Weirdo Indies

edited February 2010 in Story Games
I had a chance to meet Mike (veritascitor) today and chat for a while. And we were talking about some indie/story game, kind of like this: "Boy, that's a weird game. Who the hell came up with that?"

And it got me thinking that there have been some pretty bizarre games created within this community (or at the Forge). Bizarre concepts, bizarre mechanics, weird implications about life, the universe, and everything.

What's the weirdest indie/story game* you know? What makes it weird?

Weird could also mean "innovative". They go hand in hand. But not all innovative games are weird (especially not most of the popular ones).


*: Use your own definition here, I don't care.
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Comments

  • The weirdest indie game I have played is Lacuna Part I. The Creation of the Mystery and the Girl from Blue City written by Jared A Sorensen. I really like it and believe that is makes some bizarre allocations about people, which I totally agree with. One of the coolest games ever. It also comes with a button.
  • It Was A Mutual Decision by Ron Edwards. A game about a romantic break up where the two principle characters might be wererats.

    I've played one successful and one not-so successful game. However, the successful game ROCKED. I loved it. I really wish there was more interest in this game. It does CRAZY things when it works.

    Come to think of it, MOST of Ron's games are pretty weird on some level.

    Trollbabe - for the Trollbabes.

    Spione - for the round-robin non-RPG aspects and the Transgressions.

    S/lay w/ Me - for the subtext of trying to get at what the player's kink is.

    Jesse
  • edited February 2010
    I can start:

    David Artman's For Mature Audiences.

    Because the game calls for the players to bring plush animals, toys, or dolls to the game, and then mutilate and/or destroy them as they play. That's pretty forked up. It's not our mother's D&D, or even your neighbours' Primetime Adventures.

    edit: Ha! Not fast enough.

    Don't forget to say why the game is weird, though, guys. I know there's some really bizarre games out there. Like games many of us wouldn't even know how to start playing.
  • *bows*

    I still think Shab Al-Hiri Roach is odd, mainly because it comes with a plastic roach. No other game comes with a plastic roach.

    Dogs in the Vineyard is a lot weirder than you think, if you... uh, think about it. Invent Your Own traits is its killer app, I figure.

    I'll also offer up my Weird One-Shot LARP, The Sea Worshippers, as a game in which you "damage" an adversary player by making them ignite their character sheet (albeit briefly). You get to do this if you beat them in some arbitrary, real-life challenge (like the game of HORSE, or downing a pint, or whatever).
  • Orbit is weird. Weirdly awesome. It's the original rock and roll sci-fi epic RPG, after all.
  • What's weird about it, Jason?
  • Ron sure does have a personalized design approach, he's not bound to genres. I admire this myself, I just wish I could pick apart my own motivations and interests to cut away the cruft and only bring out the personal vision from among the genre cliches. There's probably no other game designer who expresses himself and his life experience so consistently directly in his design. Leads to all sorts of weirdness from the audience perspective, of course.

    On my own list of indie weirdness, however, one game reigns supreme: Multiverser is an intriguing, challenging, philosophical, ambitious work that makes "heavy" games like Rolemaster piss their pants with the sheer amount of crunch. The game is ideological, evocative and straight out exceptional in all the weirdness it drags out. It is also nigh unplayable by the book (an important qualification, as I understand that many people have managed to play the game with a traditional GM-fiated method), but I don't care, as it's too interesting to ignore. Among other things the game involves a chararacter generation system based on simulating the player's own abilities, an insane multiverse ruled by the God of Abraham, creating a new game setting from scratch for every session, having the player characters never meet each other and so many other weird things that the game really can only be characterized as ground-breaking.

    Other than that, it seems to me that "weird" mostly means games where I don't understand the context of the game's creation and thus don't understand why it ticks the way it does. In this regard Engle Matrix games are "weird" - I don't have the life and scene experience informing the design and thought processes behind them, so they seem exotic and weird, somewhat like Multiverser, only less insane.
  • M. Joseph Young is the Henry Darger of RPGs and Multiverser is his In the Realms of the Unreal.

    But less naked, underage hermaphrodites?
  • Well if you ask my GF she would say Grey Ranks, as it is totally weird to her to see a group of adults pretend to be teenagers dealing with war, growing up and romance. D&D, Burning Wheel or some other game basic fantasy game to her is just geeky, but Grey Ranks was weird

    For me I would say Lacuna is definately up there and prob the weirdest one I have, both as an actual book and as a game.

    Don't Rest Your Head is also pretty weird as all hell, something about the way maddness and exhaustion are both skills and your "hit points" added together with the dream like nature of the setting just brings out the weird in me when I run this. Specially at a midnight con game when I am already exhausted and running on caffeen and fun.

