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Inactive File => Endeavor: Game Chef 2011 => Topic started by: JeffR on July 15, 2011, 08:23:41 AM

Title: [Game Chef 2011] Love, Blood, and Rhetoric
Post by: JeffR on July 15, 2011, 08:23:41 AM
Initial Thoughts:
So, the basic idea here is a game in which each player's character sheet ends up being a (Shakespearean-style) Sonnet.  There are two possible approaches here: one in the game ends at the same time the sonnet is complete, and on in which that's only the first phase of the campaign.  Since we've only got 3,000 words to work with, which is barely more than my two-page Little Game Chef games tended to use, I'm going to go with the first.

Ideas on how to do this:
  • At start of game, players generate 6 cards with rhyming words on back and front
  • Each stanza starts with a line authored by a different player?  If fixed # of players=4, can be left, right, across.  If not, can be your own, left, right.  Could be that way even with fixed at 4; starting with own might help with ownership.
  • Players pick the cards knowing only the top word.
  • Some kind of in-game benefit from clever use of language in the lines as written.  Possibly as a form of currency gained when the line is written, possibly as a stat-like bonus for the character.
  • Either way, this can be tracked in two currencies/stat tracks: a 'low' (for things like puns and innuendo) and a 'high' (for things like metaphor and alliteration)
  • This will be self-adjudicated, claimed by the author on an 'honor system'.
  • Will have to choose between a highly-ritualized gameplay style in which all characters reach the heroic couplet (which will be mechanically different in some way) simultaneously and a more 'freestyle' one in which the sonnets can roll out at different paces and finishing them triggers something (endgame?)

Leaning strongly towards GM-less.  The ingredients will define my setting and constrain the major conflicts, I guess. 

Remember: Sonnets are persuasive poems, not descriptive ones.

Title: Re: [Game Chef 2011] Love, Blood, and Rhetoric
Post by: somori on July 15, 2011, 08:32:51 AM
Sounds like a great idea Jeff. Can you expand on your last line though? I'm not sure what you mean by the difference between persuasive and descriptive poems.

A descriptive sonnet would make more sense in this context too as a "character sheet" describes a character's history and possible futures.

Title: Re: [Game Chef 2011] Love, Blood, and Rhetoric
Post by: JeffR on July 15, 2011, 09:14:17 AM
Well, that's as much a statement of fact about Shakespeare's sonnets as an agenda, but it is an agenda as well: making them persuasive is going to keep them focused, and give a better guide when writing the heroic couplet at the end.

Letting the ingredients simmer right now.  I want to integrate them fairly deeply with the non-sonnet-writing elements of the game, and avoid writing a generic system with an ingredients-based sample setting.

Title: Re: [Game Chef 2011] Love, Blood, and Rhetoric
Post by: JeffR on July 15, 2011, 10:07:10 AM
First Ingredients thoughts
Leave Daughter aside for now, and concentrate on mechanics:
Nature:easy to do in mechanics; possibly the values already present on the character sheet as they influence scenes.
Forsworn: Oaths as a pre-scene bidding mechanic, with consequences for breaking them.
Exile: Something that happens to at least on character between the beginning and end of a scene.  Self-balancing, since it lets the exiled character spend more time on crafting their next line.

Title: Re: [Game Chef 2011] Blood, Love, and Rhetoric
Post by: JeffR on July 15, 2011, 10:54:15 AM
Also just realized that I got the quote backward in the title of the thread.  The game will have the three in the Stoppardian order.

Title: Re: [Game Chef 2011]Blood, Love, and Rhetoric
Post by: JeffR on July 15, 2011, 01:31:52 PM
Okay, this game is going to be 3 scenes plus an endgame.  I'm going to go for a mix between freestyle and ritualistic structure: each player is going to end up having written a verse by the end of each scene, but the order of individual lines written is going to vary based on the play.

The central conflict in each scene for each character will be between keeping faith with one's oaths or being true to one's nature.  And each scene will continually escalate to the point where everyone will eventually have to break with one or the other.  I have in mind a bidding or bluffing mechanic here; if I can see a way to create enough interesting nondeterminism without fortune I'll do it but I'm not at all unwilling to turn to dice if needed.

