Some Un-Conventional Advice

Based on decades of professional game demo experience, and grad school teacher training, I would say that the best way to kill role-play enthusiasm for new players at a convention event is (a) pre-gen characters and; (b) rules info dump up front. Saddle players with those at the same time they’re supposed to be engaging with the unfolding story, and you’ve made role-play a chore.

Look, I get it. In most game systems pre-gen characters are a necessity, because there are so few hours in a convention demo slot. Which is why as a player myself, I quit going to those sorts of slots.

Conversely, the best way to engage players in a new RPG is:

  1. Let them create their own characters;
  2. Role-play until the first needed dice roll;
  3. Explain how dice work for actions;
  4. Role-play with that knowledge until combat breaks out;
  5. Explain how actions work in combat;
  6. Role-play to the adventure’s conclusion;
  7. Give players a memento of the session—the character they just created, to dream about playing its future adventures.

This is why D6xD6 and Bookmark HP RPG bookmark and biz card character sheets exist. First, to emphasize just how quickly and concisely you can design a character, and second, to fit the unique character you designed in your wallet or a book. I’ve seen countless 8½ x 11 inch character sheets in convention trash cans because they start to bulk out folders, or spill from the backs of books. (Even the D13 RPG is designed for generating characters quickly at the table.)

Running convention events, I’ve seen this approach succeed repeatedly, virtually inevitably. Some free advice from an old hand who just likes to see people succeed and have fun.

New: Game Host’s Guidebookmark!

New for the Bookmark HP RPG, the Game Host’s Guidebookmark! print-and-play PDF on DriveThruRPG!

Let’s talk titles for a moment, because you may have noticed a pattern.

If I had a Marketing Department, they’d be yelling at me about the name, Bookmark HP RPG. (I’m sure of that, because when I worked places that did have a Marketing Department, they yelled at me about other things.)

“How are you supposed to pronounce it? Why’s it have an HP in the title at all if you’re going to cross it out? Shouldn’t we name it something more exciting, like maybe Infinite Adventures, or Porta-Play, or Dragon’s Egg, or anything but Bookmark ‘No HP’ RPG?”

Why? Because it makes me laugh!

Which is why Dracula’s Get and Supers! are called “Sourcebookmarks.” And when people started asking for more player guidelines, I published a Player’s “Handbookmark,” and now a Game Host’s “Guidebookmark.” The words are so ridiculous that they make me laugh! And they’re an affectionate poke at the game that originated this hobby.

I only wish there were a word for “manual” that ends in “book,” so I could poke fun at Monster Manual. Looks like I’ll have to settle for Bookmark Bestiary. Fortunately concept itself is ridiculous enough to laugh at! Expect a slew of those, for different settings.

Oh, and about this Game Host’s Guidebookmark. It provides a rules twist for “mooks,” so your protagonists can handle attacks by mobs of your villain’s minions, plus guidelines for running scenes and awarding Boons, and the most concise “how to” I’ve ever seen for crafting adventures. This bookmark went through the same play-test and critique as the previous ones, so I think it’s safe to call it meaty.

By the way, my hypothetical Marketing Department would also have yelled at me about launching the line with Dracula’s Get, instead of fantasy, or sci-fi, or the Supers! Sourcebookmark. But I wanted to solo play Petit Louis, bastard son of Louis XIV, hanger-on at courts, part of Donald Trump’s retinue during the Presidency. And with the “mook” rule, he managed to survive an attack by ten human hunters, though just barely. He stumbled away, almost destroyed, and had to spend two weeks recovering in the tender care of the rock band he manages.

Creatures and Cards!

The one-week Kickstarter to fund illustration by Len Peralta raised nearly twice our goal, adding bonus illustrations and three bonus Heroes! Visit the Lester Smith Games page on DriveThruCards for this deck and others.

The free rules here work with a standard poker deck, so you can discover for yourself how the game plays.

These rules came to me in a dream one night. A bit of family playtesting, and here they are for you!

A fighter, a wizard, a priest, and a thief walk into a dungeon. The dragon says, “Sounds like a party!”

This game uses a standard poker deck to represent 2-4 fantasy heroes battling their way through an underground complex to find treasures and rescue captives. Who will emerge with the most loot and followers?

