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The Crucible Consumes • 2018 rpg

Jason Davey • https://twitter.com/straybasilisk

A three-player game.

You stand at the threshold.
You prepared for this, but cannot predict all that lies ahead.

Player1: What looms before you? (A warlock's tower / A cold steel arcology / An impenetrable fortress)
Player2: What must you do here? (Rescue them / Procure the artefact / Raze the inner sanctum)
Player3: Why are you prepared to die here today?

This is the point of no return.

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Setup
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Place a d4 ("the CLOCK") in the center, showing 3.
Each player gets 3 tokens.

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On your turn
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Narrate until a challenge/obstacle is encountered.

The player to your left ("L") describes our hero's approach.

The player to your right ("R") expends tokens to decide the outcome:
- Burn two: Success
- Burn one: Marginal success
- Burn none: Failure
- Gain one: Bitter failure

You narrate the result:
- Failure:
    - Sinking deeper...
    - The CLOCK ticks down. Drops below 1? **Game over!**  You: Describe how our hero is consumed.
                                                             R: What is their final thought?
                                                             L: Who will remember them?
- Success:
    - Hope glimmers...
    - The CLOCK ticks up (capped at 4)
- Marginal success / bitter failure:
    - As above, plus state a complicating or escalating TWIST

Now, it's the player to your left's turn. They must integrate any TWIST into their narration.

Author Comments

The main idea is to encourage the players to willingly engage with the inevitable mixture of failure that’s baked into the system, taking on a more directorial / story-teller kind of role, creating a journey filled with ups-and-downs as opposed to a meteoric rise to success.

I think it’s interesting to explore different ideas of what players in a game should actually be making choices about - here, the focus is on deciding if (and to what extend) a character’s approach works, rather then on what the action itself should be. The die/token economy enforces some kind of dramatic pacing. It’s up to the players to decide when/if the hero is victorious, or if failure is ultimately inevitable.

Based on mechanics alone (stripping away the thematic prompts), it tends to end up in a bit of a farce or comedy of errors, and works especially well for things like a heist or fairytale quest, which are structured as a straightforward “gauntlet” of obstacles. I’ve attempted to create a different atmosphere with the fluff/flavour here.

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