girl – thus tragedy.

Elevator Pitch: Life is tragic especially the life of the average American teenager. This game is all about getting into Bill Spear’s brain. The conflict within is what it’s all about.

Each turn our hero, Bill Spear, is confronted with problems. The players run the voices in his head. Collectively they want Bill to succeed but the voices don’t trust one another so they spend a lot of time defending Bill from doing something stupid. Thus the game is about the conflict inside Bill’s head as he navigates the soul crushing halls of high school.

He’s screwed.

MEET BILL SPEAR

Bill Spear is an average 15 year old Freshman. His family recently moved to the suburbs of a major US city. He knows no one, and is about to go to an unforgiving high school. The only resource he has are the many voices in his head and they all think he’s a loser.

What a nerd!

WELCOME TO HELLSGATE HIGH

Hellsgate is your typical middle class suburban high school. Think back to your time in high school. It’s like that. Or if you didn’t go to high school in the US, think about Sunnydale High School from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”. It’s like that.

Bill will meet a nerd, a jock, a cheerleader, a helpful teacher, a sadistic coach and anyone else the players choose to include.

The game begins on Bill’s first day of school but scenes may jump days, weeks or even months. It’s all up to the game master.

MATERIALS NEEDED

Paper and pens
2d6 per player
30 or so re-roll tokens
3 to 7 players (best at 5)
2 hours to play

SCREWED – THE GAME ENGINE

Screwed is a game about the battles we all have in our heads. Cognitive theory says that all of us have a running conversation with ourselves called self-talk. Self talk explains the world to us and creates fantasies about what will happen next. Each voice has its own fantasy about what we should do and how things should turn out. Our voices don’t trust one anther which is why most of us are so messed up. After the players make up Bill’s thought, the game master (GM) splashes them with a cold bucket of reality and tells them what really happens. The next problem grows out of what happened previously.

SCENARIOS

At the beginning of the game the players pick a scenario to play. This is the over arching goal of the game. They work together to make it happen.

1.   Let’s get Bill in trouble
2.   Let’s get Bill in a fight
3.   Let’s embarrass Bill
4.   Let’s get Bill a date
5.   Let’s find out how badly Bill’s date goes
6.   Let’s get Bill drunk

ROLES

The most experienced player takes on the role of GM. Their job is to keep the game moving and to make up what happens in reality.

The other players play a voice in Bill’s head. Each voice has it’s own personality. The players pick one personality to champion.

ROMEO: Impulsive, shallow, ruled by desire
OTHELLO: Jealous, eternal outsider, paranoid who trusts no one.
HAMLET: Brooding, indecisive, overreacts
LADY MACBETH: Ambitious, wrack with guilt, self loathing/self destructive
KING LEER: Naïve, poor judgment, wallows in self pity
FALSTAFF: Self indulgent, cowardly, buffoon

Each voice in Bill’s head wants to protect him which mainly means stopping the stupid plans the other voices come up with! They do this by explaining what is going on to Bill and creating a fantasy plan about how Bill should deal with the problem in front of him.

ORDER OF PLAY

1.   Make up a scene
2.   Openning fantasy
3.   Add to it, challenge it, or just say no
4.   Consequences


MAKE UP A SCENE

Each turn the GM makes up a problem that Bill faces. Bill is an awkward teen so the best problems are ones that put him in social peril, like walking into class late, talking to a girl, or being confronted by bullies.
[Example of a GM making up a scene.]

THE OPENNING THOUGHT

The first player to speak, makes up Bill’s openning though. This either explains the situation to Bill or makes up a fantasy plan on how it will play out.. If multiple people jump in, the GM picks which though happens first.

Thoughts should be very short (only a few sentences long if you write them down).

If the players cannot come up with a though within a minute then Bill stands there slack jawed, not knowing what to do. Do not let Bill look like an idiot! Anything is better than doing nothing!

The GM jots down a brief summary of the thought on a game summary.

[Example of a player making a thought.]

