Monday, 19 July 2010

Happy Parole, Joker!

My beautiful copy of Happy Birthday, Robot! arrived last week. As an artifact, it's a treasure for my game shelf. I'm glad to have a PDF as well, to preserve the book. I mentioned before that it was Go Play Brisbane last Saturday and I might have been able to run it.

I was in luck's way and we could run it. But I wanted to change the key phrase, so we played Happy Parole, Joker! And this is the story we wrote.

Happy Parole, Joker!
Joker walks the streets, hunting for a laugh, but also for work.
Lowlifes flee in fear, but don't laugh.
Joker drives rapidly through a drive-through downtown, avoiding
Joker thought about impending mayhem, but thoughts were enough for him.
Joker found a petrol can, picked it up and cackled.
Joker found an oil rag and made it into a wick.
Joker danced merrily and chuckled and ignited twenty-one trashcans but Batman was watching.
The flames rose higher, threatening innocent children.
Joker danced away, gleefully singing and kicking puppies into the sewer.
Batman swooped down on Joker and tackled him, posing in his cape.
Joker mocked his foe, dropped his trousers, waved his rear at Batman.
"Happy parole, Joker," said Batman, looming from shadows as he punched him down, but Joker kept laughing.
Batman was infuriated and scowled as Joker broke free.
Joker ran down the shopping mall, pull down racks of goods and became trapped under Batman's electrified net.
Robin punched him repeatedly as they bundled him into the Batmobile's boot.
"Can we stop at McDonald's drivethrough on the way to Arkham, Batman?" said Robin.
Batman said nothing, his eyes toward Arkham.
In the boot Joker smiled, knowing his Ronald McDonald clones would soon awaken.

It was fun, for sure, and there were some aspects of our game which I want to tell you about.

We had four players. So of course the story was a bit longer than those in the book. Unfortunately, each person had nothing to do every fourth turn. If I was to change it, I would make that person the scribe. Not only would it give them something to do, but it would avoid the next feature as well.

When each person was adding words, they did it in silence, busily counting words on their fingers (or tapping on dice and coins). This is different to other story games experiences in which the game is near-constant verbal narration. So to fill in the silence, the other players started other conversations. Good? Bad? No, just distracting.

We didn't share coins early enough. You can see this early on in the short and simple sentences, and later on in the longer and complex sentences. When you play HBR, share coins early and widely. You'll get a shorter story, but the early sentences won't feel as clumsy as ours.

We let the innocent children burn. When the story was finished, I read it out and only when I got to, "The flames rose higher, threatening innocent children" did I realise that none of us had put out the fire. You have to pay attention to earlier sentences, and that's another reason why adding words in silence is bad. Don't let the children burn because you want Batman to catch Joker.

Just based on that single play session, I think this is a game worth playing and replaying, especially with other settings. There's a bit of fun to be had thinking of those other settings too, but I'll leave that to you.
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