Notes: I originally intended this to be a short story about zombies, but as I began adapting it into a game, I saw the potential for some creative storytelling on the part of the players and made it a general survival horror theme with an improvised plot line.
"They said it was the 'Ship of Dreams' " Donatella Fulci said in her thick Italian accent, staring blankly out the window of the hotel room.
I was a rookie reporter, desperate for my big break. Even if it meant listening to a crazy old lady, I was going to find a story worth telling.
"...but for the last Forty-Nine years, it has brought me nothing but nightmares. You say you want the story of a century, eh? Well, this one is, as you Americans like to say...a doozy. Before boarding Titanic, my partner and I were given intelligence suggesting that someone was developing a weapon, and it was hidden somewhere on the ship. Our mission was simple; find the weapon, and steal it. My partner's mistake, however, unleashed an unimaginable horror upon us all..."
Players: 3 - 6
Background: Each player plays a spy from a different country aboard the RMS Titanic. All spies have been informed that there is a mysterious weapon on board, and they must find it. Unfortunately, it's now the morning of April 14th, 1912; the weapon has not been found yet, and unbeknownst to everyone, the ship is heading straight for an iceberg. Yay!
Act One: The Search - Phase one of the game is a Clue-like deduction game where players try to deduce which of the locations on the ship is hiding the mysterious weapon, and which country is the culprit. The twist, however, is that it is also a race against time. If the weapon is not found in a predetermined number of turns, history takes it's normal turn of events; the ship hits the iceberg and a "normal" Act Three commences.
Act Two: The Decision - If a player discovers the location of the weapon , it ends up in their possession. At this point, they get to determine what exactly the weapon is and does. They can do this by drawing a 'Weapon' card at random (weapons could be anything from a Zombie Virus to an atomic bomb prototype to an archaic tome that grants the reader god-like powers), or just getting creative and coming up with their own Idea (i.e. "The weapon opens a portal to another dimension, causing a soul devouring demon to come forth and slay anyone in it's path."). It can be anything from the horrifying to the hilarious. Then they get to decide what to do with it. Will they turn evil, and release the weapon upon the unsuspecting passengers and crew? Will they try to escape via lifeboat with the weapon? Will they trip over their own shoe laces and accidentally drop the vial of zombie gas? What happens next is up to them.
Act Three: The Escape - The players now try to escape the ship and any unspeakable horrors that may have been set loose. If the winner of Act 1 chose a pre-written weapon scenario, the scenario card will have rules as to how the players are affected. (Example: The Zombie Gas Vial might say something like "The winner of act 1 gets to place 3 zombie tokens anywhere on the board. Each of the losing players get to place one zombie token anywhere on the board. Each player may move one zombie: one space per turn. Zombies bite anyone in the adjacent space, and turn them into a controllable zombie." ) If the player make's their own scenario, it becomes a "(insert player idea here) chases you down and kills you..." scenario, unless the players can unanimously agree on basic rules for the weapon. The players try to get their spy to lifeboats on the perimeter of the game board and, as history would have it, there are not enough for everyone. If the ship begins sinking (if the weapon is not found, for instance), parts of the game board become impassible, starting with the bow and heading aft. Players caught up in the flooding are eliminated. As the flooding passes each lifeboat station, it no longer becomes useable.
The End: The game ends when all spies have either died or escaped the ship.
Additional possibilities: Each player could have cards they can use at opportune moments (perhaps picking them up in Act One) that can hinder other players, complete with cheesy flavor text. Example 1: Lifeboat Accident (played on a player that has entered a lifeboat) - "Congratulations: You Successfully made it to a lifeboat! However, the crew begins lowering another lifeboat on top of the one you're in. Roll a die. On a 1-3, the lifeboat crushes you and the other passengers. On a 4-6, you exit the lifeboat just in time, but you're back on board."
Example 2: Detonation - "You've had enough. It's time to create your own luck, with explosive results! You've planted a bomb by the ship's hull. Choose Bow, Stern, Port, or Starboard. Your bomb detonates here, beginning flooding that spreads towards the opposite end of the board"
Sounds really interesting!
Question: how about to rule "players' ideas" will you set a list of "effects" or something like that? for example, for the weapon maybe the winner of act 1 (or someone else) can choose from a list ("chasing monsters", "killer fog", "horrible epidemic" and so on). So, in addition to flavour, the player has a significant choice in terms of gameplay.
If you limited the choices for the weapon's effect to a short, very concrete list, players could spend Act I preparing for the effect they think most likely. Personally I wouldn't impose a time limit, but make it inevitable one player or another will find the weapon and thus gain the benefit of having hedged their bets effectively.
In either the original or this modified form, I don't see a point to separating Act II and Act III. Once the effect happens, the rest of the game is dealing with it. Simple.
Sounds like imma have some clue and forbidden island fun mixed in with an apocalypse of my choosing!
I like the idea of the game very much. Though i do not fully understand the rules, specially about the weapon of choice (hey cool name), what if I choose it to be a book that grants me god like powers, I win? or is it like dungeon Run, where i have to get the heck out and kill every one?
Will there be weapons? Will the spies have statistics or player cards? how will the mechanics of act I work. How will combat work if I choose the weapon to be a zombie infestation?
I am almost imagining the art, as very comical. XD
I think you're right. If people are going to be making up the weapon's properties on the spot, it would probably be better to add some limitations. If people like the game, they can make their own 'Weapon' cards with more complex rules and share them with others for their input before adding them to the mix.
Of course, the timed component could always be an alternate game mode, instead of the default.
Excellent point. Thanks!
I'll be posting a rulebook as the game gets more fleshed out, but the basic idea is that players move around the board and enter locations to collect and/or exchange cards from their hand. These cards can represent a location (the location of the weapon is not in the common deck), a card to play against another player (such as to force them to reveal a location card in their hand, or skip their turn), or maybe a useful object (Fire axe anyone?).
As the game progresses, the player keeps track of the locations they have, as well as locations revealed by other players, to try and deduce the location of the weapon. On their turn, they can make a guess, but they only get one guess. An incorrect guess puts them out of the game until Act 2 starts. The player that makes the first correct guess gains control of the weapon, and Act 2 commences. Also, if the weapon is not found by the end of the 12th round, Act 2 commences without the weapon.
At the commencement of Act 2, the players discard any cards that can only be used in Act one (they will be marked), and keep the ones that can be used in Act 2. This is their hand for the entire second Act. This adds another layer to strategy. A player can focus on building a hand that will help them gain control of the weapon (the weapon will usually give the wielder a slight advantage), or one that will help ensure they survive Act 2. The goal of Act 2 is simple. Get to a lifeboat, and thwart the other spies. There will be fewer lifeboats than spies (with some leaving as the ship sinks), leaving the ones left behind to the mercy of the North Atlantic.
As far as stats, at this point all spies start out the game being equal.
I like the sound of the game so far, but I have one question. Reading the above sentence would it be possible for me to simply spend Act 1 moving myself as close as I can get to the lifeboats, maybe even right next to one? Then all I need to do is wait for Act 2 to start and I'm standing right next to a lifeboat.
That sounds ok in theory, but the vibe I'm getting is that doing so would just make it easy for your opponents to keep a hold of a "Lifeboat full" card or similar, so that just as you're about to jump in they can play it, or use the weapon to manifest Cthulu in the lifeboat, or something else, and you're stuck having to trek all the way across the ship to the next nearest free one.