Saturday, September 18, 2021

Alternate Rules

You can change play through a few alternate game settings. For faster games, do one or more of the following:

  1. Start with all character revealed.
  2. Use the castle as the setting the entire time.
  3. Remove the "Et tu, Brute?", "The Wheel is Come Full Circle", and "One Fell Swoop" Trickster cards from play.

The Rules

Shakespeare Deathmatch                                                                                                    
© 2021, Dr. Mike Desing -
Objective. You are a character in a Shakespearean tragedy, trying to deceive others and do them harm, seeking to be the last left alive.
Damage. Characters may suffer damage of four different types (suits). Each character is susceptible to different damage. While some characters live and die by the sword, others are harmed via their reputation or even their pocketbook. Your character card shows the two types of damage your character is susceptible to and how many total points of damage are needed for your character to be slain. For example, Hamlet may suffer 4 blades and 8 coins before being slain.
·   Blades reflects physical harm from weapons.
·   Coins reflects financial ruin leading to destruction.
·   Letters reflects harm to mental state and reputation.
·   Poison reflects physical damage from toxins.
Hand. You play cards from your hand. You have three cards in hand at all times (unless a location card changes this). Any time you play one or more cards from your hand, you immediately draw from your draw pile to return to three cards in hand. Any time you have more than three cards in hand, you must discard any extra cards to get to three cards.
Draw Pile. You have several cards in your personal draw pile. You are generally not allowed to look at your draw pile, and you must draw the top card each time you draw.
Discard Pile. When a card is no longer in play (temporarily), it is put into a discard pile in the center of the table. At the end of every act, the new protagonist shuffles the discard pile and distributes all cards to all players still in the game. New cards are placed at the bottom of any existing cards in the draw pile.
Damage Pool. Each player keeps a personal pool of damage cards. These are cards that other players have played on you, reflecting the damage your character has sustained. At the beginning of the game, no one knows what types of damage you are susceptible to, so it is likely you will have cards in your damage pool that do no harm to your character.
Revealing Characters. As you sustain damage, you may decide to reveal your character to others. At this point, you trigger the when revealed note on your character card. In addition, you discard all damage from your damage pool that does not harm your character, putting those cards back in play.
Setting Cards display the various locations where acts occur. There is always one setting active. The protagonist gets to choose the setting for each act.
Trickster Cards are special action cards. You may only play a trickster card on your action (but not when playing a card to defend against another character’s action), before you play a standard action card. If you must play a trickster card on your action or to defend (if, for example, you only have trickster cards in your hand), that card is automatically sacrificed; it will not win that scene.
Two Players. When down to two players remaining, or for any two-player games, there is no protagonist, and the setting is always the castle.
Sequence of Play 
1.  Sort cards into three piles: character cards, action cards, and setting cards. Shuffle all, keeping the three types of cards in separate piles.
2.  Each player draws one character card. Look at, but do not reveal, your character.
3.  Deal all action cards, distributing among players. These become your draw pile. Do not look at these cards.
4.  Draw three cards from the top of your draw pile for your hand. Always have three cards in hand (unless a setting changes this); at fewer than three cards, immediately draw back to three cards. 
5.  The player whose birthday is closest to April 23 (Shakespeare’s birthday!) goes first, taking the protagonist card. Play moves to the left. The protagonist selects a setting card and puts this near the discard pile. This will be the setting for this act.
6.  On your action, play a card from your hand (setting it in front of you), initiating a scene. Each player plays a card in response, setting it in front of them. You control the scene until another player plays a card defeating yours. That card then becomes the one to beat for that scene. On your action (only), you may play a trickster card or reveal your character (or both) before you play an action card. Once you play an action card, you cannot use a trickster or reveal. You may only play one trickster per scene.  
7.  At the end of the scene (when all players have played a card), the winner of that scene collects all cards played. Place one into the damage pool of another player. Discard the rest.  The next player then takes their action.
8.  After the protagonist has completed their second action during that act (play has gone one complete rotation), the player to their left becomes the new protagonist of the next act. Shuffle and distribute all cards in the discard pile, placing these beneath any existing draw piles. Repeat from step 5.
9.  If your character is slain, you are out of the game; place all cards from your draw pile, hand, and damage pool in the discard pile. Play continues until only one character remains. That player wins.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Chapter 5