ADDING TO, CHALLENGING OR SAYING NO

The other players may now jump in with other ideas. They may add to the fantasy, challenge it (ie replace it with another fantasy) or just say no to the whole thing. As players do this they may try to supress one another’s thoughts to save Bill from the embarrassment the other players plans will undoubtedly lead him into.

ADD TO

If a player adds to the fantasy, they accept what has already been said and build on it. This builds the fantasy in Bill’s head, showing how he explains events to himself or adds to the fantasy of how he thinks the scene will play out. The players get to put words into other people’s mouths.

[Example of a thought]

Any player may say “NO!” to an addition, to try and supress the thought. Both the active player and the suppressor get a re-roll token to use later in the game. The active player then rolls 2d6. If they roll 5 or better they are not suppressed. If no one challenges an addition it is added without a roll.

The GM then jots down the thought on the game summary.

[Example Add with a no and a roll]

CHALLENGE

If a player doesn’t like where the fantasy is going they may challenge the whole thing and try to replace it with a different fantasy. They can include ideas already out there but often they are suppressing the whole line of thought.


All the players pick sides. Do they want to switch to the new fantasy or not? Each player rolls 2d6. The high roller wins for their side, re-roll ties. If the challenger wins, the GM draws a line through the suppressed thoughts. If the challenger loses the GM draws a line throught their thought and the challenger gets a re-roll token.

[Example of a challenge]

SAY NO

If a player can’t think of anything to add the fantasy, they may say “NO!” to the whole thing and try to suppress everything. The player gets a re-roll token (for later use) and rolls 2d6. If they roll 10 or better, they suppress the whole turn. Bill ends up standing there not knowing what to say – but at least he doesn’t say something stupid!

Players may try to suppress suppression.

[Example of no and saying no to no]

MIXING IT  UP WITH RE-ROLL TOKENS

The players are in competition over what Bill does. They all want to save Bill from danger and embarrassment, they just don’t agree on how. If they fail to save Bill with their additions or challenges they may make a last ditch defense using re-roll tokens.

Players get re-roll tokens when they suppress a thought – because suppressing thoughts strengthens them. A re-roll token allows a player to re-roll a roll they’ve just made or make another player re-roll the roll they’ve just made. You can’t use the re-roll token earned in a suppression to re-roll that suppression.

Players get re-roll tokens when they try to supress a thought, when someone tries to supress their thought, or when they challenge and lose.

[example of using re-roll tokens]

ENDING THE TURN

The GM decides when the players have said enough, after all Bill only has milliseconds to create the plan before he has to do something. As a rule of thumb give each player no more than three actions a turn.

CONSEQUENCES

After the turn ends the GM tells the players what actually happened. The GM uses the fantasy as a jumping off point but then makes events unfold in a more reasonable way. Bill may dream about being a suave lady’s man but that isn’t realistic. The consequence narration is the GM’s chance to rain on everyone’s parade – especially if they start getting silly.

[Example of a consequence narration]

THE NEXT TURN

The GM makes up the next problem that Bill faces. This should be a logical progression from the last turn. So if Bill lusts after a girl, on the next turn he might be confronted with talking to her. Other players may suggest ideas but it is up to the GM to decide.

ENDING THE GAME

The game ends when the players agree that they have taken Bill as far as they want to. Don’t expect a plot driven story. This game is about real life, and real life seldom tells a story.

DEBRIEFING

“Screwed” can be used in schools or in psychotherapy as a social skills training game. Engle Matrix Games have a more than twenty year history in those settings. If used this way, keep the game short (say 30 minutes) and follow it by a 30 minute debriefing session where the players talk about what they learned. Debriefing is when most of the learning occurs.

THE ROLL OF THE GM

The GM has a special role in “Screwed”. One the one hand they have no voice about what happens inside Bill’s brain but they have total control over what happens in reality. They get to be as cruel or kind to Bill as they want. The GM’s other job is just as important. They keep things moving. They do this by encouraging the players to make the move. They say “What is Bill’s openning thought?” “What else does he think?” “Roll!” The GM also hands out and keeps track of the re-roll token and what gets written down on the game log.

