The Secret Room

A ritual to build a secret room in our mind’s eye.

For five, including you.

You, having read this, will lead the ritual. It is your responsibility to be the guide. Read this text a couple of times before you begin.

You need a candle. Perhaps some incense and music.

We always build secret rooms when we play roleplaying games. The intent of this ritual is to become more aware of how we conjure such illusions. How can we simultaneously experience something which doesn’t exist?

You are all seated around a table. You explain:

Together, we will envision a room. It’s a secret room inside ourselves. But we can all see it. We see the room with our eyes closed. We listen to each other, without interrupting the other participants.

If you happen to interrupt someone, it’s ok. We will pause briefly, before continuing. (You may have to remind the participants of this rule as you go).

The other rule is listening to what others add, being willing to let the inner vision change as we speak.

Everyone can describe anything in the room, but each player has a special domain (point at participants, or distribute notes with the words on): SOUNDS, SMELLS, COLORS, TOUCH.

Now close your eyes. We will rehearse listening to each other by counting downwards from ten to zero. Someone says “ten”, someone else says “nine”, someone says “eight”. If anyone speaks at the same time, we’ll start over. When we have counted from ten to zero without interruptions, we begin. Then we’ll be in the Secret Room. You answer my questions, and add your own details about the room.

(You light the candle).

(You count down from ten to zero).

Examples of things you can say and questions you can ask. Remember to pause.

(It’s good to wait awhile before saying anything. It’s good if one of the others start on their own accord).

We’re in the Secret Room. (breathe)

What sounds are there? (wait)

What does it smell like? (wait)

Is it light, or dark? (wait)

What objects are there? (wait)

(wait, don’t speak)

Can you see them? (wait)

Why is the room secret? (wait)

What has happened here in the past? (wait)

Are there still traces? (wait)

(breathe, don’t speak)

Something hangs on one of the walls, what is it? (wait)

What colors does it have? (wait)

Who is in the room? (wait)

Why is the room secret? (wait. You may start knocking slowly on the table while repeating the question)

Tips:

  • Take your time. You can let a whole minute pass without speaking.
  • Support initiatives.
  • It’s preferable to let the participants take the lead. It’s great if they start describing without your prompts.
  • Several statements in a row may be spoken without you saying anything. This is good.
  • If necessary, you can remind the others not to interrupt each other.
  • Breathe slowly.
  • Speak softly, but clearly.
  • Relax. Take your time.
  • Listen carefully to what’s being said. You’ll sometimes want to tie statements together.
  • You may also keep your eyes closed.
  • Ask follow-up questions. It’s better if another participant answers the follow-up.
  • Build on what has been said. Bring it back to the conversation.
  • Remind the participants that discussions are unwanted.
  • Remind them to listen to each other, not interrupting.
  • The ritual is over when it feels right. You will know.
  • (Breathe)
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Soul

Author

Chris Enger

Description

This game was the winner of the 2010 R.I.S.K. competition.

A game about mankinds willingness to sell his own soul for immediate satisfaction. And how to push them into doing just that.

The role you are to assume is a minor devil or demon from hell, sent up to the surface and the kingdom of man to catch a soul for the amusement of the inferno. While you do possess some supernatural powers to assist you in achieving this goal, then you most of all need to rely on your own cunning and guile to triumph in this hunt. Trust too much in your magics, and you will discover that there are far more powerful things out there than you.

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Soul

In my shadow

Author

Maja H. Kvendseth

Description

A GM-less story game about grief, anger, fate, and ugly truths. It is also a game about suicide. This game will, through five acts and forty scenes, render five different phases in the life (and death) of a person – our Main Character – and those whose lives were touched by this person.

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In my shadow

HolmCon & R.I.S.K.: Trends in Norwegian game design

At this year’s HolmCon (the sixth in a row, my, we’re getting old, time flies etc), there was too much to do. Everyone felt like they missed out on some great stuff, because there were too many cool new games.

Okay, let me repeat that. Too many cool new games. Produced locally.

It used to be that a new Norwegian game would cause quite a stir in Norwegian gaming circles. Even if you’d never played Muu, and it wasn’t in the shops, and it wasn’t your sort of game at all, you’d have heard about it, because it was… well, Norwegian. But now? I can’t even remember the titles of all the new games being presented at this year’s HolmCon. And that’s just crazy, because I’m obsessive about these things.

