1001 Nights hack: The Midnight Club

24 11 2007

Haven’t posted in a couple days, so I thought I’d write this up. I’m embarrassed to admit that I read a lot of Christopher Pike when I was in elementary school, besides the classics by Lloyd Alexander, Susan Cooper, and CS Lewis. Why? Because all my friends were reading RL Stine, and Pike was supposed to be more “adult,” and the library had a bunch of his books. I actually own The Midnight Club because it’s one of my favorite books. The writing’s not that great, but it’s a really touching story with some really meaningful themes, and it was really influential to me at the time.

I was cleaning when I noticed that I had it on a pile of books by my bed– it was inspiration fodder for a game Jonathan and I had talked about writing once upon a time. So I reread it today. It struck me how very easy it would be to play The Midnight Club as a hack of 1001 Nights, actually, with very little hacking at all.

The Midnight Club is a book about a group of teenagers dying of terminal diseases in a hospice. They meet every night at midnight to tell each other stories of darkness and loss and love and betrayal and death and hope.

In order to play this hack, you’ll need a copy of Meg Baker’s 1001 Nights. Go get one.

Character creation

Instead of your character’s position in the sultan’s court, determine the disease your character is dying from. Additionally, choose one character that you remember from a past life, and how. These choices do not have to be reciprocal. Finally, choose one regret from your life.

Character sheet

There are no “Freedom” boxes.

Instead of “Safety,” there is “Health.” If you cross off all three boxes, you die.

Ambitions are unchanged; they may be dying, but they’re teenagers. There’s plenty of love and life and drama and hormones in even the terminally ill.

Game play

This is actually pretty much the same. Instead of trying to satirize your fellow terminals– although you could, if you like– the stories should comment on your interpersonal relationships, current and what you might foggily remember from past lives. Stories can also be personal catharsis, or purging for other members, by drawing on each other’s shared regrets.

If the players would like to continue the game after someone dies, that person can still play roles in stories; the stories would be to honor that person’s memory, and the way the dead person’s part of the story unfolds might relay something about the afterlife, or lives previous to this one. In this variant, the game is over when there’s no one left alive to tell stories to.

JiffyCon awesomeness

18 11 2007

So I got back from five days of awesomeness a few hours ago. Josh and Casey were phenomenal hosts, Shreyas was impossibly delightful (as one might imagine) as an adventuring companion, and JiffyCon was sublime.

The first game I played was Transantiago, which was as good as I thought it would be. I think the playtest pointed out some important things, and also showed that the game is really playable and full of vitality; I can’t wait to see its final incarnation.

Meg Baker saw me standing, hopeless and indecisive, by the signup sheets for the afternoon session, took pity on me, and squeezed me into her full game of 1001 Nights. I gushed at Meg at length about her game, and I believe most of the rest of the indie RPG world (you know, the people who played at least one indie RPG before.. yesterday, unlike myself) already knows that 1001 is fantastic, so I won’t gush too much. But I adore that you choose dice for beauty, that you tell stories within stories, and that the mechanics are so elegant and simple– there’s so much complexity with the individual stories and the meta-story, and playing characters which, in turn, play multiple characters, that it’s great that the dice are so simple. You get all of that dense, nuanced complexity with the plot and not the mechanics; the difference between 1001 Nights and D&D is the difference between baklava and a calculus textbook. Plus, the group was a blast to game with.

I was really excited that I got a chance to meet so many new people, and got to connect with so many online friends. Emily and Kat (I wish I knew her screenname, if any) really kind of encouraged me to dust off the wacky artsy Pygmalion concept I had a while ago, so a lot of ideas for that game started to come together during my layover in Cincinatti tonight. I’ll type those up either tonight or tomorrow. And I am now the proud owner of both Breaking the Ice and Shooting the Moon, not to mention the first three volumes of Scott Pilgrim! So I’m knee-deep in reading material for quite some time.

I feel energized and inspired!