A game for two players. One plays CAIN, the other ABEL. You're siblings, but your names, genders, and other details are open-ended. ABEL, describe your world. CAIN, this world is changing. How? ABEL has narrative authority over "the old." CAIN, over "the new." ABEL defines what is evil and reviles it. CAIN defines what is good but struggles to do it. You were taught these by THE FATHER, the giver of life. ABEL, who or what is THE FATHER? CAIN, why do you respect THE FATHER? Co-narrate and roleplay the following scenes. Interpret these prompts freely. Your areas of authority decide who plays NPCs, makes judgment calls, etc. I. ABEL's in trouble. CAIN helps. II. CAIN sins against THE FATHER. ABEL intercedes for CAIN. III. CAIN and ABEL each sacrifice for the sake of THE FATHER. IV. THE FATHER accepts ABEL's sacrifice but rejects CAIN's. V. CAIN becomes incensed with ABEL. ABEL only makes things worse. VI. CAIN murders ABEL. ABEL, your blood cries out. What does this mean? CAIN, how is your punishment greater than you can bear? ABEL, CAIN will live, for if CAIN is killed, they will be avenged sevenfold. What is CAIN's legacy?
When I mentioned to my business partner Adam “Doc” Brackin that I was trying to decide what to do for this year’s challenge, he “threw down a gauntlet.” He wanted to see a game that somehow played with the idea of brotherhood. Later, when reviewing the contest guidelines, I started to brainstorm based on the idea of telling a familiar story from a different perspective.
My mind turned immediately to mythology. I also knew I wanted to experiment with making a two-player game, and so the story of Cain and Abel came to mind. It’s a morbid take on “brotherhood,” admittedly, but I was intrigued by the idea of knowing what happens in the end and finding out through play how the characters could get there. The original myth is, after all, a bit vague and open to interpretation. Even in my research, I was surprised to find the version of the story I remembered included details that were actually based on one of the more common takes, not based strictly on the text itself.
Incidentally, that research also turned me on to a theory that the story is part of a narrative recounting humanity’s movement away from hunter-gatherer societies and toward agriculture, which is reflected in Abel’s being a herdsman (the old) and Cain being a farmer (the new). I wanted to capture the idea that the world is changing in whatever backdrop the players might choose.
I’d like to give a nod to Alex Roberts’s Star Crossed, which informed a few of my approaches. For example, the roles of “lead” and “follow” inspired the roles of “Cain” and “Abel,” and the way Star Crossed handles scenes led to the story beats I included in this game.