Annex is a free game that was play tested at London Indie Meet. The setting is based on the book Ancillary Justice and the mechanics are inspired by the Occupy movement’s hand signals. You can download it for free here.

You don’t need to be familiar with the book, although reading at least the first two chapters will help (they are available as a free sample from Amazon, the one on Orbit’s website is only one chapter which isn’t enough to be helpful).

Your group plays collectively as a single artificial intelligence that controls multiple Ancillary bodies. You, and at least 2 other players (preferably more), have been charged with bringing order to a recently conquered planet… spreading order and civilisation with military precision.

The AI hive mind is simulated in play by using hand gestures that maintain consensus within the group. These are similar to those used by many activist groups (originally Occupy) for meetings and were easy to transfer into an RPG.

After about 40 minutes of world building the game proceeds in a series of short stories, each around 40 minutes long until you want to stop. I takes at least 3 players but works better with more.

Feel free to comment with thoughts about the game, I’m especially interested in other ideas for using hand gestures in games.


Ghosts of the Drowned – An RP Poem

I’ve written a short series of RP poems based on the music of “Apple of my Eye”, and this is the second one.

It’s written as a script for one player to read out as you play. When you should stop reading and play through the next section of the game there will be a note (♩♪♫♬).

Ghosts of the Drowned [link]

Players: 4+

Play Time: ~20 minutes

Props: None

You are the ‘Ghosts of the Drowned’, gathering by the town clock when the sun goes down and recounting your stories.

In turns, adopt the persona of a character and introduce yourself to the group, stating your name and a little about yourself (but do not mention your death).

Now anyone can ask questions about other characters lives, to be answered by that character’s player. Loaded questions are good (i.e. “what drove you to alcohol?” to which the answer shouldn’t be ‘I wasn’t’) and incorporating information from other character’s stories is also good. Continue for a few minutes until we know a little more about each character and everyone is happy to continue.

Next we explore each character’s’ untimely end. In the first scene someone should volunteer to play ‘Irony’… volunteer if you can think of an ironic way to end one of the other character’s lives by drowning, based on what you know of their life. Don’t say your idea, just volunteer and say which character it is.

Once we have a volunteer they frame a scene, saying where we are, who is there and what is going on. Stop before you narrate the first action.

The player whose character was selected plays that character, the volunteer plays the irony forces driving them to their doom and the other players are the rest of the world, taking turns to narrate the outcome of actions.

Narration alternates between Irony, narrating a problem for the character, the Character, narrating their attempt to solve it, and the World, who narrate the outcome.

The World should be cruel, a willing accomplice of Irony until such a point as they narrate the character drowning, at which point the scene ends.

We now need another volunteer, to play Misfortune, who will pick a second character to target. The second scene plays out as before but this time it is cruel bad luck that does for our victim.

The final scene is played out with a volunteer to take the role of Injustice, targeting a third character.

The game now ends. Any remaining characters were not ghosts at all but bystanders, who should consider the cautionary tales they have just heard.

Devils – An RP Poem

I’ve written a short series of RP poems based on the music of “Apple of my Eye” and I thought I’d share the first one here (more will be posted over time).

It’s written as a script for one player to read out as you play. When you should stop reading and play through the next section of the game there will be a note (♩♪♫♬).

Devils [link]

Players: 3+ (ideally 3/4)

Play Time: ~20 minutes

Props: A pen and a sheet of A5 each

Everyone take a sheet of paper and divide it into 3 roughly equal sections. In the top section write the name of a person, describe their life in a sentence and then what is troubling them. Keep this information secret.

Now pass your sheet to the right.

Read the sheet in front of you and in the second section, secretly write down what they wish for from the devil, keep it simple.

Fold over the top section of the sheet so it cannot be seen and pass it to right.

Read the wish on the sheet in front of you and write down the consequences in the third section. You are the devil for this section so be as cruel as possible.

Pass the sheet back to the original owner who should read the whole thing.

Finally, in turn, each player narrates a tale based on what is on their paper, fitting everything together and endeavoring to making the consequences more personal.

Each player should feel free to reconcile any inconsistencies between the first and last contribution and should try to keep their tale relatively brief.

Intrepid Histories @ IndieCon

IndieCon this year has been a rather successful one for Intrepid Histories and marks an important milestone in it’s development… but a little background first.

In August I brought the game to IndieMeet in London and, just before I pitched it, I got into a conversation that inspired me to throw out half the rules and replaced them with a system based on Kishōtenketsu.

This is a 4 scene structure that creates unexpected plots, without requiring conflict, which seemed like a good fit for a game with a lot of exploration. We still had plenty of conflict, but that was fine and the resulting story was certainly interesting.

The only problem was that I already had 4 more scenarios written in the old system… and they needed updating and testing again.

So roll on IndieCon and 4 hopeful sign up sheets for slots 1, 2, 3 and 4. Uptake for playtests at IndieMeet had been rather slow, apparently because the historical nature of the games made people think they needed to know their history or that they would be rather dry (neither of which are the case). Luckily that didn’t seem to stop people at IndieCon and I soon had 4 full games…

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Game/Walk – The Life and Death of…

I was at IndieCon last week and one lunch time went to a walk along the cliffs. While there I wondered how one would go about playing an RPG while out and about, that benefited from being out and about.

