As the Sun lay down to rest from his hard day’s labor, Kellar took a final look at the other members of his Questing Circle. The others were depending on him and his Circle to penetrate the heavens and return with the Golden Bell of Shakt-La. It was a task of legends and epic sagas. The way would be fraught with danger and peril. There were no maps or guides. And always, the Hounds would be nipping at their heels. This was no simple errand and only the greatest members of the tribe would have any hope of winning the prize. Kellar must be absolutely sure of his fellows.
There was Sart, proud and strong, flexing his muscles and coiling his scaly tail about him like a shimmering coat of mail. He was stretching out and preparing for the road ahead, but also showing off to the others, reminding them all that there were none faster or stronger than he.
Off to the side, Geesa pointed and Sart and whispered a few words to those sitting next to him. A ripple of muffled laughter burst forth. Luckily, Sart didn’t seem to hear it. Geesa’s shining eyes caught Kellar’s disapproving gaze but returned nothing but his ever-present smirk. True, Geesa was smart and nimble and his words could work magic, but all too often they worked mischief. Kellar knew he’d be trouble.
Allane the Mystic sat rapt in her reverent meditations. She spoke with and for the Gods themselves and if they hoped to win through to the heavens they would surely need her guidance. Kellar knew this. He also knew that the Wild Lands was very different from the comfort of her Sanctuary here in the Village.
Suddenly, Allane’s eyes opened. “It is time,” she said. Kellar stood up and the other members of the Questing Circle joined him. The other three stood there waiting for him to give the order. This was their Quest, but his Circle and the glory of triumph or humiliation of defeat would rest with him. “Let the oncoming night and the oncoming obstacles hear our war cry and know that this Circle shall not break but shall stand united in victory!”, Kellar cried.
The night was pierced with a series of squeaks and then the toys set out across the basement floor on their great adventure…
A Deadly Serious Silly Game By Thomas Russell 2003
Welcome to SqueakQuest, a slightly odd game about squeak toys on an epic quest across a mystical (yet oddly familiar) landscape. There have been a number of games that have utilized toys as playing pieces in the past. Where SqueakQuest differs is that it toes a slightly darker, more serious line than those other games. You’re a grown-up who plays with toys; your toys should have more grown-up adventures. Which is not to say that this is some dreary, “mature”, angst-ridden exercise in nihilism. They’re still toys after all and there’s a great deal of humor to be found herein. What’s important is that despite the humor, it’s all very deadly serious to your toy.
Remember playing with toys as a kid? You may not have had the deepest plots or most intricate storylines, but whatever your toy did, it mattered. Whether it was GI Joe wiping out Cobra or Barbie going out on a date, or pirate adventures with your rubber duckie, the point is that you were really identifying with the toy and the things it was doing. Your imagination made the stories come to life and they were just as important as anything that you were doing on the playground.
We’re going to try and use this game to recapture some of that “play intensity” and along the way, don’t be surprised if some rather odd, but rewarding storytelling comes out of it.
Key to all of this is the Questing Circle. The idea of a group of heroes going off in search of something is an incredibly ancient literary device. Jason and the Argonauts is among the earliest recorded stories, but there were certainly predecessors we know nothing about. Down through the ages, you have King Arthur and his Knights, Robin Hood and his Merry Men, the Forty-Seven Ronin and many more. While an individual hero, questing alone is probably a bit more common, the band of heroes is a close second.
Where a single hero often represents the paragon of humanity, a group offers the chance to look at more human heroes. Some are strong, some are fast, some are smart, but no one is the best at everything. Only by working together can the group hope to succeed. In ancient times, this reliance on the group was key to survival and by playing up a wide range of characters, listeners could identify with the hero who most approximated their own place in life. Further, a group comes with group dynamics and politics and this too could be used in the stories to reflect reality. So little wonder that stories of heroic groups have been with us for so long.
In SqueakQuest, we provide the tools to let players create their own tales of heroic groups and their roles within it. A group of heroes, a Questing Circle, isn’t formed for trivial or superficial reasons – something important must be found or retrieved or defeated or overcome and no one hero can stand up to it. Only by collecting the mightiest heroes can the Quest be completed. Do funny things happen? Sure, the heroes of the Questing Circle are only human (or in this case, squeak toys), but that doesn’t make the object of their quest any less important.
So go ahead, laugh when you negotiate your toy over an obstacle you could easily step over. Just don’t forget to cry when your companion dies or scream with rage when the Hounds come for you. If you’re going to play make-believe, play make-believe!
In order to play Squeak: The Squeezing, you will need the following items:
· This rulebook
· Four (4) Squeak Toys (they must make a squeaking noise when you squeeze them)
· A bunch of blank index cards
· Some crayons
· Four (4) pens or pencils
· A notebook
· A house to play in, preferably one with a basement, first floor, second floor and upper attic which is easily accessible.
· Two (2) cats
· Two (2) dogs
· Four (4) people who want to play (you can’t play with less than four people nor can you play with more than four. It has to be four people, period. Be sure to count yourself among the four because otherwise you’ve got five and that’s right out.)
