Harry Potter and the Convoluted Fanfiction

Status

Wrote 20 cards (out of 120 or so). Should have a playable prototype in a month at this rate.

The Pitch

A Once Upon A Time/Aye, Dark Overlord-like storytelling game with Harry Potter fanfics as its theme. Cards with all the tropes we know and love: “the real chosen one”, “muggle with a shotgun”, “storyteller’s self-insert”, “time travel”, “Twilight crossover”, “male pregnancy”… Players interrupt each other with crazy plot points to try to drive a very confused story towards their Ending card (“…and Harry and Voldemort were a family again”).

A few cards have (NSFW) adult elements, but they’re easy to remove if you need the game to be family-friendly.

How other games do it

The difficulty here is to craft a useful “talking stick” rule. Once Upon A Time‘s rule is quite elegant:

The first storyteller starts to tell a story. Whenever she mentions an element on one of her cards she places that card face up on the table. If the storyteller mentions something in her story that is an element on one of the other players’ cards, then that player can interrupt her and take over the story. (There are also some special cards that allow players to interrupt the storyteller at other times.)

But as much as I want to use it, it doesn’t work in this game. The story cards are too specific and weird. Nobody’s going to accidentally add male pregnancy to their story, unless they’ve been reading unhealthy amounts of HP fanfics.

Aye, Dark Overlord‘s rule is much less elegant (see bonus section), and it doesn’t fit very well in that the player’s goal in that game is to throw away the talking stick as fast as they can. There’s one good idea to be pilfered though: the interruption rule. When the storyteller plays a Story card, another player can use a special action card to replace that Story card with another one. The storyteller must adapt to this change on the fly, else they lose a life (and pass the talking stick).

“But we couldn’t kidnap the princess because she was guarded by a huge dragon!” *plays the Dragon story card*

“It wasn’t a dragon! It was just a cute furry bunny!” *plays an interrupt card and the Cute Furry Bunny story card*

“Oh right, but, uh, we couldn’t get past the bunny because, err…”

This is consistently hilarious, and fits the tone of the Fanfiction game very well.

The rules

I wonder if it’s possible to craft an entire game around that feeling of surprise and desperation you get with Aye, Dark Overlord‘s interruptions.

  • Players start the game with a hand of 1 Ending card and 3 Story cards. The first storyteller is chosen at random.
  • Each player other than the storyteller plays 2 face-down Story cards. They’re mixed together and placed in a line.
  • The storyteller turns the first Story card face-up. They then begin their fanfiction by using that story element for a few sentences. If they manage it, they pick up the Story card; it’s +1 to their score.
  • Then they turn over the next Story card, continue their fanfiction using that new story element (if they can) and pick up that Story card too.
  • Two things can end their streak: picking up their 5th Story card in a row, or being too confused to carry on. To quote Once Upon A Time again:

If the storyteller pauses in her story for more than five seconds, [..] if the storyteller starts to ramble; stops making sense; tries to make something happen which is foolish or which contradicts something that has gone before; then her turn ends. [..] If it is not immediately obvious when this has happened, you should decide by a show of hands. We find that in practice, most groups shout “No! Silly!” at the top of their voices.

  • The next player in clockwise order becomes the new storyteller. If there’s a face-up Story card (because the previous storyteller failed), the new storyteller can choose to discard it. Everyone else draws cards to form a new hand of 3 and plays other face-down Story cards to lengthen the line. The new storyteller then turns over the next Story card and continues the fanfiction.
  • When a player has picked up a total of 12 Story cards, they unlock their Ending card. Any time they’re storytelling and would turn a new Story card face-up, they can now choose to play their Ending card instead, if that ending makes sense given the story so far. The first player to do this wins the game.

Tone cards

For added challenge and hilarity, I’m considering adding another type of cards to the game, to be shuffled with the Story cards. The deck would have something like 1 Tone card per 3 Story cards. Tone cards can be placed face-down on top of a Story card that isn’t one of your own, with no more than one Tone card per Story card. They don’t earn the storyteller any points; they just make their job harder. A Tone card doesn’t add plot elements, but changes the way this bit of the story must be told.

  • Dialogue! This chapter must be told entirely through “he said – she said” conversation.
  • Purple prose! The storyteller must eschewing quotidian sentences for elaborate concatenation of phrases and clauses.
  • Grimdark! Everything is awful, it’s raining all the time, and everyone is sad or dead or both.

Appearance

I want every card to have a piece of HP fan-art, and flavour text that’s a quote from a real HP fanfiction. That’s time-consuming though, especially if one bothers to ask for permission. If this game works out, I may ask the HP fandom to help me out.

Bonus section: Why Aye, Dark Overlord is unnecessarily complex and how to fix it

Action cards. Why do they even exist? You draw one at the beginning of your turn if you’ve been targeted by a Pass the Buck card, which is a completely different rule than that of the Hint cards and constantly trips up newbies. And they randomly force you to lose a life if you happen to draw 3 Freeze cards in a row. If you’re experienced enough, you notice this at the beginning of your turn, but there’s nothing worse than a newbie who tells an awesome story before realizing at the very end that it’s all for naught.

I imagine they were Tim Uren’s first idea to stop people from constantly interrupting each other. But you already have two mechanics that discourages this: a limited number of Hints cards, and a fair but impatient Dark Overlord.

New rule: Action cards don’t exist. You can always Pass the Buck. You can interrupt if you have 3 Hints cards in your hand. The Dark Overlord is angered by excessive interruptions.

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