[Game Chef 2011] The Temptress

Started by Paul, July 25, 2011, 09:17:27 AM

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The Temptress by Paul Lyons

The Temptress is a role-playing game about precarious courtship and the proverbial snake in the grass. The players take on the role of suitors to the daughters of the exiled sorceress, Flouricia, a notorious and powerful trickster.

Essentials and Game Roles

•   Six people: Five players, each of whom performs the role of a suitor; and one Narrator who performs the roles of non-player characters as well as the role of the dealer, keeping track of cards and arbitration of rules
•   A deck of standard playing cards
•   three ten-sided dice
•   two colors of poker chips
•   paper & pencils

A Tale of Temptation

Once believed to be citizen of great import, the sorceress, Flouricia, wore her welcome thin in Mediola. In her youth, Flouricia made her craft as a most unmatched matchmaker. Mediola's prosperity and amiable reputation was due in no small part to her sight into the hearts of would-be lovers. Years passed, young passion flared before Flouricia, but never for her. Flouricia's own perfect match seemed but a paltry myth and her bitterness grew fangs. She married and divorced at her whimsy, seduced men and women alike, and wove a grand web of love polygons that disintegrated in a dance of betrayal. Her petty hobby of disrupting unions of love was looked upon with deep sadness by the Mediolans, but meddling in the prince's diplomatic marriage was a temptation too many.
Flouricia was exiled to the island of Kubuli, a lush volcanic garden. Sailors have since learned to steer clear of Kubuli, for not all men who venture within its sight can resist the magicks of the sorceress. In recent years, however, a few salty seadogs have escaped the isle with tales of the sorceress and her three daughters of striking beauty.
Lured by such tales, five friends, brave and foolish suitors, sailed from Mediola to Kubuli and arrived safely just this morning. Here, they were met by not three women of mysterious grace and fairness, but four. The startlingly similar women informed the suitors that among them were three of Flouricia's daughters, and, to the suitors' surprise, the fourth was Flouricia, herself.
The four ladies fortuitously divulge what Flouricia has foreseen: the five suitors may indeed discover their perfect matches among them. The suitors are welcome to the women's hospitality while they take up this task. A suitor must ascertain which woman is the perfect match, proving wits; win her heart, proving wiles, and reveal the identity of Flouricia, proving will to see beyond appearances. Only then will the suitor be allowed to safely leave Kubuli with a bride. All eager suitors are bound to this pact; the unsuccessful must remain on the emerald isle, in servitude to Flouricia the Temptress.

How to Play

1. Foremost, it is the narrator's job to generate and manage information about the daughters and other non-player characters.
This information includes personalities, clues about the daughter's preferences, which suitors and daughters are perfect matches, clues about those perfect matches, and clues about the sorceress. The suitors will play off this information and use it to win the game, so keep it straight!

2. The narrator also performs the job of the dealer. Remove all face cards and aces (aces are considered high cards) from your deck of playing cards. Place them face down in four piles of matching suits with one off-suit decoy shuffled into each pile. Keep the contents of these piles hidden from the players.

Each of these piles represents one of the daughters and information about her (make a note of which suit and pile corresponds to which daughter). As a player learns about a daughter, he or she will have opportunities to draw cards from her pile. However, the maidens are sometimes private, secretive, or difficult to understand, hence the off-suit decoys, which may mislead the players.

3. From the remaining cards, deal seven-card hands to the players, placing the single remaining card face down to begin the discard pile.
These hands represent the suitors' boldness and progress in winning the hearts of their perfect matches. You play cards from your hand in order to resolve conflicts and discover information about the daughters; however, your final goal is to gather a full hand of seven cards, all matching the suit of your perfect match.

4. Players should consider the history and persona of their suitors, and why the trip to Kubuli is so important.
All players and the narrator may openly discuss these ideas. Focus on personalities that are simple to describe (a couple sentences should do), simple to play (a character's motivations should be clear), but, ultimately, nuanced (find a balance between merits and flaws that bring texture to the game).

For example: Silver-haired Gregor Pietrangelo, an alcoholic Mediolan merchant sailor whose heart was broken many years ago when his fiancée was seduced by Flouricia. Gregarious and generous, if a bit dim-witted, Gregor's injured heart is determined to find a woman who deserves to be spoiled by his wealth.
Embodying an interesting character will not just bring the game to life, but will also reward you as you build a rapport with the daughters.

