Playing [Happy Birthday Robot!] at GenCon

edited August 2009 in Actual Play
While sitting around waiting for other games to wrap up, I proposed to my colleagues Kristin and Ben that we give Daniel's new little robot story game a try. I looked up the rules on my phone, found them, pulled out some fudge dice, and went to it:

Happy Birthday, Robot!

K: []++ --- []+-
There was a robot, but he was rusty.

B: []+- [][]- [][]+
So, for his birthday, he cried oil tears.

M: --- []+-
Robot ran faster than ever before.

K: []+- []++ []++
He ran home and found rust-removal spray.

B: []++ [][][] []+-
Robot took a rust removal shower and scrubbed himself shiny.

M: +-- +--
Robot felt better than ever, so he baked his favorite cake.

K: [][]+ ++- ++[]
Robot put candles on his cake and lit them.

B: ++- []++
Robot looked and closed his eyes, but his cake moved.

M: +-- []--
Robot screamed and his cake jumped, screaming "don't eat me!"

K: [][][] [][]+[][]- [][][]
Robot was confused, but agreed, and they sat and talked and laughed.

K: (12 coins)
Robot was going to wish for more friends before the cake came alive.

B: (5 coins)
Now, he didn't have to.

M: (5 coins)
And Robot never cried again.

The End.


A couple of things that I noticed: we were very willing to share heads-up coins with each other to allow the storyteller to fit the number of words into the sentence they had in mind. Also, we only had one point where someone got more than four plusses or minuses, and she only had two coins at the time, so we only got one round with free words ("his" and "cake"), but that seemed to work out okay. Overall, super fast and fun and cute!

We played another game of HBR! shortly thereafter, with Anna Kreider, but that is a story for another day.


  • Whooooaa. That story is really sweet! I actually teared up a little bit, seriously. This post should be re-titled "The Only AP Report That Will Make Daniel Cry."

    Did you guys really come up with this totally organically or did you discuss the direction as you played? How long did it take to play overall? Were there any hangups where someone was struggling to think of ideas?
  • Yeah, this was all totally organic - we're all story-improv-y, so we just jumped on whatever the previous thing was and pushed the story in that direction. There wasn't really any out-of-story direction talk, but there was a little "I need two more words for my sentence - can you help me out?" to help things along the way. The game took maybe twenty minutes, including reading and working out the rules, and I don't recall any huge hangups on the idea thinky side. There was a little of that in our second game (which took about as long), but not much.

    I'm glad you enjoyed our story so much! I totally love this story game now, and will be spreading it around my local gamer/improviser friends as much as they will tolerate... thank you for the present to us all.
  • edited August 2009
    Posted By: majcherThe game took maybe twenty minutes, including reading and working out the rules, and I don't recall any huge hangups on the idea thinky side. There was a little of that in our second game (which took about as long), but not much.
    This is the most awesome thing about "Happy Birthday, Robot!" Twenty minutes! I've played sessions that went for eight hours that failed to produce fiction of that quality. The poetic concision is really exciting to me. We will absolutely play this at the next Story Games Night At The Rancho.

    Daniel, by the way, the adorable art makes this game effortless to sell to players, no matter their age. More like this please!
  • Ha! Really? And here I was thinking about making it a little more refined like these Danbo pictures:




    We were thinking about making little papercraft robots, photographing them in these kinds of curious situations. It would be cute and easier to do than full illos, but doesn't have that rushed, notebook doodle look.

    The other option is to make half of the book more of a coloring and activity book that helps you practice playing the game. There's a page from a he-man coloring book that I can't find at the moment, but it shows he-man and she-ra at the bottom of the page looking towards something enormous. But that whole part of the page is blank. The instructions for that page are to "Draw what He-Man and She-Ra see." That's something that could totally work for a game like this. The art can be simple coloring book drawings and then I can post people's cool artwork on a flickr set.
  • As one of the players in that game, I'll say that the only force I applied to the story with my words was to try and move it in a positive direction. My experiences with improv have taught me that scenes/stories from nothing tend to drift negative unless you stay mindful of being positive. When the story started out with a rusty, crying robot, sirens were going off in my head, "Pull up! Pull up!" That's why I introduced the rust removal spray, and then the cake, which we seized on (in part, thanks to Kristin buying "his" and "cake" as free words) as the focus of Robot's story. From there, the plot just flowed out, and we brought things to a satisfying ending. With a game called Happy Birthday, Robot!, I'm probably not going to want to go dark my first couple of times through, so I was glad that once the story's momentum was pointing in a positive direction, everybody rolled with it.

    For the most part, we played the game as a variation on the old improv game, Word-At-A-Time Story, and didn't discuss our word choices before we made them. To be honest, it never occurred to me to do that, since dealing with the unexpected, but logical choices of others is a big source of the fun in games like this.
  • Ben, that's some awesome insight and advice for how to play. That's probably something I need to communicate in the text itself, for my own sake as I write examples of play.
  • Posted By: DanielSolisIt would be cute and easier to do than full illos, but doesn't have that rushed, notebook doodle look.
    I love the look of the sketches in your google doc for HBR! Images like that are complete magic for people like me who have not taken the time to develop any artistic ability. That said, I cannot in good faith discourage papercraft in any way, so carry on.
  • I will add my 2 cents to say that, while I like the existing art, I seriously love those Danbo pictures. Also, you can kinda go for that SackBoy look too... Make all sorts of diorama-like cuts of Robot doing odd stuff. Go to the Aquarium and show him under the sea by sticking him up next to the glass...etc.

    Actually, you might want to create a template in PDF to offer with the game and (and here is my money shot idea for the day, I hope) send around to people to use in taking pictures based on their submitted stories. Collect some of these as a contest and you should have plenty of images to pull from to make a deluxe edition.

    Then you get Stephen Fry to do voice-overs for your Youtube video promo...Ok, now I am getting into the clouds.
  • Funny you should mention that! Megan noticed that all the Robot stories sound like something a kid might make up stream-of-consciousness and how funny it was that it took at least three adults to do what one kid can do naturally.

    So we thought it would be fun to make youtube videos out of some of the stories along with notebook doodle drawings. The narration would be done by a friend of ours who has a squeaky voice and actually sounds like she's 8-years-old. :P

    Just an idea though.
  • edited August 2009
    Okay. So I'm still working on the other half of the story, and I don't have time to color this right now, but here's the first half our robot story that I played with Marc at GenCon. (Different story than the op) Second half probably tomorrow or next week if I don't get to it tomorrow.


    I had so much fun drawing adorable little robots. Man this game is cool.

    EDIT: for bad HTML
  • Oh my goodness, Anna. That is so awesome! Mind if I post this to my blog? :D
  • Go for it. :)
  • Anna, that is the best AP report ever. Can't wait for the thrilling conclusion!
  • So here's the end of the story.


    This is a fun little game, Daniel.
  • Hooray! I'm glad! :D Hopefully it'll see publication in some fashion, then I can hit you up for a blurb. ^_^
Sign In or Register to comment.