Parallel Lives is a card game about collaborate character creation. The rules are available in plain text below, and you can find the entire game to download (print and play) on my itch.io page!
a CARD GAME in which players REVEAL ALTERNATE REALITY VERSION OF THEMSELVES through AMBIGUOUS CHARACTER PROMPTS and PLAYER INTERACTION while pursuing a SECRET GOAL.
SETTING UP THE GAME:
- Select a reality randomly from the universe card deck.
- Each player draws a goal card, character card and character sheet.
• Players secretly choose one of the five goals listed on their goal card.
• Players place their character card face up in front of them to form the start of their
- Elect the first player (person who has most recently experienced an unfamiliar reality).
- You may choose to have a game facilitator (a non-player who will assist with, and drive, the story) or not.
Playing the game.
- The first player (the active player) draws a second character card and places it face up next to the existing card in their persona zone.
- The active player then chooses another player’s character with whom to conduct an interaction (the interacting player).
- Through interaction, the active player describes or roleplays their character based on the information they have discovered so far.
- This information is based on the active player’s interpretation of the character cards in their persona zone as well as the character’s secret goal.
- Character cards may be interpreted as physical, personality, needs, desires or other traits; it is entirely up to the active player’s imagination.
- The interacting player also roleplays what they know of their own character; however is primarily focussed on supporting the active player’s character discovery. They may do this by:
- suggesting setting or environment;
- asking questions of the character;
- establishing the relationship between the characters; and
- any other appropriate character support.
- The game facilitator will play a range of other non-player characters or outline external events that add context or depth to the scene. In the absence of a facilitator, other players can take on the role of NPCs.
- Turn passes to the person who was the interacting partner in the the previous interaction so that they now become the active player.
- After drawing their new character card, the now active player can choose any other player who has fewer character cards in their persona zone to be their interacting partner.
- Continue taking turns in this way until all character cards have been drawn.
Ending the game.
- Clockwise from the first player, each person delivers a epilogue for their character and summary of their character’s life.
- The character sheet cards provide the outline and information a player needs for this end game character summary (but, of course, additional flourish the player wishes to add is always welcome!).
A universe card is drawn at random, and the group determine they are playing in a steampunk reality. Sal is the first player and draws the ‘hungry’ character card. She places this next to the existing character card, ‘blue’ in her persona zone. Sal decides that the blue card refers to the name of her character; Bluey, and so this will emerge in the interaction, as well as determining how ‘hungry’ applies to Blue’s character.
Sal chooses Ozer as her interaction partner. She states that she wants the interaction to be based on Blue meeting Ozer’s character for the first time, but isn’t sure where or how this happens. Ozer suggests (clearly thinking about one possible interpretation for
‘hungry’) that their meeting is set in the fine dining hall on a steampunk airship cruise and that their characters meet over canapes.
Sal thinks this sounds pretty fun and agrees. She and Ozer then decide to roleplay this as a short scene. Ozer’s character lets Blue do most of the talking; and Blue spends most of the scene desperately trying to impress Ozer’s character (named Benji, because that’s what he felt like calling them). The scene concludes with Blue admitting that she’s starved for affection; a nice play on the characteristic of ‘hungry’ but also furthering Blue’s secret goal which is to have the most friends.
“Blue was an individual of few words but many (nay, the most!) friends. If ever someone needed a shoulder, a conspirator or an alibi; Blue would be right there. Except if there were bees, of course. Blue’s run-in with the killer, mechanical bees was an object lesson she would never quite recover from.
Of all her many (the most!) friends, Benji was Blue’s closest. But I suppose fleeing a burning airship does bring people together. Physical description? Oh, well Blue was taller than she looked and smiled wider than she felt. She got their name from the piercing intensity of her eyes.
Blue dressed for comfort, not style – except, of course, the left sleeve she always wore to cover up the stinger scars. Damn those bees!
None of her many (the most!) friends knew that Blue was a secret erotic fiction writer. She’d stay up until the wee hours in the privacy of her own living pod; writing fantasy into fiction. Sadly, it was only post-humously that her genius was truly appreciated; with 24 stories now major flickering pictures making the rounds of the finest steam theatres.