Saturday, May 10, 2014

Game Chef 2014

Ross Payton and I decided to participate in Game Chef 2014. You can find the theme and ingredients at the link. We've got one week to make this a game! Here's what we came up with.

We camp up with an idea using Absorb + Sickle + Wild. Right now we are just titling the game after the theme: “There is no book.”

The basic idea is that a supernatural creature has entered your home. It can take any form, but it likes to disguise itself as common objects. In most homes, that means the best camouflage is books, DVDs, or something similar (There is no book). It absorbs the traits around it and hides until it is time to strike. The goal is to find and destroy the specific object the creature is masquerading as before it can absorb the traits of the players, kill them, and run amok in the world. But every question and false guess the players make gives the creature more ammo to imitate them and escape.

Mechanically, it’s ISpy and twenty questions with a supernatural horror twist. The goal is that it will be good for pick-up-and-play in almost any home.

In the first round, the GM defines the play area and puts  glyphs (symbols representing ingredients of the contest) on random items in the play area. For instance, if using a bookshelf and 3 players, the GM would slap 3 post-it notes on 3 random books.

Then the players get to “code” the magic spell to look for certain traits. So the player with the corresponding sickle glyph might put his on a book with the same color cover and say, “One of the defining traits is color”. The person with the star glyph might put theirs on a book by the same author as the one with a star already on it and say, “one of the defining traits is author.”

Once that’s done, the GM asks the players to close their eyes or turn away. He decides which of the items is actually the creature. Then everyone gets 3 tokens and can begin the game.

Players can spend tokens to do one of two things. The first option is to eliminate options based on a trait. So the player established genre as a trait, she might say, “So me a book that isn’t the right genre.” The GM then turns a horror novel the wrong way on the shelf. If someone else asks the same thing later, the GM can’t pick another horror novel, but they can eliminate a romance novel or something else the creature isn’t hiding as.

The other thing a token buys is that it can let the player ask a yes/ no question based on the established traits. “Is the book part of a series?” wouldn’t work unless the trait had been established with the glyphs, but “Does the book have a black cover?” would be fine considering previous examples.

Players can ask clarifying questions for free. Things like “would you call this a horror novel” or “what color would you call this book’s cover.”

The horror aspect comes in because the book can spend tokens back. The book can turn over a choice that’s been eliminated by giving a token back to the person that asked. The book can make any notes a character takes go missing, forcing the player to rely on memory. Lastly, we’re going to write a list of questions the creature can ask back to the players as the hunt goes on: does it bleed? Can it feel pain? Is it afraid? Etc. The GM roleplays this and keeps the pressure up as the game goes on. It also provides the ability to work the game into other RPGs by making it a sort of mini-LARP where the spell’s side-effect means characters have to answer yes/no questions truthfully, just as the creature is forced to do.

Finally, when all the tokens have been spent, each member of the group has one guess each. They put their elder sign glyph on the object they think is the creature. If someone gets it right, they win. If nobody guesses it, they lose.

We’re also thinking about adding a time limit to each section and maybe a third stage of the game akin to werewolf/mafia where the object has already pulled a “Thing” on one of the PCs and it becomes a matter of stopping it before the creature picks off the rest of the group.

What do you guys think?


  1. I think it's a wonderful game. I enjoy the choosing of aspects by the players and the ability to ask questions to ferret out the monster. Plus the whole idea of common item as monster is thrilling and horrific in some many fun ways! :-)
    If I were to put a critique to it, the.only thing I could think of would to add some sort of twist to it that tries to evoke a bit more visceral response. Maybe contact with unexpected substances, or barring that, maybe playing the entire game blind folded? Obviously only playing the game with someone would give me the insight to get a better grip on it's feel and rhythm and what exactly could be done to make it more flavorful and exotic.
    Good luck fellas, I'll be rooting for you!