Saturday, 27 June 2015

Gingersnap

This is intended as a relatively light, possibly sad game about queer romance, dating and sex... but you could use it to tell non-queer stories too, I'll leave that up to you. It's a little more substantial than the average short game on this blog, because it covers some more complex topics than usual. Finally, you don't have to be queer to play this game, but it helps!

Getting Started

Tom Daley & Dustin Lance Black
The game's set-up and final outcome is strongly affected by the number of players: if you have an odd number, then one of the character's is almost certainly going to end up alone at the end. In order to play, you'll need some blank sheets of paper to serve as character profiles, some post-it notes or index cards cut in half to identify Qualities, pencils & erasers and at least one six-sided die per player.

Deal out 4 cards to each player and talk about Qualities: a Quality is the sort of thing that you might find on a dating site profile as an enticing description of someone's lifestyle, personality or interests. Some examples include:

Sporty                 Literate              Cinephile               Well-Off         Biker
Educated            Political             Handicrafter          Spiritual           Musical
Cook                  Artistic               Pet Owner             Sociable           Well-Travelled

Discuss which of these are interesting to you as a group and define what you mean by them, so that everyone shares an understanding of what the Qualities signify. Each player should propose two Qualities which will be used in the game, writing each one down twice in a short-form on their cards once they have been agreed, so that there are two cards for each Quality. It will also be helpful to maintain a document that lists all the Qualities and their definitions, for reference during play.

Once the Qualities are written, create two decks, by placing half the Qualities in each deck: to be clear, place both cards featuring a Quality in one of the decks, not one card in each deck. Shuffle each deck separately and then deal one card to each player from each deck; this process avoids any player getting two identical Qualities.
For example, I might write out the Quality 'Knitter' on two of my cards and the Quality 'Cosplayer' on two others; I would then put both 'Knitter' cards in Deck A and both 'Cosplayer' cards in Deck B. When I draw cards for the Qualities my character will have, I draw only one card from Deck A and one card from Deck B, so I won't get two Qualities which are the same.

Use the Qualities you are dealt to create your character: you are not confined to using only those Qualities in your character's profile, you may use any you like, even those not recorded on any Quality cards, but the cards you are dealt will determine which other characters you might be a match with. You cannot show your cards to any other player nor directly communicate to them which cards you have been dealt.

In addition to the Qualities you have, you also choose two other Qualities which you do not have: one of these is your Deal Maker and the other is your Deal Breaker. The Deal Maker is a Quality you are consciously seeking in a partner, whilst the Deal Breaker is the Quality most likely to put you off a potential partner. When choosing your Deal Maker and Deal Breaker, only use Qualities that have been agreed for this game, don't make up additional ones; also, after writing these down on your profile, do not show them or communicate them to other players, as with your two Qualities.

When creating your character profile, keep in mind that all the characters are potentially available for romantic or sexual partnerships with all the other characters: the assumption that the game makes is that all the characters share the same gender identity and sexual preference, but you can use a different set of assumptions, such as a mix of polysexual, multigendered characters.

For simplicity, it's worth establishing relationships between the characters before beginning play: the quickest way to do this is to state that they all share a common social space, whether that is a virtual one or in the real world. The more complex and realistic way is to have the first player establish their character's relationship to the second player's character, who then establishes a relationship to the third player's character and so on, until the last player establishes a relationship between their character and the first player's.

The Heady & Complex World We Call 'Real'

Once the characters are defined, the game begins by the first player framing a scene, using the standard simple process of answering these questions:
  • Where does the scene take place?
  • What is happening there?
  • Who else is present?
When it is your turn to frame a scene, make sure to invite at least one other player to place their character in the scene, giving a reason for them being there in the process. Try to make a scene open to as many characters as possible, don't restrict your focus to the relationship between two characters: if anyone else wants their character to enter a scene, and can provide a legitimate reason for their character to do so, they may.

