image from The Withcer 3: Wild Hunt
Whether it be the swindling rogue, playful bard, or barbarian that thinks he’s a drunken prodigy, games come up at least once when you’re in a tavern. Players are spending some downtime between quests drinking it up and chatting with NPC’s. One of your players wants to take part in a tavern game, what do you do? Ladies and gent’s it’s time to talk about playing a game within a game: Gamception.
Playing a game at a tavern or as a way interact with an otherwise unfriendly NPC creates a really interesting and immersive way of engaging role playing. In my opinion, that should not only be acknowledged, but rewarded. At least the first time. The easy way to go through this is describe some sort of game, whether it be chess-like, a card game or a game of riddles. Whatever fits the NPC is really the key here. Have the player describe what they do, and settle it with a skill check. Boom, done. That’d be funny if I ended the post now, I’m sitting here chuckling at the idea.
This is the way I would handle playing a game after the first time a player has played it. If the player isn’t exactly notorious for doing this kind of thing but seems to be coming out of their shell, actually bring a short and fun game that you can engage in with the player. Perhaps bring chess and change the rules a bit. If the opponent removes the enemy’s king, queen or both knights from the board, they win. It speeds the game up, it’ll be interesting and unexpected to not settle something with a skill roll and will help everybody at the table feel like they’re engaged with the setting. For a card game, The Witcher’s game, Gwent or Adventure Time’s, Card Wars (if you’re feeling a little silly) are perfect. Simplistic, fun to play, playable outside of role playing and different from most other card games. The trouble with that one is that it’s nearly impossible to find.
After you have that first engagement of playing a game within a game, it’ll be okay to just settle the game with a skill check. Having that tangible aspect to the idea really makes the setting come alive. It’s really critical to keep in mind that you should try your best to have a game that’s either fast or cooperative. Having the other players sit around for an hour while another player does something isn’t exactly fun the whole time. Not every table loves props for the game, so keep that in mind as well.
On the flip side, it might also be really fun to make a GM initiated game as a plot point to move a story forward. Especially if you have players that are a little stubborn when negotiating with NPC’s. Having a gambler/swindler that’ll come to an agreement over a game is enticing to the players and also negates full on negotiation. It’s a good bargaining tool to make players a little more flexible. However, much like playing a physical tavern game amidst your role playing session, it’s a cheap trick that can get old fast.
Initiating this sort of interaction as a GM could also help make the secret villain more human. If the players, whilst investigating, come across the villain before they know he is such, it can perhaps create a moral dilemma later. Maybe it doesn’t have to create a dilemma at all, maybe it can be used as a device to make the villain seem more slimy to create some small sense of foreshadowing. No matter how you use it, having your PC’s engage in Gamception within your role playing sessions is an interesting idea to toy with. Tinker away!
And don’t forget…
Stay Metal \m/