Sunday, October 6, 2013

System Shopped: Dixit Your Role-Playing Games

Dixit Your Role-Playing Games
System Shopped: Any
by Tobie Abad

Other than role-playing games, board and card games are my next big hobby.  My partner and I own around thirty different games and schedule some weekends to be game nights with friends (We teasingly call those nights FTC nights, after The Office's Finer Things Club).  One of our favorite games is this card game called Dixit by Jean-Louis Roubira.  The game's title is Latin for "he said" and the game has players playing a card to match a "story/clue" which the storyteller gives, in hopes of stealing votes of the other players while identifying the storyteller's original card.  If you're curious about this game, you can check it out here.



For those familiar with the game, here are some ideas on how to add a touch of Dixit to your table top games!  You are not expected to use ALL these suggestions in a single game (however, if you do choose to do so, let me know how that turned out!)

1) The Storyteller Gives a Clue
In Dixit, the Storyteller for the turn gives out a clue to suggest what the card he is playing will look like.  This can be mimicked in role-playing games in this manner:  At the start of every game session, the Storyteller/Game Master must give the players a short phrase or clue to suggest what the game session will explore.  This can be done in the form of a title or an episode label like how television shows approach things.  "This is the episode where..."  or simply having a title, "The Revelation"  can help suggest where the story will head this game session, and in some cases might even be an exciting think to uncover as the game progresses.  Imagine telling your group the title of the night's session is "The Brothers" and then as the game runs, you introduce a non-playing character named Albert Kincain.  The fact Kincain sounds like "Cain" might be enough a detail for players to latch on that this game will be about Kincain betraying his brother.


2) The Players Throw in their own Cards
In Dixit, each player plays a card face-down that matches the Storyteller's clue in hopes of stealing the vote. In role-playing games, you can mimic this by allowing your players some Narrative Control in this manner:
Before the game starts, ask them to write down their answer to a question which the game has yet to answer.  For example: "Who really murdered the suspect" or "Who is the real double-agent" or maybe even non-world changing questions such as "This session, which NPC cannot be reached."  Then collect all their answers.  Call for a brief break and read them all, and choose which one sounds like the best suggestion!

As the game proceeds, be sure to eventually reveal the chosen answer.  If you're crafty enough as a GM, you can even throw a few red herrings pointing at other suggestions before you make the big reveal!   The best part about this?  The players feel like they were part of writing the plot, which can be an awesome experience for groups that have not experienced games which offer players greater narrative control.

3) Too Vague, Too Obvious
In Dixit, giving a clue that is outright too vague (where no one votes for your card) or too obvious (where everyone figures out your card) is a bad thing.  Everyone except you gets two points.  This is something that can be embraced in role-playing games as well, more so in games that have mystery as part of the narrative.  Halfway through the session, call for a break (you do know that you have every right to call for a break if you need one, right?) and ask the players to answer a simple question in relation to your plot's big secret/mystery.  This shouldn't be the final big question, but one relating to it.  For example:  "Who can I absolutely trust?" is a good one.  Another might be "Name three possible suspects" since it might relate to the final big question, it still keeps it open in a speculative level.

Now, if the players all write the name answer, or the players all fail to have any matching answers, then your game might be a little too vague or too obvious.  This may mean having to add scenes which help explain/mislead the characters somewhat.  Or perhaps require you to reexamine how you're approaching the narrative.

After all, a great mystery has the players having an "Aha!" moment near the end of the story arc.  No one likes a "Whodunit murder story" where you can instantly tell who the killer is just as the plot begins.  That's just not fun.

4) Be Inspired by the Titles
Finally, you can get inspiration from the subtitles of each Dixit release.
The current roster of games are: Dixit, Quest, Odyssey, Journey and Origins.
So why not shape your games to progress in the same form.  From "He/She Said" as the opening story arc where perhaps the situation begins due to a misunderstanding or perhaps even from a direct deception on someone's part to mislead another.  From this, we then move to  Quest where the players take the long trek to find their answers.  Odyssey can be the story arc where they learn the quest is not enough, and is actually just the beginning of their long search for answers.  Journey could be the act of returning with the answers they have found.  And finally, Origins can be the closing act with the reveal on why the misunderstanding/deception happened in the first place.

5) Use the Cards in your Game
Finally, you can Dixit your games by using the cards themselves as part of your game.  The beautiful artwork and evocative pieces can be inspirational touchstones to springboard new ideas.  Or perhaps even be cool creative tools to shape the game's non-playing characters.  Use them like how Tarot cards are read, with the viewer focusing on a single detail that the card presents as the creative thrust of the card.

If you want, you can even make the cards a PROP in your game.  This may work best for games with a magic realism bent like White Wolf's Changeling the Lost or maybe even John Wick's dark Shauermarchen, with the cards being things the player finds and gathering them all has a greater significance to be revealed.

Dixit is a wonderful game where creativity works hand in hand with knowing the people you're playing with.  Hope you enjoy these suggestions on how to add the same to your games.

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