Archive | July, 2011

Tempest in a Tea Cup

25 Jul

Tempest in a Tea Cup

By Shari Corey and Willow Palecek

A role play game for 3 to 5 players


On a remote island a little girl named Miranda is having a tea party.  Young Miranda is, (as little girls do) entertaining her “invisible” friends.  For her, though, these friends are powerfully real.  These nature spirits are her mentors, teachers and guides as she grows to adulthood an exile on this island.

Tempest in a Tea Cup is a cooperative role play game exploring the life of Miranda, exiled daughter of the sorcerer Prospero, rightful Duke of Milan, and the nature spirits that are her friends and teachers.


Tempest in a Tea Cup is an entry for the 2011 Game Chef competition, featuring Shakespeare as its theme and exile, daughter and nature as its ingredients.


Miranda, the Sorcerer Prospero’s daughter, exiled with him.

Nature Spirits.

What You Will Need to Play:

Friends—3 to 5 players are best.  One copy of Miranda’s character sheet and 2 to 4 copies of the nature spirit character sheet, or note paper.  Blank paper or a copy of the island map.  Pencils, one for each player.

Definition of Terms:

Scene—a short section of play involving a choice obstacle or difficulty that Miranda must face.

Framing a Scene—Describing the setting and obstacles that Miranda faces in a single situation.  One spirit takes overall responsibility for each scene with the other players adding detail.

Season—a group of scenes where each spirit has taken a turn framing the scene.

Skill—a knowledge or ability that allows Miranda to overcome challenges  These are earned one per scene and each can be used once per season. Examples are swimming, herb lore, orienteering, reading and writing, using a bow and arrow.


Virtue—a quality of personality or being that allows Miranda to overcome challenges.  These are earned one per season, but may be used once per scene.  Examples are patience, compassion, perseverance, leadership.

Game Set Up:

Decide who will play Miranda.  The remaining players will each play a unique nature spirit.

Decide how long you want to play. This determines the number of lessons and virtues to be learned.   For an average length (one evening) game with four players, two lessons and one virtue per spirit should be sufficient.  For a shorter game or larger group you may wish to choose one lesson and one virtue each.  For longer games or smaller groups, choose a larger number of lessons.

Set up your characters– Each of the nature spirits chooses a general type and a more specific form.  A water spirit could be an ocean spirit, for example, or a river spirit, or even a rain spirit!  Each player also chooses the lessons to teach Miranda. Assuming the standard length/size game, one should be a lesson a doting father wants his daughter taught. (An example might be a river spirit teaching her to swim, for instance, or an air spirit teaching her to play the flute)  The other should be some awesomeness from your spirit’s corner of the world. (A falcon spirit may wish to teach Miranda to fly, for example, or a flower spirit may wish to teach her to see the beauty around her.)  Remember that Miranda is the daughter of a powerful sorcerer, so these skills and lessons need not be limited by real world ideologies and physics!

Each spirit also chooses a cardinal Virtue he or she represents, and which needs to be imparted to Miranda.

Miranda, in the meantime, chooses what virtue she begins the game with, and what skill or lesson her father taught her.  These will be available to help her in her first scene.


Example: Tim, Kim, Karen and Joe sit down to play.  Joe wants to play Miranda, so the other three will play nature spirits.  Tim decides he wants an air spirit, specifically a zephyr spirit.  He names his character Ariel.  Kim wants to play a water spirit, and decides on an ocean spirit.  She names her character Oceania.  Karen meanwhile decides to play a tree spirit.  She names the character Elm.  They are playing an average length game and so decide on two lessons and one virtue.  Tim decides that Prospero has tasked Ariel with teaching Miranda to fly, and that Ariel wants Miranda to learn invisibility.  He decides that the Virtue Ariel represents is Discretion—the wind sees everything but tells little.   Kim decides that Prospero wants Oceania to teach Miranda how to swim, and that Oceania wants Miranda to learn how to talk to fish.  She decides that the Virtue Oceania represents is Adaptability.  Water takes on the shape of its container, yet remains uniquely itself.  Karen decides that Prospero wants Elm to teach Miranda orienteering, and that Elm wants Miranda to learn woods lore.  She decides that the Virtue Elm represents is Steadfastness.   Trees stand strong, withstanding the tempest.   Joe is playing Miranda—He decides that she starts with the Virtue of Compassion and the skill reading and writing. 


