Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The Magnolia's Shadow

Early on the morning of 24 March a neighbor noticed that the front door of the Cutright home was open.  He soon discovered that the family was missing, and that someone had scratched the words "The Magnolia's Shadow" on a bedroom door. . . .

The Magnolia's Shadow is a collaborative writing game in which players create clues related to the family's strange disappearance and then craft explanations for the mystery.  You will need access to Wikipedia to play.

Play unfolds over the course of about a week.  Each morning for five days, players visit Wikipedia and read a random article (just search for "special:random").  The article provides inspiration for a clue, which can include evidence found by the police at the scene, background about the Cutright family, or town gossip.  The player then writes a short description of the clue and adds it to a shared document or email chain for the others to read.

A player receives the entry for the Peter, Paul, and Mary album Peter, Paul, and Mommy.  Perhaps police found the CD playing on repeat in a bedroom.  Maybe--inspired by “Leatherwing Bat”--investigators found pages torn from birdwatching guides scattered around the house.

Another player ends up with the entry for Eastern Finland Province.  Inspired by the bow in the coat of arms shown in the article, she writes how the Cutright father blinded another camper in one eye during archery practice as a child.

At the end of the week the group selects five random clues from the list they've created.  You can print the clues and draw them from a hat, or assign a number to each clue and roll to see which ones will be used in the final round.  However the clues are chosen, every player incorporates the same five clues into her explanation of the family's disappearance.  As a variant, the group can pick three clues that everyone will use and allow each player to pick two additional clues at random.  

Players can write the explanations from the from any perspective they choose, such as police investigating the event or teenagers describing the disappearance in an urban legend.  Share the explanations with other players, preferably while driving down a dark, lonely road.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

The Sound of Black Wings

Painting by  Mikoláš Aleš.
The Sound of Black Wings is the result of NaGaDeMon 2018.  The horror game* grew out of experiences running around the woods when I was a kid and some of the weirder happenings when I began bird watching as an adult:  deer staring at us in unsettling ways, getting lost on looping trails, abandoned hospitals peeping out above the treeline, the strange laughter of other bird watchers.  As the game unfolds, players narrate the experiences (and growing tensions) of a group of bird watchers, and then describe what happens to the group when things go horribly wrong.

*  I started to write "survival horror game" but realized that would be terribly misleading.  Everyone in The Sound of Black Wings dies.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018


AetherCon VII is coming up in a little over two months.  It's a great way to explore new games, meet new friends, and wander lands unknown.  We'll keep you updated about Wheat Penny-related events.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

At Night All Cats are Grey

The short horror-fantasy adventure "At Night All Cats are Grey" originally appeared in slightly different form in Protodimension Magazine as "Hunting Ground."  The scenario was inspired by the library in my hometown--a cozy, welcoming place made oddly unnerving by the works of taxidermy displayed in the children's reading room. 

Friday, July 20, 2018

Wight Wedding

"Wight Wedding" is a system-neutral horror adventure in which long-buried secrets cause a group to turn on one another as a supernatural avenger approaches.  A version of the scenario originally appeared in Protodimension Magazine.

The basic idea for "Wight Wedding" came from the M. R. James story “The Mezzotint.”  The setting has its roots in the Jenkins House museum north of Huntington, West Virginia.  The site felt cut off from the world when it rained, and the electric lights that had been retrofitted into the old building had an almost disorienting effect at night.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Branching Out

We now have a Facebook page.  As things get a little organized we will have more of a Google+ presence as well.

Friday, July 6, 2018

The Grand Intergalactic Five and Dime

The Grand Intergalactic Five and Dime celebrates the connection between objects and memory.  The game takes place in a large ramshackle spaceship that wanders between the stars, trading as it moves from one settlement to the next.  The shopkeeper occasionally accepts cash, but has found it easier to let visitors barter for the items they find on the crowded shelves filling the ship's two main galleries.

Players should sit in a comfortable circle.  The first player becomes a customer and the player to her left takes on the role of the shopkeeper.  The two should spend a moment bantering back and forth before bartering.  They can share small talk, the captain could compliment the multi-hued sheen of the customer's tentacles--anything that fits the mood of the group.  Eventually the pair moves to the business at hand.  The players each introduce what the characters would like to trade, offering wondrous descriptions of alien artifacts.  They can ask one another questions, or add details ("The gem's deep blue reminds me of the Seas of Romlig!").  The values of the items can vary dramatically.  A collection of pebbles could be traded for a crown that enhances the owner's telepathic powers, for example.    

The items traded during the ship's journey reflect the rich and sometimes surreal variety of cultures and civilizations in the universe.  During play, however, participants will base the goods they wish to trade on items that have deep sentimental or nostalgic value for the players themselves.  A player, for example, still has a rainbow yo-yo he won at a school carnival held at a long-closed grade school.  Assuming the role of shopkeeper, he could offer a customer the Medallion of Lartnec, the two multicolored discs worn by the High Oracle of Mahtal as she performs the ceremony that guarantees that gravity will continue to work properly for the next millennium. 

The pair's turn ends with the customer and the captain of the merchant ship excitedly and graciously agreeing to the trade.  Play then shifts to the left, with the person who played the captain becoming the new customer and the player to her left stepping into the merchant's shoes.

The game has no set endpoint.  You can agree to a number of rounds before starting, or play as a warmup for other story games.