Burning for You

So, at Jiffycon, we did get to play Annalise, which was…well, I have nothing but good to say about this game. It’s rich and textured and I met a new friend and really why am I doing this when Elizabeth has me covered. The Mist-Robed Gate was a lot of fun too, and I learned a lot from the session. I’m diving back into the text now to make revisions based on my brilliant playtesters’ critiques. More on that later.

While at the Mike Doughty concert tonight, I wrote a miniature game, and I thought I’d share:

Carrying a Torch

an autobiographical roleplaying game

So, you remember the first person you really loved? The first person you really hurt or hated? The way it changed you? That’s what this game is about.

Carrying a Torch is a story about how your relationships can have really pervasive, intense effects on your psychology, even long after those relationships have changed or moved on.

To play, you need a group of people who are pretty close, and some writing instruments, a number of smallish moveable markers such as Parcheesi pawns, and character sheets. The character sheets are laid out to support at most six characters, but in principle there’s no reason not to play with more. Each player will have one character; you get to say what that character says and does.

Start by describing a close-knit group of people. Fill out the top part of your character sheet; write down the character’s name and something about him. Then, choose an archetype card for each of the other characters; don’t tell them which archetype you chose. In the bottom half of the archetype card, write the character’s name. This card indicates what that character means to your character; it’s a lens by which he looks at their interactions.

Take a look at an archetype card if you haven’t already; you’ll see that it has a name on top, a meter down the right side, and two halves labelled “Heal me” and “Hurt me.” The meter tells you how good you’re feeling about that character at the moment; it starts in the centre point, at equilibrium. When you interact with this character, if they do the thing in “Heal me,” it makes you feel good, and if they do the other thing, it makes you feel bad. It doesn’t so much matter what else they do. When an archetype card says, “me,” it means you, not the archetype. It represents what you say to the archetype.

So, when they heal you, first nudge the marker on their meter one notch upward. Now, if the marker’s in the top half of the meter, then move the big meter on your character sheet toward the good end as many spaces as the marker is distant from the center, and if it’s in the centre or in the bottom half, only move it one space. That is to say, if you’re in a pattern of healing interactions with that character, then they affect you more, and it has more influence on your holistic well-being.

That’s what the big meter is, by the way, and notice that I didn’t decide for you which end is the good end, so you’re going to have to make that decision and record it ASAP.

Now, when they hurt you, it works a similar way; nudge their meter down and read it like the heal meter, but reversed; if it’s in the good half, then it only takes you down a notch, but if it’s in the bad half then you can go down several notches.

Now you’ll see that your meter has some big Os on it, at the ±5 and ±10 marks as well as the dotted-O at equilibrium. If an interaction makes you cross just one of the fives, then your character does something big in his life. If it was +5, then it’s a thing that improves your life. If it’s –5, then it’s a decision that’s ultimately bad, but it looks fine for now. The next time someone hurts you, they’ll let you know why it wasn’t such a great idea.

That’s not the only thing that happens! You reset your meter to 0, and the character that caused this turn in your life turns over. You choose a new archetype to represent him, or you choose a different character and a different archetype to occupy that spot in your character sheet.

Finally, you imprint that archetype. Set the turned-over archetype card to the side; now all characters can heal or hurt you in that way, to the tune of their own relationship meters. If they’re a character that doesn’t have an archetype for you, then their meter always reads 0. If you have to decide whether a character’s healing or hurting you because an imprint and their archetype disagree, then follow their archetype.

If an interaction makes you cross two Os, which is to say that it goes from less-than-ten to ten or more, or makes you cross 0 and a 5, then all that stuff above happens, but you imprint asymmetrically. If you were healed, cross out the hurt on that card. If you were hurt, cross out the heal. Only the interaction that remains affects you.

You might run out of archetypes eventually. Maybe you should, like, stop playing.

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One thought on “Burning for You

  1. I gotta say, it took me a few readthroughs of a few sections (mostly imprinting) but I think you’ve got a real awesome game idea there. I hope to hear that you’ve run a few games and they went well.

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