The Deal Available Now On DriveThruCards

Are you ready to play the most intense game of poker in your life? That’s been the response so far to our very first larp, The Deal, and now is your chance to get in on the action.

After a successful Kickstarter earlier this year, Broken Ruler Games is pleased to announce The Deal, a live-action roleplaying game about blackmail and confrontation during a high stakes game of poker, is now available to the gaming public. You can download the rules for free on The Deal‘s page as well as purchase print-and-play and/or print-on-demand cards from DriveThruCards.

This game is the third in our line of Fragments mini-games and one shots. You can discover more on our Fragments page, including Duel and By The General’s Hand.

Countdown to The Deal’s Kickstarter

The button has been clicked and The Deal‘s Kickstarter page is currently under review. It won’t be long now until our third Kickstarter campaign is under way. Oh yeah, in case we never mentioned it before… we’re doing a Kickstarter for a larp!

The Deal is a “poker larp” from Broken Ruler Games. Here, you can see a preview of the cover and some of the cards.

The Deal is a live-action roleplaying game of poker where you play one of four characters caught up in a web of blackmail, deception, and confrontation during a high-stakes game of poker. Playtested at BreakoutCon in Toronto this past year, this Kickstarter will have a small goal of $600 CDN within 21 days and you can back this game for as little as $1 with the biggest stretch goal just a mere $20 to unlock The Loaded Deck, a complete deck of standard playing cards in the same design as the game’s cards that creates a more advanced level of play. (The Loaded Deck will be exclusive to the Kickstarter, btw!) When published, it will be sold through DriveThruCards and all cards are designed to work with existing poker decks to create a seamless and immersive experience. In other words… it’s really fucking fun. (Oh yes, there’s lots of content warnings and this game is intended for mature players.)

You can check out a preview of The Deal on Kickstarter before it officially launches or learn more about the game in our Fragments line. And remember to talk about this game with #PokerLarpIsAThing

UPDATE: The date has been set! The Deal will launch on Tuesday, May 28th and run for 21 days.

Are You Ready To Make A Deal?

When 2019 started, The Deal‘s mechanics were under review and things were moving forward with it as our third Fragments game originally due to release around this time. Yet after a very successful game at BreakoutCon in Toronto this past March, the decision has been made to go all-in.

Today, we’re pleased to announce The Deal: A Live-Action Roleplaying Game of Poker will be going to Kickstarter this Spring. Over the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing more details on this project and everyone’s invited to check out our webpage for The Deal as well as catch a preview for the Kickstarter page.

The current cover for The Deal: A Live-Action Roleplaying Game of Poker. Coming to Kickstarter in Spring 2019.

What is The Deal? It’s a live-action roleplaying game (or a “larp,” as the cool kids call it) where four players take on the role of strangers gathered together for a high stakes game of poker. As they actually play poker, special cards known as Twists & Turns introduce plot twists as the strangers discover one of them is blackmailing the others. Nothing will remain the same when this game is done as the strangers discover some of the deepest, darkest secrets even their loved ones don’t know.

Organization and Time

Live Action Roleplaying (LARPs) avoid the same struggles of planning & timing vs. tabletop RPGs. Photo courtesy of
Live Action Roleplaying (LARPs) avoid the same struggles of planning & timing vs. tabletop RPGs. Photo courtesy of

Last week’s post on meta-gaming lead to a spirited discussion on my personal G+ account and the very first reply from Alexander Williams made an excellent point. While you can read the entire conversation here (also thanks to Gerardo Tasistro for his participation), Mr. Williams’ original comment has been provided below as this week’s Random Thoughts.

When you talk about – specifically – the turn-based nature of game mechanical resolution, you’re talking very specifically about the available time that any given player has to think about their interaction with the mechanics and the environment. That has nothing to do with organization. Even the most disorganized rabble can outmaneuver and outthink an organized opponent if they have the ability to stop time whenever they like.