Exile is still what happens when a player runs out of all currency and has no more verses left to write.

Two currencies: the low is associated with your nature, and the high with your oaths.  The low regenerates each scene (so you get the low from every previous verse, in other words.  And all three verses in whatever winds up going on in the heroic couplet/endgame), but the high is worth more.

Big question: exactly what does it mean to 'win' a scene/verse?  What motivates the players to want to do so, here?  Also, should I a pure competitive game aiming at a single winner, or a system in which each player independently wins or loses?  Either way, I need to make sure that whatever goes on in the verses doesn't make the final winner/loser predetermined before the endgame begins, even in 'worst-case' scenario where the same player 'wins' all three scenes.

Title: Re: [Game Chef 2011] Love, Blood, and Rhetoric
Post by: Kadrin on July 15, 2011, 01:59:15 PM
I'm entirely interested in this idea - I love games where the mechanics really do advise the story. The original things you've brought up are a little reminiscent, for me, of Happy Birthday Robot! - have you played that? If not, you might look into it, I don't know, it might have some good ideas.

(Full disclosure: my idea also centres heavily on sonnets and the words 'blood, love, and rhetoric' - Stoppard being fantastic - so I may be biased here.)

Title: Re: [Game Chef 2011] Love, Blood, and Rhetoric
Post by: JeffR on July 15, 2011, 03:55:23 PM
So, as a last thing for today, I've made a (very) tentative wordcount budget for this thing, all numbers being approximate of course:
Introduction-150 words
Preparing for Play-250 words
Boxout On Sonnets-300 words
Scenes and Verses-1500 words
Heroic Couplet Endgame-500 words
Boxout/Table on High and Low Rhetoric-300 words

It's going to be tough fitting everything I want in the boxouts into those wordcounts, but I think that's the maximum I can possibly afford here.

Title: Re: [Game Chef 2011] Blood, Love, and Rhetoric
Post by: JeffR on July 17, 2011, 01:34:50 PM
Okay, so I now have the general scenario for this game:  Courtiers/Suitors in the court of a Queen as capricious as she is deadly.  The generic/default here is, of course, Elizabeth I: Blackadder 2, but played straight, but it will work just as well for Titania or Princess Aludra of Chiron or the heiress CEO of Transpacific Widgetronics.  (Or, of course, with genders inverted or ignored, in settings or groups where that sort of thing is desired or expected.)

This lets me use 'exile' more literally in the mechanics, which is good.  Each scene will be about securing her assent in some particular policy dispute or another, while the subtext here and the sonnet text generated is going toward the overall courtship.  Still working out the overall scene mechanics, particularly with regard to drawing in the nature/oath conflict, but the central escalation/bidding mechanic is going to be about the Queen's favor, and since her caprice is part of the premise I feel better about using Fortune in it at least.

I have a vague idea in mind to try and make the system such that everything mechanical is being done entirely with the hands (manipulating tokens or dice), and all speech is in character, but I'm not wedded to this one.

Title: Re: [Game Chef 2011] Love, Blood, and Rhetoric
Post by: JeffR on July 17, 2011, 03:55:54 PM
Okay, I have the bones of how my mechanic is going to work: We'll have a board a row of boxes, number 2 through 12. During each scene people will be bidding on those boxes, with the currencies gained during the sonnet-writing portion of the game (and maybe in other ways). At the end of the scene, and maybe at other points, a pair of dice are rolled, and the result box's owner is the victor.  There may be mid-scene rolls, in which a winner gets more currency, and I might forbid 7, 2, and 12 from all bids; I have some other rule ideas for them.  You go into exile when you are out of currency and hold no boxes at all (and have already written all of your lines for the scene)

I need to work on tethering this activity more tightly to the banter/RP elements of the scenes, and getting the nature/oath conflict naturally expressed there rather than being mechanic buzzwords only.

