Wednesday, September 14, 2011


This was going to be for Crosstoberfest (remember that?) last year, combining the Hollow Tooth Diaries and Workshop Tomorrow. I was going to wait until next month to publish it in Crosstoberfest Redux. Today, Friend Kris threw down the gauntlet, challenging me to write a one-page RPG, done by tonight. I'd been musing on this one for almost a year, so I figured I may as well put it down on e-paper.

With that, I present to you, Internville.

Conceit: Maybe someday you'll be a great RPG hero. Right now, you're learning.
Set-up: This is an RPG in the traditional mold, with a group of players controlling one main character ('Intern') each and one player (the 'Boss') controlling the environment, the supporting cast, and the challenges the Interns face. Interns are aspiring RPG heroes on their way to first level. Not all of them will make it.
Setting: Decide on a 'stock' RPG setting as a group before building Interns. Some examples: Tolkien-esque high fantasy, Howard-esque swords-and-sorcery, cyberpunk, space opera, supernatural mystery/horror, swashbuckling adventure, spy thriller, etc.
Intern Creation: Write down your Intern's name on a piece of paper. Create a space on the sheet labelled “Passion,” a space labelled “Talent,” a big space labelled “Training”, and a big space labelled “Weaknesses”. Leave the spaces blank. The player to your left (skipping the Boss) secretly decides what your character's Passion is. If he's likely to forget, he should write it down on a hidden piece of paper. That player tells you the first letter of your Passion. Write it down in the space on your Intern sheet. The player to your right does the same for your Talent. For extra fun times, make the Talent share the same first letter as the Passion. Passions and Talents should be things an RPG character in the chosen genre might enjoy doing or be good at, respectively.
Doing Things: Your Intern does the things you say they do. If the Boss thinks a thing you want to do might not work, it becomes a Job. To do a Job, declare what you are trying to do to succeed (within the scope of potential abilities a character in your genre might possess), then roll a six-sided die.
  • On a 7 or better, you are successful at the Job. Nice work!
  • If you roll 2 or less, you fail but learn something. Write down the thing you tried to do in the “Training” section of your Intern sheet and put a tick beside it. Add a tick if it's already there.
  • If you roll exactly 3, you Fail Extra Hard. Choose one penalty:
    • Erase a tick from the Training you used. If the relevant Training has no ticks, erase it from Training and write it in Weaknesses. You cannot attempt to accomplish Jobs with an established Weakness.
    • Record a Strike on your Intern sheet. If you have two Strikes and Fail Extra Hard, you must take a third. If you have three Strikes, your Intern can't cut it in the fast-paced world of professional heroism. You're out of the game.
When you try a Job, you get a few modifiers. If the Job corresponds to your Training, add 1 to the roll for every tick next to the relevant Training. If the Job corresponds to your Passion, the player who knows your Passion reveals it, and you may adjust your roll by 1 (up or down) after rolling. If the Job corresponds to your Talent, the player who knows your Talent reveals it, and you get +2 to the roll. Once revealed, Talents and Passions apply to all future relevant rolls. If the Job is unusually difficult or important, the Boss may impose a penalty as well.
Rewards and Advancement: None.
Being the Boss: Provide a 'stock' adventure and encounters for your chosen genre. If the Interns can't handle tavern brawls, princess rescues, and dragon slayings, they'll never be able to take on more complex storylines.
When the Interns encounter a challenge as a group, ask for reactions and resolve Jobs one at a time around the table until the challenge is overcome or avoided. Cycle which Intern goes first from encounter to encounter, or let whoever talks first take the first action. They may regret it.
Make Interns roll for everything even slightly difficult in order to emphasize the Interns' aimlessness and incompetence. Supporting characters can reinforce this theme. Minor characters (shopkeepers, quest-givers, etc.) should encourage (explicitly or implicitly) the Interns to give up trying to be main characters and settle down as NPCs. Non-player heroes should at once inspire contempt and envy. For a (fairly predictable) twist, put the NPC heroes out of commission, and have the Interns be the only people in a position to Save the Day.
The tone of Internville can be one of absurd misadventure, slapstick, dark comedy, poignant coming-of-age growth, or unlikely heroism. Which tone is dominant depends on when the Boss calls for rolls and how the Boss narrates Strikes. To make the game more dangerous, whether for seriousness or slapstick, remove Weaknesses, giving players Strikes on every Extra Hard Failure and/or make Extra Hard Failures more likely. In such games, you might want to have players make replacement Interns to wait in the wings. To make the game more about learning and growth, you can remove Strikes entirely.

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