Ellen Degeneres & Portia de Rossi
A scene continues until it hits a Snag: this is a situation, dilemma or problem that the characters can attempt to resolve within the boundaries of that scene, so they can't put the whole world to rights but they can fix a broken window, organise a surprise party, get someone to a hospital, pass a job interview and so on. Any player who has a character in the scene can identify the Snag, but if the other players don't think it's that big a Snag, they can simply resolve it through the narrative and play on until a better Snag is reached.

To resolve a Snag, each player who has a character in the scene may opt to roll a six-sided die, indicating that they are co-operating to resolve the Snag; if you want to complicate matters, you can allow players to split into sides, with some rolling to resolve the Snag and others rolling to prevent them from resolving it. Whoever rolls the highest wins the narrative rights for resolving the Snag, but that's really only half the story.

Everyone who rolls in any scene compares their dice to everyone else who rolls, even if they are on opposite sides of the situation: any two players who rolled the same number have clicked with each other. When you click with another character, discuss or play out with them an aspect of the scene, its Snag or its resolution: try to find some commonality that makes the characters feel like they have grown closer, whether that's an outlook or simply a shared memory. If three or more characters all click on the same number, then they must all agree on what common experience they have shared in this scene. If you click with the highest result rolled, then the shared experience should be something amazing that resolves the Snag: all players involved in the click should come up with this resolution co-operatively.

When you click with another character, write down their name on your character profile and record the number you clicked on: you can only click with each other character once per number, i.e. if you have clicked with another character on a roll of 1, then rolling 1s with them again in a later scene has no further effect.

A Short Aside On the Matter of Sex

On your turn as a player, you can go on a date with another character: date scenes work like any other scene, but Snags are replaced by Sex. It's up to your group of players what you find is a suitably detailed level of narration for dating scenes: you might want to play through the date and draw a veil over the Sex, but you should at least mention that Sex takes place. At the end of each date scene, you roll dice for the Sex: take one die and add one for each click you have marked for the character you are on the date with. If there are any new clicks in this roll, then the sex is pretty good and both characters should mark the new click on their character profiles.

True Love, Romance & Eternal Happiness

The game ends when any player wants to try and find True Love: declare your intent to do so at the end of any scene you took part in, but play to the end of the round so that all players have had an equal number of chances to frame a scene.

At the end of the round, each player writes down the name of the character they think their character would most want to find True Love with, then reveals them; as with other things, you can't show anyone else your choice nor communicate it to them until they are all revealed.

If you and another character choose each other you can try for True Love right away: create a pool of dice equal to the number of clicks you share and add 1 die to it for choosing each other as your True Loves, then reveal your Qualities and your Deal Maker & Deal Breaker to each other. Add  1 die to the pool one for each Quality that matches the other character's Deal Maker; if either of you have a Quality that matches the other's Deal Breaker, than halve the final pool, rounding down. If you both have Qualities that match the other's Deal Breaker, then your pool is reduced to zero, so you don't get to roll.

If you chose someone who didn't choose you, you can still try to find true love with them, if they also don't have a match; this works as above, but you don't get the extra die for choosing each other as True Loves. Negotiating who you try to find True Love with can be tricky if there is any kind of love triangle present, so the first couple who agree to try get to do so.

When you roll for True Love roll your pool and look for the highest pair of matches in it; if there are no matches, then you don't find True Love. If there is a match, the relationship is rated on a scale from 1 to 6, corresponding to the match rolled: matching 1s means it's an uncomfortable, troubled relationship, while matching 6s means its perfect and satisfying for the whole of your lives.

You can try again if your pool gets reduced to zero or you roll no matches; you can even choose to break up your relationship if you want to try for something better. Once the initial round of True Love rolls has been made, anyone who wants to try again can do so with any other player who is also willing to try: create a pool as before, adding one for each Quality that matches a Deal Maker, but halving the pool for each Deal Breaker. You can try again several times if you remain unhappy with the results, but you can only try for True Love with each other character once

During this True Love round, narrate how each couple attempts to get together and the results; pay special attention to anyone who trys again for any reason, whether that's because they had no match in the initial round or they simply wanted to try for a better relationship than the one they rolled previously.