Title: Re: [Game Chef 2011] Blood, Love, and Rhetoric
Post by: JeffR on July 18, 2011, 08:44:38 AM
Some things have fallen by the wayside as the game firms up.  Most notably is the entire idea of the 'oaths vs nature' confilct, which is a fine idea but which belongs to some game other than this one.  This leaves me in a bit of an ingredients pickle.  I have a strong mechanical idea for 'forsworn', at least, but 'nature' is eluding me for the moment.  ('daughter' I continue to want to stay away from.  I particularly do not wish to define the Queen in terms of her father.)

Anyhow, I think that I'm about read to start drafting the rules at this point.

Title: Re: [Game Chef 2011] Blood, Love, and Rhetoric-Draft 0.1
Post by: JeffR on July 18, 2011, 01:02:36 PM
Introduction ( 139/150)
She is the Queen.  Her power is absolute in her own domain,and she is as beautiful as she is capricious. You are her courtiers, and, in your dearest hopes at least, her suitors.  You are not without rivals: false men, all.  Her court is an arena in which you clash daily, wielding words and facts like swords and axes.  With each roll of the dice you risk ruin, exile, or even a traitor's death
Blood, Love, and Rhetoric is a game of poetry and intrigue for 3 or more players.  Over the course of the game each player will complete a sonnet, which functions during the game as a character sheet.
Preparing for Play ( 250/250)
    The following materials are required for this game: the Queen's Board and counters, a stack of index cards (at least seven per player), a blank sheet of paper and writing implements for each player, a few dozen each two different types of token, and two standard dice. 
    Pick one of the two types of token to represent the High currency, with the other representing the Low, and place all of these tokens on an area of the play table that will be called "The Bank". 
    Before play begins, each player should select a set of counters and take seven index cards.  On each index card they should then write a pair of rhyming words, one to each side.  All chosen words should be more or less consistent with the genre of the game, and none should be excessively long or obscure.  If you choose a word that has a homonym, such as 'wound', indicate which pronunciation you intend with a brief clarifying note in parentheses below it.  (either 'harm' or 'as a spring', in our example.)  After all of the cards have been finished, they should be combined into a deck and shuffled well, after which twice as many cards as there are players should be dealt out onto the play table.  Finally, each player, starting with the youngest player at the table, selects one card from those eight without first looking at the opposite side.  Players should avoid picking cards they have written themselves when possible.

On Sonnets (Box) (159/300)
    A Sonnet is a form of poem that consists of fourteen lines of iambic pentameter, organized into three four-line verses with alternating end rhyme and a 'heroic couplet' of two rhyming lines at the conclusion of the poem.  Sonnets of the type used in this game should be mainly persuasive in nature, rather than merely descriptive.  They need not be directly aimed at convincing the Queen to marry, though.
    The rules of the game will take care of the rhyme scheme, leaving the meter as a task for the players.  "Pentameter" means that each line should contain exactly ten syllables, and "iambic" means that they should alternate unstressed and stressed.  This is actually less difficult than it sounds, and will come natural with a small amount of practice.  At any rate, players should not sweat the details here: there is no penalty for coming in a syllable long or short, or having a misplaced stress or two.

