This is the second draft, which tries to address some repetitiveness and clarity issues with the first, thanks to some feedback from some speedy playtesters. This also addresses the emergent gameplay issue of the DP having too little to do, and very little depth as a character in his own right.
A recap of its origin follows.
I came across a link to this story:
Here’s the line that haunted me in particular:
“They watch someone’s pattern of life, see people with their families, and then they can be ordered to shoot.”
This game is about that.
Drone is played with three or more players and a standard 52-card deck of playing cards.
One player is the Drone Pilot (DP). The others are the Persons of Interest (POIs).
Take all the face cards (King, Queen, Jack) out of the deck. This will leave you with 40 cards, ace (i.e., 1) through 10 of each suit. Shuffle them. Set aside the first 8 to 16 cards, depending on how long of an observation period (game length) you want. Shuffle the face cards back together with the remainder of the deck. This is the bottom of the deck; take the first pile of 8-16 cards and place it on top.
You’re ready to observe.
Away from the presence of the DP, determine your characters’ relationships to one another: who you are to one another, what you appear to be, what your daily routines are.
Establish as much detail as you can while out of the DP’s presence. The characters must have a reason to be in one another’s presence very regularly.
Each character should have a domestic or mundane dimension as well as a potential suspicious or criminal dimension. Characters are not black and white.
Once you’re back together with the DP, you must restrict your public (i.e., perceivable to the DP) descriptions and actions to what can be directly observed about your characters.
Once you’ve established these details, you’re ready to be observed.
The POIs begin by describing their initial appearance and the observable details of what they’re currently doing in this first moment. Time is fluid, here; you could describe the first few minutes of observation, the first few days, what have you.
What’s important here is that a single situation is described, collaboratively, by the POIs. Regardless of current status, the situation always changes when a card is drawn. Think of each card as a new development.
Each turn, the DP picks one of the POIs and then draws a card, but does not show it to any of the POIs. The DP announces the color (red or black) of the card, and then asks a question.
Depending on what’s drawn (see below), the situation will change in a different way. This change could be as simple as the beginning of a new scene, or could be a significant change occurring in the existing scene: a shipment arrives or departs, a new individual shows up, an argument or agreement that reverses the current mood, travel to a new location, and so on.
The DP has broad powers of surveillance, both visual and audio. The problem is, the zones of coverage do not overlap. When drawing a card, the DP must declare whether the next unit of surveillance is audio or visual. The POIs must limit their public descriptions of what happens to the chosen method (and may pass notes to each other to determine what’s going on in the other unobserved senses).
When the DP draws a black card, he asks a question about the mundane aspect of the chosen POI, typically of the form “Tell me another mundane detail about X,” where X is a previously revealed fact relevant to the POI.
When the DP draws a red card, he asks a question about the suspicious/criminal aspect of the chosen POI, typically of the form “Tell me another suspicious detail about X,” where X is a previously revealed fact relevant to the POI.
For either kind of question, the range of possible answers must be observable through the chosen surveillance method. The POIs play out a scene or other vignette that reveals a new, observable detail that addresses the question. The chosen POI has the authority to determine which other POIs are involved.
If the card was a numeric card (Ace — i.e., 1 — through 10), observation continues. Before drawing another card, the DP must “flag” one of the POIs for target consideration (it need not be the one who was asked the question). Place the turn’s card face down in front of that POI.
If the card was a face card (King, Queen, or Jack), endgame is triggered (see Endgame), but not announced to the POIs. Skip the flagging step.
Once the POIs have begun to accumulate flags, the DP may request a covert operative actions in order to enhance the quality of the data gathered.
To initiatve an operative action, the DP indicates a POI who has one or more flags in front of him, and discards one of those flags. The DP’s choices are:
Deploy short term surveillance package: For the targeted POI, you get few extra sentences of details from whatever kind of surveillance isn’t in effect. For example, if the scene is under audio surveillance, the DP might deploy a surveillance package to get a temporary visual fix on the target, and could ask something like “what is the target holding?”
Insert a potential stimulus: Sometimes the best way to study a target is to force him into action. With this option, the DP may introduce a new detail, usually via an event, into the scene, focused on the target. For example, the DP might describe a short phone call made to the target POI, or cause his car to run out of gas, etc.
Instead of discarding the flag, the target POI may keep the it, turning it face up. Face up cards may not be subsequently used by the DP for operative actions.
If the player does this, he temporarily takes on the role of the DP’s commanding officer, and asks for a situation report (sitrep) in the form of a single question about the current progress of the mission and/or the personal physical and mental disposition of the DP. This question can be pretty freeform, even leading, asserting details about the DP’s life and so forth. “When did you last talk to your wife?” is completely valid, as is “Based on what you’ve seen, what do you think is in the package they just received?” The DP answers the question, then observation resumes.
When the DP draws a face card, he faces a choice. He has been given an order to shoot. The fact that he has gotten this order should not be revealed to the POIs when he asks his question for the scene.
If he reveals the card to the POIs during the scene at a time of his choosing but before the scene is over, he takes the shot. (See Confirmed Kill.)
If he chooses not to reveal the card to the POIs during the course of this final scene, he fails to take the shot, and is relieved of his post. (See Relieved From Duty.)
The DP reveals the card to the group. Each POI stops what they’re doing immediately; this is when the shot is fired.
Each POI draws a card from the deck. Any POI who has the greatest number of face-up and face-down flags in front of him draws an additional card.
Cards drawn determine the order of target priority, from first (Ace) to last (10). The highest priority target is the one killed. If it’s a tie, the one whose suit matches the revealed face card breaks the tie. If the suit doesn’t match, then the matching color breaks the tie. If no colors match, then go by this order: Spade, Club, Diamond, Heart.
If a POI draws a face card, they are killed in the collateral damage inflicted in the attack. If all POIs draw face cards, all are killed.
The DP is then debriefed.
Relieved from Duty
This player may not take the DP role in any game of Drone ever again. His career as a drone pilot is done.
The DP is then debriefed.
The DP disengages from surveillance and reports to his commanding officer. The POI players collectively take on the role of the DP’s commanding officer. Each player asks the DP one question about the mission’s progress and results. The DP is then thanked for his service and told to return home to his family.
The session is over.
A “campaign” of Drone, such as it is, plays through until everyone has had a chance to be the DP, and each either accumulates three confirmed kills or is relieved from his post.
There are no winners in Drone. Only survivors.