What Kind of Games Can I Make?
At this point most of you have probably arrived at this section thinking I’m going to mostly advocate for slapstick comedies or cathartic violence, right? And you’d be correct.This was a system whose first inspiration was Final Destination, which has both of those concepts as the bedrock upon which a franchise was formed. A “traditional” Bad Time Game, if you can say a game has a tradition, is a quick and dirty game for a bunch of laughs. It’s an improvisational palate cleanser style of game, something you can get through in a single session for a bundle of laughs.
Of course, you don’t have to stick to the horror movie conventions of End of the Line. Far from it! There are so many situations in which people can have a humorously bad time. Think about the second hand embarrassment of a romantic comedy, of the sheer slapstick of a Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton movie, or even a family dinner. A more technical name for the Bad Time Game system is Murphy’s Law: The SRD. Embrace the bad times, and embrace the chaos.
That being said, it’s not because I don’t think that the dice or game system can’t handle something outside of that specific niche. It’s because this is a system that encourages failure, and I care for the players at your table.
Failure can be humorous if intentional. But it can be frustrating, even demoralizing to see. A player seeking achievement is going to find themselves up against the wall if they feel that luck isn’t on their side, and that they are unable to progress due to sheer luck. With the way the Bad Time Dice are designed, you are intentionally creating an environment that encourages failure. Comedy and schadenfreude add levity to failure, so that players can abstract the failures from themselves rather than feeling that failure personally.
It doesn’t mean that you can’t go against the grain of humour and do a game that very much delves into dark and serious territory. But it does mean that you need to be far more careful about the intentionality of failure, to which I offer two potential game solutions:
- An Intentional Descent - This is a journey about characters losing everything, and specifically playing to lose. Think about any given tragedy. It’s composed of heart ache after heartbreak, drop after drop filling a cup of sorrow till it overflows. You’ll be looking to steep yourself in drama and melodrama intentionally, coming out with a deeply flawed character… or not coming out at all.
- A Recursive Game - AKA the Time Loop game. Some time ago, Justin Ford of Mothland Games wrote a blog post about the potential of a TTRPG where you repeat time again and again… and Ihappen to think the Bad Time Game system would be PERFECT for it. When hitting the threshold, you die… and then come back the next session with your information and some other benefits. Or detriments. From Happy Death Day to ERASED to All You Need Is Kill, it’s easy to see how ending in the hard reset of death allows you to begin again.
That being said, don’t limit yourself here. If you can find a good way to make characters have a bad time, put it to good use!