Every week I delve into an indie game and report back with musings about what I found. Today I look into a small story game from 2002 about a person who hears voices in their head:
Everyone is JohnFree pdf, by Michael B. Sullivan
I kept hearing about (pun, not intended) Everyone is John around the internets for quite some time, but I didn't have the chance to check it out until last weekend. In this game, both the players AND the GM are John - an insane man from Minneapolis, who hears voices in his head. Players take the role of those voices and fight among themselves for control over John. Each voice has its own secret agenda (obsessions) and will try to steer John to do its bidding. GM is responsible for the world, same as in traditional RPGs, but also plays the role of John himself.
It is a interesting experience for everyone around the table to play the same person. GM is there purely as a moderator. He gets to play John and talk to the voices in his head, but the game revolves around the players. They are the ones who create the story. Each player has their own goals and will try to fulfill them to score the most points at the end of the game (yes, this story game has winners and losers). The game ends when John dies, usually because one of the voices told him to do something that leads to death. This ads a layer of gamism to the experience - do you think you have fulfilled enough of your obsessions to guarantee victory? Then, why not kill John now? The other voices might do it any second.
The game uses a very simple 1d6 mechanic, but introduces some board game elements into the mix - scoring and blind bidding to be precise. Because of that it can be used as a RPG/Story Game gateway for your board gaming friends. To be honest, I don't think the game would benefit in any way from a more sophisticated system. The mechanic, as is, feels chaotic and out of control. Just as one would feel if they were to loose their minds.
This is another great pick-up game. It can be played while waiting for the other players to arrive for your scheduled session. Even if you are not familiar with the game, you can grab, read it (it's under 1000 words in length) and start playing in minutes.
P.S The game's official website got shut down this winter, but the game itself can be found on the internet (so can the website, thanks to internet wizardry). I wish the author would grab his old designs and release their updated/streamlined versions as "Pay what you want" pdfs.