Scenes and Verses (/1009)
    Blood, Love, and Rhetoric is a game of three scenes and and endgame.  During each scene, each player will write one verse of their character's sonnet.  A scene begins with each player taking one each of the low and high currency from the bank, taking an additional low currency for each point of Nature on their character sheet (which will be none in the first scene).  Then each player writes the first line of their Sonnet, ending with the word on their card, and claiming up to two points of Nature or Artifice to the side, according to the line's Rhetoric (see chart).  They then immediately collect a Low currency for each point of Nature and a High for each point of Artifice claimed.  Finally, each player in turn (again, and as always, starting with the youngest player and proceeding clockwise) flips their first word card over, takes one of the four unclaimed cards on the table, and replaces it with the top card in the deck.  They should place this new
 card on top of their first one.
    After that, play commences.  The first scene is set by the oldest player, who describes a general issue confronting Her Majesty's nation.  In the second and third scenes, the scene should be set by the first Exile, describing a negative consequence of the Queen's final decision in the previous scene that has become an important issue itself.  Once a scene has begun, players should endeavor to speak only in character, debating the issue at hand, and perform all game-related activities with their hands, without explanation.  (This can be relaxed in the first verse of a player's first game, until everyone is used to the flow of play.)
    During a player's turn, they may do one of three things: they may place a bid, write a line of their sonnet, or as the Queen's opinion on the debate thus far.
Placing a Bid
    To place a bid, a player puts one of their tokens onto one of the blue squares of the bidding board along with some of their currency.  If there are no previous bids on a square, they may place a single currency, either high or low.  If there is a previous bid, they must bid a higher amount.  If the numbers are equal, high currency wins out over low.  Players may not 'skip' bids: if the current bid on a square is 2 low currency, the only acceptable bids for that square are 2 high currency or three low.  When you place a higher bid, return the current bid's currency to the bank and only the counter to the previous bidder.
    Each square contains the name of a concept, and players placing a bid should advance an argument relating to that concept as they place their bid.  Bids using the low currency should accompany arguments appealing to baser instincts or based on avoiding bad outcomes, while bids using the high currency should accompany arguments founded in lofty ideals or on achieving glorious outcomes.
Writing A Line
    A player may choose to write a line of their sonnet rather than making a bid.  The line should end with the word on their top card.  As with the first line, they will collect one currency of each type per line, and additional currency based on the line's Rhetoric.  If the card they use has only been used once in this verse, they should flip it over and place it beneath their other card.  If not, they should discard it.
Beseeching the Queen
    When a player asks the Queen's opinion on what has been recently said, they should take the dice and roll them on the table.  The result will point to one of the squares on the bidding chart.  If that is a blue square, if there is any bid currently on that square. the holder of that bid receives one currency of the same type as the bid.  If, on the other hand, the number corresponds to one of the red squares marked "Caprice", the Queen has become angered.
    When this happens, any player has the option to forswear one of their positions.  They should verbally back out of their argument while reclaiming both the counter and currency on that bid.  After all players have chosen whether or not to forswear,  roll the dice again. If the result is again "Caprice", continue to re-roll until a blue square comes up.  When a blue square is rolled, return all currency on that square to the bank, and the player who owned that bid must, if possible, write a line on their next turn.  (If a blue square with no bids on it is rolled, all players escape the Queen's wrath for now.)
    When a player has no active bids, no currency, and has already written all of the lines of the current verse, they must go into Exile to avoid even worse consequences from displeasing the Queen.  They may not take part in the debate.  If it is not the third and last verse they were Exiled in, they may select a card from those on the table and begin to write their first line for the next scene.  They should not collect currency or select a second card until the actual beginning of that scene.
Ending a Scene
    Once all of the players have written all four lines for a verse and at least one player has been sent into Exile, any player may Beseech the Queen for a final decision on the matter.  This works much like the normal procedure for Beseeching the Queen, except that the consequences are greater.  If a player's square is chosen, that player wins the scene and adds a point of Nature or Artifice to their character sheet.  If the Queen's Caprice arises, any player whose square is chosen is immediately Exiled, with all of their bids and held currency forfeit to the bank.  If this leaves only one player remaing un-exiled, that player wins the scene as above.

Title: Re: [Game Chef 2011] Love, Blood, and Rhetoric
Post by: JeffR on July 18, 2011, 01:08:53 PM
The Bidding chart is simple.  2, 7, and 12 are Caprice.  The other numbers are 3:Treason, 4: Scandal, 5: Crime, 6: War, 8: Money, 9:Religion, 10: Nature, 11: Legacy.

I still need to figure out what to do with the Endgame exactly, and write up the Rhetoric chart, but I'm well under wordcount budget, which means more examples and explanations are possible.  So if there's any part of the rules that are unclear as written, let me know.

Title: Re: [Game Chef 2011] Love, Blood, and Rhetoric
Post by: JeffR on July 19, 2011, 10:15:31 AM
The rest of the draft follows. I'm still well under wordcount.  I'll probably eat most of what remains with two character sheets, one blank and one a sample, which will help make Nature and Artifice a bit more clear.