    I would also add Sea Dracula, the game in which you play Animal Lawyers who fight crime and resolve conflicts via DANCE. nuff said.

    - Colin
  • The weirdest game that I know of (aside from my own) is Tähti, in which you play member of a (no shit) Finnish Maoist mutant all-girl rock band in a dystopian, hyper-corporate future. It's not available in English, but I mean... it just wins.

    image
  • Clearly when it comes to making weird RPGs I haven't been trying hard enough. (Though I have been trying.)
  • Yeah, Sea Dracula.
  • Posted By: Christian Griffeneah, Sea Dracula
    I'd argue that Sea Dracula is the most mainstream game to ever come out of this community.
  • I want to say Senkowski's (or however the hell you spell it) Untitled. Because it's presentation is cut-off-your-dick good.

    That good, that weird
  • Sea Dracula appeals to the people that are normal enough to not like the soap opera format that serves as the unconscious model of many indie RPGs.

  • Posted By: jaywaltThe weirdest game that I know of (aside from my own) isTähti, in which you play member of a (no shit) Finnish Maoist mutant all-girl rock band in a dystopian, hyper-corporate future. It's not available in English, but I mean... it just wins.

    image

    Great idea, great cover. Thumb's up to the Finns!
  • edited February 2010
    "I want to say Senkowski's (or however the hell you spell it) Untitled. Because it's presentation is cut-off-your-dick good.

    That good, that weird"


    I am not sure what this means, but it doesn't sound good. Just weird.
  • edited February 2010
    image In La Methode du Dr Chestel, you are sent as a team into someone's psyche to sort out their psychological problems. These are the surreal worlds of dreams but coloured by the patient's issues. You have to refrain from using violence because this would damage the psyche. In fact, anything your character does has an impact on the structure of the patient's personnality.
  • For Weird, I think I'd have to go with 'Urchin', in which you play a hobo trying to find paradise in a strange underworld where you have to make sure you beg enough cash to put a coin in the electric meter or monsters arise from the darkness to eat you...

    Yeah.

    And if it had only been a good game, I would have loved it. Sadly the mechanics fail to promote any form of storytelling and feature the most painfully unforgiving injury mechanic I've ever seen. Put simply, each die you roll in it gives you a 1 in 6 chance of success, and a 1 in 6 chance of being hurt. And you have to succeed at rolls to regain health, but you can be hurt in any attempt including attempting to recover.

    Damn shame. Could have been awesome.

    -Ash
  • Posted By: GB SteveimageIn La Methode du Dr Chestel, you are sent as a team into someone's psyche to sort out their psychological problems. These are the surreal worlds of dreams but coloured by the patient's issues. You have to refrain from using violence because this would damage the psyche. In fact, anything your character does has an impact on the structure of the patient's personnality.
    Dang, I've never heard of that one, but I wrote a very similar game called 'DreamCatcher'. It's true there's no original ideas left any more.

    -Ash
  • Armed cryptomormon moralists wandering the American West = weird.
  • Posted By: GB SteveimageIn La Methode du Dr Chestel, you are sent as a team into someone's psyche to sort out their psychological problems. These are the surreal worlds of dreams but coloured by the patient's issues. You have to refrain from using violence because this would damage the psyche. In fact, anything your character does has an impact on the structure of the patient's personnality.
    Back in 1991 it was like a slap in the face! Not only non-pulp adventure themed games were rare, but daring to touch the subject of mental illness was really courageous. I had fun playing a session of it as far as I remember but the system didn't look like it was helping the GM in building/exploring interesting patient scenarii. I felt very free form and, since we didn't have a grasp on shared narrative control back then, it was a heavy heavy task for the GM.

    Another game dealing with mental illness I wanted to get is Hystoire de Fou by Denis Gerfaud. From the descriptions I read it reminds me of DRYH: reality gets warped and characters enter a world of madness. The rules seem to portray disbelieving hallucinations, or shaping them, also two types of madness (paranoia and schizophrenia) but I don't know any detail. PCs are assumed to want to escape from the dementia crisis.
  • Posted By: Paul BArmed cryptomormon moralists wandering the American West = weird.
    Yeah, that too.
  • Those are some great examples of games based on weird (fictional) conceits.

    What about games that are indescribably weird in terms of gameplay and mechanics? I know there's a bunch of them, unpublished (for sale, that is), in the great Diaspora/blog universe.

    What's a game that makes you think, "That's a game? A roleplaying game? A story game? I can't even recognize what it is. Who came up with this weirdness?"

    Games that challenge our very notions of what a story game or RPG can be, because of the way it's designed or how it's supposed to be played.

