Gosh, it’s been 10 months since I wrote anything here. If something as eclectic as this blog ever attracted a regular reader, he or she has long since given up. (Tip to wannabe bloggers who want hits: keep your blog as specific and focussed as you can, and update regularly).
Anyway, the gentlemanly James Maliszewski posted some of my reminiscences about the early days of British roleplaying on his Grognardia blog, which is one of only two gaming blogs I make a point of reading (the other is bankuei’s Deeper into the Game).
Real old-schoolers will quite correctly point out that I’m very much a second-wave RPGer, having got into the hobby in ’81 with the Holmes and Moldvay editions of D&D, rather than with the Little Brown Boxes of OD&D. But I can only speak of my memories of my early days – if anyone who was playing RPGs in Britain earlier wants to tell us what the REAL early days were like, please do!
Anyway, shortly after James published my reminiscences, Shereef brought his new wife around for the evening. She’s Uzbeki, and has never heard of D&D. Shereef is a passionate gamer, and rarely gets to play, but he was keen to introduce the light of his life to the Noble Game. We pulled out some dice and a copy of Pathfinder and proceeded to rock the kasbah. Shereef most definitely likes it.
Shereef and his wife rolled up characters and we put them into action against 4 orcs. TPK wipeout, but much fun, and she loved it. We’ll do a fuller scenario while they’re still in town.
It reminded me of my first D&D combat back in ’81. I was playing a cleric, Johnny was a thief, and we walked into the first room of Jon’s dungeon and got wiped out by zombies with two-handed swords. More than 30 years later, I’m still playing.
I think one of the reasons I loved RPGs was because they seemed a natural progression of some of the schoolboy games I mentioned in the Grognardia piece.
And Shereef’s wife grokked the concept of D&D/Pathfinder immediately because there’s an Uzbeki party game she could relate it to.
So here’s what she explained about Mafia, the freeform from Uzbekistan.
You need reasonable number of people – about dozen works well. One person is the Dictator (the gamesmaster), three people are Mafia, one is the Doctor, one is the Prostitute, and the rest are Nice People. If you’ve fewer than the ideal number, reduce the number of Mafia to 2, and use either the Doctor or the Prostitute, but not both.
Everyone except the Dictator keeps their identity secret. Once identities are assigned (I wasn’t clear on how that’s done, but pulling a bit of paper from a hat would work), the Dictator calls “Night!”, and everyone covers their eyes – with a mask or cloth if available, with hands if not. The Mafia then secretly uncover their eyes, so they know who each other are, but no one else (except the Dictator) does. Once they know who each other are, the Mafia cover their eyes again, the Dictator calls “Day!”, everyone uncovers their eyes and the game begins in earnest.
The game is a war between the Mafia and the Nice People. And while the Mafia know who each other are, the Nice People don’t know who’s nice, who’s Mafia, or the identities of the Doctor or Prostitute.
I missed how the combat was resolved – I think it’s a simple two-on-one for victory. The loser is considered dead – unless the Prostitute or the Doctor heals them at the end of each turn, in which case they live to fight another day. The Prostitute and Doctor can each heal only one person per turn. They can heal themselves instead of healing someone else, and they can hide their identities from the other players (and probably should, or they’ll become Mafia targets), indicating only to the Dictator who gets healed.
They game ends when either all the Mafia are dead or all the Nice People are dead.
As a freeform party game, this strikes me as a lot of fun, and the fact that the Mafia know who they are but the Nice People don’t know who’s good and who’s bad adds and interesting dynamic. We’ll try to give this a go soon.