One Paragraph Games

edited March 2011 in Story Games
On my wiki, I came across a game with the description: 'One paragraph, ending with a full stop.'

Before I realised that this was refuse from the template I use (that's an instruction to write a paragraph ending with a full stop for the game description) it seemed like an enchanting idea.

Does anyone know of a game that short? It would put the one-page RPGs to shame.

If not, care to write one?


  • We see a lot of these over time, but they're usually not construed as fully "games", but rather just game ideas. Regardless, often such ideas are fully realizable for veteran gamers who already possess the incidental tools such as GMing skills, rules sets and so on. This sort of thing goes interchangeably by the name of "campaign pitch", too, and there's really not that much difference there.
  • edited March 2011
    How big is a paragraph? I think there are ways with word limits and tortured sentence structure by using:
    - clever punctuation, including:
        - embedded bullet points; and
        - different levels of bullets;
    - other tricks1;
    - massive run on sentences, like this one, which employ Joycean tactics of missing punctuation, first person interjections you see where I'm going and
    - poetry which requires no punctation or separation
    rhyme or meter can't defeat a
    well worked rhythm
    I can do anything with them

    1 including the extensive use of footnotes;2
    2 footnotes which can also be embedded;
  • *comfused*

    And the point of such games would be...? I mean, this sounds like a clever-ish trick on game writing, rather than game designing...
    sorry if I'm missing something.
  • I think I heard of a game you play on a subway car that was written on a bookmark...

    Or maybe I just dreamt about one? Hmm.
  • There was a business card game challenge here way back in the day.

    Turns out you can fit a lot of content on two sides of a business card.
  • There is an old maxim from wargaming design from the 1970s. "If the game rules can not be written on the front and back of a 3x5 card, there are too many rules."

    Which I later realized meant that that was all that people would refer to so if you wanted your rules to actually be used you had to keep it brief.

    So here's my attempt...

    "Born to Run" is a chase game in a far future dystopia for three players: a hero, a villan, and a game host. The host secretly conspires with the hero to help him evade the villan. The hero and villan have ten action tokens to make things happen. The villan wins if they capture the hero. The hero wins if they evade the whole game but they win big if they can defeat the villan. Each turn the host picks who goes first. This player pays a token and makes up a scene. If they roll 9 or less on 2d6 the scene happens. The host may add details and alter the chance to happen. The other player may pay a token and counter-argue. If they pass their reality check the two players roll again. The high roller's action happens. When you are out of tokens you are out of the game. You are at the mercy of the other player. Soooo live free or die young!

    There! A game in a paragraph!

    Chris Engle
  • Posted By: Suna*comfused*

    And the point of such games would be...? I mean, this sounds like a clever-ish trick on gamewriting, rather than gamedesigning...
    sorry if I'm missing something.
    I think it gets to the nub of brevity leading to elegance.
  • On the Rigors of LARPing
    a Solitaire LARP in one paragraph by Epidiah Ravachol

    Instructions: Wearing a dark pair of sunglasses in a dimly lit room just after twilight, write the following onto a piece of paper, taking care to make mistakes and revisions until exact: "En aquel Imperio, el Arte de la Cartografía logró tal Perfección que el Mapa de una sola Provincia ocupaba toda una Ciudad, y el Mapa del Imperio, toda una Provincia. Con el tiempo, estos Mapas Desmesurados no satisficieron y los Colegios de Cartógrafos levantaron un Mapa del Imperio, que tenía el Tamaño del Imperio y coincidía puntualmente con él. Menos Adictas al Estudio de la Cartografía, las Generaciones Siguientes entendieron que ese dilatado Mapa era Inútil y no sin Impiedad lo entregaron a las Inclemencias del Sol y los Inviernos. En los Desiertos del Oeste perduran despedazadas Ruinas del Mapa, habitadas por Animales y por Mendigos; en todo el País no hay otra reliquia de las Disciplinas Geográficas."

    Appendix N
    Borge, Jorge Luis: esp. "Del rigor en la ciencia" & "Pierre Menard, autor del Quijote"
    Miranda, Suarez: Viajes de varones prudentes
  • Posted By: Suna*comfused*