Luckily, the internet is my friend. Here are the games:

Kjærlighet i volvenes tid (love in the time of the shamaness). A game by Jason Morningstar and myself (Matthijs), based on the Archipelago rules. A shakespearean setup of rivalry, love, lust and magic in Viking times.

Alexandriavariasjoner (Alexandria variations). Based on Jon Bings famous books from the seventies about the library spaceship Alexandria. The designer Anders Nygaard didn’t make it because of illness, but interesting bits have been leaked on the internet.

Lykke (happiness). Tomas Mørkrid decided to explore the more positive sides of life in this game, through long and short scenes from the entire lives of everyday people. Death is a possible ending – but a positive one, apparently.

L’Esprit d’escaliér (spirit of the staircase). All about the “I should have said…” phenomenon – on the way down the stairs after an encounter, you come up with the perfect retort. By fresh designer Aleksander Rødner.

Drømmernes Selskab (The Society of Dreamers). A game full of ritual and dreams, exploring the nature of the mnemosites – creatures living in people’s dreams, and sometimes outside them. A red wine hippie structured freeform game by yours truly.

Morgenfri (morning free – a word play on “sorgenfri”, sorrow-free). A traditional fantasy RPG with an extensive setting, by Maja Kvendseth, a self-proclaimed traditionalist and anti-freeformer who likes to run impro workshops for freeform hippies.

Jegerne (the hunters). What White Wolf’s “The Hunter” should have been like. Presentation and playtest of this new design by Erlend Bruer and Lasse Lundin resulted in an extensive feedback session.

Livet, døden, havet og kjærligheten (life, death, the ocean and love). Possibly the strangest new game, which sadly didn’t get played, I think: These four contestants meet for a race, and the players are sports commentators rooting for their favorite… and betting their reproductory organs. By Martin Bull Gudmundsen.

In addition, there were several scenarios in various stages of freeforminess: D’Aubainnes By, using Itras By rules for Over the Edge; Døden er bedre enn Baronen, about the horrible (and real) Baron von Ungern-Sternberg; Pølsekonspirasjon, or sausage conspiracy, involving real sausages and T-shirts (which are banned at HolmCon); and Jakten på tidsmaskinen, inspired by the “Invisibles” comics.

And, finally, the R.I.S.K. games. Of the 15 new games this year, I believe five were played at HolmCon, and all of them were discussed – briefly or at length. The winner will be announced tomorrow.

So, what trends can we see in Norwegian game design?

  • No dice. Right now, it doesn’t seem like most people are using dice much; even hardcore traditionalists are experimenting with freeform, card interpretation and the like. There are a few exceptions, of course (Morgenfri and some of the RISK games), but in general, freeform is the rule.
  • GM decides or GM-less. In games designed to be run by others, we often end up going GM-less. I think probably half of this year’s designs go in that direction. Freeform GM’ed games being run at HolmCon tended towards the “GM decides everything” style – the GM selects techniques, owns the scenario (although he/she usually solicits and uses player input), sets the situation, resolves the climax.
  • Pick a theme, any theme. This is an anti-trend: It’s hard to see any connecting theme for the various settings being written and run. Some are absurdist, some silly, some social realist, some supernatural, some based on literary references. What we’re not currently seeing is ground-breaking new settings – there’s little real world building, and what little there is seems rooted in well-known fantasy tropes (albeit modified to fit the authors’ tastes).
  • Play, don’t publish. Ask this year’s designers whether they’re planning to publish, and they say “I hope so, maybe, when it’s finished”. There’s no rush to get things out there – they want to play, replay, discuss, hone, polish. After this year’s HolmCon, there’s extensive redesign and rewriting going on.
  • Refining personal vision. Some designers seem to have decided to stick with what they know, and do it better. They’re experimenting within their paradigm – there are enough techniques in their toolkit that they don’t need to acquire new ones right now. The focus is on finding the ones that fit.
  • We don’t all have to like the same thing. A common comment in this year’s R.I.S.K. is “probably an interesting game, and it looks like it might work, but it isn’t really my thing”. Whether it’s because a game is too traditional, or too hippie-feely-story-gamey, or too personal, or too Hollywood violent, people are getting used to seeing beyond their own ideas of what a game has to be, and looking at the games that are actually there.
  • We’re influencing each other. Your game uses my mechanisms. Your way of playing affects how I (re)design my game. We’re swimming in a sea of each other’s ideas right now, and it’s getting very hard to remember exactly who came up with what when. We’re not stealing like ravens – we’re more like kids sitting at a big table sending each other crayons to draw with. “Hey, I want that shiny gold one!” “Pass the black, please?”