The County Paris took a tentative bite. It was a little bitter, and perhaps too salty, but it was otherwise agreeable. The mushrooms here in the deeper, damper part of the wood were plumper than others, giving off a pleasant smell. He had not eaten in a day (at least - perhaps longer) and was, he had to admit even to himself, growing somewhat concerned. One might say alarmed, if one were given to hyperbole. Surely father would have sent someone by now? And wasn’t there some servant somewhere? It was quite off-putting. He was ready for a hot bath and a clean set of linens. And he suddenly missed mother very much.

Someone was going to hear about this. That was certain.

But then something caught in his throat. It started as a bit of a tickle, and became a cough. But, the cough seemed to stifle itself. He tried to inhale, but found that was difficult as well. Was he choking? No… he had just swallowed a piece of mushroom. He felt a spasm of pain in his belly. Fear was followed by panic, followed by a desperate realization. He looked down at the half-eaten fungus in his hand.

Dammit. Poisonous mushrooms.

Go to Chapter 6

Chapter 4

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern were arguing. This was unlike them.

“The way to safety is best t’wards the sea,” Rosencrantz argued, pointing down the rocky slope. In the far distance, well beyond trees and rocky outcroppings, the horizon showed a blue line. His curly hair fought back against the brisk wind. He may have used gel.

Guildenstern pointed in the other direction, “To climb is best to find a place of rest.” And then he produced a knife. His hair was whipping around. Friggin hair. He had always been envious of Rosencrantz’s hair. Did Rosencrantz use gel? It seemed like he must. It wasn’t natural, otherwise. Gel seemed like cheating. Guildenstern’s hair would be perfect all the time too if he used gel. Cheating, I say. 

Rosencrantz appeared taken aback. This was his best friend, after all. They had been lifelong companions. Best friends on the roads of Denmark, and far beyond. Sometimes, quite far beyond.

Like, they were totally gay is what I’m saying.

But they were no longer in Denmark. They were no longer on any of its adjoining roads. They were likely quite further than they had ever been, or ever were likely to be again. They were still gay, though. That wasn’t going to change. 

Furthermore (Guildenstern had come to suspect), they were quite likely no longer alive. If they had been best friends for life, then that agreement had been completed, and it may be time for a new arrangement. 

“Fuck you forsooth before you find relief.” This was followed by a pointed pointy pointer finger. It appeared quite aggressive. This was quite unlike Rosencrantz.

“Die in a ditch and suffer as you die.” Guildenstern spat on the ground (for good measure). A bit of dribble stuck to the hairs on his chin. He wiped it aggressively, and then spat again. Also for good measure.

Each bit a thumb at the other thrice, in increasing intensity, and then stomped they in opposite directions. Guildenstern looked back to see if Rosencrantz was looking back, too. 

He was not.

Go to Chapter 5

Chapter 3

Macbeth removed his blade. Okay, it was actually more like ripped it out of the guy’s chest, because the back hook on the upper blade had gotten stuck on a rib or something, but in the end he had his blade, and his life, and this other guy was dead. He examined the body. For some reason, he recognized this foe. His name had been Tybalt. The fiery Tybalt, actually. Tybalt of the House of Capulet.

How did he know that? No matter. There was probably more killing to do. I mean, there was always more killing to do. That was the thing with killing. It could be a full-time job if you let it. And Macbeth had tended to let it.

He heard a screaming coming from deep down a narrow pathway in the direction he had been going when Tybalt attempted his amateurish ambush. Macbeth recognized it at once. It was the Lady Macbeth. She sounded pissed. Granted, she always sounded pissed. It was kind of her thing.

