2017 200 Word RPG Challenge

The 2017 200 Word RPG Challenge has come and gone. I've been a little busy, so I haven't had time to jot my thoughts down about participating until now. If you aren't aware of the contest, you can read about it, and all the entries here: https://200wordrpg.github.io.

As you might have noticed on the site, there was almost 700 entries this year. No, I haven't read them all, comparatively few in fact, but I do encourage folks to take a gander. There's a lot of creativity crammed into those tiny packages.

200 words is not a lot, but frankly its good editing practice. Many of the entries I read were posted on G+ during the contest. Of course whenever someone made such a post there was some renewed concern of "did they use the same idea that I did?" No one did, for me at least, but some users complained that this was crowd-sourcing an entry. I saw it as people looking for feedback the same as anyone who posts their game or ideas on any of the G+ groups. Plus it was an opportunity for other users to practice their own editing skills by trying to help folks recover a few more words, and that's kinda what the contest was all about.

The most memorable entry from those I read on G+ was Stones. Its a game about cavemen written like it was spoken by Hollywood cavemen. It definitely showcased how you can convey a game's setting by using the right voice; though, that same voice could also force someone to have to reread a couple of parts to fully understand it. A good lesson and fun read.

As for my entries, I ran with one safe entry and one experimental one, which is to say one solid but ultimately eh entry and one water soaked awesome one (opinions may vary). 

The safe entry was Meddling Kids (originally named Junior Detectives). I wanted to use a simplified version of Krendel's core mechanic. Then it was just a matter of how to wrap that up. My kids here like detective stuff, and my host family has made me watch copious Scooby-Doo. So it was kind of a natural fit. Where I consider it a solid entry (especially for only 200 words) and something I'd certainly play given the right circumstances, I also didn't see it as anything special. 

The experimental entry was, frankly, my reason for entering the contest this year. Trapped in Deep 7 came about when I was preparing METS camp last summer. One of the activities was about chemical reactions and rockets, Alka-Seltzer rockets. I wanted kids to play with variables like temperature and amount of water to see how that might affect how long it took for one of the rockets to blast off. At some point I thought, "what a wonderful timing mechanic; how can I use this in a game?"

Yup, this entire entry was all just an exercise in finding a way to combine science with gaming.

Yup, this entire entry was all just an exercise in finding a way to combine science with gaming.

Something underwater that was about to implode was a perfect natural fit for the mechanic, and the canister to the noggin mechanic was there from the beginning (man I yelled at those kids to put their eye protection on a lot). The idea sat in a notepad file, but every time I noodled on it I couldn't figure out a good way to chain the timing together with narration as people competed to get to escape pods. It needed to count down to something, and if your goal is narration, well, people will always find a way to make shorter and shorter narration to get away with it, which, for better or worse, eh. At some point I hit upon the idea of a jigsaw puzzle. That wasn't very RP like, which is where all the specific roles came into play. Suddenly the game was framed like an episode of Sealab 2021 where everyone was limited to only one type of activity as Captain Murphy barked orders at them all, and that was perfect. I'm happy with the results, and if I run another larp game, I'll totally have to contrive a reason to put the PCs in an underwater escapade just so I can run this.

I already have another "experimental" mechanic on the board for next year, and certainly look forward to the excuse to write something up with it.