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Beacon of Hope –for Game Chef 2012

15 Apr

Beacon of Hope


Navaho myth says that this world we live in is the Third World, and that when it, like the two before, passes away, the Chosen people will travel to the fourth world through a mystical gate in the sky.   It is December of 2012, and the Mayan calendar will shortly click over to zero. The ending of the Third World is at hand.   Dreams and portents have depicted a lantern shining the way to salvation, and so a great lighthouse has been built in the Painted Desert.  The Tribal Elders and Medicine Singers know that it is both a call to the chosen to gather, and a prayer to the Great Spirit to open the door.   Many have gathered here at the base of the Lighthouse, this shining Beacon of Hope.

However, it is Trickster Coyote’s job to be sure that the chosen are truly worthy of the fourth world, and Coyote is not convinced.  He has sabotaged the beacon.  Grandmother Spider has chosen you and a handful of others out of the gathered crowd to travel on a mystical journey through time and space to unravel the damage that has been done.  She warns, however that Coyote will also travel with the group, seeking to observe, to hinder, and perhaps, if convinced of your worthiness, to help.  Coyote is a Trickster, she reminds you, able to appear to be anyone, or anything.  She wishes you good luck, and sends you on your way.

Beacon of Hope is a roleplay game for 3 to 6 players and one Gamesmaster or GM, designed to be played in a single evening.

You will Need

Pencils and Blank Paper, copies of the Ballot, Copies of the pre generated Characters, cards numbered one through six (playing cards work well) and plenty of ordinary six sided dice. 


Designate the GM, and have players choose from the pre-generated characters included with these instructions. (If your group has time, creativity or inclination, you may create characters with a similar structure).

Next, go around the table and ask each player to choose an event of historical significance. (Three players should choose two events each).   These will be the events around which your game scenes will be based.  While the players complete their Character Sheets, including answering the questions at the bottom, the GM should take a moment to sketch out how Coyote has interfered with these historical events.  Use broad strokes –let the details of what was done, and how the players undo it come out in play!

Now, shuffle the correct number of cards for your group size; two per person for three players, one each for groups of four, five or six.  No one should see the card/cards except the individual holding it!  These indicate which player is actually Coyote (mimicking the character) in any given scene.  Note that every player, except the GM, will play Coyote.  Remember, the Coyote role is a secret.  Only one person should know who Coyote is in a given scene, the player actually playing him.

Lastly hand out seven six sided dice per player for their personal pool, and place the remaining dice in the center of the table.

Structure of Play

The game consists of a series of Scenes-each scene is based upon one of the events chosen during preparation.  Each scene has a Scene Conflict- This is what Coyote did to sabotage the Beacon, and what the characters are trying to undo.  Each scene consists of a series of Actions- what the players describe their characters doing within the setting.  Actions undertaken to accomplish a stated goal (generally a step toward resolving the Scene Conflict ) will require a Die Roll- a number of six sided dice are determined based upon the stated action, are rolled, and success or failure are determined, then the consequences narrated.

Determining Die Rolls

Each Character has a list of Traits-basic components of the characters personality or skill set.  Listed under each trait are a number of Tags-more specific subsets of the general skills or personality features.

When a character undertakes an action that is difficult, opposed, or designed to progress toward resolving the scene conflict, they will need to roll the dice to see if they succeed or fail.  Players always get one die for initiating the action.  They get another die if they can apply one of their traits to the situation, and one die for each tag under that trait that they can bring to bear on the situation.  They may add any number of dice from their personal pool before making the roll.

Example:  John is playing the reporter and wants to investigate some rumors.  He states that he is asking around on the streets, looking for information.  He gets one die for initiating the action, one die because he is a journalist, getting information is what he does professionally, after all.  He is investigating, that is another die, and he argues that he is interviewing people for information and the GM agrees.  That nets him a fourth die to roll.  Since this is a fairly safe activity John elects to not add any dice from his personal pool.   He will be rolling a total of four dice to see if he succeeds in investigating the rumors.

