[The Thought Police] A Short Game About Persecution

I've written a slightly meatier game than usual on the Groundhoggoth blog but it should still be playable in 2-3 hours with around 5 or 6 players; it takes an amount of preparation and world-burning though, so make sure the players are up for that kind of activity. As the game deals with issues of segregation, nationalism and the persecution of minorities, please make sure you handle the material sensitively and respect the emotions of others who may be present while playing.

The Thought Police takes place in a world that is like our own but a little bit different: in this world, telepathic powers have been appearing randomly in the global population for decades, but since there is no way of measuring or detecting them, most national governments have clamped down harshly on anyone who is even suspected of possessing them. Game play is focused on scenes of mundane life between mundane characters, but the telepath amongst the group can use their out-of-character knowledge to achieve in-character goals: if that seems like an abuse of their power, perhaps you would like to benefit from the awards the state has to offer those who assist in controlling this menace?


  • James,

    This is fantastic. Very thought-provoking, and looks quite playable, too!

    Has it been played yet?

    One random thought:

    If I play this, I'll probably bring some blank index cards, and mark one with a "T" on the back. Then I can place them face up on the table (so the "T" is hidden) and just have people grab one and slide it towards themselves on the table (without picking it up).

    Passing out a second set of cards, with one marked (or of a particular suit or whatever), would be another easy way to do this.

  • Those are good suggestions too: one other thing that occurred to me was that you could generate characters and a situation using a Fiasco playset, essentially using Fiasco as a set-up tool.

    Sadly, I don't get much chance to playtest things myself, so I'm always grateful to anyone who is willing to step up and take a swing at it.
  • James,

    I like that idea, although "playing yourself" in some fashion could also be really interesting in this game.

    This is near the top of my playtest stack - I also get few chances to playtest things, but I'll try if I get an opportunity!
  • I imagine the sticking point will be how people will feel about *not* responding to the revealed thoughts. That might be difficult, especially if people work too hard to do the opposite. I'm very curious to see how people will respond to that kind of situation in actual play.

    I'd almost think it might be interesting to have everyone close their eyes and cover their ears while a person says what they're thinking, with the telepath only pretending to cover theirs. But that's problematic if there's no telepath in the scene, and difficult to manage!

  • I think the reaction of the non-telepaths to hearing what the other characters' inner thoughts are is potentially the most interesting part of the game: you can always attempt to justify your use of out-of-character knowledge as intuition but you have to be as honest about your character's thoughts as they are about theirs. Playing fairly, your thoughts would have to include something along the lines of "I don't trust X, I think they're keeping something from me," which could lead to reciprocal thoughts from their characters and so on; on the other hand, if you play your character as taking the words & actions of other characters at face value, you'll probably have more fun! :-D

    Another variant I've thought about is what if you reveal whether or not you're the telepath as soon as you are successfully outed? In this case, if the outed character was the last telepath, then the game ends with the end of this round; if they were not a telepath though, those who outed them still each toss a coin, but on a heads they get nothing and on a tails, is it they who lose what they fear the most; if they are still active after this, they choose something else they fear losing.
  • edited July 2014
    I like that. It's definitely worth exploring!

    And I absolutely agree that this is potentially the most interesting part of the game.
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