The Bus: A quick minigame

edited July 2013 in Make Stuff!
I wrote this for practice, it was fun. Any advice or comments?

The Bus: a microgame by Manu Saxena

It all starts as just another ordinary day in an ordinary city. You board a bus, which you expect to be as uneventful as anything gets. You notice there's just a few people aboard this particular bus, but it's a bit late so you think nothing of it. You're a bit tired, and after sitting as comfortably as you can in one of the bus seats you close your eyes for what you intend to be only a moment.

The startled chattering and alarmed cries of the other passengers jerks you awake. The bus driver is standing up and looking at the passengers with some fear (and possibly guilt?) in their eyes, appealing for calm. Looking around, through the window next to your seat you see with horrified fascination that you are no longer in the city you knew: a strange, desolate, and profoundly alien landscape stretches before you. Animal-like shapes move in the distance. Through the large front window, you see that instead of a paved road, the bus appears to be on some sort of graveled path leading out towards distant mountains ahead.

Then there is a large thump on the roof of the bus. Everyone grows silent as fear washes over you. You all look up as the thump is repeated.

What are you going to do?


Goal: start thinking about what your character wants most in life, and why. You don't have to have this clearly defined now, but you'll use it in your Reveal towards the end of the game.

Choose a name and a description.

Choose two Personal Beneficial Facts about your character, one trait and one useful item. For example, traits can be anything from a profession to a physical aspect, like agile; useful items can range from an energy bar or bottle of water to swiss army knife, etc., anything that could reasonably be carried by a passenger on a bus.

You start play without any tokens.


Start of scene: increase the Scene Number by one. A scene ends after a Conflict is resolved, a Hostile is dealt with, or on general agreement. The first scene begins right after the events described above.

Play your characters reacting to the situation they find themselves in, and feel free to add details of what they see and discover around them, in keeping with the grim, weird and frightening theme. Certain actions have game mechanical consequences, as follows:

Add a Fact: adding a General Grim Fact gives you a token, while adding a General Beneficial Fact costs one. Do this only once per scene. Other details you add are color but won't affect any rolls.

Note that Personal Facts only affect your character; General Facts affect everyone, if applicable. For example, a General Grim Fact might be that you're short on water; if a fire starts that will matter, but not so much if a Toothed Horror is trying to eat you. If there's a dispute about whether a Fact applies in a given case, the party least affected by the outcome closest to the left of whoever's rolling the die decides.

Start a Conflict with another Character: Each party involved rolls a d6, adding 1 to the result per applicable Beneficial Fact and subtracting 1 per applicable Grim Fact; high result wins. The loser can either choose to yield or continue the conflict, in the latter case the winner may add a Personal Grim Fact to them. Once the overall conflict is decided, the winner gets one token; the loser also gets one token, two if they got one or more Personal Grim Facts in the conflict. The winner can choose to take a useful item from the loser, if the conflict was physical. Personal Grim Facts are conditions that make things difficult for the affected character.

Play a Hostile: take the role of a hostile creature that attacks one or more of the other characters, or other danger or threat that assaults them. The first person to declare they're playing a Hostile in the scene does so, but you may not play a Hostile twice in a row. Get one token, plus one per Grim Fact imposed on any characters. Your Hostile's Strength = the Scene Number plus 1d6.

Deal with a Hostile: the Hostile's player describes how it attacks (only one character at a time) and you describe how your character responds. The Hostile must continue to attack the same character unless another character chooses to intervene, in which case it can choose to attack either one. When dealing with a Hostile roll a d6, add 1 for every applicable Beneficial Fact you use (i.e., describe in your narration), subtract one for every applicable Grim Fact. Results:

6+ = describe how you escape harm, and reduce the Hostile's strength by two.

4- 5 = describe how you are hurt and receive one Personal Grim Fact, but reduce the Hostile's strength by one.

2-3 = the Hostile's player describes how you are hurt and receive one Personal Grim Fact

1 or less = the Hostile's player describes how you are hurt and receive one Personal Grim Fact, plus they establish one additional General Grim Fact.

You can spend a token to remove one Personal Grim Fact, or to re-roll.

When you receive 4 Personal Grim Facts your next one is automatically "Dying"; the one after that is "Dead". When your character is Dead you can continue playing, using flashbacks or being thoughts in the heads of other characters, but you can no longer deal with Hostiles or be in conflicts; you can earn tokens and spend them on behalf of other characters.

The Hostile is fully dealt with when its strength is reduced to zero, until then it continues to attack. Remember a Hostile can be any deadly threat, such as a fire, it does not have to be a monster.

Say Something Significant: when you announce you're doing this it interrupts all other play. Prerequisite: your character must have tangled with a Hostile or had a conflict with another character at least once, and if this is your second time Saying Something Significant you need to have done so again in another scene (unless you're Dead). Your character relates something of great personal significance to them, possibly something that they miss (or, for a twist, are happy to escape from) back on Earth. Get two tokens.

Reveal Your Heart: a prerequisite is you have already Said Something Significant twice. Your character reveals what it is that they most want to live for, and why; or, why it is that they think life is no longer worth it even if you successfully make it back to Earth. You can do this through a monologue or a played scene, including a flashback where you assign roles to other players. Get one token.

Conclusion: once all characters have Revealed their Hearts (or are Dead), it's time for the Epilogue rolls for all surviving characters:

Each player rolls 1d6, and adds 1 to the result for each applicable Beneficial Fact, plus 1 for each unused token, -1 for each applicable Grim Fact. Result:

6+ = describe how you make it back to Earth, and how your life changes as a result of your experiences on the bus.

5 = you make it back to Earth, but describe how you are damaged in some way so that you are no longer able to function in normal society.

4 = describe how you never find Earth again, and live out the rest of your days in the wastelands.

3 = describe how you never find Earth again, and are glad, because your body has mutated and you are no longer human. You live out the rest of your days in the lonely wastes.

2 = describe how you mutate into a Hostile creature, preying on those unfortunate enough to cross your path. You never reach Earth.

1 or less = You return to Earth. You are now a bus driver...


  • Looks fun! I especially like the way the Hostiles' strength increases each scene, and the prerequisites to Say Something Significant. I would like to try this with my story gaming group. I would probably lift the restriction on playing Hostiles twice in a row for a player whose character has died.
  • Thanks! If you do try it I would love to know how it works. Good point on the restriction.
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