Personal Dice Pools

Each player is given seven dice at the beginning of the game as a personal pool.  Any number of these can be added to any die roll at the discretion of the player making the roll.  They are “spent” when used.  One die is added to a player’s personal pool when they fail an action.

Helping another Character

Players may elect to help another character to achieve their goals.  This is done by picking up one of the dice from the helping player’s personal pool, narrating HOW they are helping in the situation, and handing the die to the player making the roll. 

Determining Success

After the dice are rolled, tally the number of dice that are four or higher, this is the number of successes for the action. 

Scene Conflict Pools

Each success on actions within a scene adds one die to the pool of dice available to roll to resolve the scene conflict.  When the players decide that they have put enough effort into resolving the conflict, it’s time to roll the Scene Conflict Pool.

The Vote

Before the Scene Conflict Pool is rolled and the success or failure narrated, Coyote gets to stick his Tricky little paw into the game!  This is accomplished by means of The Vote.  Each player fills out a ballot.  For the players who are NOT playing Coyote this scene, their vote should simply be “I am not Coyote”.   For the player who IS playing Coyote, the choices are a little more complicated.  For Coyote, the options are to HELPadding 1-3 dice to the Scene Conflict Pool; Hinderadding 1-3 penalty dice to the pool, or to observe and do nothing.  This determination is based upon any criterion that the player chooses, even that of whim. 

Penalty Dice

If Coyote has Hindered the players then the awarded penalty dice are added to the scene conflict pool and rolled with the others.  Then an equal number of successes are removed from the result, starting with the highest.

Example- The party is attempting to rescue a particular book from the Alexandria Library Fire.  Collectively they have garnered eight successes, netting them a Scene Conflict Pool of eight dice. Before they roll, the vote is taken, and Coyote decides to hinder the party a little, opting for two penalty dice.  A total of ten dice are rolled; six, five, four, three, three, three, two, two, one, and one.  The TOP two scores are discarded, leaving just one success, the four.  The party rescues the book, by the skin of their teeth!

Narrating the Result

The GM tallies the results of the roll, and narrates the resolution of the scene, the more successes, the more awesome the save.  A single success is still a success, but it is a very close shave!  Should the unthinkable happen, the failure is narrated also.  Remember, failing spectacularly can also be fun!

One More Step

Before proceeding to the remaining scenes, be sure to set aside the successes from the Scene Conflict Pool.  These will make up your Showdown with Coyote pool. 

Showdown with Coyote

Once you have resolved all of your scene conflicts, for better or worse, it is time to return to the present and to confront Coyote.   The GM should determine what form this conflict takes- it could be a combat, a verbal exchange, a puzzle.  Each player should describe what action they are taking to deal with this final crisis.  Each player may then make ONE roll to add to the successes in the Showdown with Coyote pool based upon their narrated actions.  This is a grand time to use any unspent pool dice!  The final pool is rolled and successes tallied.  These results determine if the players succeeded, either foiling Coyote’s plan or convincing him that humanity is worthy of salvation; or if they fail, and humankind is replaced in the fourth world by a more deserving species.   The GM then narrates an appropriate close.


Notes for the GM

Tell the Characters “where/when” they are going

Flailing around in the dark trying to figure out what to do is no fun.  Find some way to let the Characters know what event they have landed in.  This lets you get to the action quicker!

Say “Yes” or roll the dice

If it’s boring or the character could reasonably be able to accomplish it, just say “yes”.  No roll should be necessary to walk down the street. 

Keep the scenes moving

If the action is stalling out, ask questions-What are you doing?  How do you want to accomplish that?  Introduce obstacles or complications.  Make the characters make hard choices. Use the answers to the questions at the bottom of each Character sheet for ideas or ammunition. Use Non Player Characters to add detail, or create drama.

Be Creative

The historical event can be a setting, rather than the actual focus of the conflict.  The Characters might “Quantum Leap” into players within the situation (perhaps giving a “role” trait and tags for the scene!)