    And the point of such games would be...? I mean, this sounds like a clever-ish trick on gamewriting, rather than gamedesigning...
    sorry if I'm missing something.
    It's an intelectual exercise. You're not going to produce D&D or Mass Effect in a paragraph, and that's understood. It's practicing your scales, fix up, look sharp.
  • This game consists of eighteen cards. The blue cards say 'Everything I say is true', 'Everything I say is misleading', 'I cannot say anything unless I am unsure as to its truth', 'I can say what I like', 'I can only agree with other people' and 'I can say what I like'. The red cards say 'I have the KEY', 'I know who has the KEY', 'I am looking for the KEY', 'I am looking for the KEY', 'I am looking for the KEY' and 'I know who has the KEY'. The green cards say 'Duchess', 'Coal Miner', 'Teacher', 'Escaped criminal', 'Retired boxer' and 'New mother'. Each player gets one of each. The blue and green cards give a player a limitation on what they say who they are. The red cards relate to victory. All players close their eyes. The two players who know where the KEY is open their eyes on the count of 3, and the player with the KEY reveals it, keeping his eyes shut. Set a time limit, say 10 minutes. During play, the players talk in character. You can make a deal to 'share victory' with another player, which lasts until you make a new deal with someone else or either of you breaks it voluntarily. At the end of the time limit, players looking for the KEY accuse another player of holding it. If correct, they and any player who had a deal with them wins. Otherwise, the KEY holder and any player allied with them wins. In the event of no KEY holder being present, Those who knew there was an absence of the KEY win if they are in a deal with another player (but not each other), the others win if they are not in a deal with another player.
  • edited March 2011
    Fortune Cookies and Nuclear War
    A true story about how the Cuban Missile Crisis was solved in a Chinese Restaurant

    This is a game for two players, to be played while eating in a Chinese restaurant. One of you will take on the role of a American diplomat, while the other will represent the Russian envoy. The US and Russia have reached a point where nuclear war looms over them. (Other political tension points could be used instead of the Cuban Missile Crisis, in which case you should change the roles.) If no agreement is reached at this meeting, a nuclear war appears inevitable. Before play begins, each player writes down five demands they make of the other country. Once you write the demands, you secretly choose three which are issues that your country really cares about. The other two demands are diplomatic decoys, which you expect to give up in negotiation. Now you look at the list of demands from the other side and secretly choose three demands that you cannot possibly agree to. Once your priorities are all set, you have a freeform, open discussion, in which you try to negotiate with the other player. You're trying to get them to agree to your demands while giving up as few concessions as possible. At the end of the meal, negotiations are finished, regardless of whether agreement was reached or not. If no agreement was reached, assume that a terrible war breaks out between the two countries. If some agreement is reached, then each side makes the appropriate concessions and each player narrates a positive epilogue for their country. Each player should open their fortune cookie, and interpret the fortune to describe the future for their respective homeland, either positively or negatively depending on whether an agreement was reached. Whichever diplomat conceded more demands that they secretly valued loses overall, and has to pay for the meal (in case of a tie, split the check evenly). If no agreement is reached, one of you pays the full bill and the other pays the waitress a tip equal to the bill (that's right, a 100% tip).

    It would be better with a few paragraph breaks, but it still works.
  • That's fucking scary, I was just about to write a game with a fortune cookie mechanic also.
    Mine needed a whole bag of them, though.
  • I need to go eat Chinese now...
  • I'm loving the games, guys -- keep 'em coming!
    Posted By: Kevin Allen JrPosted By: Suna*comfused*

    And the point of such games would be...? I mean, this sounds like a clever-ish trick on gamewriting, rather than gamedesigning...
    sorry if I'm missing something.
    It's an intelectual exercise. You're not going to produce D&D or Mass Effect in a paragraph, and that's understood. It's practicing your scales, fix up, look sharp.

    That's right Kevin. In addition, I think limitations can often fuel creativity rather than suppressing it. I think we've seen some nifty games that would've looked trite or contrived over even an entire page.
    Posted By: MatrixGamerThe host secretly conspires with the hero to help him evade the villan.
    This is an interesting twist, Chris. What motivated it?
  • edited March 2011
    Huh. This was fun. And difficult.


    This is a game about an elite team of covert operatives. Each player is a member of the team and gets seven skills points. Each player makes up his character's skills, so that's anything from 1 skill at 7 to 7 skills at 1. No player may share more than half his skills with any other player. Each session of play is a mission that is prepared by the GM. The GM provides one main objective and up to three side objectives. Maps and a concrete understanding of all the obstacles in the mission is good prep work. When acting against an obstacle players roll 3d6 and add their skill. A non-skilled obstacle has a flat target number of 12. Most NPCs get a single skill rated at +2. If the GM deems an obstacle "Hazardous" then the character takes stress when they fail equal to how much they failed the roll by. Stress is subtracted from all future rolls. If a PC ever rolls a 0 total in a Hazardous situation they are taken out of the mission. Someone with an appropriate skill can attempt to reduce stress on a character. They roll against the stress as the target number and reduce it by the margin of success. This can be done only once per character per mission. The final objective of each mission is guarded by a powerful NPC. Mission to mission this final NPC has an escalating number of skill points 3, 5, 7 and finally the Mastermind with 9 skill points. These NPCs accumulate stress like PCs. When one of their rolls results in a Zero total the PCs succeed. If the PCs fail the mission they are knocked back on level of progression. That is, if they fail the mission with the 5 rank NPC they must do another mission with a 3 rank NPC. If the fail the Mastermind mission then they lose the game.

