24 July 2011

The Daughter of Padua (Game Chef 2011)

I’m participating in Game Chef again this year. You couldn’t keep me away after how much fun I had with it last year. This year’s theme was Shakespeare and we had to pick 3 of the 4 ingredients (Daughter, Exile, Forsworn, Nature).

My entry this year is titled The Daughter of Padua. It’s a game where one person plays as a sickeningly rich man’s daughter that has been put up for marriage. The twist is that she gets to pick her groom and the other players are her suitors.

I used the Daughter, Forsworn, and Nature ingredients for TDoP. The daughter one should be obvious, but the other two aren’t nearly as easy to figure out. For the Forsworn ingredient I have set each of the Suitors to have a secret Oath. This is a negative thing (for the Daughter), it’s an ambition or goal that the suitor has that is the true reason he seeks her marriage. Through the course of the game he will have the option to forswear that oath for the sake of true love. To satisfy nature I went with nature as in “human nature”. Each character has natures which are hidden aspects of their character. In the case of The Daughter there are 10 of these which The Suitors will need to figure out if they want to win her heart. For The Suitors, they each have one nature which The Daughter’s brothers will try to reveal (if they enter the game). All of these natures are taken into account in the epilogue of the game, which the losing suitors narrate.

One thing that I really wanted to work into a game about Shakespeare was the use of direct quotes from his works. I thought this would be a lot of fun and it was a mechanic I’ve seen used in another RPG called The Dying Earth. In that case they used Jack Vance quotes. The mechanic I used was pretty basic. Players draw random quotes and if they can work them into the game they get bonus dice.

The overall concept for this year’s game came to me pretty easily. I knew that I wanted to do a comedy because I’ve always liked Shakespeare’s sense of humour. I also thought that most of the other contestants would be going the tragedy route with their games. Daughter really stuck out at me and I thought it would be pretty Shakespearean to do a comedy about social climbing suitors competing to win the heart of a very rich heiress. For a while I had thought about going a little bit meta and making a play on words with players (as in actors) and players (as in the people playing the game). I couldn’t really make this work, but it still amuses me when reading the rules that the terms can be used interchangeably.

I picked Padua because it was a pretty large Italian city around Shakespeare’s time and, to my knowledge it wasn’t used in one his plays. I thought that it was just the location that Shakespeare could have used and would make a great setting for my game. I later realized, while collecting Shakespeare quotes, that it was where The Taming of the Shrew is set. Oops. I guess I don’t know my Shakespeare as well as I should. I should earn points by correctly guessing a setting he would use though, right?

My original draft of the game ended up being dangerously close to a Fiasco rip-off. My main mechanic in the game is that The Daughter rates her suitor’s seduction attempts with either a flirty smile or an evil scowl. To represent this she hands out different coloured dice. Originally these were rolled against a chart at the end of the game exactly like you do in Fiasco. Not only was this too close for comfort, but I realized it just didn’t work. I needed a flat happy or sad ending and no scale. I kept the dice roll but ditched the chart. All the dice are used for is determining the winning suitor and whether it is going to be a good (read happy) marriage or not. The rest comes down to interpretation from the losing suitors. They use the natures of the bride and groom as well as how high the dice roll was and whether the oath was broken or not to narrate an epilogue. I’m confident that the final game is different enough from Fiasco to be its own game, but there is definitely a similarity in using two different dice for good and bad scenes.

If there is a weakness (that I can see) in my entry this year it will be in the lack of play examples and the suitor oaths. We’ll see what the reviewers have to say.

Speaking of reviewers, this year each contestant must review 4 of the other entries and recommend one to the next round. Watch this space for my own thoughts on 4 other games.

If you’d like to play The Daughter of Padua then you can find it on the Games page or just click this link. I also made a character sheet for this game which you can find here.


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