It didn’t take too long to realise that you could get inspiration for scenes from the landmarks you pass, and so “The Life and Death of…” fell naturally out of that thought.

On Saturday afternoon I attended a playstorming session and since it was raining I didn’t think I’d get to see if it worked. Luckily I found 2 brave souls who ventured into the great outdoors with me. There isn’t much variety in landmarks on the cliff tops next to a holiday park but we managed to make do.

It worked well enough and after removing a couple of superfluous rules this is the result:

The Life and Death of…

Go for a walk with two or more friends.

Bring a token of some kind you can easily pass around (we used a pen).

Someone come up with a person’s name for the title “The Life and Death of [Name]” and then give the token to someone.


  • Anyone can start a scene unless you did the last one or have just received the token. Any amount of real time can pass between scenes, take in the sights and wait for inspiration.
  • Point to a landmark and say “This is where [Name]…”, finishing with something they did.
  • Describe a scene, trying to incorporate details form previous scenes. Keep it short, say 30 seconds and keep it mundane and grounded in the real world.

The Token:

  • If you have the token and narrate a scene you should include within it something otherworldly or unusual.
  • After the narration is done pass the token to someone else.

The game ends when your protagonist’s death is narrated.

For playing with children try “The Life and Adventures of…”, remove the need for the game to be mundane and have the token represent something bad happening to the character.

Intrepid Histories – Playtest 2

I have a placeholder name for my new game – “Intrepid Histories” – although it’s not really enough like Intrepid that I want that to stick.

In any case, at this months Indiemeet I ran my second playtest, this time we followed the journey of Napoleans army as he marched on Russia.

IntrepidHistories - playtest 2

We started again with a brief intro: The year is 1812 and Napoleon’s Great Army of 40,000 men are about to start their fateful march into Alexander I’s Russia. The map annotates the size of the army at each location and the temperatures on the way back.

(for some reason I managed to call our Tsar Nicolas instead of Alexander).

We started off again with some World Facts:

  • The Irish had a revolution at the same time as the French, but in our history they won.
  • The Aristocracy use magic, and consequently the revolutionaries are against magic.
  • Russia used its magic to terraform its lands to be incredibly fertile.

It became clear from this that the Irish would be prominent allies of Napoleon and he has probably invading Russia for the food, as France was going through a famine without its own magic.

In a change from the last playtest we asked a question about each character to answer through play, rather than a relationship. This worked well and I may try having both in future.

I also made each journey arrow into a vignette scene, describing the journey and the lands the players traveled through.

The final change from last game was to give each layer 2 tokens they could spend to become scene framer (rather than using round robin). Once everyone had expended their tokens they refreshed. Tokens could also be used to add new facts about the world in between scenes.

What followed was a story of an enraged Napoleon slowly suffering setbacks on his way to Moscow, a treacherous Irish pirate captain, a more noble Irish siege engineer and a side plot where one of the French troops was discovered to have magical powers and was captured by the Russians.

When we got to Moscow we found it was a floating city (in the sky), although our magical soldier managed to sink it and the Russian court was forced to flee, but not before unleashing a supernatural winter on the lands, causing the French to have to go home.

On the way home the Russian aristocracy were shown to be cannibals, our heroic soldier/mage was burnt at the stake for being a witch, Nicolas killed Napoeon in a duel and most people died of the cold.

Plenty of twists and turns, with more villains than normal (like the last game) so I’d say it was a success.

I’ll try relationships and questions at character creation and I think spending tokens to state new facts will be rolled into vignette scenes (of which you can have multiple). Apart from that I just need some more scenarios. So far I’ve had these suggestions: Xenophon’s 10,000, Magellan or Cook’s journey around the world, Cortes and the Conquistadors and investigating the Cleveland Torso Murderer, but other suggestions are welcome.

Artifact : A Roleplaying Poem

So I was in the pub this evening with some friends, reminiscing about old games and punitive GMs so I came up with this RPG poem. We played a round of it, and it was fun, so I thought I’d share it…


Players: Exactly 3

Duration: 2 Minutes

Props: Some kind of countdown timer

You each take one of these roles:

The World: Briefly describe a world and something that needs doing. “We’re in middle earth and Shelob is about to eat you, escape”. During the scene you will describe problems that stop the Victim from accomplishing their goal. If you win describe the victim failing to achieve their goal.

The Artifact: Briefly describe a magical artifact in the possession of the victim, it must have potential up sides and down sides but should be left relatively vague. “You have the Hand of Vecna, capable of channeling powerful necromantic magics”. During the scene you will describe problems with the artifact. If you win describe the artifact taking a terrible toll on the victim.

The Victim: You are trying to accomplish the goal set by The World and have access to The Artifact to do it. During the scene describe how you are going to do this. If you win describe your victory.

Set a timer for 60 seconds (or a random time if you can and prefer), concealing the exact time from the players (it needs to make a noise when it’s done so you know)… we used a screen-down phone with a egg timer app.

The victim starts narrating how they achieve their goal and the artifact or world can interrupt with problems at any time. The victim can then interrupt when they want to narrate a solution to the problem. Repeat until the timer goes off.

Whoever last narrated when the timer goes off wins and can narrate the ending.