5. Everyone should chip in to give names to the four daughters of Kubuli!
6. The narrator passes private clues about the sorceress and perfect matches to each player to jumpstart the game.
Rumor, research, or just plain old good instincts, none of the suitors have come to Kubuli unprepared or completely unknowledgeable about love and sorcery.
Each player receives three starter clues:
1.   Match deck clue: One suit that is certainly not associated with your perfect match. Example: Your perfect match is not the Daughter of Clubs.
2.   Sorceress deck clue: One suit that is certainly not associated with the sorceress. Example: The sorceress is not the Daughter of Spades.
3.   One fictional preference. Example: Your perfect match loves the paintings of Lucian Freud.

7. The narrator introduces the daughters and sets the scene, fleshing out Kubuli in a few simple ways: perhaps a glance at Flouricia's estate, something interesting about the jungle, goings-on among servants on the island, or an invitation to the suitors for an event hosted by the daughters.
Each group will take narrative initiative differently, but a special event with a twist is a good place to start. In the Shakespearean tradition, I recommend a costume ball with unfair party games, or a play that prompts audience participation, leading to unexpected interactions among the suitors and daughters.

8. The players are now free to compete for their goals.
Offer the first action to the oldest player at the table. After that player has acted, the game is open, but you must allow each player an opportunity to act before another may act consecutively. Players are not obligated to take this opportunity, as waiting for events to unfold might be the best course of action.

Taking action
All actions performed by the suitors are toward a specific end: building rapport with the daughters. No matter what actions a player wishes to take, he or she must frame how they intend for their actions to result in impressing the daughters or deepening familiarity with them. Only by proving that you are interesting, capable, and trustworthy, will you learn enough about the women to discern the identity of Flouricia and your perfect match.

Here is where it is important to make interesting choices, embody your character's persona, and engage the daughters' interests. The narrator should hand out a Rapport chip to any player who contributes well to the mood, makes compelling character-relevant choices, and pushes the group's experience to greater heights. Don't be stingy. Make them earn it, but take a stance of positive reinforcement early.

When a player wishes to perform an action that is risky or has uncertain results, the narrator rolls and adds the result of 3d10 to create a Target number. The player must meet or exceed the target number by playing one to three cards from his or her hand and adding up the cards' numeric value (Jacks are worth 11, Queens are worth 12, Kings are worth 13, and Aces are worth 14). If the player cannot reach the target or chooses not to do so, he or she must still play at least one card in the attempt.

If you reach the target, congratulations, your action went off without a hitch and you have managed to build your relationship with the daughters. Take a Rapport chip and role-play and/or describe your success.
If you fail, the narrator describes your failure and you may offer appropriate miscues by your suitor. When deemed appropriate by the narrator, he or she may choose to narrate your action as successful; however, some caveat or twist in events prevents you from successfully building any Rapport. The players are encouraged to suggest complications as a result of their failures, and in the case of particularly interesting suggestions, the narrator should reward the player with a Rapport chip, anyway. Failures and twists are pure story-fuel.

Raising the Stakes
If you reached your Target in one or two cards, you may elect to Raise the Stakes. The narrator makes another 3d10 Target roll and you must again reach it, but only with your remaining card budget (cards played to reach a target prior to Raising the Stakes do not contribute value to reaching this second target).

If you reach this second target, your action was a great success; you receive two additional Rapport chips for a total of three.
If you fail to reach your second target, you pulled off your task, but with mixed results. You keep the Rapport chip from your first success, but also receive a Faux Pas chip. For each Faux Pas chip you have, one card of your hand must always sit on the table so that all players may see it. Perhaps you said something humorous, yet inappropriate. Maybe you snuck into Flouricia's estate's kitchen and baked a delicious cake for the daughters, but you made a tremendous mess in the process. This mixed result is similar to a twist, but the success is always distinct and never overshadowed by the Faux Pas.

Raising the Stakes Again
If you reached both your first and second target using two total cards, you may elect to raise the stakes one final time. It's another 3d10 roll against one final card.

If you reach your third and final target, your action was deeply moving to the daughters and their response gives you a glimmer of insight into their hearts. In addition to the three Rapport chips from reaching your first two targets, you may draw a card from one of the daughter's piles.
If you fail to reach your third target, your action was a great success, but came with a few hiccups, as most courting does. You keep the original three Rapport chips from reaching your first two targets, but you receive a Faux Pas chip, as well.