It is important to keep the game moving. If the players start slowing down with thoughts end the scene. If one player is being very quiet, try directly encouraging them. At the very least they say “NO!” to the whole turn. When the player’s energy starts to flag, end the game.

TABLES AND PLAY AIDS

Resist Suppression: 5+ resist suppression

Challenge: High roller wins, re-roll ties.

Say No: 10+ to suppress the whole fantasy

Re-Roll Tokens: Pay a token to get a re-roll or force someone else to re-roll

You get a re-roll token when:

You try to suppress an addition to the fantasy
If someone else tries to suppress your addition to the fantasy
If you challenge a fantasy and lose
If you say no to the whole fantasy

EXAMPLE OF PLAY

The players are sitting around the table: Romeo, Othello, Hamlet, Lady Macbeth, King Leer, and Falstaff. There is also a GM.

Setting the scene:

GM: Bill goes to the school office on the first day of class. The nerd is suppose to guide him around but doesn’t. Bill ends up coming into class late. Everyone (including the cute girl) is staring at him. The teacher asks him why he is late…

Who wants to go first? Hamlet volunteers.

Hamlet: Bill mumbles something and sits down.

GM: Next!

Lady Macbeth: The class laughs at me and I feel horrible. I’m such a loser.

Falstaff: I object. I’m no loser.

GM: Roll!

Lady Macbeth rolls a 5 so her thought is not repressed. She and Falstaff collect a re-roll token.

GM: Next!

King Leer: The cheerleader tells the jock to be nice so I think she likes me. I feel good again.

GM: Next!

Falstaff: I try to resurrect my social death by making a smartass remark to the teacher.

Hamlet: Bad move, I don’t want you to turn the teachers on us.

GM: Roll!

Falstaff rolls a 4 so his joke is suppressed. Falstaff and Hamlet get re-roll tokens. The GM draws a line through Falstaff’s thought.

GM: Next!

Romeo: I try to take to the girl after the class.

Hamlet: Talk to the girl?!? Didn’t you see her boyfriend?

GM: Roll!

Romeo rolls a 12 and wins. He and Hamlet get re-roll tokens.

Hamlet throws down the re-roll token he got earlier and demands Romeo roll again. This time he rolls a 6 so his plan is still not suppressed.

GM: Next!

Othello: No! None of this happens. I make an excuse to the teacher and blame the nerd for ditching me.

GM: Pick sides and roll!

Othello and Hamlet are for making the excuse. Everyone else is against them.

Othello 10, Hamlet 6, Romeo 10, Lady Macbeth 7, King Leer 2, and Falstaff 11

Falstaff rolled highest so the challenge is suppressed and Othello gets a re-roll token that he can use next turn.

Hamlet throws down a re-roll token and makes Falstaff roll again. This time he rolls a ten so there is a tie. Othello, Romeo, and Falstaff roll again.

Othello 5, Romeo 8, Falstaff 2

Romeo is now the high roller so Othello is still suppressed.

GM: Next!

Lady Macbeth: The cheerleader was dating the jock but they broke up because he was such a jerk.

GM: Next!

No one steps up. The GM is just about to end the turn when Othello jumps in.

Othello: NO! None of this happens.

GM: Roll!

Othello rolls a 9, just shy of 10 so the objection fails but he still gets another re-roll token.

No one steps up after this so the GM ends the turn.

Consequences:

GM: So Bill walks into class and is laughed at. The cheerleader is nice to him but when he tries talking to her after class the jock confronts him. “What are you doing talking to my girl? Punk!” The cheerleader doesn’t stand up for Bill this time.

The next turn:

GM: It’s lunch time, later that day. Bill runs into the nerd who makes up for ditching him by buying him a cookie. They get to talking about the social order and how unfair it is. Bill seeths with anger…





 


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Chris Engle
Hamster Press = Engle Matrix Games
http://HamsterPress.net
Dan Maruschak
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« Reply #4 on: July 17, 2011, 08:27:18 PM »

I found this draft easier to follow (although I read the first draft, so I wasn't truly reading it fresh). In the scenario, I was a little bit confused as to whether those were six example scenarios or a single scenario with a sequence of six events, since both interpretations seemed possible.

