Different times call for different games

Have you ever wondered…

  • how the children from Narnia coped back in the real world?
  • what it’s like to voyage into a black hole?
  • how dystopias are created, and destroyed?
  • what you would sacrifice to protect your family?
  • what heroes talk about on the eve of a life-altering battle?
  • how to defend your village, when your heroes are away?
  • who protects your home when you’re not looking?

Seven Wonders has the answers!

Seven Wonders is a collection of stand-alone story games from UK-based games designers, which focus on characterisation and inter-character drama, and use improvisational techniques to tell innovative, compelling tales.

You can find Seven Wonders downloads and articles here.

Buy it now

Seven Wonders includes the following new story games:

When the Dark is Gone

by Becky Annison

Imagine the children in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. They visited a magical land, fought battles alongside talking animals and centaurs and won a war against a powerful and evil enemy. Then they returned home, no-one believed them and they were back to war time rations and maths homework. What did that feel like? How did they live with the memories of what they experienced?

Did they end up in therapy?

When the Dark is Gone is a GM’d story game for 3-4 players, who take on the roles of Clients in a real-world, modern-day setting, whose serious psychological disorders are damaging them and those closest to them. The game is set in their group therapy session – one final attempt to get their lives back on track.

Rise and Fall

by Elizabeth Lovegrove

Dystopias come from somewhere, and they go somewhere. They appear because someone is able to convince others that they are reasonable, and they disappear because someone is able to exploit their weaknesses. They rise, and they fall.
Rise and Fall is a GM-less story game for 2-5 people in which players create a dystopia, explore its rise to power, how everyday life operates during its tenure, and then how the regime is brought down.

Heroes of the Hearth

by Stiainín Jackson

Do you see them? Off in the distance? The heroes – the ‘adventuring party’. A thief, a fighter, a cleric, a mage – that’s the story, they’re off to do battle against some terrible threat. They’ll defend the villages by the way. They’ll fight fearsome beasts. They’ll find great and awesome treasure. And at the end of it … well, I guess they’ll go home?

Because every adventurer has a place that they’re from, and every adventurer has people that know them – many are lucky enough to have people that love them. Those people have stories too – what is their home like? How do they feel when their loved ones are off doing battle? What do they do in the face of this threat and how do they move on with their lives?

This game is about those stories and those people. They are the heroes of the hearth.When the Dark is Gone interior_350

Acceptable Losses

by Tova Näslund

A family drama set in a dystopian future. Humanity lives in self-sustaining buildings, large enough to supply hundreds of thousands of people. At the start of each month, an “employee of the month” is announced and allowed to move up a floor. On the other hand, a family that doesn’t fill their work quota are sent down a floor, to the even worse slums below.

In the tougher lower floors live the Witkins, a close family of maintenance workers. Over the years you’ve adopted a family motto: the Witkins don’t ask for help, they earn it. But you’re in dire straits, crippled with debt and due to be forced down a floor in the next five days. One of you has a means of escape – a promotion, through marriage. Do you all move down together – or do you split the family?

Small Things

by Lynne Hardy

In Small Things you play a noble guardian who protects your House and Family from whatever may come along. Problem is, you’re only little – and some of the things you have to guard against are very Big…

Set in Britain somewhere between 1930 and the mid-1950s (but without the inconvenience of a World War and rationing), Small Things takes place in a world of faded colours, good manners, few labour-saving gadgets and tea made in big brown teapots and left on the hearth to warm under a stripy tea cosy.

Nemesis 382

by Alex Helm

We know that a black hole is a star that has collapsed under the weight of its own gravity, creating a well in space-time that not even light can escape. But what lies beyond a black hole? Would an object entering be simply stretched and crushed to death? Would it fall through into another universe as some scientists speculate? Or perhaps, as holy men and women suggest, would it come face to face with God? Nobody knows, and there’s only one way to find out.

This is the story of the Albert Einstein III, a scientific research vessel dispatched to the newly discovered supermassive black hole called Nemesis 382. As the ship edges closer to the event horizon, the crew must decide once and for all – how far are they willing to go in the name of science?

Before the Storm

by Joanna Piancastelli

It’s the last few hours of the world as you know it. Tomorrow morning, the Stormsworn will attack – a huge army granted power by a malevolent ancient force. There’s no way out of the oncoming battle.

You sit in the hall of Castle Iriya, yourself and your small band of companions, the people you must now trust and rely on above all others.  You all have your flaws, your secrets and regrets, things you ought to tell each other but never have. In these last hours of eerie peace, you have a chance to put that to rights.

