This past weekend was JiffyCon, and what a beautiful con it was. Good folks, good games, and a lovely rainy day to boot, which made it easy to stay inside all day and game. And it was a lovely opportunity to pull out and test drive two new projects.
I’ve been working on this Dread variant over the past year with Emily Care Boss of Black & Green Games. Designed for a younger crowd (ages 10 and up), it uses Jenga, like Dread, and it’s a spooky game, but that’s about where the similarities stop.
In it you play teenagers who have dared each other to spend the night in a clearly haunted house. As you spend the night there, you explore the rooms, experiencing various chilling events and uncovering the occasionally useful item. Each player has a character which fits into a specific role (the gossip, the athlete, the nerd, the scaredy cat, etc.). The hosting duties are shared, as you get to narrate all the spookiness for the player on your right. Doing anything requiring courage–such as entering an unexplored room, splitting up the party, or eventually confronting the monster that dwells in the house–also requires a pull. If you refuse to pull, you run screaming to the other kids, who must then pull or run screaming with you.
I was perhaps most terrified of this playtest. We had three kids with us, one of which was a bit below our estimated minimum age. This was a discriminating audience who would not be the least bit shy about telling us if they were bored. They dove right into it and appeared to relish the chance to narrate the spooky events as they unfolded. It was a smashing success, but also taught us some important lessons on the limits of their attention span (the game should, once we get done fine tuning it, run for no longer than an hour).
We also learned that it is rather easy to make the game scalable to age. We found a type of rule we could write that added depth to the game, but would be naturally ignored by folks too young to care about it. There’s definitely a solid game here. Expect to hear more about this soon.
Swords Without Master
This sword and sorcery descendant of MonkeyDome has possessed me since almost the very moment MonkeyDome was finished. I talk about it here, and intend to talk about it more. But right now I just want to play, play, play it.
At JiffyCon I got to test it with the largest number of players yet (five not including myself) and it worked beautifully. We went from zero-prep to final confrontation with a three-headed simian god in just over two hours.
Listen well as I tell you the tale of “The Tomb of the Monkey King.” There are many glorious deeds to recount, and I cannot touch upon them all in this space, but I will strive to show you how they came about.
A band of five adventurers join a caravan traveling across a desert expanse that once was a lush jungle. At night they are set upon by scorpion-men who drive them into a rocky outcropping. There, under a barrage of flaming sling stones and through a bit of folly, they discover they are sitting on the entrance to a long forgotten tomb. With nowhere else to go, they flee into the catacombs.
There, in the tombs, a young light-hearted rogue named Slake finds, in the moonlight, sitting ominously alone on a pedestal a single silver coin engraved with three monkey heads. A little theft and desecration later, and the party is set upon by various guardians of the tomb, including the ghosts of monkey warriors, a mad monk, and a three-headed monkey god who seeks their blood to wet the soil so the long-dead jungle above them can once again grow. (more…)