Quote
Any player may say “NO!” to an addition, to try and supress the thought. Both the active player and the suppressor get a re-roll token to use later in the game. The active player then rolls 2d6. If they roll 5 or better they are not suppressed. If no one challenges an addition it is added without a roll.
I think what you're incentivizing here is coming across much more clearly on than the first draft. As I understand it now, a little bit of bickering helps people get tokens.

I had to re-read this several times before I could comprehend it:
Quote
Players get re-roll tokens when they suppress a thought – because suppressing thoughts strengthens them. A re-roll token allows a player to re-roll a roll they’ve just made or make another player re-roll the roll they’ve just made. You can’t use the re-roll token earned in a suppression to re-roll that suppression.
(I think the fact that re-roll is sometimes an adjective and sometimes a verb is making it harder to parse. Changing the name of "re-roll tokens" might help with that. I also tend to prefer second-person phrasing like you've done in the last sentence. I think doing more of that might help make the rules more digestable).

I saw your comment in the Story-Games thread where you mentioned considering a name change. Have you thought about mining Shakespeare quotes for possible titles? Maybe something like "Full of Sound and Fury" or "Tis Nobler in the Mind"?

I like how you're framing the scenarios players are building up as "fantasies" or hopes, since I think it takes a lot of the sting out of the idea of shooting down your friends contributions since there's a common understanding that everything is tentative until the GM tells you what "really happens".
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Ross Cowman
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« Reply #5 on: July 17, 2011, 10:07:12 PM »

BTW Hellsgate is an old name for Missoula, MT which actualy has a Hellsgate High.
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« Reply #6 on: July 18, 2011, 08:42:20 AM »

I'll work on a 3rd draft today.

I got the Hellsgate name from the movie "The Gangs of New York". It was the reformatory the hero was sent to. Great movie!
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Chris Engle
Hamster Press = Engle Matrix Games
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« Reply #7 on: July 19, 2011, 04:24:24 AM »

The 3rd Draft

SCREWED: The inner life of an American Teenager
By Chris Engle
7-18-11

Theme: Shakespeare
Ingredients: Daughter, Exile, Forsworn, Nature

INSPIRATION

This is what I thought when I looked at the ingedients.
 
Shakespeare – tragedy – high school English class – high school
Exile – alienation – teenager
Nature – biology – hormones
Daughter – heroine – object of desire – the girl
Forsworn – forswear – renounce – self – self loathing

Which adds up to a self loathing high school teenager hopped up on hormones who is unable to get the girl – thus tragedy.

Elevator Pitch: Life is tragic especially the life of the average American teenager. This game is all about getting into the brain of Bill Leer. The conflict within is what it’s all about.

Each turn our hero, Bill, is confronted with problems. The players run the voices in his head. Of course they want him to succeed but they don’t agree on how to do that. The game focuses on how they try to keep Bill from doing something stupid as he navigates the soul crushing halls of high school.

He’s screwed.

MEET BILL LEER

Bill Leer is an average 15 year old Freshman. His family recently moved to the suburbs of a major US city. He knows no one, and is about to go to an unforgiving high school. The only resource he has are the many voices in his head and they all think he’s a loser.

What a nerd!

WELCOME TO HELLSGATE HIGH

Hellsgate is your typical middle class suburban high school. Think back to your time in high school. It’s like that. Or if you didn’t go to high school in the US, think about Sunnydale High School from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”. It’s like that.

Bill may meet a nerd, a jock, a cheerleader, a helpful teacher, a sadistic coach and anyone else the players choose to include.

The game begins on Bill’s first day of school but scenes may jump days, weeks or even months. It’s all up to the game master.

MATERIALS NEEDED

Paper and pens
2d6 per player
30 or so repression tokens
3 to 7 players (best at 5)
2 hours to play

SCREWED – THE GAME ENGINE

Screwed is a game about the battles we all have in our heads. Cognitive theory tells us that we all have a running conversation with ourselves called self-talk. Self talk explains the world to us and creates fantasies about what we hope will happen next. Each of us have many voices all talking at the same time suggesting going every direction at once. Our voices don’t trust one anther which is why most of us are so messed up. The players make up Bill’s thoughts, but the game master (GM) gets to splash them with a bucket of cold, wet reality when they make up what really happens. The next turn grows out of what happened previously.