    I foresee this thread being an interesting compilation of the wide range available to, and exploited by, the designers in this internet community.
  • I think Polaris and Penny both fall into that category, Paul T. Both are so unusual mechanically and break so many assumptions about "what an RPG is like" that it's hard to even name them all. And both are brilliant, so that helps—but also makes it less obvious how weird they are.

    Matt
  • The module/games of John Harper seemed really weird to me at first. I must admit that I didn't understand them at first. When I found Lady Blackbird, I just thought, "I need to save this PDF for later so I can digest it. It looks cool, but I just don't really get why it seems to be missing so much. Where the hell is the character generation? The resolution mechanic seems half baked. WTF?" I didn't even save ghost/echo at first. "One page of strange evocative lists? A weird dice mechanic? A pretty picture? That is all I get?"

    Those are really weird games.
  • Until We Sink.
  • Another one from Norwegian Style: Stoke-Birmingham 0-0.

    You play Norwegian supporters of the English football team Stoke City Football Club. You've traveled to England to watch a game, and it's been a dull match, ending in a tie. You play for 15 minutes exactly. Shit, I'm just going to type up the whole "The Game" segment, since it's so short, and shows how weird this game is.

    The Game.
    The whole game takes place at a pub
    after the match. You play out the talk
    around the table, commenting on the match,
    reminiscing about legendary matches,
    talking about the weather, the hotel,
    domestic affairs and any details you may
    contrive to make part of the character's
    life. Try to engage in your character and
    his/her relations to the other characters,
    and to be a dull person with a dull life. (emphasis mine)

    The relations between the characters
    are improvised. If someone implies that
    they are married to your character, then
    they are. If someone talks about a joint
    experience, then you have experienced it.
    Go along with the ideas of other players,
    but keep it down-to-earth.

    Do not under any cirumstances make
    any strange or exciting remarks. Be
    ordinary. Let silence speak if you find
    nothing to say. 15 minutes can be a very
    long time in a dull life. Try to stay in it
    until the end.



    When I read this, I immediately wanted to play it because I'm pervy and holier-than-thou and wanted to disprove the million internet-rpg.net voices screaming in my head that this isn't a roleplaying game.

    Still, it's weird, and I want to play it.
  • I've played that game, so have millions of football fans.
  • But why would Finnish fans choose to root for Stoke City of all places? I don't think I can suspend my disbelief that much :)
  • Posted By: jaywaltBut why would Finnish fans choose to root for Stoke City of all places? I don't think I can suspend my disbelief that much :)
    Come on, that game is not about us rational Finns (although there are fan clubs for English lower league teams in Finland) but instead those wacky Norwegians, who are the most football-crazy folk on the face of the earth (Cuper & Szymanski 2009). I think there has been national weekly betting on English football in Norway from the 50's or so. Cuper & Szymanski attribute the Norwegian love for English football to the alleged Norwegian way of seeing the English as Norwegians, only slightly more nuts.
  • Stoke and Birmingham are both Premiership teams. Their last two encounters have finished 0-1 and 0-0, so not terribly exciting but definitely quite big clubs.
  • Posted By: noclueUntil We Sink.
    Elaborate, sir! Until we Sink is remarkably un-weird, it just doesn't have any handrails.
  • (Re football: It´s pretty crazy. People here in Norway get really into English football. I used to work with a guy who had five Arsenal sweaters, one for every day of the week. That´s just what he wore to work, I have no idea what he did in his spare time.

    Me? I have no idea what Premiership even means.)
  • Posted By: Paul T.What about games that are indescribably weird in terms of gameplay and mechanics?
    I'll nominate my contest game Sex/Magic, which gives a player the option to short-circuit dice mechanics by satisfying a real life Truth or Dare challenge. Also, there's a reward mechanic for (RL) arousal.
  • Thanks, Adam! That's very interesting.
  • Kazekami Kyoko Kills Kublai Khan is a game designed for play by online chat. It is a roleplaying game, but unusual in many other ways because:

    * The game takes place entirely after events have transpired. Kyoko has stabbed the Khan, who is quickly dying. The entire game consists of their last conversation, until the player of the Khan decides his time on this Earth is up and speaks the last phrase.
    * Both players may only play by following a formula, combining a declaration and a question as outlined in the text.
    * There is no form of resolution as we usually think of it: no random elements, no numbers or traits to compare, no explicitly identified conflicts, etc.

