Tuesday 24 March 2009

An ingenious setting creator: Instant Game by Mike and Kyle Jones

Invent a unique and ingenious setting using a few d100s and Instant Game by Mike and Kyle Jones of Animalball Games [edit - now defunct]. Lob a few dice, apply inventive linking and that generic, free system you love so much can have a setting quite unlike any other. Instant Game is also a generic system too but I think most will benefit from the random setting and plot generation, so this review concentrates on those parts.

"Louis, Louis, Louis. Always whining, Louis!" said Lestat from Interview with a Vampire. If I was much more attractive, stylish and an immortal who drank blood, he could be talking to me. I am, however, a ginger Brit with a forehead so large your could sell advertising space on it. I am always whining about how wonderful, free generic systems do not come prepacked with a wonderful, free setting. Well, now you can make your own without the horror of having original ideas. To demonstrate how easy Instant Game is, I'm going to create a game as I review, putting my results into italics.

A game, instantly

Your Instant Game is constructed from Setting, Story, Characters, On the fly and Resolution mechanics. I am going to concentrate on Setting and Story as I think they are where the power is for most gamers. Generally, you roll on a table with a d100 and pick the answer and move on. If you don't like it, you can roll again but I feel that somewhat out of the spirit of it. You could just choose and fore go the dice but I imagine Animalball will pay a visit with blowtorches and pliers.


The Setting is made from a roll on the Setting table (well, naturally), a roll on Tone table and two rolls on the Things tables. Each table has a huge number of items in it. I rolled:
  • Setting: Lost Civilisation
  • Tone: Conspiracy
  • Things: Serial Killer, Dreams.
From here, you apply your cunning mind and link them together:
  • For me, this brings to mind a serial killer, who has terrible dreams (which turn out to be true) and is trying to stop Atlantis from sinking by killing government officials. That's just the setting!


You might well indicate that I already have enough in the Setting to set up the characters - working for the government, trying to stop the killer but I will go on as it's all rather good fun. For Story, you roll on Opposition, an Action + Thing and Action + Other Thing. You can also add Descriptor (Abandoned, Clean, Occult etc) if you like but I am going to keep it simple (stupid). I rolled:
  • Opposition: Evil Mastermind
  • Action + Thing: Guide Scribe
  • Action + Thing (again): Duel Hostage
Once again, joining and gluing is in order:
  • The players are after the evil mastermind (serial killer), a scribe is going to help them but is a bit useless, so needs guiding. Perhaps the scribe is blind? Yes! The big scene at the end is a duel with the serial killer, who indicates that they (government agents) are actually helping destroy Atlantis.
Et voila. A setting and a plot. In about 2 minutes.

Things that matter

The book is well laid out, two columns and easy to read. A smattering of colourful pictures that print well lift what could have been a nightmare tablefest (am I the only person in the world with a Rolemaster phobia?). I would not print it, either. I would use it as a PDF and then take my ideas from it. There are sample settings at the back of the book as well as a glossary of terms. The glossary is superb, it describes every item in the tables - which is not required but adds extra flavour if you are unsure of how it might be combined with other tables. There is a quick start as well as a more detailed description of how to game instantly. There is also an active community (and I mean active). Loads of feedback and more ideas.
I imagine that Instant Game is also great for designers, whether you are doing a WoAdWriMo adventure, 24 Hour RPG Entry or just designing for fun. It can act as the ideal idea trigger to make that game that will refresh the haggard minds of your dungeon crawlers.

Imagination breakdown?

Although Instant Game does do a lot, you do need to engage brain to connect the nouns and adjectives together. This might be a cool activity to do with your players but some player groups prefer to sit and game, not sit and create a game. My players like to sit and plot the demise of any plot/campaign/setting/NPCs/tension/thought/self-respect I might have. Your players are probably culture vultures, connoisseurs of roleplaying taste and decorum - the polar opposite of my knuckle-dragging, violence engines. If I were picky, I'd like all the tables right at the back to make printing easier and the twin column would be easier to read if their were justified left and right.

Instant Conclusion

Am I going to stop whining? Of course not but Instant Game goes a very long way indeed to filling the void I feel gapes in many free systems. If you have a system you want to use and it is bereft of setting then use Instant Game to do that for you. It is well thought out and has more than enough combinations to generate a vast, and I mean VAST selection of settings. Of course, I have only reviewed the Setting/Story part of the game and there is more regarding characters and, feats and so on. Be assured, the rest is of similar high quality.

Mike and Kyle should be applauded, not only have they produced something superb for nothing but also an imaginative toolbox that anyone and everyone can find a use for.


Unknown said...

Wow. I am happily humbled. Thank you for the glowing words, and let me say that you clearly get exactly what we were driving at.

Whether or not anyone uses our included rules system is irrelevant. The meat of it is those tables, and if people want to use them to create new worlds or generate plots for some other game system or just roll stuff up to have a good laugh... all of that's good by us.

Thank you again. We enjoyed making it and we still love playing it. I'm just happy when other people can get some use out of it.

--Mike Jones

Rob Lang said...

Mike, we should all be thanking you and Kyle! You have provided a universal tool that is well explained, easy to use and produces some of the most surprising results I've ever seen.

I also moan and whine about there being no adventure included in free games. With Instant Game, you can create the idea of the adventure in minutes, allowing the designer to concentrate on getting it down on paper.

Great work, stay in touch and keep us up to date on any developments!

Precocious Apprentice said...

This tool seems to be screaming at me to integrate it into a Rollon TiddlyWiki.


Unknown said...

If you use the tables, please stop by our forums and let us know. We love hearing how things work out with Instant Game.


Rob Lang said...

May I urge everyone to do as Mike suggests... from a designer's point of view having any feedback at all is great. If you like something and want to see it grow and continue, just let the designer know you've liked it.

Makes all the difference in the world!

misterecho said...

What an insperation!

The greatest cure for writers block ever forged on the authors anvil.

Many thanks!

Rob Lang said...

@misterecho - It's great, isn't it? I see you're making full use of my end of year roundup.

Anonymous said...

Is there an updated URL? Mike's website doesn't seem to exist anymore.

Rob Lang said...

Hi Anonymous, thank you for the headsup, have updated the link.