I know exactly why you’re making this mistake: the primary context of your role-playing (mechanically) has been D&D, in which conflicts are broken down into smaller, quantized pieces, dealt with individually, and the results of the conflict emerges post hoc from the individual contributions of those quantized bits. Notably, that’s not how all role-playing games deal with resolving conflicts in a quantum sense. (That’s not even how all wargames resolve conflicts in a quantum sense at this point.)

Compare your question based on your experience to that of someone whose primary RPG experience was developed in the context of LARPs. In most LARPs, the idea of extremely small quantized conflict resolution chunks is fairly ludicrous. That’s just not how they work. How they actually work ranges from fairly broad not-quite-scene sized chunks (old-school Vampire MET) to we-don’t-stop-for-anything-keep-up continuous-combat that involves padded swords and the potential threat of rhino-hiding. In those games, the question of how you’re heard on the other side of the bar by the person you want to talk to is something that doesn’t come up as a question. It’s a constant concern.

In the real world, we have mechanisms for taming the rabble and making them useful. Militaries have been exploring those in refining the process for thousands of years at this point. In their training, militaries focus on dividing up tasks appropriately, focusing on the success of your assigned task first, assigning leadership roles, making sure that the person in charge actually understands how to bring together a team of people to common purpose, and instills an expectation in the group of success. Observation, orientation, decision, action – this is the loop that successful organizations of people must manage successfully.

You’ve observed that groups of people with no clear leadership, unpracticed in working together, and without unlimited time don’t do very well. The one element that you absolutely must have without practiced coordination or clear leadership is infinite time. That’s the tool that highly quantized turn-based systems allow players and GM’s to use in order to have success. Imagine how little fun it would be to try and get the typical gaming group through a D&D dungeon while requiring an absolute one-to-one mapping of real-time to game time. You would either end up with an extremely cautious – rationally so – group of people barely edging their way through an extremely dangerous environment, as rational people always do, or in an organized mob blundering along until they died. Horribly. The first might be fun for the right kind of group, but the latter is pretty much guaranteed to be no fun for anybody.

There are other ways of providing resolution of conflicts in a time extended way without small-quantum resolution. Scene level resolution is a fairly common one. You make one check for success/partial success/partial failure/failure at the beginning of the scene (or at the end of the scene) and let the role-play and interplay occur within the scene in real time, informed by the knowledge that the players possess about what is likely to or definitely going to happen. That often works much better if you’re looking for modeling and creating an experience which is much closer to that of people whose competencies lie in the simulated experience rather than the active simulating it. Alternately, you can have conflicts resolved without recourse to time – that is to say that they succeed or fail predictably every time based on some specific interaction between players, whether that be holding an appropriate Role (as in Kingdom), in-scene negotiation be a ritual phrases (as in Polaris), or even assumptive success on every act (as seen in Microscope). In every case, the player knows outcomes, all the players know the outcomes, and so their play in any individual scene is much more dynamic.

Basically, you’ve described the disease that only old-school gamers got, and the only cure is more cowbell – or at least exposure to games whose resolution mechanics are significantly different than what you’re used to, and in my opinion significantly superior in most cases to what you’re used to.

This is not a slam on D&D, it should be said. Rather, it’s a slam on the entire mode that D&D plays within without considering and exposing the assumptions on which is built. Pathfinder is an equal offender. In fact, pretty much the whole lot of the OSR movement is guilty as charged. They create patterns of thought which lead to certain reinforced expectations getting in the way of actually playing in a better structure. I’m not going to pull an Edwards and say that they cause brain damage, but as you’ve already determined they can lead to habits which are less than useful if your intent with the experience you want to create is to hew more closely to the reality experienced away from the game table.

Unless the character is psionic, in which case having a conversation across the bar is pretty trivial.

Random Thoughts is an ongoing series of… well, random thoughts provided by BRG’s lead designer, The Warden. Maybe this week will talk about the effects of initiative rolls and the next will cover how cool his new dice look. Whatever comes out of his head, this column is an outlet for these ramblings.