The spirits then get together and collectively establish general parameters for the island.  Is it tropical or temperate?  Is it large or tiny?  What features does it have?  Decide on general areas of influence, based on the spirit type chosen.  An earth spirit would have the mountain as his area of influence, for instance, while the ocean spirit would have control of the lagoon.  Outline these on the map provided, or draw your own.

Example: Tim, Karen and Kim gather together.  They decide that the Island is tropical in nature, that there is a lagoon, a large forested area and a mountaintop.  Ariel will cover the mountain top. Oceania takes over the lagoon and Elm the forest.   They take a moment to draw these features on the island map. They also note a spot on the map for Miranda’s house and add other details including a river that may or may not come up in play.

Game Play:

Choose a spirit to frame the first scene.  Spirit players can frame their scenes in any order, as they come up with ideas.

Each of the spirits takes turns framing a scene in which Miranda faces choices, obstacles or difficulties.  The goal of which is for Miranda to learn one of the skills you are trying to teach, as well as to invoke in her the Virtue you represent.  The other spirits should add detail to the scene as well. (All the players participate in each scene.)

Miranda must use help from the spirits or previous lessons learned to master each challenge.   If no available lesson is applicable to the situation, Miranda must seek help from the nature spirits or find a different solution.

Both Kim and Karen have ideas for scenes.  Joe gets to resolve the conflict; he decides that Kim can go first.  The lessons Kim wants to teach are swimming and talking to the fish.  She describes how Miranda is at the sea shore collecting shells, driftwood and flotsam.  The tide comes in and Miranda is cut off from shore.  What does she do?

Joe look s at Miranda’s character sheet.  He has Compassion and reading and writing, neither of which will help him get back to shore.  He decides that Miranda will ask her friends for help.  Elm says yes, and Karen describes a large piece of driftwood floating by.  Miranda seizes the opportunity, and begins to kick her way back to shore with the help of the driftwood.  Kim tells Joe that Miranda is having a little trouble, the waves are very tall.  Once again, Joe has Miranda turn to the other spirits for help, asking Ariel to talk to the wind spirits whipping up the waves.  Things grow a little calmer and Miranda makes it safely back to shore.

At the end of each scene, Miranda states one lesson she has learned and writes it down on her character sheet.  This lesson then becomes available to assist with further challenges. Each lesson can be used once per season. She should then refresh her list of Virtues.

Example: After struggling back to shore, Joe decides that Miranda has learned the skill “swimming”.  He writes that on his character sheet.  Since he couldn’t use compassion in that particular challenge, he has nothing to refresh.   He now has reading and writing, swimming, and compassion available to help overcome the next challenge. 

Move on to the next spirit’s scene, repeating until each of the spirits has had one scene.   The end of the final spirit’s scene is also the conclusion of the season.  In addition to the skill gained for the scene, Miranda declares one Virtue she has gained and writes that down on her character sheet also.   At this point she refreshes her skills and her virtues for the next season of play.

Example: Karen’s scene involves Miranda getting lost in the forest.  While lost, she encounters a wounded deer.  She opts to use her virtue “compassion” to care for the deer.  The deer leads her to the river, which she knows flows into the lagoon near her house.  She decides to use the skill “swimming” to get herself home.  Once home, the scene ends.  Joe refreshes “compassion” on Miranda’s character sheet, and picks a new skill that Miranda has learned from the experience.  The skill picked doesn’t have to be woods lore or orienteering, but should be appropriate to the situation.    “Swimming” is still checked off.  Joe won’t be able to use it on the next scene.  Once Tim’s scene plays out, Joe will refresh both the Virtues and the Skills, and will pick a new skill and a Virtue, since Kim, Karen and Tim have all had a turn framing a scene.

Further scenes and seasons are played out as above.  However, spirits need not frame scenes in the same order as they did in the first season, as long as each spirit gets a turn each season.

The game ends when all the lessons have been learned and the virtues imparted.

Conflict will inevitably arise during the course of the game.  Any conflict that Miranda is directly involved in is an obstacle that she must overcome, using one of her skills or virtues.  However, if the conflict is solely between spirits, then Miranda’s player has the final say.  (“Now, everyone, stop fighting!”)

Remember the primary purpose of the game is to have fun!



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25 Jul

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