  • Posted By: MatrixGamerThe host secretly conspires with the hero to help him evade the villan.
    This is an interesting twist, Chris. What motivated it?

    I wanted to acknowledge that the host is never neutral - but it is secret because they have to still appear fair to the bad guy. In movies we always want the good guy to win (at least I do - in my old fashioned ways). A host helping the hero out can accomplish that. The additions the host can make to the scenes also lets them move the game a little - and be an effective bribe so they give better chance to happen rolls - so less whiff factor.

  • I rather like my one-paragraph game, so I formatted it to fit on a business card, so that you can print a couple out on a page and leave them in a Chinese restaurant of choice. Or put it on sticky paper, to stick to tables or menus.

    I still haven't playtested it, though.
  • edited March 2011
    Money talks
    - a business-card storytelling game
    - by Tomas HV Mørkrid

    Sit down around a table. Read this aloud first, and then you play the game.

    The first person to place a coin in the middle of the table, gets to set the first scene. Any persons who "see" the coin (put such a coin down too), are part of the scene, and may contribute to this part of the tale. The person setting the scene, is also the one closing it, by giving a sign, or by telling a end to it. Once the scene is ended, the one starting it may take the money on the table for himself, or give them to another participant in the scene, if he thinks the other one deserves it (by contributing to the scene in a great way).

    Any person may now initiate a new scene, at the same cost or more than the one before. And anyone may "see" the price, and be part of the new scene. When you're in a scene, you may contribute to the tale, and you may introduce a hero.

    The price of a scene is also the price to introduce a hero in it. So, to introduce a hero, you have to lay down the coins to match the price of the scene. If you do, you are entitled to tell the name of the hero, his special skill, and how the hero acts. You have the hero to use in this scene and any scenes to come. Only one hero may be introduced in any one scene, and each person around the tale may only have one hero at any one time. But several heroes may be present in later scenes, and they may cooperate for any cause they deem worthy.

    If you want to introduce a villain in a scene, you may take a coin or more from the table. Depending on the amount you take, the villain is a small or big character in the story. If you take all the money on the table, your villain is the main one, the boss, evil incarnated! If you do so, you take over the scene, and tell how the main villain makes life hard for any characters in the story, by framing, scaring or hurting them. All villains are free-for-all characters in any scenes to come, but the one initiating it, have won the money for it.

    Keep any coins you took to make a villain, in front of you, to show how strong the villain is. For a hero to defeat a villain, you have to pay his strength in coins to the center of the table. Participants with a hero may cooperate to meet this price, and cooperate in the telling of how their heroes bring down the villain. You have to have a hero to cooperate in such a way.

    Once the main villain is brought down, all players cooperate in telling the final scene. You participate in this scene by paying whatever price you want. You may opt to pay nothing, but that means you must give the scene a dark touch (the villain(s) has made a bad imprint on the world). The more you pay, the more optimistic and positive you may be. When all have told their part of this final scene, the game is over.

    Now you have to decide who, or what, should get the final, big (?) pile of money in the center of the table ...

    Have a good game!

    Yes, I know; there's too many paragraphs there. Please forgive me.
  • edited March 2011
    Okay, here's mine. I would like to note that this game was actually developed and thoroughly playtested many years ago.

    Comrade-Housemate John, You are a Running Dog Capitalist in Need of Re-education!

