Monthly Archives: February 2013

The King’s Musketeers

Last weekend Mo and I attended The King’s Musketeers, a weekend long game set in the swashbuckling world of Cardinal Richelieu and Queen Anne, of D’Artagnan and the Three Musketeers, of the Duke of Buckingham, Rene Descartes, and Cyrano de Bergerac. I was Count-Duke Olivares and ruled Spain and Mo was Count de Soubise, a scheming rebel hero.

Steve and Mo at The King's Musketeers
Steve (left) and Mo (right() at The King’s Musketeers

The King’s Musketeers is played very much like our murder mystery games – but much, much bigger:

  • The game lasted all weekend, from 8pm on Friday night through to lunchtime on Sunday. The game was broken into five periods each of four hours  (that works out at about 20 hours of game time). Game stopped at midnight each night, which meant it was time to retire to the bar and catch up with old friends. “Time in” was generally about 9.30 each morning, giving scant time to eat and sleep.
  • The game had over 80 players and six “directors” (what we would call hosts).
  • Character sheets could be many pages long – mine was about 7 pages long with many, many objectives and goals.
  • The rules were even longer, and covered duelling, romance, politics, scandal and more. I was particularly involved in the battle rules, which involved moving armies across Europe and into the New World to conquer and defend territories. I didn’t get into any duels, unlike Mo.
  • Each character had various abilities which were broken down into combat abilities (that covered duelling), romance abilities (for when you lost your heart to another) and general abilities covering a range of uses. The abilities tended to be a bit more powerful than the ones we use in our games, and can potentially have a big impact. (For example, I had one that let me break the rules!)
  • The King’s Musketeers was held in the West Retford Hotel, pretty much in the middle of England. With over 80 players and taking place over a weekend, it’s not something that you can really host in your home.

Although there were murders in The King’s Musketeers (several!) it’s not really billed as a murder mystery game. Instead, it’s a kind of “LARP”, which stands for “live action role play” which spun out of the roleplaying games hobby (such as Dungeons & Dragons). In the UK and Australia this kind of LARP is known as a “freeform”, while in the USA they are better known as “theatre style larps”. Whatever you call them, the emphasis is on playing the character in whatever the setting may be – and a murder is optional. At Freeform Games we take some elements of freeforms/theatre style larps and turn them into murder mystery games.

Anyway, both Mo and I had a wonderful time playing our characters – although because the game was so big and we were involved in very different plots, we barely spoke to each other at all.

By some measures we might not appear to have had a good game – by the end Spain had barely half the power that it started with and Mo’s character died on the Sunday. But we don’t judge the game on whether we succeeded in our goals or whether we survived, we judge these games on whether we had a good time or not – and we both had a great time and are looking forward to the next one!

Clarifying “Information”

We’ve had a couple of questions about “Information” lately, in particular what do we mean when an ability says something like “After talking briefly with another player, you realize that they revealed more than they intended. They must show you their Information.”

Of course it’s obvious to us – but that doesn’t mean it’s obvious to everyone.

So to be clear, when we say “Information” we mean the small nugget of information on page 6 of the character booklet (or on that character’s information card on our older games).

However, with our new game (Lord and Lady Westing’s Will) we’re going to try using the word “Clue” instead. If that’s successful, then we’ll slowly move our old games over to the new terminology.

(That means that the ability will say: “After talking briefly with another player, you realize that they revealed more than they intended. They must show you their Clue.”)

As for what Information/Clues actually are, they’re really just a clue to a plot. It’s something that the character knows that, in game terms, we’d like to see deliberately circulated around the game. (Sometimes they pertain directly to the murder, often they don’t. And sometimes they are red herrings. We’ve made that clearer in the new game.)

We created the Information/Clue mechanic because our experience is that some players like to hoard information. This can cause problems because for our games to work best, the players need to share information. That way when a player learns a key piece of information that they need for one of their character’s goals, they can act on it. If everyone hoards their information then plots can fail and our games aren’t as much fun as they should be.

We have found that the more you play our games the more likely you are to share information, so the Information/Clue mechanic becomes less critical the more experienced your group is.

Rewarding great play

Here’s an idea that you may wish to include in your game. (Note that if you’ve not played our games before, we suggest that you stick with the basic rules – but if you’re an old hand, go crazy!)

Here's a poker chip from us for "best beard" if nothing else!
Here’s a poker chip from us for “best beard” if nothing else!

Rewarding great play: You can reward great play when you see it. Simply keep some poker chips with you when you are the Host. When you see someone doing something really cool (which might be over-acting, good roleplaying, a fine costume – or anything else that you think is worth rewarding), then give that person a poker chip.

That player can then use that poker chip as an ability use for any of their abilities.

Remember to brief this out to everyone at the start of the party – otherwise your players won’t know what the poker chips are for!

Be generous!

Arrests in Way out West

In Way out West the Sheriff and Deputy can (via an ability) arrest other characters. There are various ways in which someone can escape arrest, one of which is that the restrained player gets outside help.

Way out West wanted poster
Way out West wanted poster

We’ve recently been asked if the player providing the outside help needs an ability to cut the ropes/unlock the door and help the restrained character to escape.

If we’re presented with this situation during a game, we ask how the helping player plans to release the arrested character. If they have an item which will obviously help, that’s great: but if they have a good enough imagination, then they don’t need to have a specific item. After all, Way out West is set in the Wild West town of Cactus Gulch and there are lots of other things lying around which aren’t represented on the item cards.

So if they need something particular for their imaginative plan, and it’s reasonable that they might find it in Cactus Gulch, we let them succeed.

Basically our guideline is: if it feels ‘fair’ that they should succeed, because they’ve put in some effort to find items or to invent a good plan, then they should succeed.