Verbal only story game

edited June 2008 in Story Games
I'm going on a holiday with the family to the continent on Monday - we'll have to drive from Amsterdam to Odense, Denmark, and back. I seem to remember someone a while back (was it Jason?) who were talking about games to play while driving a car.

Does it exist? A "Story Now" game to be played with no written materials to look at, and where the participants are hindered by sitting, well, like you are sitting in a car. Everything obviously has to be verbal, but strange mechanics like letting the radio search randomly for a station to determine outcomes is not a problem.

I should perhaps mention that the "kids" are 15 and 19, and both well versed in TV, films and books. If Dirty Secrets could be played like this, it would be IDEAL.

Suggestions are much appreciated.


  • What do you think of Polaris? That sounds fairly close to what you want. You could hack it so you didn't need a character sheet.

  • Man, between driving on the other side of the road, keeping an eye on the crazy Dutch drivers and being immersed in some creative narration, please be careful :)
  • There are obviously security issues, Franck - perhaps the driver could be the one not playing and just concentrating on the road :)

    Polaris, yes, love it, the verbal conflict rules are truly great - maybe a hack only using only the conflict resolution system could work. So, no experience, traits etc. Maybe fewer conflict phrases, and perhaps no cost for invoking them?
  • My Game Chef game from this year is basically entirely verbal. There are no numbers involved in conflict resolution, and players only need to keep track of a few points about their character (their goal, the criteria for switching in and out of play, whether they are in play or not, and their magical keyword). The game requires exactly six players, but that would fit with a car trip pretty well. Maybe not your car trip specifically, though.
  • I've written a game or two along these lines, but they're not really appropriate to play with your kids.
  • Good examples - another one I came across is Matthijs's Archipelago, which is possibly the closest yet - it's got conflict phrases (or whatever you want to call them) boiled down to only two, and the veto rule from Dirty Secrets. But it's still got a map and includes writing down stufff as well.

    Hm, maybe this is something to mull over during my holiday - a meme game: only what gets remembered by the participants stays in the shared imaginary space. Then you can play it in darkness or low light as well :)
  • (You could play Archipelago without writing stuff down, and without using a physical map, if you use a familiar setting - especially since your kids are big enough to keep stuff in their heads.)
  • Monday?

    If I write a "Polaris Lite" for you, will you use it?

  • I think I've played InSpectres with no dice. I've certainly played it with no character sheets. We simply picked our specialty (sandwich making, theatre geek [includes lots of tech], computer nerd, ex-cop, etc.) and then our actions had greater effect when we were using our specialty (sandwich-making is excellent for calming people down or getting them to talk). It worked out quite nicely.

  • With one exception, A Penny For My Thoughts uses no written material (and that part is easily dealt with by other people in the car). Would you like me to send you a draft?
  • I could see Universalis working in a car, with a "secretary" (i.e. someone to tick off Coin use from a record sheet--not real coins--and to note Facts). The secretary role could rotate--you only have one driver, but three riders, no? After that, you'd only need some kind of die roller (JAVA phone app, pocket die roller, actual dice in a clear box).

    Then again, that's a lot more handling than "only verbal." But none of it is particularly precluded by being seated or in a moving vehicle (as long as all secretaries can read somewhat-shaky writing).

    You know what? Nah... never mind. :)
  • I made a game back in the late eigthies called "Norwegian Automobile Vacation" (RPG NAV). The setting of the game is a car, in which a family of four strive to achieve their individual goals, allying and alienating eachother at need. It played out very well.

    Although the game itself is not suitable for gameplay in an actual car, I believe a game about family-craze on car-vacation may be a setting that lends itself to your trip. If you all strive to play out charicatures of yourselves, in a competitive gameplay where conflicts are ruled by the colours of meeting cars (or their number-plates), you may find yourselves amused by the closeness between your fiction and the real world.

    A game like that should be farily simple to set up.

    Have a nice trip!
  • The design-challenge itself is interesting: to make games that play in more restricted environments: a car, the bus, an airplane, a noisy cafe, a tent in the woods, etc.

    Maybe this could be a basis for a new design-challenge?
  • How funny. Very similar conversation, very recently, very here, with an almost totally non-overlapping set of contributors.

    As we didn't end up playing I'm afraid I can't give any truly informed advice... but it's clear that this is an under-explored domain for story-game play...
  • one game I used to play on road trips was a version of 20 questions, but we would ask questions of each other about something we see-- usually someone in a car next to us. So I'd start by asking "what's his name?" and my brother would make up a name that "fit" him, then add his own question "what does he do?" and I'd give him an occupation. No big rules, and no 'winner,' of sorts, but it was a fun diversion!

    There was also "Man or Not a Man." We'd pick out a car ahead of us in traffic and declare if it was a man or not a man. We'd soon pass the car and find out. Well, *sometimes* we'd find out. The funnier ones ended in a draw.
  • I think some of the role-playing poems would work well as verbal-only. You could certainly eschew the note cards for 'The Believers'. And they are designed to be played in 15 minutes, so you could try several of them!
  • Death Stakes. I've played it in the car many a time.

    One person is the GM. He frames an action or fight scene that everyone is familiar with - for nerds, the Fellowship facing the orc attack in Moria is good, so is the Rebel attack on the Death Star. The GM narrates the beginning of the scene, and the players either choose characters already in it or make up characters, if they want. Then the GM says "so, how does someone die?"

    The players narrate awesome dramatic deaths.

    Then the GM says "Aaaaactually...." and describes how, at the last moment, the character is saved from their death. He uses this narration to reframe the scene a little bit (introducing new antagonists or environmental hazards is always good), then repeats "So, how does someone die?"

    And so on.

    You play until either the players narrate a death so awesome that the GM can't, in good conscience, deny them their death, or until the players get so pissed off at the GM that they threaten physical violence.

    Link to original
  • Death Stakes is really fun.
Sign In or Register to comment.