Stock #: PELSW01 Authors: Becky Annison, Liz Lovegrove, Stiainín Jackson, Tova Näslund, Lynne Hardy, Alex Helm, Joanna Piancastelli
Artists: Gabriela Zurda, Britney Winthrope, Alicia Vogel, Erica Leveque, Nyra Drakae Pages: 288 page casebound book

Buy now

Seven Wonders_cover_350

Resources for Seven Wonders

When the Dark is Gone cover_350

by Becky Annison

It all started with Fiasco, a game by Jason Morningstar. Until then I’d loved and played many traditional games but nothing like Fiasco. It had no GM, required no pre-game prep and everyone created bits of the world and story. I’d never see anything like it before!

The idea of no prep and no GM was intriguing for a busy lawyer also studying for a Masters degree. Could I still have a satisfying gaming experience without hours of prep?

But as intriguing as it was, something troubled me. I struggled to imagine how a short game with no prep could reach the depths of emotional engagement I loved about traditional campaign play. Could I really get deep into a character in a game like this? This was the inspiration I needed to take me from player, GM and occasional LARP writer to RPG designer. If a short, prepless yet deeply emotional game did not exist (to my limited knowledge!) then I would simply have to write it. I was skeptical at the time – was what I wanted even possible?

The first hurdle was simple. Fiasco was designed for a completely different style of game. It is tragic-comedy, over-the-top and at times, farcical – just like the Cohen Brothers films on which it is based. A more serious topic, a therapy setting where players create troubled and hurting people would be a short cut for a deeper experience of character.

But then came the challenge. It is difficult for one individual to carry the weight of improvising all the material external to the player characters in any game e.g. the background, story, world building and non-player characters. A GM falling to improvise with sufficient speed, certainty and consistency damages the player’s ability to suspend disbelief and emotional buy-in to the world created. This is why traditional style games (game with a GM who directs all details of the world and story) tend to require large amounts of preparation. Prepless or low prep games tend to divide the work of improvising all this material (to greater or lesser extents) amongst all the players e.g. in Hillfolk by Robin Laws –  scene set ups are described by each player rotating round the table (indeed there is an argument as to whether Hillfolk even needs a GM!), in Dream Askew by Avery McDaldno scene setting rotates around the table but each player also has responsibility and creative control over a different part of the world the characters inhabit, even in Vincent Baker’s Apocalypse World, the GM (or MC) is required to continually ask the players questions, getting them to define aspects of the setting which are then folded into the story by the MC.

There are many techniques and ideas out there for dividing creative control over the world, setting and story amongst multiple players. But they all held the same problem for my game. They all require the players to step out of character and think as a director or author of the story, rather than a participant in it. These are two very different mind states, often requiring different and occasionally contradictory agendas) I knew that in order to achieve deep character immersion in only 2-4 hours players would need to stay completely in character and that the culture of staying in character would need to be enforced by the group. In a traditional style game with a GM directing the story and the world, players can stay in character for the majority of a game, but even those games require players to refer to stats, roll dice or ask clarifying questions about the system and/or world.  I wanted to dispense even with these out of character moments.

This gave me a number of problems to solve:

  1. How do you get the players to create details about the world and the story entirely in character?
  2. How do you maintain consistency and resolve conflicts entirely in character?
  3. How do you enforce a cultural norm in character?

The setting of a therapy session provided me with all the answers.

  1. The players create details in character because they are remembering something which has already happened. They cannot react to the things they create, except in so far they react to the memory of it having happened. Creating memories of a fantasy world as in When the Dark is Gone allows the players to have a lot of fun, but isn’t compulsory.
  2. You don’t bother with consistency or conflict resolution. Memory is fallible, people remember the same event differently all the time. If the memories created are inconsistent or conflict this it is brilliant – the characters can explore why their memories differ. It just creates more story.
  3. The last problem led to the creation of the Therapist character. Each session has a facilitator who is entirely in character as a Therapist. They ensure that interesting ideas get prompted and then explored by asking the players lots of in character questions. The Therapist constantly reinforces the in character culture and maintain the momentum and pacing of the session.

A surprising amount of the design for When the Dark is Gone went into the guidance for playing the Therapist. At first glance this might appear like a typical GM role. In fact it is very different.  The Therapist has no creative input in the story at all – they are a true facilitator and yet it is a surprisingly satisfying role to play.

I’m pleased to say that in all the play testing rounds it was clear that When the Dark is Gone really produced a deeply emotional game, without prep and in a single session.

When the Dark is Gone is part of the Seven Wonders anthology by Pelgrane Press, available for pre-order here.  I hope you enjoy playing it as much as I enjoyed writing it.