If you have any questions about the games, or anything in the article – or if you just want to say something – please feel free to comment!

The 2009 R.I.S.K. competition

Yesterday 11 candidates submitted their entries for R.I.S.K., a yearly Norwegian game design competition where entrants design a game in one week.

This year, the theme seems to be news and the media, covered by more than a third of the games: “Dagsrevyen” (The Daily News), “Hund bet mann” (Dog Bites Man), “Reality” and “Vi har visst mistet kontakten med studio” (We Seem to Have Lost Contact With the Studio). Some Norwegian game designers are journalists, and others (like myself) talk a lot about What’s Wrong With Today’s Media. Still, though – 4 of 11 games?

There’s also a strong undercurrent of meta-fiction, if you can call it that. “Jon Quixote”, a parody of Don Quixote involving a D&D fan and constant reality twists; “Paradigme”, where players contribute and discuss rules to determine the laws of nature in the fiction; and “Hamartia”, where players are authors controlling Greek heroes from literature.

Interesting stuff, most of it. People seem to be going for the idea and the vibe this year, more than actually playtesting and finishing their games, so there’s a general feel of half-baked conceptual stuff. On the other hand, organizer Michael Sollien is encouraging participants to use the coming week to hone their games and make them shine. Not sure if people will actually do that, since it doesn’t influence the competition results, but we’ll see. This year’s HolmCon will see some hours of R.I.S.K. gaming, though; it’s always fun trying out some of these games, and experience from previous years shows that the competition winners aren’t necessarily the games you remember a year or two later.

(If you can read Norwegian, or just want to look at the PDFs, they’re here.)

Wanderer

Author

Øivind Stengrundet

Description

” I’m a Wanderer.

When the first magical storm swept across Terrustor, dividing the islands and changing them, our fellowship was formed. To preserve the knowledge of everything that was.

Each storm creates a new picture of reality. We are the memory of the world. Adventurers, sailors, warriors, wizards and librarians. We watch, travel and write down. Intervene with the history of the planet, and form it in line with our ideals;

Each conscience holds immeasurable value.
Words, thoughts and language are valuable – in themselves.
A safe future is built on an illuminated past.

A Wanderer always helps another. We know each other by the green cloaks we bear, our thoughtful eyes, our common tongue.

I’m a Wanderer, and I have no home. This is my name, my calling, my life.

And the storm is building.”

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Rules

Storyboard

Author

Rune Valle

Description

This is a game where you and your friends are going together to make a story. What kind of story? It will become a story about a hero that in some way or another has to go trough different challenges.. But then, what story isn’t like that in one way or another? And apart from that this game sets little limitations on your creative freedom. At first glance the players of this game is just sitting reciting on turn some kind of unwritten text. But now and again some keywords may be heard invoking some of the inner mechanics of the game. All players has their own special responsibilities in the story, there is a point system for motivation and “game control”, and a storyboard system to always give the game a direction and sense of purpose. All these to try to make the story telling an as pleasant experience as possible for a broad audience.

And as one should expect form most games; at the end of the it there will be a winner. But beware of playing it too hard! If you aren’t careful you could get into the terrible disaster that everyone loses, and the story ends without any conclusion!

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Rules

Zombie Porn

Author

Matthijs Holter

Description

Zombie Porn is a GM-less role-playing game that asks the question: “How far are you willing to go to survive in the undead entertainment industry?”

The characters are citizens of the Valley of Death, the capital of the underworld, the biggest collection of dead meat below the surface of the earth – and the centre of the necro porn industry.

During the game they’ll record porn movies, increase their status in the industry, hunt for body parts in the cold dewy Necropolis morning, and try to protect their own body from other hunters…

…all the while looking for true love. For everyone.

Download

Rules

The R.I.S.K. competition

Magnus Jakobsson, author of

Many of the games on this blog are the result of the yearly R.I.S.K. competition, arranged by Michael Sollien. The format is very simple: Write a new role-playing game in one week.

The R.I.S.K. competition has resulted in the greatest surge in Norwegian game design ever. About a dozen new games appear each year, and the designers are often first-timers. (As a matter of fact, no published RPG author has so far won the competition). In 2006 some of the winning entries were published in magazine format.

The competition is open to everyone, and is announced yearly on the Norwegian RPG forum rollespill.net.

Links

Imagonem article in Norwegian, with pictures

Wikipedia entry in Norwegian

Michael Sollien, R.I.S.K. boss