Opposed Actions
If you wish to interfere or oppose another suitor's action, the procedure is much the same. The narrator still makes target rolls and all those involved in the particular action play their three-card budget to reach the target. Players play all of their cards for each target in reverse of the order actions were announced, meaning that the suitor who acted first gets to play last.

The key difference between solo and opposed actions is that only the player with the highest card total played toward the current target may elect to Raise the Stakes (either player may decide in the case of a tie). All players who reach or fall short of their targets receive Rapport and Faux Pas chips as normal; however, the most successful player with the highest card total played toward the latest target (even if the player falls short of the latest target) is the only player who gets his or her full intention (ties are negotiated by the players and ultimately arbitrated by the narrator to achieve fair, "equal" results).

After an action is resolved, place all cards played face down in the discard pile.

Pacts and Petitioning Other Suitors
When interacting with your fellow suitors, you may attempt to get them to agree to an exchange of information or favors, or you may simply bully them into certain behaviors or grill them for information.
All it takes is one participant to demand an argument by spending one or more Rapport chips and the other party must comply. You may, however, spend an equal number of Rapport chips to avoid the argument. There is no bidding, the first player spends Rapport, the second player may spend Rapport in response, and that is all. You may only start one argument per Round and if you spend Rapport to avoid an argument, no other suitor may approach you for an argument this round.

Those participating in the argument first set stakes. The narrator judges the validity of stakes, but a binding promise to lean toward or avoid a certain subject of discussion (please, you must share your brothel anecdote with us) or a certain activity (do not upstage me again, you will not oppose my actions) is a common goal of arguments among friends and rivals. Other good stakes may include:
•   You get to see all of the player's clues about his or her perfect match
•   You get to see all of the player's clues about the sorceress
•   You get to see the player's hand

After setting stakes, you enter a modified opposed action. No Rapport or Faux Pas may be gained here. The initiating player plays first. If you do not reach your target, your stakes are completely off the table, you get nothing from the argument. Either player may Raise the Stakes if he or she reaches the target and has remaining card budget. If you raise the stakes and your opponent cannot or does not, you must reach your new target; otherwise, the argument is settled by the value of the cards played to reach the previous target in the argument.
No "pour on" expenditures of Rapport may be made beyond reaching a target to inflate value. The narrator will be the final arbiter of what constitutes deliberate inflation. Other than disallowing expenditure of Rapport, the narrator may reduce played card values to the target, itself. A card value tie at the end of an argument is decided by a 1d10 roll-off.

Spending Rapport Chips to Excel
•   Once per action, a player taking action may spend a Rapport chip to force a re-roll of one of the ten-sided dice.
•   Once per action, a player whose showing, played cards include a pair may spend a Rapport chip to get a +3 value to his or her card value against the current target.
•   Once per action, a player who has three showing, played cards of a matching suit may spend a Rapport chip to get a +3 value to his or her card value against the current target. If those cards are also numerically consecutive (in the style of a straight flush, but the cards need not be played in that consecutive order), instead, double the value of the last card against the current target.

9. Rounds, Drawing More Cards, More Clues, More about Rapport, Retirement, Winning, Losing, and Life Thereafter...

A round concludes the instant a daughter's pile is emptied, or when all players are out of cards, or when players have very few cards in their hands and the narrator judges that the players are not readily taking action and playing their hands.

When a round concludes, if you have Rapport, you may spend it, beginning with the player with the most Rapport (ties go to the high number of a 1d10 roll-off). You may choose not to spend your Rapport in this way, but if you do, all of it is spent at once, no matter how much you have (must have at least one to spend). You may spend your Rapport on one of the following effects:
•   Refill your hand to seven cards by looking through the discard pile and retrieving cards of your choice (you must keep any cards already in your hand)
•   Relieve yourself of all Faux Pas chips
•   Receive a new clue from the narrator (which is why it's a good idea for narrators to make a big list of accurate clues)
o   Other clue ideas: Your perfect match is a red/black suit, The sorceress is a red/black suit, Another suitor does/doesn't share your perfect match

Shuffle the discard pile and place it face-down again. If you did not draw by spending Rapport, refill your hand to seven cards by drawing from the top of the discard pile.
A new round begins. Players who were cut short an opportunity for an action begin this round and proceed as normal.

