Sunday, 29 October 2017

Say Something Nice

Another short game created in the space of one morning, inspired by a friend's recent experience with booking a restaurant and by the trend for some businesses to complain about their negative reviews.

In the near future, a conglomeration of businesses have made it virtually illegal to post a negative review about any commercial service: in this game, for 2 or 3 players, you’ll have to create a glowingly positive review for a business that has provided shockingly bad service.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

We Only Want What's Best For You

I ventured out into role-playing again last night for the first time in months; among other things, we found time for a game of The Vicar is Coming for Tea, which made me think about Game Poems once again, so here's a new one I've had a go at this morning.

This short game takes place in a Multi-Agency Meeting, where those present will decide what’s best for a troubled young person with a challenging life. Imagine the kind of issues that might lead to a meeting like this, but don’t specify them: given the subject matter that is likely to come up, be prepared to tackle sensitive issues.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017


An Exploration Game for One Player

You have left the world behind on an almost-fully automated, one-person spacecraft, with the mission to scout the galaxy and see what's out there. Your craft will navigate you to places of interest and record everything it can via its sensors: your job is to provide the human touch by means of a commentary on how each discovery makes you feel.

Monday, 18 September 2017

The Continent Adrift

Over the past four weeks, I've been sharing a sci-fi supplement for Dungeon World in twice-weekly installments to Google+ communities: this is the full story of that supplement.

Chainsaw Dungeon

Image result for sf pulp magazine coverI have a soft spot for fantasy adventuring: like many other people, I can while away a happy hour or two pretending that I'm cleaving goblins in two with my axe, setting them alight with fireballs or sneaking up behind them to stab them in the back. It's pure, simple fun, with maybe a little bit of wish-fulfillment, where I can kick back and enjoy the fantasy without worrying about real-world issues. When it comes to literature though, I prefer sci-fi to fantasy: I like my stories with wormholes & time-warps rather than myths & spells for the most part. This inevitably lead me to consider blending the two together, which caused the image of a hero chainsawing alien monsters in a techno-dungeon to spring into my head.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Situation: Comedy!

If comedy is tragedy plus time, then you should probably read this later, but if you will insist on reading it right now, then here are some rules for a light and simple comedy story game for around four players.


First things first: what is your story going to be about? You can pretty much pick any premise you like, as long as everyone who is going to play feels confident they know enough about the subject matter to participate in telling a story about it. You could skip over that confident amount of knowledge requirement if you prefer, but recognise that what you are playing is a pastiche or absurdist take on the premise, not a realistic portrayal. For example, a story taking place on an oil rig might be cool, but what do I know about oil rigs except what I've seen in films and TV series? Nothing really, so any story I set on an oil rig is going to be divorced from reality, which is fine so long as I don't fool myself into thinking I've understood oil rigs by telling that story.

Friday, 28 July 2017

Best Friends Forever

Lately, I've had an urge to dig some Gregor Hutton games out of my stack and introduce them to a new audience of players; one of my favourites for doing this is Best Friends, a simply brilliant design that I've used in the past for sessions inspired by Galaxy Quest, Scooby-Doo and The Guild. It's a perfectly well-balanced game; in fact, it's almost too well balanced, as it is designed to work best for exactly six players plus a GM. These are my thoughts on how to release Best Friends from it's constraints and make it work equally well with any number of players and even without a GM; think of this as a 'Chapter Zero' or appendix to the main rules, but you will need to have read  the latter to understand what follows.

Friday, 26 May 2017

The Leviathan Manifesto (Redux)

The title above might sound like one of those thick-as-a-brick Len Deighton novels, but in reality this post puts together a number of ideas that have been fermenting in my head for a while. Ingredients in this heady stew are the TV programme Person of Interest, current events relating to security and personal liberty, and many years of online discussions about the best way to conduct investigative RPG sessions. There's also some reference to classic social theory, whose origin I hope should be obvious from the title. What follows is a both a nano story game and a statement of my personal philosophy about certain types of game, where the players have to investigate a mystery and put together the clues they find to come up with a solution.

