A pair of old six-sided diceIn the fall of 1984, during a layoff from General Electric, I sold a “capsule review” to Steve Jackson’s Space Gamer magazine. A month later they accepted my “Mind Duel” board game. Within a year, I was working full-time as a designer and editor for GDW, then TSR, with a bit of freelance for FASA, West End, Flying Buffalo, and others. Nowadays (after an interlude spent in educational publishing) I’m publishing myself—and other people—via Popcorn Press.
Photo by sean_hicken

Demon Bound! Game

Lester : February 14, 2009 6:00 pm : Free Games, Game Design


A poker-deck game of demon summoning for fun and profit.
For 2-4 players.

It’s anno domini 666, and you have just learned the secret of Solomon’s Seal, which binds demons to your service. This knowledge can make you unbelievably wealthy. Unfortunately, you’re not the only one possessing it. To achieve your dreams of ungodly riches, you’ll have to outpace or destroy your competitors.

Game Components

  • One deck of poker cards.
  • Five coins or other markers per player

Beginning the Game

  • Hand each player one marker. This represents a stain on that player’s soul for trafficking with demons.
  • Deal six cards to each player.
  • Set the remainder of the deck in the center of the table as a draw pile.
  • Turn up one card from the draw pile to begin a discard pile next to it.
  • Each player sacrifices a victim (plays a numbered heart card) or discards a random card. High sacrifice goes first. Continue clockwise from there.

Card Layout: Sacrifices and summoned demons are played in front of you on the table. Bound demons are moved to your right. Treasures are played to your left. Marks on your soul are kept in front, near your sacrifice space, where everyone can see.
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Powerhouses of Wrestling! Dice Game

Lester : February 14, 2009 5:37 pm : Game Design

NOTE: A super-powers adaptation of this game, with unique effects for each super power, is currently in development for publication by SFR, Inc. Watch this blog and the SFR, Inc. site for more details. Or take part in the demos at Gen Con 2014!

A pro wrestler dice game for two players.

Dedication: To Ken, for inspiring this in the first place, and to Rob, for teaching me that stories—whatever the form—are gifts to keep the darkness at bay.

The Powerhouses of Wrestling! game is a quick and easy simulation of a pro wrestling match for two players, using standard six-sided dice. You will need five dice for play (rob your Yahtzee game) and a pen or pencil and paper.

How to Win

Wrestlers wear each other down with maneuvers. In this game, that wear-down means a loss of dice. The wrestler who reduces his opponent to a single die wins.

The Abilities

For the purposes of this game, professional wrestling involves five abilities:

Agility represents overall speed and maneuverability.

Brawling is down-and-dirty fighting skill.

Martial Arts represents training in unarmed combat techniques.

Strength is a wrestler’s raw physical power.

Technical Ability represents knowledge of specialized moves and holds.

Preparing to Play

  • On a piece of paper, write a name for your wrestler. (You can make up a name, or use the name of a wrestling star you admire.)
  • Write the numbers 1 through 6 on separate lines.
  • Choose one ability to be your wrestler’s specialty, and one to be his weakness. (If you are playing a real wrestler, rate him as seems appropriate.)
  • Next to number’s 1 and 2, write your wrestler’s specialty.
  • Next to numbers 3, 4, and 5, write one ability other than his weakness. Use a different ability for each number. (Note: Don’t list the wrestler’s weakness.)
  • Next to number 6, write “Fan Support.”

Example Wrestler

Bruno “the Bear” Marconi

  1. Strength
  2. Strength
  3. Brawling
  4. Martial Arts
  5. Technical Ability
  6. Fan Support

Rolling the Dice

To attack and defend in this game, players roll their dice, looking for matching sets of abilities, and keeping count of the totals.

Examples: If Bruno’s player rolls a 1, 3, 3, 5, and 4, Bruno has two matched “Brawling” results. On a roll of 1, 2, 3, 5, and 4, Bruno would have two matched “Strength” results (because the 1 and 2 both count as “Strength” for Bruno).

Fan Support: The cheering (or jeering) of the crowd inspires a wrestler. For this reason, “Fan Support” can be counted as any of the abilities during a roll.

Example: If Bruno’s player rolls a 1, 2, 3, 4, and 6, Bruno would now have three matched “Strength” results (the 1, the 2, and the 6).

“On a Roll”: Whenever a player rolls and obtains at least one match, he sets those matching dice aside and may roll the unmatched dice again. If any of these dice now match the earlier dice, he sets them aside as well, and may roll any unmatched dice again. And so on…

“Over the Top”: If at any time during his rolls, all of a player’s dice match, he leaves one of the rolled dice set aside, and may reroll the rest.

“Going Bust”: Any time a player rolls and does not get a match, he must stop rolling and must subtract one die from the number matched so far.

“Calling It Quits”: A player may stop rolling at any time he

Note: If on his first roll for any turn, a player gets more than one match (e.g. a 1, a 2, and a trio of 3’s), he must go with the largest match (in this case, the 3’s). If the matches are of equal size (e.g. a 1, a 2, and a pair of 3’s) he may choose which match to pursue.

Extended Example

Bruno’s player begins a turn by rolling all five dice and gets 2, 3, 3, 4, and 6. He has a match, so he’s “On a Roll.” The player sets the pair of 3’s and the 6 aside as a match of three Brawling results. (Note that the 6 must go with the pair of 3’s.) Then he rerolls the remaining dice, resulting in a 5 and a 6. He puts the new 6 with the previous match, for a total of four Brawling results. Rolling the last unmatched die, he obtains another 3—another Brawling result, for a total of five. He’s “Over the Top”!