    The things you need to play this game are a housemate you get into housemate spats with (preferably one with a liberal arts degree and soft, vaguely leftist leanings) and a copy of Chairman Mao's Little Red Book. A Mao hat is optional but strongly recommended to aid in getting into character. Prior to play, place the copy of the Little Red Book on a convenient surface, like the bookshelf in the living room. If the Mao hat is being used, have it placed closed to the book or conveniently wadded up in the pocket of your cargo shorts.Play begins when your more responsible housemate begins bitching about some minor indiscretion of yours that has gotten them up in arms. Good examples are forgetting to pay your rentshare on time for six months running, their discovery that you've quaffed the last of the Guinness when you blundered in at 7am already well-lit, or you've had sex with their significant other. In any case, quickly doff the Mao hat if available, whip out the Little Red Book and glare menacingly at them until they quiet down, then utter the title of this game, substituting their name for John . Unless their name is John, of course. Quickly riffle the pages of The Little Red Book back and forth. Do this more times or less, depending on the severity of the disagreement. Pick a page at random and skim it. Buy time. Something should strike your fancy. Start with the phrase "As Chairman Mao says...", then read that passage out loud and out of context. When you are done, pause for a moment and glare at them again. Now launch into some vaguely related reason why the passage is both applicable to your current housemate spat and an indication of their secret anti-worker, counter-revolutionary tendencies. When you have finished, pass them the LRB and continue to glare at them. Perhaps they'll attempt to find a passage to defend themselves. Likely, they'll simply try to mimic you. Don't fall for it. After all, if they weren't shackled by false class consciousness and their bourgeois upbringing, they wouldn't be so counter-revolutionary and would have thought of this game on their own. Continue trading back and forth with the passage references until the situation is diffused, or you're both badly drunk on whatevere booze is still in the house. Note that no actual knowledge of Maoism or the Cultural Revolution is necessary to play this game, and it's actually probably even better that you don't have any.
  • Bob

    I love your game! It totally fits my sense of humor (not to play it mind you but to read about - I'm too tied up in capitalism to really play it...)

    Chris Engle
  • I want to make a foldable, one-page booklet for Fortune Cookies and Nuclear War. Each person will have a booklet. One page will have their demands, with their secret requirements/concessions marked off. Another page will be where you can write down the other person's concessions, where you can mark off which you absolutely must refuse. That way you don't have to keep track of things in your head.

    And a page of the rules, of course.

    A page of notes during negotiations.

    A page to tape your fortune at the end, and a page to scribble your epilogue, if you want.
  • edited March 2011
    My Desire

    Inside a drawn circle write five things your character desires and outside write five thing your character fears. On your turn say what you want and how you're going to get it and add 1 Hard to Get point. The person on your left flips a coin: On heads, he tells you how some character at the table takes it from you and adds 1 to your Hard to Get score. On tails, he tells you how you actually can get it and adds a Hard to Get point. The person on your right flips a coin: On heads, he tells you which fear is in play. On tails, he tells you which character at the table can help you. On your next turn, flip a coin: On heads it gets harder to get, so repeat the first procedure. On tails, remove 1 Hard to Get point and say what you do with what the person on your right said to get closer to your desire. At 0 Hard to Get points you get it.
  • cycy
    edited March 2011
    It stretches the definition of a paragraph, and kind of expects you already know what you're doing Story-game wise. But I might was well post it, and kind of want to play it. I'm sure I've stolen most parts of ti from somewhere.

    This is a roleplaying game for 4-5 players. Everyone grab an index card and fold it in half so the short ends meet and it forms a tent. Write your character's name and occupation near the crease. Pass each card to the left 3 times. Write your character's relationship with, or a secret you know about that character, and any details you'd like. At least the characters between you and them will know this stuff too. Pass the cards to the right. Read the card, then repeat with this character, but now your relationship might be more secret. Pass the cards right and repeat again. Now, before passing the card back to its player, turn to the other side of the tent. Write that character's name. Now write what Fate will befall them during the game, based on their relationships and your whim. Write it big so everyone else can see, but make sure they don't peek. Pass the card to its owner. Set up the tent in front of you WITHOUT LOOKING AT YOUR FATE. Read the relationships and secrets on your card. Read the other character's Fates, and any roles you're expected to play in them. Every takes a turn describing their character and any public knowledge. Then every takes a turn setting a brief scene for the Acting character on their right. A scene ends when that character betrays or is betrayed, tells or is told a secret, or undertakes a conflict. The outcome of conflicts or betrayals are determined by consensus of the other players, with the player to the left of the Acting character (the one who knows all their secrets and wrote their Fate) resolving any disagreements. Continue taking turns setting scenes for player closest to your left who you've set the fewest scenes for. When a character meets their Fate, tell them and don't set scenes for them as an Acting character anymore (although their character might still appear in others scenes, if appropriate.) When everyone has met their Fate, the game ends.
  • Posted By: Mr. TeapotFortune Cookies and Nuclear War
    A true story about how the Cuban Missile Crisis was solved in a Chinese Restaurant
    That is awesome.
  • I'll play your game, Cy. (Not next week, though, that's shaping up to be Archipelago.)
    It needs a name, though! How about "Low Crunch High Trust Archipelago-Annalise Lovechild"
  • Posted By: OrangeDiceI want to make a foldable, one-page booklet for Fortune Cookies and Nuclear War.
    I can do that.
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