He mulled his options. He was tired, and kind of horny (to be fair, he was always kind of horny), so she might be able to help him on at least one of those fronts. Sex in the forest might be kind of hot. But, she was the Lady Macbeth, after all. That meant she was probably going to nag him to death and challenge his manhood and basically tell him “that foe you felled gave not the fight you thought”, or some shit to take away this victory. Tybalt had been a pretty hardcore dude, and Macbeth still stuck him like a pig. Lady Macbeth was going to take that away. He just knew it. 

Fuck that shit.

He ran off in the other direction. 

Honestly, that was better than his first option of just jamming his blade in her throat.

Go to Chapter 4

Chapter 2

Romeo helped Juliet across the creek bed. It was only a foot deep, but the water was brisk and cold, the rocks were slippery, and Juliet was wearing the impractical but stylish shoes that her mother had insisted she wear.

        Sometimes, she really hated that bitch.

      But Juliet was with her Romeo, and that was something. Her foot gave way again.

Romeo gently but firmly held her wrist, “Careful, my love, tis much for me to lose.”

Juliet nodded, laughing at herself, “My thoughts are here and far away at once.”

They arrived at the other end of the creek bed, and started to climb a shallow but slick embankment. They stopped at the sounds of something above. Juliet realized that she was wearing that milk-white dress her mother had had custom tailored, and then had forced her to wear every Sunday. Was this Sunday? Didn’t matter. White dress in the forest was a really crappy choice, no matter the day of the week.

Juliet dropped, and felt the hoop in her skirt lift the back up. She must have looked like an umbrella on its side. She managed to bend the hoop with a quick crack and flatten the skirt. Mud was going to ruin this dress forever. Good riddance.

Romeo scanned the tree line above them, his body pressed against the thick carpet of vines and leaves, as he scurried towards Juliet, “By’s voice, this should be the lord Othello.” Indeed, Othello emerged above, panting. He carried a bloody blade, his clothing was torn, and he bore a frantic look in his eyes. He glanced down into the valley, turned his head to the right and then to the left, and finally set off to his right, continuing on in the direction he had been going. If he had seen Romeo or Juliet, he had given no indication.  

Romeo whispered, “What say we set our foot near to his heel?”

Juliet nodded. That guy was going somewhere. Somewhere seemed significantly better than the nowhere they were now.

Go to Chapter 3


Chapter 1

“Thou art a scholar.” 

Those words still echoed.

God dammit, Marcellus: a lot of good being a scholar was doing Horatio right now. Okay, he had to admit that being a scholar was of some benefit. Granted, it was not the benefit of being able to fight off the dark creatures of this place like Laertes was probably doing with his rapier, and definitely not the benefit that Friar Lawrence would have since he could draw upon a deep knowledge of plants - a knowledge that was likely to keep him alive long after others had starved to death or mistakenly chowed down on a patch of poisonous mushrooms. 

But, Horatio had studied at Wittenberg. He had learnt the classics. Horatio had studied history and literature, the arts and the Poetics. He had made Greek Mythology his (metaphorical) bitch. His meticulous study had at least equipped him to figure out what the game was, and to have some idea of what they were up against.

This was an island. Everyone could see that. Hell, even Marcellus could probably have seen that. However, Horatio recognized the telltale signs that this was the island of that foul witch Sycorax. There was the ethereal drumming at twilight. There were the shadows of fae creatures that lingered at the edges of the firelight long after the moon had dropped below the trees - not the whimsical creatures of the faerie court of Oberon, either. Not by a long stretch. 

Furthermore, there was the cove of wrecked ships at the western end of the island. And fucking Caliban was loping around, joyously breaking shit and throwing rocks into valleys.  

It had been over seventeen hours, and Horatio was exhausted. He hadn’t slept, and now it was near noon (twenty-four minutes away, he was quite confident). He knew that he would need to find somewhere to rest. He knew that he would have to find some way to gather food. He knew that he’d have to improvise at least some sort of weapon to, at a minimum, defend himself when needed. He knew for sure that some means of self-defense would be paramount.   

But Horatio also knew one more thing.

If he wanted to survive this, he knew that he had to find Hamlet.