Estate: A Story Game for 3+ Players

Estate is a game designed to tell the story of a family through the objects they have left behind. It was originally designed for 2016’s 200 Word RPG Challenge at Technical Grimoire.

I was pleased that it was chosen as a finalist. Judge Jacqueline Bryk, had this to say about it:

“A quiet, domestic little game with a great set of themes.
Estate has an elegant ruleset, great flow, and potential for very
emotional, involved sessions.”

You can purchase the original version in a great PDF collection that contains every entry from both the RPG and Supplement categories.

I took the original and expanded it for clarity, as well as to flesh out a few concepts. That version is available for free right here! And at one page, it’s still very short.

Click below for the PDF.Estate

Let me know what you think in the comments.

 

 

Everybody Loves Cats on The Gauntlet Podcast

I recently wrote a small piece about how to introduce a story game to your group. I called it the CATS method.

The folks from The Gauntlet Podcast found it and they talked about it on a recent episode.

The Gauntlet Episode 53 – Everybody Loves Cats

This is very cool for me, because that podcast happens to be my favorite story game podcast out there. It’s concise, intelligent and filled with good information. You should listen to it if you enjoy the hobby.

Also, search Google+ for The Gauntlet and you can join their very active gaming community. They run story games online or in person in various places around the world.

They also have other podcasts with can be found at www.gauntlet-rpg.com

Happy listening!

RPG Review: Spirit of ’77

SpiritOf77

Spirit of ’77 is a powered-by-apocalypse RPG designed by David Kizzia and Bob Richardson. The goal of the game is to emulate the characters and stories found in the colorful grindhouse cinema and kooky TV of the era.

In that, it does a good job. The tone and and moves are very thematic. Combining two playbooks (A story, and a role), give you a variety of character options. That happens to also be the one problem with the game. More on that below.

Sketch155181414One of our characters was an actor.

I ran this game twice with two different groups. Both of them worked out really well and were a blast to play once we got over the initial hick-ups.

To illustrate the problem, here are the two groups of characters I ran through the same scenario:

Disco Ambulance Scenario Group 1
– An ex-cop sleuth
– An x-tech honeypot
– A glam magician

adonisThe X-Tech Honeypot

Disco Ambulance Scenario Group 2
– A glam Bopper
– An ex-con Stuntman
– An all-star Bounty Hunter
– An alien honeypot
– An ex-con Sleuth

The problem with the game is that each character is so unique that it is difficult to make their motivations align without railroading. And the included scenerios don’t really address this problem.

fortuneCookieAdonis’s hit TV Show

With some good players, that is easily rectified by working together to tell a good story. With some bad or inexperienced players, the game can get pulled a too many different directions.

Besides that, though, Spirit of ’77 is a well-designed game and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys the setting.

IMG_2941Barnaby and McCracken, before things went bad.

If you want to see the session recaps from group 1, I put them together in this document here.

The CATS Method: A Story Game Opening Ritual

Cats
CATS

Before playing a game, or even introducing the rules, there needs to be a conversation at the table to set expectations. A game runs smoothly when all players understand what the group is striving for. But how do you do it? You use the CATS method! Everyone loves CATS.

This codified presentation will allow the facilitator to hit four essential topics quickly and easily. Just start from the top.

Concept

Pitch this game. At a high-level, what’s it about?

Aim

Explain what the players are trying to accomplish. Can someone win? Can everyone lose? Are we trying to tell a specific type of story?

Tone

Have a quick conversation about the tone of the game. What is the default? Are there different options for gameplay? (Serious vs. Gonzo, Action vs. Drama, etc.). Come to a consensus on what the group wants.

Subject Matter

Explain what ideas might be explored during gameplay. Do they make anyone uncomfortable? Discuss what boundaries need to be set, if any.

Afterwards, everyone should have the same expectations for the upcoming game. This discussion shouldn’t be long, but it is essential. To significantly improve your gaming experience, spend five minutes with CATS before you play!

What I Learned by Playing Fiasco

Fiasco is a role-playing game where things go wrong. It’s a GM-less cooperative story-telling system that facilities a story of converging fates that combine in catastrophic but oh-so-entertaining ways.

To set up a story you each choose things off of some charts. Relationships, Needs, Locations, Objects. From there you make characters and start acting out scenes. Then, terrible things happen and you continue the process to its grievous conclusion.

For each game you pick a playset, which supplies those charts and directs you towards a specific genre or style. There is a surprising breadth of playsets to choice from, but the core system is the same.

Fiasco is very good at what it does. I recommend you grab some friends and a playset and give it a try.

I have played a few games of it, and each one has been better than the last. As I go I’m starting to learn what makes the game work well. Since Fiasco is essentially a story-creation engine, I found that what I learned can be applied to writing as well.

1) Each character has to have a need. Even if you don’t explicitly state it, you should know as the writer what is driving this characters decisions. If it makes sense to you it will make sense to the reader.

2) Characters should have connections with each other. If characters are working in their own little bubbles, they don’t have real reasons to be in scenes together. Give them reasons to interact that they care about and have fun from there.

4) Each scene needs a goal. This is so important in Fiasco as well as writing! I don’t like to think of where a scene is going to go. I like to think about where the characters want the scene to go. If they get it there or not, well, that’s the fun part about playing the game or about writing the scene. Either way, the goal is what drives the story.

5) Have fun! Relationships, needs, objects and locations are the building blocks. Make each block as interesting as possible. Everything has been written already except the things only you can think of.

6) As usual, all rules are made to be broken. If something isn’t working, don’t stick with the rules, just do what feels right and move along. Nothing sucks time and creative energy like trying to follow rules that aren’t clear or aren’t working.

Overall, the fact that Fiasco and the art of story creation use the same principles shows that the game hits upon the fundamentals of how stories work. And that is the beauty of it. It directs you to do what writers are supposed to do: tell a good story. It’s a great activity to help you hone in on what makes good fiction tick.