Friday, January 4, 2013

Little Games for Your Big Game

In case you missed it, the gift I made for Santicore was posted here.  I was fulfilling this request:

A game that can be played by the characters in the game world. Could be dice, cards, or board, as long as it reaches a conclusion quickly. If Santicore is feeling generous, perhaps he could provide a gambling game for taverns and flesh-pots, and an abstract board game played by sages and courtiers. [Some variation on Yahtzee or Mornington Crescent will be totally acceptable]

This was challenging for me because creating a game is, well, hard.  You've got chess and checkers and cards and craps, who am I to do better than those.  But I thought hard on it for about a week, thinking about it as I fell asleep and as I woke up.  I carried around a print out of a checker board for a while thinking I might make some sort of mini-domain strategy game out of it.  I played around with a deck of cards.  Here were some of my design goals:

As always, I wanted to use items likely to be in any household, cards, dominoes, six sided dice.  I tried for several days to make the Millet Trader game work with only dominoes, essentially making dominoes the "cards" and "poker chips."  At one point this meant requiring two sets of differently colored dominoes (which is really breaking this design goal in trying to follow it).  In the end, it was too complicated and I could never get it to work right so I compromised and figured folks having something like poker chips wasn't too much of a stretch.  This goal was contradicted by the next.

I wanted something fresh.  I have a book called 180 Ways to Play Solitaire and have read it with interest.  People have been playing games for centuries, but I wanted to find some new angle.  Sets of funny dice are relatively new, so while Pit Fight, requires something an everyday household might not have, I knew Santicore readers would have them and tried to add the Telecanter simplicity touch to a dice game.  Another possible place for something new is our game itself with its sophisticated layers of involvement for a parlour game. I tried to utilize that as a fresh game angle and it coincides with my next goal.

I wanted games that could be a simple "okay, let's roll some dice in the tavern" diversion (Pit Fight) but also am very aware that we are supposed to be playing D&D and not in fact playing cards, or dominoes, or poker, or we could, you know, just call it a poker night.  So Braggart and Tryst are games that, while you could play them straight like Pictionary or something, they sacrifice a bit of good gameness for being games that you can roleplay.  The intention behind them is to offer opportunities to roleplay while playing them in the game world.

As always, when making something for others I'm never sure what people want or like, so I wanted variety.  That includes allowing for different social class of games.  Well, and another goal is to give what the requester asked for and he mentioned possible varieties too.

I didn't get to playtest them all.  I did play pit fight with a friend and I thought it was fun.  I hope there aren't any big flaws lurking under the surface.  If you try any of them out let me know how it goes.  Also, the name "Millet Trader" is in honor of a comment Black Vulmea made that made me chuckle.  A game intentionally named to be dull, hah!


  1. The LARP that I run has a variety of mini-games along these lines, in addition to people breaking out the cards and playing poker in-character. Particularly in a LARP, it's good to give players an entertaining way to pass the time while the game staff works on setting up the next thing.

    On your games - I particularly like Braggarts. I would totally play this in a game!

  2. If you want a game for sages and courtiers, I'd just use Piquet. For a bar game, there's Faro, which I haven't played. I have played Piquet and it is good and fairly fast.

  3. Thank you both.

    @Brandes: Games that straddle the you/your character line are playing up one of the unique things about our game and are extra cool in my book. So, for example, they are playing braggart _in-game_ but using things they've done in real life could be fun-- "Did this guy really really white water raft last summer?"

    While being out of character, it may, like old school D&D's abstract combat, actually feel more real.

    @Alex: Thanks, some games with actual period flavor too, great.

  4. This is an area where LARPing has a bit of an advantage. Since the playerbase is larger than a single adventuring party (most games in my region have anywhere between 30 and 90 players), other players may actually have exploits worth boasting about that you were not personally there to witness, so there's room for surprises. =)

  5. Sounds like an interesting game! :) Good work on that. Perhaps you can add this up online and consider offering free bets and do some game tests. What do you think? :)