The craziest, shortest, game I ever wrote/ran.

Image Source: Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho

Martin over at Treasure Tables had a recent post asking DMs what were ideal gaming sessions and the shortest ones we’re comfortable running (Quick Answer, 4 hours, 2 hours).

That made me think of the shortest, craziest one-shot game I ever GMed. It was right before D&D 3.0 and, like Greywulf’s commented on my Storming post, I too was getting burnt-out after playing Fantasy campaigns (with Gurps) for nearly 3 straight years.

I got an idea for a one-shot adventure on the Internet (if someone finds the source please give it to me so I can link to it). It went like this:

  • There is only 1 character, but with multiple personalities
  • Each player controls the same player
  • At fixed durations* or when a stressful event occurs, all players but the current controller can roll a d20. Highest roll obtains control of the body.
  • Create a setting and let chaos unleash (the author said that a walk in the park could be a whole adventure).

I went a bit further with the setup and added the following rules:

  • The players can talk to each other, but only if the character sees himself in a reflective surface. Then, non-controllers can vie for control of the ‘image’ to talk to the controller.
  • Except for one player, the players knew nothing of the nature of the scenario, much less the multiple personality thing. Each had his own copy of a character sheet.

I then set up a short scenario:

  • We’re in the mid 80’s in Silicon Valley. A female Russian infiltrator named Natasha has seduced what she thinks is a R&D microchip engineer in order to steal the plans of the most advanced chip in the world.
  • Natasha is waiting for the engineer at the chip plant to get the microfilms, which are hidden somewhere (oh lord, are those Tropes or Clichés?)
  • The ‘engineer’ is actually a CIA agent with a, shall we say, less than intact personality.

I had four players so I created the following personalities (each had a character sheet with different attributes, Skills, and traits):

  • The Agent: The remains of the core personality. A Straight Arrow that does not smoke nor drink. He knows who Natasha is and must take her into custody and make sure the microfilm is safe.
  • Boris: Jealously (and Insanely) in love with Natasha, this drunk brute wants to grab her and the microfilm and ‘go back’ to Russia.
  • Jimbo: A pure Redneck with a pathological love for firearms and an equivalent hatred of commies. He knows Natasha is a Red and only wants to kill her.
  • Hannibal: The Homicidal Sociopath, He knows about all other personalities and doesn’t care about any other goals. He just wants to create as much chaos as possible.

The first scene started as such:
The Agent wakes up on his couch, with a spitting headache, violent spasms of nausea and surrounded with several empty bottles of Vodka. It’s 11h00 AM…

The game lasted 1h45 minutes of pure chaos, action and some of the most awesome reactive role playing I can remember on all parts. Maybe I’ll tell the story later. Alternatively, Yan (Boris) could tell it if he still remembers…

Do try a game like that on a slow evening, it’s well worth it and a great exercise for Improv.

The shorter the duration, the insaner things get.


  1. That was one hell of a game… Sadly I don’t remember enough of the detail to really tell the full story. But I remeber a few things:
    – I had swallowed the compromising microfilm to prevent the other personna of getting rid of it.
    – I was on the phone telling Natasha everything and to come and get me or something like that, when psycho took over…

    Men, did he screwed all of us big time!

    And I was so close to achieving my goal… 😉

  2. Close but not quite.

    Natasha was killed when Psycho met her in an elevator in the plant and he willingly let Jimbo take over….

    After the murders of policemen the car chase and the horrible crash, you took control and crawled to a telephonje booth. You called your KGB contact (dirty double agent!), telling them ‘I have it…’ and you swallowed the microfilm while all players were scrambling for the d20. Psycho won and shot himself in the head….

  3. Close enough. I wasn’t sure if it was her I called or some other agent… 😉

  4. Dave The Game says:

    Do you remember where you got it online? It sounds an awful lot about the game my friend Jake invented for a LARP. Just curious if it’s the same one, because he’d be happy to hear people were using it.

  5. I have no idea. I tried fishing for it to no avail. I use to call this Gurps Psycho but it does not register anywhere so I must have made up the name. Maybe I found it in one of those Adventure Repositories.

    On the same site there was an adventure where all players played randomly generated Gurps Demons that were hunting for ‘the most beautiful woman’ while stepping out through various summoning portals.

    It was a long time ago. I’d say late 1999, early 2000.

    If your friend can chime in with a link, I’ll edit the post to properly link to it.

  6. Found the Demon one over at the RPG Archive. But not the Psycho one. It was System neutral…

  7. Andy over at Geeknews found a link to a game that very closely reassembles what we played.

    The Everyone is John variant sounds fun! I’ll probably give it a try sometime soon.