He sets aside one of the 3’s, as a reminder that Bruno is doing a Brawling maneuver, and rerolls the other four dice, with a result of 2, 2, 4, and 6. The pair of 2’s and the 4 don’t count, because Bruno is currently rolling for Brawling (3’s), but the 6 does. Bruno now has a total of six Brawling matches. The player decides to continue; he sets the 6 aside and rerolls the remaining three dice, obtaining a 1, a 3, and a 4. Bruno now has seven Brawling matches. The player decides to roll the remaining two dice, and obtains a 6 and a 6. Bruno now has nine Brawling matches.

Again, all five dice match, so the player leaves one die aside, and rolls the other four. This time, he gets a 1, 1, 2, and 3. Bruno now has ten Brawling matches! Crazed with success, the player continues, rolling the three unmatched dice. Unfortunately, he rolls a 1, 2 and 4. As none match Brawling, he has “Gone Bust” and must reduce Bruno’s Brawling score to nine matches.

The Take-Down

The game starts by deciding which wrestler will be the first attacker. The players each roll their dice until they “go bust,” and the wrestler with the highest score wins the Take-Down and is the first attacker.

The Turn Sequence

The game uses an unusual turn sequence to represent the fact that sometimes a wrestler is on the attack, and sometimes on the defense.

The Attack: The player whose wrestler is the current attacker begins rolling for matches, stopping when he “Goes Bust” or “Calls It Quits.” He announces his number of matches and the maneuver that total represents. (See the Maneuver Table, or make up your own maneuver—it’s just for drama.)

The Defense: The defending player then rolls for his wrestler, also stopping when he “Goes Bust” or “Calls It Quits.” (Note: He need not roll for the same ability as the attacker did.) He announces the wrestler’s number of matches. (He may also invent and describe a defensive maneuver for drama.)

The Result: The players compare their totals. One of three results may occur.

  1. Wear Down: If the attacker has the higher total, the opponent is worn down and must discard one die. A new turn begins with the same attacker.
  2. Resistance: If the wrestlers have an equal number of results, the defender suffers no damage. A new turn begins with the same attacker.
  3. Reversal: If the defender has a higher total, he suffers no damage, and he becomes the attacker for the next turn.

The Come-Back

Sometimes, just when things seem the grimmest, a wrestler gains a second wind. In this game, that’s represented by the possibility of a “Come-Back.”

Whenever a wrestler is reduced to two dice by Wear-Down, he makes an immediate “Come-Back” roll. If he gets a match on this roll, he immediately regains one die.

Ending the Game

Immediately when a wrestler is reduced to one die, the game ends, and his opponent wins the wrestling match.

Maneuver Table

Agility Attacks

  1. Stand on Opponent
  2. Kick
  3. Big Boot
  4. Abdominal Splash
  5. Hamstring Pull
  1. Legdrop
  2. Elbowdrop
  3. Flying Bodypress
  4. Monkey Flip Suplex
  5. Shoulder Roll
  1. Scissors Piledriver
  2. Avalanche
  3. Earthquake Splash
  4. Through-the-Ropes Leap and Clothesline
  5. (Or more). Over-Top-Rope Cross-Bodyblock

Brawling Attacks

  1. Scratch
  2. Bite
  3. Slap
  4. Hair Pull
  5. Punch
  1. Stomp
  2. Headbutt
  3. Eye Gouge
  4. Choke
  5. Double Axhandle
  1. Discus Punch
  2. Jawbreaker
  3. Wrist Spike
  4. Windup Punch
  5. (Or more). Piston Punches

Martial Arts Attacks

  1. Back Fist Strike
  2. Karate Chop
  3. Karate Punch
  4. Leg Sweep
  5. Claw
  1. Legwheel
  2. Karate Kick
  3. Lunge Punch
  4. Knee Armlock
  5. Crescent Kick
  1. U-Punch
  2. Roundhouse Kick
  3. Two-Fisted Spring Punch
  4. Jumping Spin Kick
  5. (Or more). Figure-Four Armlock

Strength Attacks

  1. Bearhug
  2. Head Vise
  3. Irish Whip
  4. Bodyslam
  5. Clothesline
  1. Shoulderblock
  2. Head Scissors
  3. Body Scissors
  4. Airplane Spin and Slam
  5. Atomic Drop
  1. Gorilla Press Slam
  2. Through-the-Ropes Toss
  3. Belly-to-Belly Suplex
  4. Tombstone Piledriver
  5. (Or more). Over-Top-Rope Toss

Technical Ability Attacks

  1. Armlock
  2. Chicken Wing
  3. Standing Side Headlock
  4. Half-Nelson Sleeper
  5. Neckbreaker
  1. Toehold
  2. Rolling Cradle
  3. Backdrop
  4. Abdominal Stretch
  5. Full Nelson
  1. Sleeper
  2. Bulldog
  3. Piledriver
  4. Boston Crab
  5. (Or more). Figure-Four Leglock
Design: Lester Smith

Copyright © 2009 Lester Smith. All Rights Reserved.

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MonsterCon! Game

Lester : February 10, 2009 11:36 pm : Free Games, Game Design

monsterconA poker-card game of monstrous competition for 2-4 players.

Desiré Delamort, star of this year’s blockbuster alien-invasion film, is guest of honor at MonsterCon*. What she doesn’t know is that she’s also the Vampire’s intended bride, the Mummy’s reincarnated love, the Werewolf’s destined mate, and the key to restoring the Zombie’s soul. Each of these creatures is stalking among the costumed attendees of MonsterCon in hopes of capturing her. Can they get the girl without giving themselves away and falling prey to an angry mob of horror fans? And in the end, who will she go home with?


  • 1 deck of poker cards. You’ll use one suit for each player.
  • Some way of keeping score: Pencil and paper are great.


  • Separate the Kings from the rest of the deck, shuffle them together, and deal one face up on the table to each player. This determines who plays which monster.

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