Secrets of the City: a hack of It’s Complicated?

1 03 2008

So, I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to express setting for It’s Complicated. Currently, it’s going to be represented by a haphazard photo album in the back of the book, but here’s the intial idea I had for setting. It turned out that it altered gameplay in a fundamental way, taking the emphasis off of the interpersonal interactions and emotional issues of the characters and putting it on to the wackiness of the setting. I think this is an awesome game, but it’s also not the game I’ve written. So here’s the hack.

Secrets of the City

The City is under quarentine; no one can enter or leave. The reason for this is up to the players; there can be some sort of exotic contagion going around, or maybe no one ever leaves and it’s not for any particular reason. Any reason is an acceptable reason.

The City has issues. These issues include Oddities and Dysfunctions! If you’re playing a Buffy-inspired game, a Dysfunction would be something like “Corrupt Government officials” and an Oddity would be “Hellmouth.” Or for a more realistic game, a Dysfunction would be “very little petty crime,” and the Oddity would be “Extremely powerful organized crime family.”

Instead of the last person to frame a scene placing their traits and line first, the City always places first. The City can be run by a GM, or if a group prefers, the City’s traits can be decided by consensus. When you cross the City, your character declares feelings towards it– The City never declares relationships. When you touch one of its traits, you become involved in some of the City’s intrigue– in the previous examples, you get absorbed into the crime family, or get blackmailed by a corrupt official.

Other than that, play is as normal.


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.