HOW TO WIN
At game’s end, the player with the most points of diamonds (treasure) and hearts (followers) wins! (Each card counts as its number value; Jacks count as 11 and Queens count as 12.)

GAME PREP

  1. Shuffle the four King cards and deal one to each player. These are used to identify which character each will be playing.
    • Spades King is the Fighter, who can play two attack cards each turn and kill more than one monster at a time.
    • Clubs King is the Wizard, who can make a mass attack on monsters anywhere.
    • Hearts King is the Priest, who can heal a wounded follower or rescue a follower from the discard pile.
    • Diamonds King is the Thief, who can steal the lowest numbered treasure card from the player with the most treasure cards.
      These powers are explained in more detail later.
  2. Shuffle the rest of the deck and place it within easy reach of all players.
  3. Begin play with the Fighter, going clockwise around the table for player turns.

PLAYER TURN

Each player goes through these 7 steps on their turn.

  1. Draw: Bring your hand to 5 cards.
  2. Followers: You may play 1 follower (heart card) from your hand to the table in front of you.
  3. Monster(s): You may play any number of monsters (club cards) from your hand, adding 1 monster to each player of your choice and any number on yourself.
  4. Attack: You may play 1 attack (spade card) on the monster in front of you (if there is one).
    • If the attack is equal to or greater than the monster, the monster is killed.
    • If the attack is less than the monster, the monster is weakened—place the attack card on the monster to show how many points remain to it.
  5. Counterattack: If any monsters remain in front of you, they damage your followers. Compare total remaining monster health to total follower health, and discard that many points of follower cards.
    • If any monster points remain, discard that many cards from your hand, then discard the monsters.
    • If instead, any follower points remain, keep that many points of follower cards and discard the rest. If needed, use a monster card to cover part of a follower card, leaving that follower’s remaining health uncovered. Discard the other monster cards.
  6. Treasure: You may play 1 treasure (diamond card) from your hand for each monster killed (see “Kings and Jokers” below). If you cannot play a treasure card for a monster, turn up the top card of the draw pile instead: if it is a treasure or follower, play it in front of you; if it is an attack, put it in your hand for later; if it is a monster, play it in front of you (it will affect your next turn).
  7. Discard 1 or more cards if desired.

KINGS & JOKERS

Kings remain in front of players, identifying them for the duration of the game. Jokers are a special attack that take the place of a normal attack.

  • Spades King: The Fighter can play 2 attack cards (in step 4) and add their values. Whether 1 or 2 attack cards are played, their total attack value is compared to the total monster cards value, possibly killing 1 or more and weakening another. Mark any remaining weakened monster as usual.
  • Clubs King: The Wizard may (in step 4) either attack normally or use a single attack card to kill more than one monster anywhere in play, even in front of other players. In this mass attack, compare the attack card’s value to each monster individually—if the attack value is equal to or greater than the monster’s value, that monster is killed, otherwise it is not affected.
  • Hearts King: The Priest can (in step 2) either go through the discard pile to rescue a follower and play it or heal a follower by discarding the monster on it. This action is in addition to playing a follower as usual.
  • Diamonds King: Once per turn, the Thief can steal a treasure from another player instead of turning up the top card of the draw pile (step 6). This must be the lowest value treasure from the player with the greatest number of treasure cards (not the greatest total value). In case of a tie, the Thief must take the single lowest valued card among the tied players.
  • Jokers count as magical attacks that kill all monsters in front of you. Play a joker in step 4 instead of a spade, then place it on the discard pile.

ENDING THE GAME

  • Play through the draw deck once, then shuffle the discards to make a new draw deck.
  • Play through this second draw deck, then allow each player one last turn with the cards remaining in their hand.
  • Count the total points of treasure and followers together for each player. The player with the most points wins.

Design: Lester Smith. Playtesting: Christine Hofpar, Christopher Hofpar, Cristian Hofpar, Jennifer Smith, Karalyn Smith, Katheryn Smith; Chibi Illos: Peileppe www.peileppe.com (except Thief & Priest assembled by Lester Smith).

Copyright © 2017 Lester Smith Games