Since posting this game, I've been fortunate enough to get feedback from Story-Games forum user Rafu, who playtested it across several sessions: their suggestions for some changes to the game to highlight the player-characters are now included below.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017


First of all, a big thank you to all of you who backed The Imposters on Kickstarter, an anthology of conspiracy themed games that I contributed to. It set off a chain of thought about conspiracy theories, which leads me here: a short game you can play online, via text, or in person. You will need access to Wikipedia, a pocket encyclopedia or a fact finder.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Twilight of the Gods

or, You Can't Teach an Old God New Tricks

What follows is a very special playset for Blood & Water: the rules stay the same, but the setting and assumptions are different. This playset is based on an idea by Scott Dorward, adapted from his notes.

Shade Orchard

What happens to the Gods when their believers dwindle and their powers fade? The Gods can never truly die, as long as someone in the world still believes in them, so they find ways to pass the quiet millennia. Shade Orchard is a nursing home with some very special residents, though the staff remain largely unaware of this; a significant number of the people living here are in actual fact the Gods of various pantheons who have settled in for the long haul. Though individually weak, collectively they have enough power to cast a haze about their home that prevents the mortal staff from asking too many inconvenient questions.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

What's On Your Mind?

Way back in 2014, I created a short story game about telepaths living in a police state: in The Thought Police, each player takes on the role of a citizen of an oppressive state, only one of the characters is a telepath who can hear the other characters' thoughts. The game asks whether you can identify the telepath among you but also, if you can, what will you do about it? Turn them over to the authorities? Or protect them from the state's fury? I've since contributed an extended version of that game to an anthology project called The Imposters, which is currently being Kickstarted. The game itself has a history behind it that I've wanted to talk about for a while, so this seems like the perfect time to do so, as well as talking about The Imposters.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Sovereignty (Part Three)

More actual play from my dining room, as we continue with our short campaign of The 'Hood, despite being a man down.

The Cast: A Quick Reminder

  • Mr. Benson the Bastion: caught in the undercover war between a merciless FBI agent and a psychopathic rival gang boss, he has to question whose side he is on; played by Elaine.
  • Daddy Longlegs the Matriarch: his children have been caught in the cross-fire once too often, now he's getting down to business; played by Guy.
  • Vince the Shark: with business looking very bad, a stay in the hospital to recover from food poisoning seems like a holiday; played by the absence of Dan.

Before this session, Dan had let us know that he might not be able to make it, so we were prepared to have a possibly-final session without his character. During the week between sessions, I'd had some ideas for the way the story could develop, but I needed the players co-operation in these things, even if they didn't really know what they were co-operating with. I asked them some questions about NPCs in their backgrounds (The family of Mr. Benson's henchman Turk, the mother(s) of Daddy's children and Vince's family members) and sent them each a Love Letter for their character, reproduced below.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Sovereignty (Part Two)

An Actual Play report for the second part of the face-to-face game of The 'Hood being hosted in my own dining room by me: sweet!

The Cast: A Quick Reminder
  • Vince the Shark: Sunday was not a good day for Vince, as he hospitalised one of his debtors, the business of the second burned down and his third was assassinated in Mr. Benson's penthouse; played by Dan.
  • Daddy Longlegs the Matriarch: Daddy managed to keep his head above water and even turned a small profit on the day, with the help of his kleptomaniac children; played by Guy.
  • Mr. Benson the Bastion: after having two bodies removed from his penthouse in one day and losing 2 out of 3 of his best lieutenants to a combination of injury and betrayal, what he'd like most is a restful night; played by Elaine.

Image result for santa monica night

That rest will have to come at another time; as the long summer evening slowly turns into night, Mr. Benson acts on the tip-off that the police are going to hit him later today, so he prepares to receive guests. Across the road from his building at the Big O Donut Restaurant, Daddy sidles up to his contact on the force, Officer MacCaffrey to see what he can learn about Frank's death in the restaurant fire, while not far away in his pawn shop, Vince studies the phone he stole from Frank.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Sovereignty (Part One)

This is the first part of a three -part Actual Play report for the short campaign of The 'Hood taking place at my home with friends who live in the region, prompted by Guy "The Teaspoon" MacDonnell.

Taking place in a little-known district of Santa Monica, CA, the prime movers in our story are:

  • Vince the Shark: he's really a nice guy who only got into money lending as a way to help a relative with a tragic back-story, but now he has interests in businesses across the 'hood; played by Dan.
  • Daddy Longlegs the Matriarch: the father of many children, three of whom stay close by his side at all times, looking for any opportunities that arise; played by Guy.
  • Mr. Benson the Bastion: a tough mover and shaker who oversees the streets below from his penthouse, sending out his minions to shape the 'hood to his will; played by Elaine.