    (I know I've read another, similar game that is even more restrictive in its forms. There was something about a man carrying a bucket from a stream to a woman or something along those lines. Anyone know what I mean?)
  • Sweet Agatha is a game that requires you to cut up the book as you play the game.
  • Long Live The King is a pretty weird hybrid of LARP, board game, and card strategy game. I've yet to manage to run it (in spite of trying to host it twice at cons) and so I can't speak to how well the elements intertwine. I suspect that it could be played without a bit of RP (like, say, Diplomacy) or that it could become so "RP-suffused" that non-mechanical considerations influence play (e.g. one person is so good in a role that others want to help him or her without regard to ideal strategic positioning or "natural" alliances baked into the PC goals/abilities).
  • edited February 2010
    Continuum and Narcissist are Amber meets astrophysics geekery, with confusing time-travel and gravity. No innovative rules, though.

    I guess I should mention Amber too for auctioning off rank in attributes.

    As for rules, Puppetland is amazing. GM speaks in past tense, players speak only in-character.

    Don't Rest Your Head has one interesting rule description wherein a theme/condition is said to "dominate" a resolution outcome. The mechanical effect seems more familiar, but the way the color comes out is kinda unique.

    Montsegur 1244's lack of any fortune resolution mechanics is refreshing.

    Grey Ranks uses resolution outcomes to reposition markers on a grid which reflects character mental state.

    In Contract Work, you retroactively establish a mission you just performed, gradually finding out how much you've been lying as play unfolds.

    Burning Empires uses roleplay scenes as resources in a strategic battle.
    Ganakagok allows you to push resolution resources around into "good/bad for me" and "good/bad for the world".

    Dread uses Jenga. Sign in Stranger uses random word draw.

    And then I've got my own weird shit going in Delve with the player-controlled narration speed diagram, "reading" adventure scenarios with a tarot spread, group arbitration of when to engage fortune resolution, and learning how to do magic from scratch, step by step.
  • Oh, and Paul T.'s Land of Nodd is pretty weird in that, by moving your chips around, you can declare who GMs for you, help your character, or force the end of a scene you're not in.
  • Paul, you're thinking of Jonathan Walton's game
    "Waiting for the Queen / Tea at Midnight", from the first issue of PUSH magazine.
  • Thanks, Dave and Jackson.

    Waiting for the Queen/Tea at Midnight is exactly the game I was thinking of. It's reverse-engineered from text adventures, and lists a set of actions for each of the two characters, not unlike the statements in Kazekami Kyoko Kills Kublai Khan, and tells the story of an awkward meeting between two people. The actions are determined by location and circumstances, so that, for instance, you cannot say "...sets down the bucket" unless you've already said, "picks up the bucket". The tree of statements make up the entirety of rules of play (almost), so that the story is more or less set, and the players just navigate it through it in different ways. Like Kazekami, there is no GM and no "mechanics" such as seen in most RPGs. The end of the story is scripted, but I get the impression that each run through the game might colour that ending in different shades for the players.

    If that link is some kind of pirate/illicit source that shouldn't be there, let me know and I'll remove it. It was the first hit on a Google search for "tea at midnight".
  • Posted By: David Berg
    InContract Work, you retroactively establish a mission you just performed, gradually finding out how much you've been lying as play unfolds.
    Providing links for things you reference is always good. Providing a link for this one gets you sainthood.
  • For those reading through this thread:

    I'm getting whispers from people saying things like, "Wow! I didn't know anyone had made a game that did THAT... this is amazing!"

    So, please, keep it going. I know there's lots more games out there that blow the lid of perceived design limitations. Post them, and tell us a bit about them.
  • Posted By: PotemkinElaborate, sir! Until we Sink is remarkably un-weird, it just doesn't have any handrails.
    Oh, please. You're stuck on an island that is sinking. You can't get off the island. There's no resolution mechanic. And then someone steals underwear.
  • So, I got to read a preview replay of Nechronica: The Long, Long Epilogue, which is a new game that Ryo Kamiya (designer of Maid RPG) is working on. It takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where everyone is dead save for necromancers. The necromancers create dolls, dead girls who, unlike the other undead, have their own will and feelings. In the game you play dolls who fight and suffer through a series of traumatic battles for the necomancer's amusement. I talk a bit more about it in my latest podcast, but it's generally weird and awesome.
  • edited February 2010
    Posted By: noclueOh, please. You're stuck on an island that is sinking. You can't get off the island. There's no resolution mechanic. And then someone steals underwear.
    I must've simply have come across stranger games. When I write I often refer back to Until we Skin and work out from there to find just enough weird. Not having a resolution mechanic is no longer weird for me.
  • Posted By: PotemkinI often refer back toUntil we Skin
    That's the one where you're on an island and the characters inevitably turn into psycho killers.
  • Posted By: Christian GriffenPosted By: PotemkinI often refer back toUntil weSkin
    That's the one where you're on an island and the characters inevitably turn into psycho killers.

    Freudian slip?
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