Have Fun

At the end of the day, this is what it’s all about!


The Author wishes to thank:  The Navaho nation, upon whose myths and legends this game is (loosely) based; John Harper, author of Lady Blackbird for inspiration of character design; Willow Palecek, Tim Jensen, and Richard Barton for their opinions on system mechanics; Abram Bussiere, Brendan Day, and Edward “Sabe” Jones for play testing and thoughtful feedback; MikeF, author of Forge thread #26203 “Dr. Whom”, for The time travel theme; rgrassi, author of Forge thread # 26043 “Character Swapping” , for the rotating Coyote role; and to contracycle, author of Forge thread # 5632 “Scaffolding”, for the origins of the dice mechanic used here.  All errors are my own.

Thanks also to Christopher Lerno, author of Forge thread #1926 “Ygg take three” which had some thoughtful commentary on detail elements and giving environmental elements attributes.  I wasn’t able to use it here, but I liked the ideas and will use them elsewhere, I’m sure.


Supplemental Play Materials


Character Sheets 

The Reporter

Character Name


Interview, Investigate, Write, Photography

Seeing the Possibilities

Spin, Public interest, Find the other angle


Charisma, Presence, Photogenic,


Insight, Aware, Detect Lies

Questions for the player:

What type of Media outlet do you work for?

Are they reputable?

What brought you to the base of the Beacon today?

What are your beliefs about the supernatural/metaphysical?


The New Age Hippie

Character Name


Auras, Prognostication, Speak with Spirits, Clairvoyance, Object Reading

Counter Culture

Drugs, Music, Art, Tattoos and Body Piercings

My Body is a Temple

Yoga, Vegetarian, Health Nut

Personal Gestalt

See the big picture, Connect with the Universe

Questions for the player:

How well do you fit into mainstream culture?

Do you believe in the coming Apocolypse?

What brought you to the Beacon today?

How do you make your living?


Native Businessman

Character Name


Business Acumen, Trade Awareness, Follow the Money, Bargain

Fits into White Society

Mainstream Culture, Blending in with the Crowd, Standing out-the right way,

Native Roots

Tribal Customs, Tribal Lore

Level Headed

Insight, Clear thinking, Analysis, Problem Solving

Questions for the player:

How do you feel about tribal customs and traditions?

What type of company do you work for?

 What is your position ?

What brings you to the Beacon today?


The Supernatural Investigator

Character Name


Science Procedure, Pseudoscience, Psychology, Logic

Stage Magician

Sleight of Hand, Illusion, Misdirection, Fast talk


Show me, Perception, Detail oriented,

Truth at all Costs

Aggressive, Detect Deception, Persistent

Questions for the player:

Have you ever encountered a genuine paranormal occurrence?

What are you trying to prove/disprove?

How mainstream are you?

What brought you to the beacon today?


The Tribal Elder

Character Name

Tribal Leader

Tribal Custom, Tradition, Leadership, Politics


Mind/Body Connection, Spirit Journeys, Totems, Connection to the Earth


Calm, Patient, Unruffled, To everything its season

Warrior Path

Knife, Bare handed fighting, Fast, Anticipate Opponents Move

Questions for the player:

Were you involved in the planning or construction of the Beacon of Hope?

What tribe do you belong to? 

What is your role within the tribe?

What brought you to the beacon today?

The Grizzled Veteran

Character Name


Guns, Knives, Locate Enemy Position, Sense Danger

Physically Fit

Strong, Fast, Stamina, Agile


Quick Thinking, Plan Ahead, Intuitive

There has to be Downtime

Cards, Musical Instrument, (pick a hobby)

Questions for the player:

Where did you serve?

What rank do/did you hold? 

Are you still in the service or were you discharged? 

What brought you to the Beacon today?

Voting Ballot

I am not Coyote  x

Coyote Helps 1  2  3

Coyote observes  x

Coyote Hinders 1  2  3


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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