SCENARIOS

At the beginning of the game the players pick a scenario to play. This is the over arching conflict of the game.

1.   Let’s get Bill in trouble
2.   Let’s get Bill in a fight
3.   Let’s embarrass Bill
4.   Let’s get Bill a date
5.   Let’s find out how badly Bill’s date goes
6.   Let’s get Bill drunk
The GM takes the conflict and makes up an openning problem/scene to confront the players with. For instance: If the conflict is embarrassing Bill, the GM might start off with Bill meeting a pretty girl in the hall. The GM knows that the girl will make fun of him, Bill is a nerd after all. Depending on how he handles this, the next problem might be being taunted by other girls during gym class. Each scene flows from the last scene.

ROLES

The most experienced player takes on the role of GM. Their job is to keep the game moving, to make up problems, and to make up what happens in reality.

The other players play a voice in Bill’s head. Each voice has it’s own personality. The players pick one personality to champion.

ROMEO: Impulsive, shallow, ruled by desire
OTHELLO: Jealous, eternal outsider, paranoid person who trusts no one
HAMLET: Brooding, indecisive, overreacts
LADY MACBETH: Ambitious, wrack with guilt, self loathing/self destructive
KING LEER: Naïve, poor judgment, wallows in self pity
FALSTAFF: Self indulgent, cowardly, buffoon

Each voice in Bill’s head wants to protect him, which often means stopping the stupid plans the other voices come up with! The players do this by explaining what is going on or creating a fantasy plan about how Bill should handle the problem. Some of what the players make up will happen but most fantasies just don’t work out.

ORDER OF PLAY

1.   Make up a scene
2.   Openning fantasy
3.   Add to it, Challenge it, or just say No
4.   Consequences


MAKE UP A SCENE

Each turn the GM makes up a problem in Bill’s life. Bill is an awkward teen so the best problems are ones that put him in social peril, like walking into class late, talking to a girl, or being confronted by bullies.
[Example of a GM making up a scene.]
His parents are running behind so Bill gets to school late. He is confronted by the sadistic coach in the hall. “Why are you late?!?”

THE OPENNING THOUGHT

The first player to speak, makes up Bill’s openning though. This can either explain the situation to Bill or makes up a fantasy plan of how he will deal with it. If multiple people jump in, the GM picks which though happens first.

Thoughts should be very short (only a few sentences long if you write them down).

If the players cannot come up with a though within a minute then Bill stands there slack jawed, not knowing what to do. Do not let Bill look like an idiot this way! Any action is better than doing nothing.

The GM jots down a brief summary of the thought on a game summary.

[Example of a player making a thought.]
Othello: “Oh shit! I’m caught. This guy is never going to let me forget this. I’m ruined…”

ADDING TO, CHALLENGING OR SAYING NO!

The other players may now jump in with other ideas. They may add to the fantasy, challenge it with a replacement fantasy, or say NO! to the whole thing. As players do this they may try to suppress one another’s thoughts to save Bill from the embarrassment that the other players plans will undoubtedly cause.

ADD TO THE FANTASY

If a player adds to the fantasy, they accept what has already happened and build on it. This builds Bill’s fantasy of how to deal with the problem. It shows how he explains events to himself or what he adds to his fantasy plan.
The plan is like a script of what Bill thinks will happen so the players are allowed to put words into other people’s mouths.

[Example of a thought]
Romeo: I make an excuse about my parents running late and the coach buys it.

Any player may say “NO!” to an addition, to try and supress the thought. Both the active player and the suppressor get a repression token to use later in the game. The active player then rolls 2d6. If they roll 5 or better they are not suppressed. If no one challenges an addition it is added without a roll.

