2015-04-05 : Matchmaker

Way, way back in the winter of 2001-2002 I wrote a game called Matchmaker. It came to me in a dream, no lie, on Thanksgiving night 2001.

It occurred to me that my most recent games - Midsummer Wood, Spin the Beetle, The Vengeful Demon of the Ring - all call back directly to Matchmaker.

It also occurred to me this morning that not all of you may have seen it before, so here it is.

a roleplaying party game for four or more

So okay. Two players are the Destined Lovers, they stay the Destined Lovers for the whole game. The other players take turns being Cupid and Everybody Else in the World. Cupid's job is to get the Destined Lovers together.

Character Creation

Destined Lovers: go into the other room together. Come back when you've made up three things about your characters:
1. What do we have in common? ("We have the same lawyer." "We're both really into big boots.")
2. What one thing could you do that would turn me off to you forever?
3. What one thing could I do that would turn you off to me forever? ("Dis the poor." "Invite me to coffee." "Mention a sports team by name.")

Also, each of you, make up some sort of way to introduce yourself. Your job, for instance. ("I'm an out-of-work actor." "I'm a sports physician at the University.")

The Game

When you're Cupid, your goal is to get the Destined Lovers to fall in love. This happens when they discover, in character, in play, the thing that they have in common. (The players already know. Your job is to get their characters there. Since you don't know, it'll be tricky.)

Destined Lovers, you get to goof off and make it challenging and fun. Give Cupid hints and clues and red herrings, string her along, and keep her guessing.

Everybody Else in the World, you get to play all the supporting characters that Cupid and the Destined Lovers introduce.

Got it? Cool.


Cupid is responsible for:
a. Framing the scene;
b. Introducing things that happen;
c. Introducing NPCs; and
d. Suggesting in-character things for the Destined Lovers to say.

When things seem to be going your way, feel free to just let them. If they start to go bad, though, jump right in. End scenes with no warning and cut to radically different scenes with minimal transition ("Okay. Two years later you bump into each other on a ferry boat..."). Toss in extreme elements ("There's a sudden flash of light outside and thousands of cocktail onions start pouring out of the fireplace..."). Most of all, involve yourself in the conversation ("Say how much you like the Mets. Say it! Why did you say that instead, are you even listening? Say about the Mets! Okay, then say how sorry you are about the mayonnaise!"). You're the god of love. Make a pest of yourself.

As soon as you feel stuck, exhausted, irritated, or done, end the scene and pass Cupid to the next player. (We play with a loose and wiggly rule of one scene per Cupid, to keep everybody in, but we make fast and free exceptions and mostly just go with the flow.) Now that person's Cupid and you're Everybody Else in the World.

The Destined Lovers are responsible for:
a. Playing their characters, and
b. Introducing NPCs.

Cupid can introduce NPCs at will ("Your accountant arrives") but you should introduce NPCs more discreetly. "Oh, I'm here with my accountant, have you met?" or "I go into the back hallway and call my brother on the pay phone." Make sense?

And Everybody Else is responsible for:
Playing all the NPCs that Cupid or the Destined Lovers introduce.

My advice is, make funny voices, change your posture, and use props.

But you're definitely not responsible for having conversations with yourself. Nobody wants that. If anybody suggests that you do have one, give them a dirty look and just summarize instead.

An Example of Responsibilities:
"You meet in a bar," Cupid says. "Robin, you oughta say 'What's your sign?' to Pat."
"What's your sign?" Robin says. "I don't know why I said that, you must get sick of people coming up to you like this."
"Actually, yes," Pat says. "Excuse me, I have to go away now."
"Uh oh," Cupid says. "Okay. A guy with a gun bursts through the door."
"On the floor! Now!" Everybody Else says. "Pat, I warned you!"
"You know this guy?" Robin says. "I get between the gun guy and Pat, you know, to use my body as a shield."
"Oh please," Pat says. "I shove Robin aside. Come on now, Mitchell. Put the gun down. I know you never load it."

And so on.

Mechanics, which god forbid you do without

If anybody thinks that the outcome of something is uncertain, here's what. Every player does this. Look at the situation and choose one factor that you think could determine the outcome, or one possible outcome, or something that makes sense in the moment. Write it on a scrap of paper and toss it in a hat. You should feel free to discuss and debate what you're writing, but try to keep it short. Anyway, somebody pull a piece of paper out of the hat. That's what, and whoever's paper it is gets to narrate.

An Example of Mechanics:
"I shoot the gun!" Everybody Else says. "I hit Pat!"
"No way," Pat says. "Let's roll for it."
Pat writes on a paper: Mitchell never loads his gun. Everybody Else writes: I do too. Robin writes: I'm still kind of in the way. Cupid writes: Mitchell is too upset and misses. They put them in the hat, pull one out, and things go from there.

It's worth pointing out that you can call on the mechanics if Cupid says something controversial, too.

Design Notes

Silly I know. Actually I just like having a section called Design Notes.

Thanks to the fine people on the Forge forums for their enthusiasm and feedback.

Thanks to Meguey, Emily Care, Serena, Gideon, and Nancy for playtesting with me.

1. On 2015-04-05, Paul Czege said:

Probably the most exhausting short RPG I've ever played.


2. On 2015-04-06, Vincent said:

I remember that when I wrote it, it said that if the destined lovers get together, Cupid wins, and otherwise, everyone else wins. Reading it now, I see that I changed that to "your job" at some point.

Paul, I think I remember it being a topic in the Forge conversation about the game, whether or not the game should have winning and losing. Do you remember this?


3. On 2015-04-06, PaulCzege said:

I don't know that "your job" is meaningfully different than "you win if".


4. On 2015-04-15, Marhault said:

You know that I think you should have all of those old games available online, so it's nice to have one of them come back up.


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