When a daughter's pile is empty, she retires for the rest of the game. She may appear in the background, but there is no more to be learned from her. She is tired, her heart may have been put through quite a ride, and she is unwilling to share more deeply of herself.
Whether a daughter retires or not, a round might be a good time for a change of pace. If the game is dragging, the narrator should introduce a new event or a startling discovery to breathe new life into the proceedings.
When the last daughter card is drawn, players have an opportunity to immediately retire and attempt to win. If no player is capable of winning, all your efforts were for naught, enjoy your life enslaved on Flouricia's island.
When you have a flush, a full, seven-card hand of one suit, which you believe matches your perfect match's suit, you may retire. You must announce your retirement, place your hand face-up on the table, and immediately declare which daughter is secretly the sorceress. If your hand is the wrong suit or you identify the wrong daughter as the sorceress, you are immediately out of the game, transformed into a beast of burden or inflicted with some other regrettable fate as the narrator sees fit, in accordance with the pact made with the sorceress to begin the competition.

If your hand and accusation are correct, congratulations, you win! You have proven your wits, wiles, and will, and won the heart of your perfect match. Flouricia reveals herself, and with a smirk of amusement, gives you her blessing and permits you to leave Kubuli with your bride as long as you return on long holidays. Perhaps you'll still recognize your friends when you visit.

The Tempted
If your perfect match is the sorceress, you cannot win in the normal fashion. Rather, you must prove to her that you are truly her perfect match by manipulating the efforts of your friends. By the time the final daughter card is drawn, you must prevent all other players from winning, and you must end the game with the queen of Flouricia's suit in your hand.


I trimmed inessential ideas including:
Strengths (open up abilities) and Weaknesses (establish special Faux Pas effects and conditions of removal)
Magic for speaking with elemental spirits of the island
The spirits have agendas which guide boons required of you to get information from them
Stealing another suitor's thunder/spotlight by picking up on an aborted action
Character Sheets
Play mat
Lists of daughter preferences and personality traits
Specific narrator tutorial for building, playing daughters, and organizing clues
Pre-generated daughters, suitors, and events


Since there is basically a full card game with matching strategy underpinning the rpg, I was uncertain how deliberate to be about play strategy. Keeping track of what daughter piles other players draw from and then what face cards they play, just as an example. The side-effect of a Faux Pas, putting part of your hand on the table, is not an obvious hindrance, but could tell other players a lot about what you're trying to do and possibly what you know. The varied value of Rapport chips is another item that I think is highly situational and will only be clear for most people after play.

In a full text, I definitely would include advice and more thorough explanation of certain rule implications. Exactly what and exactly how much would definitely have to come after a lot of play-testing.

Jonathan Walton

Are you submitting this game, Paul?  They're due, like, right now, or at least within the next couple hours.


I'm Paul's friend and have access to the PDF, I can't reach him to see what's up.  Do I need to send the PDF somewhere to submit it or something?  I know that he had it ready and was under the impression that he had submitted it, but if it didn't arrive or you guys didn't get it, I'll be happy to resend it on his behalf.


Quote from: Jonathan Walton on July 25, 2011, 11:09:03 AM
Are you submitting this game, Paul?  They're due, like, right now, or at least within the next couple hours.

My bad. I do want to submit, but I didn't see a "Submissions" thread and the link from the contest page came here. Am I an idiot in that I still don't see a submissions thread?


Oh. On the Game Chef blog site. The submissions page, which is not the same as the contest rules page. I guess I am an idiot, but seeing the link to the forge and request to post in a thread seemed to make sense at the time.


Are you going to keep developing this here, Paul? I'd love to keep an eye on progress!


Yep! I have a handful of ideas (some of which I referenced earlier), and as they solidify, I'll post them. Probably won't have any updates for a couple weeks. Gencon and some other responsibilities. No promises, but I'll see if I can get some actual play recordings, too.



It's Mathalus (Morgan). I reviewed your game on the Game Chef site and you replied back with some great comments. I wanted to keep our conversation going, but I thought that this might be a better place to do it.

So in response to your comments, I think you have me pegged. Everything I mentioned stemmed from my discomfort over the mixing of competition and collaborative story-telling. I'm pretty new to Story Games, but I'm unfamiliar with any that have a strictly competitive agenda and a clear winner. I am sensitive to the subject because I was going in that direction with my game as well, and I couldn't tell from your text if you were going for a competitive game like monopoly, or a collaborative story-telling game where everyone wins. As you pointed out, you want both. That's counter-intuitive to me. Which goal overrides the other? Should I ever make moves that are less interesting to the story in an attempt to win? Have you been able to construct this game so that the most competitive move is always the strongest story move?

I think this is a really interesting idea, so I hope you don't mind continuing the conversation.