Acts of Liberty: A Primer

PREAMBLE

Acts of Liberty was borne out of a conversation about recital of the Pledge of Allegiance in the classroom, which led to research about US citizenship requirements and ultimately, the Constitution. From that point, it was relatively easy to find lots of source material to create a thematic jump off. I chose the kishōtenketsu four act narrative structure as the inspiration for my storytelling framework, and that’s when the title came into view.

The Prototype System takes the beginning-middle-twist-ending formula, moves the familiar conflict resolution element to the periphery, and refocuses on contrast and exposition. In each act, content is introduced that builds on or alters established story developments.

The clock is turned back to the summer of 1788, on the eve of the ratification of the Constitution. 2-4 players take on the roles of characters, everyday citizens who are suspected of crimes against the state. Brought before an authoritarian judicial league known as the Council, their stories unfold.

Acts of Liberty is a tabletop storytelling rpg that includes the rules and game charts. All you need is a deck of playing cards and a handful of tokens.

ARTICLE I

Beginning with act one, the players take turns constructing their characters. There are four different archetypes: artisan, farmer, merchant, and soldier. Prototype allows multiple instances of an archetype to increase the story complexity. At the beginning of the act, each player draws a 1st card and refers to the world blueprint chart to build a character.

The card suits introduce nearly 50 different kinds of descriptors that reveal facts about the characters. In act one, drawing 2nd and 3rd cards reveals dispositions and knowledge that further define their characters.

The card values introduce seven different kinds of narrative-framing questions that offer over 150 unique story-building elements.

The starting player is an active character providing a testimony from the perspective of a suspect who is accused of a crime against the state. All other players become passive characters who represent witnesses that can interact with the suspect’s testimony.

Suspects can spend tokens to draw additional cards to reveal more story, or they can engage in evidence tampering in order to conceal, fabricate, or destroy parts of their own testimony.

Witnesses can spend tokens to alter a suspect’s testimony through witness tampering in order to bribe or coerce, introduce an eyewitness or victim testimony, or provide hostile or contrary statements.

When each character has concluded their testimony, the act ends.

ARTICLE II

Gameplay rotates clockwise to the next player who becomes a suspect, continuing as before until each player has had a chance to narrate as both suspect and witness.

In act two, the players take turns constructing their terrains. There are four different archetypes: coastal, mountain, prairie, and swamp. At the beginning of the act, each player draws a 1st card and refers to the world blueprint chart to build a terrain.

By drawing a 2nd or 3rd card, players can reveal conditions and influences that further define their terrains.

Gameplay continues in the same manner as before, with each player shifting between the roles of suspect and witness, contributing and affecting testimonies that build on the events that were established in act one.

When each character has concluded their testimony, the act ends.

ARTICLE III

As before, gameplay rotates clockwise to the next player who becomes a suspect, and continues until each character has provided statements or altered testimonies as both suspect and witness.

In act three, the players take turns constructing their incursions. There are four different archetypes: family, military, nobility, and tribunal. At the beginning of the act, each player draws a 1st card and refers to the world blueprint chart to build an incursion.

With the drawing a 2nd or 3rd card, players can further define their incursions by revealing  disruptions and perceptions.

Again each player shifts between the roles of suspect and witness, contributing and affecting testimonies that build on the events that were established in acts one and two.

When each character has concluded their testimony, act three ends.

ARTICLE IV

In the final act, gameplay rotates clockwise to the next player who becomes a suspect, and continues until each character has provided statements or affected testimonies as both suspect and witness.

Act four has the characters taking turns to construct their judgements. There are four different archetypes: allegiance, condemn, pardon, and treachery. At the start of the act, each player draws a 1st card and refers to the world blueprint chart to build a judgment.

By drawing a 2nd or 3rd card, players can further define their judgments by revealing impressions and reflections.

Each player shifts between the roles of suspect and witness, weighing the outcome of the changes to acts one and two that were made by the incursions of acts three.

When each character has offered a final testimony, the game concludes.

CLOSING ENDORSEMENT

Acts of Liberty takes place in a sandbox storytelling environment where the characters stand accused of crimes. Over the course of four acts, they can reveal or alter evidence and testimonies that create a complex and interconnected drama.

AMENDMENTS

In addition, the game also includes:

  • Super Elements, global constructs that affect all narratives.
  • 4 optional gameplay expanding rules.

JUDICIAL REVIEW

It’s a subtle yet compelling tabletop game. Explore the court of the Council, and witness the dark crucible of justice that threatens the birth of democracy in early America.

Acts of Liberty is available now on Amazon.

Copyright © 2017 James Glover and 1000mg Games. All rights reserved.

Welcome Back Kotter

In November of 2015, I retreated to develop a tabletop rpg system and the first title that it would feature. I shut everything down and told myself no incremental updates or teasers until I had something substantial to report. During that blackout time, I halted work on all of my other projects and spontaneous flavors of the month to hunker down, work out the details, and get the damn thing done. I can now see light at the end of the long tunnel, which means development is almost over.

It’s been an incredibly rewarding and educational ride.

When I started this studio in 2014, I had just completed a stint working on half of the Post World Games series 1 Protocols, and a handful of titles that appeared in series 2. I came away from that experience with a strong desire to tell my own stories, and began my search for an interesting architecture that I could incorporate or reinterpret into an enjoyable game system. In the following months, I stumbled upon kishōtenketsu, a classic narrative structure that was used to explore plots without conflict resolution.

Kishōtenketsu has been around for a very long time to say the least, and is featured in many popular art forms such as poetry, manga, and video games. Around 2012, there was a flurry of attention centered around employing it in tabletop rpgs, but then suddenly the topic died off. My research led me to believe it had remained under utilized. In fact, the only game I could find that used the structure was in what would become the second version of Raspberry Heaven by Yaruki Zero Games. In my estimate, the field was wide open, and in late 2015 I chose it as the inspiration for my system.

To be fair, others had shopped kishōtenketsu as a narrative platform for rpgs. However, the overarching opinion was that it was dull or impossible to implement. More popular storytelling frameworks included conflict resolution, and this didn’t have it. The truth was, in Kishōtenketsu there could be conflict, but resolution would not be the focus. I found this to be appealing. Also, the component parts were simple and linear, and could support a variety of themes and dramatic elements.

Right now, the completion of my first game looms on the horizon. I’ll be posting more details in the coming days as we head toward its release, so stay tuned.

Copyright © 2016 James Glover and 1000mg Games. All rights reserved.