This is day one of the 10 Days of Blogging contest thing that I am doing with my wife.
I had a plan on the flight over to Australia, where I now live. I was terrified of getting on the plane. Not because I’m scared of it crashing, because that’s entirely out of my control and incredibly unlikely, but because I get scared of being locked into doing one thing for more than about an hour, and I had 23 of them to deal with.
I think it was 23 hours. The lines start to blur. By the time I was posting to my blog from Sydney Airport’s Wifi and drinking impossibly hot and impossibly expensive coffee, I had been awake for 37 hours, give-or-take. There’s a measure of bravado in there, of course, and perhaps a little exaggeration; I did, as it happens, pass out for a little under half an hour at two points throughout the journey, and snap-back awake with the determination to achieve.
See, I wanted to change my perspective on the trip. I wanted 23 hours to shift from being way too long and become not long enough. So I set myself an impossible challenge: I would write six tabletop roleplaying games whilst travelling. I wasn’t promising anything in regards to their quality, but they would exist.
That did not happen. What happened is a “game” called HEY KIDS, LET’S ALL MEET THE GIN WIZARD.
HOW TO CATCH A HAMMER
My good friend Chris – one half of the Games and Such podcast – came through with a lot of suggestions. Maybe too many suggestions. Some of them were sensible, like: “In a world where everyone is a clone of either the first man or first woman and cosmetic surgery is intensely expensive how will we ever find out who committed these crimes?”
Maybe not entirely sensible, then, but more sensible than “How to catch a hammer” or “Kobold Disguises” or “Tax returns are fun!” or “Lumberjacks have feelings too!” But there was one that really stuck out for me: “Hey kids, let’s all see the gin wizard! Yayyyyyyyyy!”
I started out with other stuff. I had a list in my head. Job one was a game that used Love Hearts instead of dice or character sheets (or plot) that I had playtested twice at a pub in Norwich, and I could barely remember the rules to begin with because it’s not the sort of game you playtest sober. I tried to jazz it up with 1950’s-style Crushes and Rivals amongst the other players, but really, it’s the sort of idea that actively resists the application of rules. It didn’t get far.
Then, I wrote the start of a game called The Long Walk, where three adventurers go on a long quest to claim the Dragon King’s Gold from his home in the necropolis. It was a story game that focused on betraying each other to arrive or banding together and possibly failing your quest; the most interesting part of it was a character sheet where I presented the player with a list of 18 facts about their iconic character and told them to pick 4. (See the picture below for a rough idea of what I’m talking about)
Then, I watched The Return of The King.
Then, I watched Django Unchained
Then, I listened to a Taylor Swift album.
Then, I wrote HEY KIDS, LET’S ALL MEET THE GIN WIZARD.
It is entirely visible in that picture; I’m not going to honour it with a retyping. Either you’re the sort of person who’s willing to squint at a low-resolution image of biro on lined paper in search of a stupid roleplaying game or you’re not the sort of person who’d want to play GIN WIZARD.
It is, in essence, a peer-judged costume contest around the theme of Wizard, and the prize is Gin. Well, the prize is control over the gin, which heavily implies that you must have either a) all chipped in for it or b) found it somewhere.
It’s a shame I picked gin because it carries the least inherent party of all the spirits; it isn’t a thing you swig for fun, and the game is supposed to be fun. Gin is maybe a thing you swig in the bath with the lights out at half past three in the afternoon on a dark Sunday in October, which is a thing I actually did in 2008, and I can confirm that it’s about as un-party as you can get.
WOODEN SPOON OF BASHING
It’s not a total washout, though. The game has given me some neat ideas around the theme of improvised costume and weapons (and drinking) and, at the back of my mind, I’m currently putting together a kids-fight-the-nightmares game where you must acquire all your magic items by finding them around the house and wearing or carrying them. So, the Saucepan of Protection, or the Blanket of Stealth, or the Wooden Spoon of Bashing, or the New Shoes That Make You Run Faster.
Anyway. The more I write games, the less I care about making them complex, about creating settings to explore, about backstory. I’ve been trapped in enough conversations about people’s characters to realise that telling people about an awesome idea you had can only go so far.
I want to give people rough-and-ready tools and the means to bash them together until story results; the equivalent of where, in old cartoons, a construction process would be concealed behind a cloud of dust and flying hammers, nails and saws. And I guess GIN WIZARD is rougher and perhaps less ready than the others.
UPDATE – WE PLAYED THIS SHIT
GAME ONE: SYDNEY
Here we can see all the contestants, in their finery:
And here is the winner, who edged out the competition by sticking a post-it note on her face declaring herself to be the “Gin Fuckin’ Wizard”:
GAME TWO: LONDON
After a game of Goblin Quest, the players and I played Gin Wizard. The winner refused to be pictured because he is a coward, so I am retroactively declaring all three of us in this picture the winners instead: