21 August 2011

Introducing One Lost Pipe

A wonderful website that goes by the name of RPG Geek recently held a 48 hour RPG contest. What this means is that the contestants have to design, write, and submit a complete RPG in 48 hours without any help. I decided to try my luck and see what happened.

The contest, this time, had each contestant randomly generate 3 words which were to become elements that had to be included in the game. The three words I generated were rat, pipe, and tavern. I came up with a number of different ideas, each one becoming increasingly more bizarre. I thought of a game were the characters were trapped in a hallucination brought on by a hallucinogenic plant that is smoked and a rat is their spirit guide. I thought of a game where an evil rat was driving people insane in the public washroom of a bar. I have a strange mind.

I eventually settled on an a game inspired by the tale of The Pied Piper. In my game the piper is long gone, but he had left his pipe behind as a kind of folkloric artifact. It became nothing more than a myth capitalized on by a pub owner, that is, until it was stolen. That’s when a plague of rats fell upon the city and the pub owner hired you (the player) to get it back. I decided to call this game One Lost Pipe. That is kind of interesting, right?

Mechanically I decided that I wanted to use playing cards. I’m not sure why exactly, maybe I was just sick of dice when I wrote it. Cards also fit nicely with the pub theme, so there is that. I had initially been trying to turn this into a kind of basic tarot system, but after outlining all the cards and looking at it I realized it just didn’t mesh with the private investigator vibe I was getting from the game. I switched directions and went for a mechanic inspired by blackjack/21. It was simple, fast, and matched the theme much better than tarot.

With this game I wanted to experiment with different ideas. That’s one reason for using the cards, but another thing I wanted to play around with was seeing if I could make an RPG that could be played by just one person. I built the game around that, but then I decided that I wanted the ability to scale the game up to more players. I decided to accomplish this by adding a pseudo-GM position called Fate. Fate is essentially the blackjack dealer and when he is included the resolution gets a little bit more crunchy. This was great, but I decided it would be fun if the two players would switch roles back and forth, so I made that the default. Any players that are happy with their roles can just choose to ignore that rule. I also added two additional roles to the game so that it can be played with anywhere from 1-4 people. The additional roles were that of the Rat King and the Reporter. Each has their own goals in the game. The Rat King wants the rat swarm to overrun the city and The Reporter wants to get the scoop from the person that stole the pipe. Adding either of these roles adds some interesting twists to the way the game is played.

Speaking of the Rat Swarm, that’s another mechanic I added to the game to play around with. It is kind of a built-in timer. The game ends if it gets high enough so this game is definitely a single session kind of thing. The rat swarm also doubles as a currency for both Fate and the Rat King as a way to mess with the detective or reporter.

The only other interesting thing to say about the game is that I included a random pub name generator table at the end. I’m not sure why exactly. I just thought it would be fun.

I’ll be adding my game, One Lost Pipe, to this website in the near future. For now, you can get it at its RPG Geek Page. If you like the game then consider voting for it, but please read at least a few of the other entries before you do so. I’m currently in the process of writing a mini-review for each of the game submissions for the contest. I’m posting them on RPG Geek as I go, but I’ll do a round up here when I’m finished.


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