How much information is enough?

9 September, 2011

I am working on a small project, which is a short story convention scenario for Fastaval 2012. It’s a story game version of Chris Kubasik’s “Booth at the End” TV series, if you like, but that’s not what this post is about. It’s about how little information you can give your players. The scenario is for four players and a facilitator, and has to be played in two hours or less, so I don’t want to waste a single second on participants reading through game materials. I want the game to be able to start, BAM!

My current draft has a 100 word character description, and 320 words of how to play the scenario. There’s no character sheet. This means that it all will fit two comic book-sized pages with enough room for players’ own notes as well. That’s all. I won’t give you a character example, but here’s the “How to play” text that is the same for all the players. Now, imagine you are sitting down with four other people and only has to read this before playing. Will you say it’s enough?

How to play
The scenario is made up of scenes where your player character is talking to a man in a cafe. The man is roleplayed by the scenario’s facilitator.

The first scene is special, because you get to tell the man what your character’s desire is, and he will give you a task to complete if you want your desire to become reality. The scenario is all about what you are willing to do to obtain a goal, so do play along.

In all subsequent scenes, the man will ask you what you did to perform you allocated task since you last met. And you will roleplay what happened before, based on what the man asks you. Sometimes your character might get dragged into the story of one of the other characters, and you will have to roleplay in their scenes as well. Play along with that as well.

When your character does something in a scene that’s uncertain, dangerous, dramatic, you get to roll two dice to see how it goes. You have three cards that give you a bonus to a roll, which you can use, even after the roll, if you describe how what’s on the card influences the situation. When you have used a card, it’s gone forever.
Add the total of the dice, plus the card if you are using one:
6 or under: Suck! You blow it – the facilitator will tell you how bad it is, and you won’t like it.
7-9: You do it, but there are complications – the facilitator may offer you a tough choice.
10+: You do it, no problem.

You don’t know what will happen or what has happened – play to find out.
Always tell what your character is DOING, not thinking. When you DO, ROLL the dice.
Make stuff up. Go with the flow.
Don’t be a dick.


  1. I think this is almost enough for me to play my character.

    The second paragraph seems like could benefit from a bit more emphasis on how your desire should be a driving force in your life, something you truly have to achieve . However, that could be covered by the 100-word character summary.

    The phrase, “[Y]ou will roleplay what happened before, based on what the man asks you,” is a little unclear. Are you saying that I (in character) tell the man in the booth what happened, or that we do a little flashback scene to illustrate what happened?

    I’ve been wanting to see Chris’ webseries for ages, so this project intrigues me. Once you’ve got it up and running, let me know – I might be able to take it for a run at Kapcon.

  2. Thanks, Steve, that’s very helpful. And yes, the desire is covered in the short character description, this is just “how to play”.

    You’re right about the phrase you mention – it’s not precise. The “what happened” scenes are exactly played-out flashbacks, so I need to say that.

    I’m hoping to have a play-testable text-only version ready shortly.

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