High and Low Rhetoric (Box/Chart) (273/300)
   Rhyme and meter are not the whole of poetic language.  Indeed, there are many different techniques at the hand of any bard worth the name, some to amuse and inflame the hearts of the groundlings, and some to amaze and entrance a more sophisticated audience.  Whenever a player writes a line, they may use some of these techniques and claim points in Nature and Artifice on their character sheet.  As a general rule, any such claim should be accepted by the other players on the honor system, although some groups may find it useful to allow a three-quarters majority of other players to veto or alter a claim.  This chart is not meant to be exhaustive or definitive: if a player wants to use some literary technique or figure of speech not here listed, use its general sense as a guide as to which category it should count as.  In some cases a technique may take more than one line to complete.  In those cases it should only be scored on the last such line.
Low Rhetoric
High Rhetoric
innuendo/double entendre
sexually suggestive language
alliteration or assonance
two or more words starting with the same sound
puns and wordplay
humorous plays on double meanings
internal rhyme
rhyming words within a single line
cultural allusion
referencing other works less than 100 years old
literary allusion
referencing other works more than 100 years old
extreme exaggeration
metaphor and simile
comparing unlike things
overused expression
Using a part of a thing to represent the whole
mixed metaphor
multiple comparisons yields an absurdity
Meaning the opposite of what is being said

Heroic Couplet Endgame (317/500)
   After the three verses are complete, the final stage of the game begins.  The first exile from the last verse sets the scene for this phase, establishing how the decisions made so far have lead to a disaster in which the fate of the entire nation now hangs in the balance.  Each player, in order of exile with the younger age breaking ties, selects one of the remaining cards from the game table and writes the first line of the Heroic Couplet that will conclude their sonnet.  These two lines should form an answer or conclusion to the argument that the rest of the Sonnet has been making.
   In this final round, stakes are higher and currency more plentiful.  Each player starts with as many Low Currency as they have Nature on their sheet, and as many High Currency as they have Artifice, as well as the currency generated by their first line.  Play proceeds as during a verse, with the following exceptions:
   * When bidding on an open square, a player may bid either one or two of either currency.  Mixing currency is still prohibited.
   * When bidding on an occupied square, they may bid one unit of currency higher than they might have in a verse.  For example, if the current bid is 2 low currency, they may bid 3 low currency, 4 low currency, 2 high currency, or 3 high currency.
   * In this round, a character who is exiled for lack of resources permanently flees the kingdom.  A character who is exiled as a result of Caprice is executed for treason.
   * The character whose suggestion is rewarded for their timely and wise counsel with the Queen's hand, becoming Prince Consort.  Any other characters  who are not exiled at the end of the game continue to have the notice and favor of the Queen, and may prosper by it in their advancing years.

Title: Re: [Game Chef 2011] Love, Blood, and Rhetoric
Post by: JeffR on July 19, 2011, 05:19:48 PM
A full, quasi-formatted draft is now available: (

Title: Re: [Game Chef 2011] Love, Blood, and Rhetoric
Post by: JeffR on July 20, 2011, 08:46:49 AM
I found a tiny rules gap that could lead to deadlocked rounds, but also an elegant solution to the problem that also helps balance a bit: First Exile now gets a point of Nature, and players may voluntarily become first exile after all lines of the scene are written if their position is hopeless.  (After the first exile, no position with currency is truly hopeless, because final-resolution-caprice can put anyone back into the game)

Title: Re: [Game Chef 2011] Love, Blood, and Rhetoric
Post by: JeffR on July 21, 2011, 02:17:23 PM
Potentially final draft is posted at (

Added: a bunch of little rules tweaks and explanatory notes in a few places.  Also rewrote a verse the sample character sheet to show off a wider variety of rhetoric examples.

The document wound up 70 words over 3000, but that's including 50 in the blank character sheet and about 200-300 in the Author's Notes, so I'd say I'm fine.