[Example Add with a no and a roll]
Hamlet: No, I don’t think that will work.
Romeo rolls a 6 on 2d6 so the thought was not suppressed.
Both Hamlet and Romeo get a repression token

The GM then jots down the thought on the game summary.


CHALLENGE

If a player doesn’t like where the fantasy is going they may challenge the whole thing and try to replace it with a different fantasy. They may include ideas already out there but often they are suppressing the whole line of thought.


The players pick sides which side they want to win. Do they want to switch to the new fantasy or not? Each player rolls 2d6. The high roller wins for their side, re-roll ties. If the challenger wins, the GM draws a line through the suppressed thoughts. If the challenger loses the GM draws a line throught their thought and the challenger gets a repression token.

[Example of a challenge]
Falstaff: I think this is a bad plan. I think Bill lies. A lie is better than the truth. “I was mugged on the way to school…”

Hamlet and Falstaff are for suppressing the whole thought. They roll 10 and 6. Romeo, Othello, Lady Macbeth, and King Leer want the hero to tell the truth. They roll 11, 8, 4, and 7. The 11 is the high roll so Bill tells the truth. Doofus!

SAY NO!

If a player can’t think of anything to add the fantasy, they may say “NO!” to the whole turn to try to suppress everything. The player gets a repression token (for later use) and rolls 2d6. If they roll 10 or better, they suppress the whole turn. Bill will end up standing there not knowing what to say – but at least he doesn’t say something stupid!

Players may try to suppress suppression.

[Example of no and saying no to no]
King Leer can’t think of anything so he says NO! to the lot. He rolls 2d6 and gets a 9. This is less that the 10 needed to suppress the whole turn but Leer still gets a repression token

MIXING IT  UP WITH REPRESSION TOKENS

The players are in competition over what Bill does. They all want to save Bill from danger and embarrassment, they just don’t agree on how to do that. If they can’t save Bill with their additions and challenges they may make a last ditch defense using repression tokens.

Repression tokens allow players to buy the right to make a re-roll themselves or to force another player to re-roll their roll. This can change everything.

This simulates how repressing thoughts makes them more powerful. When people try to not think something they increase the likelyhood that they will think it. Re-rolling makes that more likely to happen.

Players get repression tokens when they try to suppress a thought, when someone tries to suppress their thought, when they challenge and lose, and when they say no to everything.

[example of using repression tokens]
Hamlet has a repression token which he uses to change a roll in a challenge.
Falstaff tried to make Bill lie to the coach but lost the challenge. His high roll was 10 versus 11. Hamlet makes the 11 re-roll. This time they roll a 9 so Falstaff’s challenge wins.

ENDING THE TURN

The GM decides when the players have said enough, after all Bill only has milliseconds to create the plan before he has to do something. As a rule of thumb give each player no more than three actions a turn.

CONSEQUENCES

After the turn ends the GM tells the players what actually happens. The GM uses the fantasy as a jumping off point but then makes events unfold in a more reasonable way. Bill may dream about being a suave lady’s man but that isn’t realistic. The consequence narration is the GM’s chance to rain on everyone’s parade – especially if they start getting silly.

[Example of a consequence narration]
GM: Bill tries to tell the coach that he was mugged on the way to school but the coach isn’t buying it. “Shut up you little punk! I’m taking you to the office.”

THE NEXT TURN

The GM makes up the next problem that Bill faces. This should be a logical progression from the last turn. So if Bill lusts after a girl, on the next turn he might be confronted with talking to her. Other players may suggest ideas but it is up to the GM to decide.

GM: The next scene happens in the principal’s office. The principal wants to talk, heart to heart, with Bill to decide if he should call his parents…
 
ENDING THE GAME

The game ends when the players agree that they have taken Bill as far as they want to. Don’t expect a plot driven story. This game is about real life, and real life seldom tells a story.

THE ROLL OF THE GM

The GM has a special role in “Screwed”. One the one hand they have no voice about what happens inside Bill’s brain but they have total control over what happens in reality. They get to be as cruel or kind to Bill as they want. The GM’s other job is just as important. They keep things moving. They do this by encouraging the players to make the move. They say “What is Bill’s openning thought?” “What else does he think?” “Roll!” The GM also hands out and keeps track of the re-roll token and what gets written down on the game log.

It is important to keep the game moving. If the players start slowing down with thoughts end the scene. If one player is being very quiet, try directly encouraging them. At the very least they say “NO!” to the whole turn. When the player’s energy starts to flag, end the game.

TABLES AND PLAY AIDS

Resist Suppression: 5+ resist suppression

Challenge: High roller wins, re-roll ties.

Say No: 10+ to suppress the whole fantasy

Repression Tokens: Pay a token to get a re-roll or force someone else to re-roll

You get a repression token when:

You try to suppress an addition to the fantasy
If someone else tries to suppress your addition to the fantasy
If you challenge a fantasy and lose
If you say no to the whole fantasy

EXAMPLE OF PLAY

The players are sitting around the table: Romeo, Othello, Hamlet, Lady Macbeth, King Leer, and Falstaff. There is also a GM.

Setting the scene:

GM: Bill goes to the school office on the first day of class. The nerd is suppose to guide him around but doesn’t. Bill ends up coming into class late. Everyone (including the cute girl) is staring at him. The teacher asks him why he is late…

Who wants to go first? Hamlet volunteers.

Hamlet: Bill mumbles something and sits down.

GM: Next!

Lady Macbeth: The class laughs at me and I feel horrible. I’m such a loser.

Falstaff: I object. I’m no loser.

GM: Roll!

Lady Macbeth rolls a 5 so her thought is not suppressed. She and Falstaff collect a repression token.

GM: Next!

King Leer: The cheerleader tells the jock to be nice so I think she likes me. I feel good again.

GM: Next!

Falstaff: I try to resurrect my social death by making a smartass remark to the teacher.

Hamlet: Bad move, I don’t want you to turn the teachers on us.

GM: Roll!

Falstaff rolls a 4 so his joke is suppressed. Falstaff and Hamlet get repression tokens. The GM draws a line through Falstaff’s thought.

GM: Next!

Romeo: I try to take to the girl after the class.

Hamlet: Talk to the girl?!? Didn’t you see her boyfriend?

GM: Roll!

Romeo rolls a 12 and wins. He and Hamlet get repression tokens.

Hamlet throws down the repression token he got earlier and demands Romeo roll again. This time he rolls a 6 so his plan is still not suppressed.

GM: Next!

Othello: No! None of this happens. I make an excuse to the teacher and blame the nerd for ditching me.

GM: Pick sides and roll!

Othello and Hamlet are for making the excuse. Everyone else is against them.

Othello 10, Hamlet 6, Romeo 10, Lady Macbeth 7, King Leer 2, and Falstaff 11

Falstaff rolled highest so the challenge is suppressed and Othello gets a repression token that he can use next turn.

Hamlet throws down a repression token and makes Falstaff roll again. This time he rolls a 10 so there is a tie. Othello, Romeo, and Falstaff roll again.

Othello 5, Romeo 8, Falstaff 2

Romeo is now the high roller so Othello is still suppressed.

GM: Next!

Lady Macbeth: The cheerleader was dating the jock but they broke up because he was such a jerk.

GM: Next!

No one steps up. The GM is just about to end the turn when Othello jumps in.

Othello: NO! None of this happens.

GM: Roll!

Othello rolls a 9, just shy of 10 so the objection fails but he still gets another repression token.

No one steps up after this so the GM ends the turn.

Consequences:

GM: So Bill walks into class and is laughed at. The cheerleader is nice to him but when he tries talking to her after class the jock confronts him. “What are you doing talking to my girl? Punk!” The cheerleader doesn’t stand up for Bill this time.

The next turn:

GM: It’s lunch time, later that day. Bill runs into the nerd who makes up for ditching him by buying him a cookie. They get to talking about the social order and how unfair it is. Bill seeths with anger…

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Chris Engle
Hamster Press = Engle Matrix Games
http://HamsterPress.net
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« Reply #8 on: July 25, 2011, 08:54:20 AM »

Chris, you're submitting your game right? I haven't seen it pop up yet.
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