Squid Game Meditation (and why Werewolf/Mafia stinks)

Debuting art by my cousin 🙂

Childhood games made deadly for money.

Squid Game is a Netflix show lots have been watching a talking about. It’s a Korean gambling show filled with people in debt, but incredibly deadly and for the sick entertainment of others. It’s like Hunger Games with money? Or Kaiji if you’re more familiar with that.

There’s a pool of incredibly desperate people who want to win it all. There’s a pool of money that increases as competitors die. There’s a series of games that kill people off.

Let’s say you wanted to run your own variation of this concept as an RPG.

Start

In my mind, it’s a competitive RPG leveraging the mechanics of Dread, this stopwatch game, and real-life games (does this verge on LARPing???). Sometimes it’s just you against the game, sometimes you team up or pair up, but there’s always a risk of death in each game.

These games are dangerous. Narrate your actions. When it’s a dangerous action, you make one or more pulls from a Jenga tower. If the tower falls when you make a pull, you die. Clever thinking and dirty tricks allow you to bypass pulls. Be the last one alive and you win.

Structurally, I’d give each player a questionnaire that helps detail their background, skills, and reason for joining these games. Things like (d10),

  1. What pyramid scheme were you victim to before the games?
  2. What gambling game caused you to lose it all?
  3. Who did you betray in your life before the games?
  4. What club were you president of in high school?
  5. What dull job did you have before the games?
  6. What game did your older sibling teach you REALLY well?
  7. What’s the name of the loan shark that wants your guts?
  8. What organ did you have to sell to not *totally* bottom-out?
  9. What’s one thing you were really good at in middle-school?
  10. Who’s the last person you’d expect to see in these games?

A full-er game would have a d100 list, maybe even d1000 list of questions. Lots of things are d10/d100 so you could use the stopwatch as a dice.

The game itself would outline the structure of people introducing their characters and setting the stakes, while also giving chances for characters to talk more about themselves, creating emotional ties and potential for backstabbing.

How many players would this game support? Eh, dunno. Could just be 4 to 6, but it’d be cool if there was an option for BIG GAMES, like 10 people. Maybe make it team-based somehow, “red team vs. blue team.”

Prepping

The Game Master/Master of Ceremonies/The Front Man would create the games. The formula would be something like “Game, but trait” allowing GMs to mix and match how they choose. Some ideas:

d100Gamed10Trait
1-5Tag1Blood
6-10Four square2Bone
11-15Hopscotch3Body/bodies
16-20Tetherball4Mud
21-25Red rover5Bomb
26-30Tic-tac-toe6Guns
31-35Pick-up-sticks7Spikes/knives
36-40Hot potato8Fire
41-45Jungle gym9Poison
46-50Rock-paper-scissors10Cold
51-55War (card game)
56-60Hula-hoop
61-65Hide n’ Seek
66-70Thumb war
71-75Arm wrestle
76-80Dodgeball
81-85Slap jack (card game)
86-90PIG (basketball game)
91-95Ping pong
96-100Jacks

Examples (d10):

  1. Jungle gym, but fire. It’s Wipeout or American Ninja Warrior, both obstacle course games, but there’s fire everywhere making the place very hot. The sweat on the obstacle course causes things to slick up, making the challenge even more difficult as more contestants take their turn on the course.
  2. Slap jack (card game), but poison. Each player is given 13 random cards and then injected with poison. Their nerves become more and more frayed as the game continues. They must present a deck of 20 cards to be injected with the antidote.
  3. Hot potato, but bomb. This one writes itself.
  4. Hula-hoop, but bone. Random bone is broken before being given a hula-hoop. Survive the minute of hula-hooping and you can continue with the games. Otherwise…
  5. Hide n’ Seek, but guns. Find the person? You know what to do…
  6. Dodgeball, but blood. It’s like paintball. You KNOW when you’re out.
  7. Jacks, but cold. You’re playing in a freezer. Don’t shiver toooooo much.
  8. Tic-tac-toe but bodies. Team-based game. Work together
  9. Four square, but mud. The ball is impossible to hit without getting dirty.
  10. Pick-up-sticks, but spikes. It hurts to even grab them, let alone slowly…

Getting “out”

Why is the board game The Resistance better than Werewolf/Mafia?

Glad you asked. It’s a topic I feel passionately about.

They’re both lying games, hidden role types. But in Werewolf/Mafia, the player can be eliminated. And then they eat snacks or pick their noses or whatever.

You don’t get to play anymore.

The Resistance keeps you in the game, and engaged. Even if outed as a traitor, you can still influence the game, even just by talking.

You’re still invested.

Dread has the same problem as Werewolf/Mafia: players are eliminated… and then sit out.

I patched this problem in my Dread scenario by having eliminated players BECOME the monster. They get to see behind the screen for what was coming next. They could still influence the game.

So what about for Squid Game? Eliminated players BECOME the monster, either the sickos funding the games that want to be entertained (patrons) or the people working the games (accomplices).

Patrons have a laid back role, suggesting Blades in the Dark-style Devil’s Bargains:

  • “Wouldn’t it be more interesting if there were more spikes in this game?”
  • “This is grand but the next game should feature a facedown between those two contestants. I’d enjoy that.”
  • “I’d pay to see that one in a precarious situation. Absolutely precarious.”

Accomplices have a more hands-on role, influencing internal and external outcomes:

  • “I’ll be firing the guns involved in this particular game…”
  • “I slip that contestant a weapon. We’ll be splitting the prize money if they win.”
  • “I’m on the inside trying to expose the games for what they are. If I can sneak out of this complex with evidence of these atrocities, I’d be satisfied.”

More interactivity, even if you’re “out” so to speak.

Conclusion

Safety measures, folks. Obviously this could get messy being based on an MA show.

I said Hunger Games before, but this is probably how I’d do that as well. Just bring a fun dungeoneering tool list to the session and dole them out. Bring a map to have players become familiar with the space they’re fighting in. Force players to make pulls from a Jenga tower when things get dangerous, die when the tower falls, last person standing wins the games.

Mess around with team-based activities. Forces the political nature of the game a bit more.

And do let me know what you come up with, I enjoy our visits.

2 thoughts on “Squid Game Meditation (and why Werewolf/Mafia stinks)

  1. I prefer One Night Ultimate Werewolf over both Resistance/Avalon and normal Werewolf! Also no player elimination 🙂

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