2011-09-26 : Countdown to Ghostly Murder

The last one went well so here's another. Murderous Ghosts playtest document, T minus 5. Yeah?

Murderous Ghosts is a 20-minute 2-player rpg. It's semi-competitive: your object is to escape getting murdered by ghosts, but you're playing against the game, not against the GM. As GM, you're curious whether the other player will escape or get murdered, but you don't lose if she escapes. Your object is to give yourself the wigs.

1. On 2011-09-26, Vincent said:

All playtesting so far points to: it's a good game for giving yourself the wigs.


2. On 2011-09-26, Meguey said:

A weird true thing for me: I could run this game again happily, but I had to leave the room when Julia was running it for you, because it was giving me the wigs. Different things wig out different people! Who knew!


3. On 2011-09-26, Vincent said:

When I was playing it with Elliot, I downplayed the oog to about nothing, but I still gave myself the wigs pretty good. I know I gave them to Elliot.

There's something neat going on there.


4. On 2011-09-26, Jeff Russell said:

Here I was thinking you meant there was some kind of game resource that was physical hair pieces that the GM wanted control of.


5. On 2011-09-26, Simon C said:

Interesting! I kind of think there's maybe no such thing as a truly competitive RPG, but I haven't considered "play against the game" before now. That is probably totally different.


6. On 2011-09-27, ndp said:

Simon, your comment is interesting! I find that playing against the game is a core feature of most of the games I like to play, and to design.


7. On 2011-09-27, Simon C said:

My experience of 'competitive' RPGs in the past has been that you're either not really competing, or you're not really engaging with the fiction. Competition, as a primary goal, almost inevitably creates a conflict of interest. I find, for example, that 'the Shab-al-Hiri Roach' only works so long as no one takes the competition element at all seriously (I don't think Jason would disagree with that position, either). I've not played Agon, but I suspect it's the same.

From what Vincent's describing, it sounds like the GM role in this game is what allows the player to play hard against the game, without losing that engagement with the fiction. Vincent, is that accurate?


8. On 2011-09-27, Simon C said:


I guess most rpgs (at least most Story Now supporting games) are in a sense "play against the game" in the sense that we have a shared desire to see these characters succeed, but also a shared commitment to following the rules of the game.

I'm pretty sure that no game can sustain a conflict of interests between players (or within a player), as well as having engagement with fictional content.


9. On 2011-09-27, Gregor said:

Simon: s/lay w/me - is that competitive? I haven't played it yet but there seems to be a strong element of that with the goes and dice tower toppling.

Mouse Guard is pretty competitive. You're supposed to make it hard for the heroes. Same for D&D, when played a certain way.

But otherwise I'd agree that if there's a strong competitive element between the players, then you can easily lose the engagement with the fictional content, because the competition happens with the ephemera, the numbers, the dice. The answer to that would be to make the competition happen at the level of the fiction. Storming the Wizard's Tower has some of that, as has Apocalypse World. Fictional positioning matters a lot, I'd say.


10. On 2011-09-27, Gregor Hutton said:

Mars Colony stikes me as a game where you play against the game to see what happens. I also really like the Goes in S/Lay w/Me.

I'm excited about Murderous Ghosts, and in plenty of time for playtesting over Halloween, right?


11. On 2011-09-27, Seth Ben-Ezra said:

A 20-minute two-player RPG? Color me interested in playtesting!


12. On 2011-09-27, Vincent said:

T minus 4.


13. On 2011-09-27, Micah said:

Yeah, serious interest in this. Finally an RPG with exactly the right features to introduce the wife.


14. On 2011-09-27, jessecombs said:

Yeap, I'm interested. Um, I'm my handle at gmail.


15. On 2011-09-27, Simon C said:


S/lay w/me is not at all competitive. At least, no more so than any other game where the GM provides antagonism to the protagonist.

Mouse Guard, the GM's job is to "make them heroes", not to win.

D&D is also not competitive, even played in the most dungeon-crawly, Step On Up manner. Actually I got a bunch of opinions about how Step On Up isn't at all about competition, it's about celebration (and testing) of a shared body of skills and knowledge.


16. On 2011-09-27, Simon C said:

Gregor the Hutt,

Good call about Mars Colony. That's a really clear example of "play against the game", although it doesn't have explicit win/lose conditions.


17. On 2011-09-28, Matt said:

Just finished watching The Tunnel.  I think I'd like to play the hell out of this, Vincent.


18. On 2011-09-28, Vincent said:

The Tunnel looks scary!


19. On 2011-09-28, Vincent said:

T minus 3.


20. On 2011-09-28, Roger said:

So... why is it 20 minutes long?


21. On 2011-09-28, Vincent said:

Because 20 minutes is the perfect length for it! It's like the first 20 minutes of a really scary haunted house movie, before they ruin it by explaining.

The game can probably go to 30-40 minutes, if you really take your time, but I predict that more often the ghosts will just cold murder you by minute 15.

"Why" can mean lots of things, so have I answered your question?


22. On 2011-09-29, Vincent said:

T minus 2.

Holy crap! Where did the time go!


23. On 2011-09-30, Vincent said:

T minus 1. This one's going to be close.


24. On 2011-09-30, Evan Torner said:

Sorta reminded me of Graham's game Halflight for the RPG Solitaire Competition, only for two people


25. On 2011-09-30, Vincent said:

I'm printing now, for review and a final internal playtest or three. Hooray! It looks like I probably will be putting out the call this weekend after all.


26. On 2011-10-01, Gregor said:

Your timing is immaculate. There is a Nerdinburgh con/meet in Edinburgh next weekend at an old Observatory on a hill overlooking the whole town. I'd love to give it a spin there.


27. On 2011-10-01, Gregor Hutton said:

That was me, not the other Gregor, who posts as Gregor.


28. On 2011-10-02, ndp said:

Oh, I meant competition against the game itself, through the mechanics. Like Mars Colony, good example. Or Annalise, where you can be all hand-holdy-as-possible-within-the-parameters-of-the-game of each other, but the numbers are against you and you will lose everything if you play long enough.

But anyway, yay Murderous Ghosts! Sounds spooky.


29. On 2011-10-03, Gregor said:

I post as Gregor but I think there's at least one more poster with that name, besides Hutton. Will post as Gregor Vuga henceforth.

Also, I sent a mail earlier. Excited!


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