Thursday, 14 May 2009

Story Games Style Smarty Pants Idea

Look At Me is a project started in 1998 by Frederic Bonn and Zoe Deleu when they found a few discarded photos in a Paris street. Ever since then, they've invited people to send them photographs they've found, which they then put up on the website. From the introduction:

LOOK AT ME is a collection of found photos.

These photos were either lost, forgotten, or thrown away. The images now are nameless, without connection to the people they show, or the photographer who took them. Maybe someone died and a relative threw away their photographs; maybe someone thought they were trash.

Some of the photos were found on the street. Some were stacked in a box, bought cheap at a flea market. Showing off or embarrassed, smug, sometimes happy, the people in these photos are strangers to us. They can't help but be interesting, as stories with only an introduction.
A story with only an introduction. Sounds like an RPG, doesn't it?

Here's my idea: You start off the game and randomly assign each player a photograph from Look At Me. They then have to play that character, after deciding with the DM on a background and a set of stats which seem suitable. Then, let them loose on a modern-day campaign - preferably Call of Cthulu, of course.

Here's an example:

Ludovic Charbonnier

Ludovic is a good tempered but slightly dim witted scion of an old aristocratic French family. His life is a long string of cocktail parties, picnics, lounging by the pool, and the occasional game of tennis or pheasant shoot. He cares nothing for education, travel or work, though he does have an interest in the supernatural, and maintains a decent library of occult texts. Aside from collecting such tomes, his only pastimes are drinking, shooting, sex and eating gourmet food.


  1. Wait. Is this for an RPG, or the Dating Game? ;)

    I like the idea for a fun, one-off, back-up plan; or at a party of creative folks.


  2. I like it.

    It'd work for NPCs as well. It gives you a hook to hang a characterization on, at the very least, which helps break people out of their default characterizations. As a GM, I know I tend to fall into a few NPC "types," and my players have their default character types they play, too. Anything that shakes that up a bit can be a fun addition to the game.

    I've done something similar with the Street Fighter RPG, with NPCs, now that I think about it. I have a habit of digging through concept art blogs and forums looking for character illustrations. I've made tokens out of them for Street Fighter(here are some examples using official characters).

    One time I pulled a bunch of random ones out of my bag to fill out a 16 man tournament. I ended up passing the tokens to one of my very creative players, and he gave quick names and characterizations to them based on the pictures. It ended up being a very memorable session, much of it improvised around the basic "you're fighters at a tournament and something crazy happens" structure common in Street Fighter RPG games. The characters were based on random illustrations, with no real pre-planning, but some really outstanding NPCs came out of the game.

  3. Here was my last Smarty Pants Story Game Idea:

    Since Star Trek is essentially just the captain sitting in a chair asking different crewmembers what's going on and/or for their opinion, just parcel out posts to each player, and have the GM play all the remaining characters. Bang! Instant Star Trek Story Game.

    Player One: What's the nearest Class M planet, Charles?

    Player Two: Uhhh...Vulgar Twelve--it's full of lava sluts.

    GM: Captain, long-range scans show Romulan warbirds approaching the planet!

    Player One: Tactical analysis, Mr Worf?

    Player Three: I say we attack, Romulans have no honor!

    etc. etc.

  4. Timeshadow: Either/or!

    Superhero Necromancer: I absolutely agree. Actually I'm a big fan of forcing players to shake up their default character types, which is one reason why I love random character generation.

    Zak: That's brilliant.