Thursday, September 22, 2011

Molemen & Missives (a 500 word RPG)

Ryan Macklin recently set a  "Flash Game Design Friday" challenge. To quote:

I’m going to give you three mechanical ingredients. You use at least two:
  • Two dice that you don’t add together
  • A single token that sometimes is and sometimes isn’t on your character sheet/possessed by the player
  • a countdown mechanic (whatever the hell that means)
Write a game that takes 500 words or less to explain, which should include a hint of setting.

I chose the first two ingredients and took some inspiration from More Information than You Require to create... 

Molemen & Missives
By Joshua LH Burnett
with apologies to John Hodgman

You are a Moleman, a disgusting yet refined denizen of the Deep Down Dark. You have sharp claws and teeth, acidic saliva, and luminescent mucus. You also have a great love of social philosophy, powdered wigs, and pantaloons. You are part of a committee dedicated to solving problems affecting your hideous community.

The Mole Master
This is what we call the GM in this game, just because.

The Making of a Moleman
Give yourself a Name. Typical Molemanic names include Theopolis, Henrietta, and Hsss'kkk'thiix.

Write down your Vocation, which is your job in the community. Examples include: Fungus Wrangler, Mucus Sculptor, or Grub Knight.

Take 10 points and divide them between the four core Values of the Molemen.

Industry for tasks that involve creation or hard labor.

Learnedness for tasks that requires education or study.

Vigilance for tasks that involve forethought or the defense of your community.

Refinement for tasks that require charisma or style.

You have a Resolve score equal to the sum of your two highest Values. You lose Resolve when you lose Debates. Resolve refreshes at the beginning of each game.

The Wig
Molemen love to talk. Within a committee, it would be quite easy for each Moleman to to try to talk over his fellows, and nothing would get done. Hence, the Wig. Each committee has one wig. Only the Moleman wearing the wig may talk. Once he was spoken, he must give the wig to another committee member. It is considered rude to ask for the wig next instead of patiently waiting your turn. Wigless Molemen can still communicate through sign language or charades, but this is considered gauche. Written communication in the form of long, passionate missives, letters, and pamphlets are quite acceptable and actively encouraged!

Molemen characters are free to do whatever they want until someone tells them they can't. When there's a conflict of interests between two parties, we got ourselves a Debate. Resolve debates as such:

1) Set the stakes.

2) Each side describes what they are doing and gathers a number of d10 equal to the relevant Value.

3) If the opposing side is the Molemaster, he will chose 1d10 to 7d10, depending upon the difficulty.

4) Roll!

5) If you have multiples of the same number, add 1 to the result for each extra die. (If you rolled three 6s, your result would be 8.)

6) If your action involved your Vocation, you can gather some of your dice and reroll them once.

7) The highest result wins!

8) The defeated side loses a point of Resolve, plus 1 more for each multiple the opposition rolled.

9) A Moleman with 0 resolve is out of the game. He's too dejected, depressed, or devoured to continue.

10) Other Committee members can help you in debates. They describe how they are helping you and add 1d10 to your pool. If you lose, your helpers lose resolve too!

I've also made a swanky PDF of the game!

1 comment:

  1. My cousin TK had this comment on Facebook:

    "I'm intrigued by the mechanics. I just have absolutely no idea what an adventure would look like. That's true for all the other entries I've read, but now I really want to play this and don't know how."

    I'll repost my response, since it's a good question.

    Adventure design would be similar to many other games. There's some threat to the community (a dreaded Dirt Puma, Troglodytes raiding the Fungus fields, the governor has been murdered). Your committee must solve the problem (track and kill the dirt puma, negotiate a treaty with the Trogs, nominate and elect a new governor).

    "Setting the Stakes" may take a bit of explaining. It's a common trope in story-games, so I saved words by cutting the explanation since the target audience (the folks in the contest) are probably familar with it.

    What you do is, instead of going through each swing of the sword or stroke of the pen, you decide "what's at stake here?"
    "What do I want out of this scene?"
    "If I win I get this. If you win, you get this." "If I win, I capture the Dirt Puma. If you win, the Dirt Puma destroys the fungus garden."
    Describe how you want to go about winning your stakes. Rolls some dice. Narrate the winner's results.