· 4 pillows or cushions for people to kneel down on (you’re not a kid anymore and neither are your knees)
The first thing we need to do is to create the hero that you’ll be playing during the game. Generally, you create a new hero for each game, unless the group chooses otherwise. Creating your character is a pretty quick and easy process which we define below:
Step 1: Select your squeak toy. You may choose from any squeak toy you have in your possession. It’s strictly a case of first-come, first-served so if there’s a toy that truly represents your innermost hero, you should make an effort to get it pronto. Should there be any disagreement about who will be using a given toy, the players involved should put down the toy in question and use one of the following two methods to resolve the issue:
1.) Each contestant will be squeezed by a neutral party. The squeaking produced by each competitor will be judged by the neutral party and a winner determined.
2.) Whoever owns the toy decides who gets it.
Step 2: Choose a name for your hero. Take an index card and write down the name of your hero at the top. This is your Character Card and it’s where you’ll keep all the information for your hero.
Step 3: You now need to pick another player to be your Opposing Player. The Opposing Player serves as your personal source of ill luck. During your epic challenges, there will be times when your hero is less successful or fails at some task. It’s the Opposing Player’s job to provide those moments. This doesn’t mean that the Opposing Player is actively out to get you, just that they attempt to make your life a little more difficult and hence, “interesting”. It’s possible that you may be the Opposing Player of your Opposing Player but it’s not absolutely necessary. The only restriction is that you must be an Opposing Player to another player and that you may only be an Opposing Player to one other player (not more than one). You can do something as simple as sitting in a circle and selecting the player to your right as the Opposing Player, or you may come up with a more arcane selection process, it’s all up to you. Once you’ve selected your Opposing Player, all other players beside yourself become Supporting Players. You may want to make a note on your Character Card about who your Opposing Player is.
Step 4: Select your Talent. Look at the toy you’ve selected and ask yourself what special skill, talent, or item your hero has that makes them an asset on this vital mission. Unlike a lot of games, there isn’t a game mechanic bonus (no +1 when fighting orcs or +1d6 damage when using a battleaxe). Instead, just say what it is that your hero is known for (i.e. I’m the best swordsman in the tribe, I can speak with trees, I can climb like a monkey, etc.). No two heroes should have the same Talent. If there’s a dispute over who gets a given Talent, use one of the resolution methods above. Once you pick a Talent, write it down on your Character Card.
Step 5: Receive your Gift. A Gift is similar to a Talent in that it’s a special skill, talent, or item. But a Gift comes from the Supporting Players. In turn, each Player should ask their Supporting Players to bestow a Gift upon them. The Supporting Players collaborate on an idea for a Gift and once they agree on something, you can add it to your Character Card. When you’re working out another Player’s Gift, you may want to make up something that seems to fit in with the Player’s Talent, or you may decide to Gift them with something totally different. When thinking up another Player’s Gift, try and imagine what it is about the Character that the rest of the group thinks is really important and unique – the reason why the rest of the group would have chosen to include that character.
Step 6: Receive your Flaw. A Flaw is some weakness or failing in your hero. Again, there’s no specific game mechanic that it’s tied to, the Flaw is just a hero’s known weakness. Flaws aren’t something debilitating and while they may have some minor benefits, they shouldn’t be anything too positive (for example, Beserker Rage may be great in a fight, but telling friend from foe will be a problem and it’s less of an asset in social situations). Your Opposing Player will pick your Flaw. When it’s your turn to pick a Flaw for another Player, try to think of something that will make life interesting but not fatal for the hero involved. Once you receive a Flaw, mark it down on your Character Card.
For this (and all our subsequent examples), we’ll be focusing in on a hypothetical game. The players are: Vincent, Meg, Emily and Tom. They’ve just sat down to play a game of SqueakQuest. Right now, Tom is trying to make up a character for play:
Step 1 – Choosing your toy. Tom finds a nifty squeaking lizard and since no one else is vying for it, he claims it as his hero.
Step 2 – Name your Hero. Tom decides that Sart is an appropriately reptilian name for his hero. So he gets out an index card and writes down Sart’s name at the top.
Step 3 – Choose your Opposing Player. Since the group is seated in a circle, they opt to have the person seated opposite them to act as the Opposing Player. In this case, Tom sits across from Vincent. So Vincent is Tom’s Opposing player and Tom is Vincent’s Opposing Player. They could’ve just as easily decided to make the person to their left serve as the Opposing Player or some other method. In any event, Tom jots down the fact that Vincent is his Opposing Player on the Character Card.
Step 4 – Choose your Talent. Tom thinks he has a good idea for this one. He wants his hero to be a real bruiser so he chooses “Strength of Ten” as his Talent. He checks to make sure that no one else has the same or similar power. Since no one else does, he writes down his Talent on his Character Card.
Step 5 – Receive your Gift. Tom now turns to his two Supporting Players, Meg and Emily, and asks them to grant him a gift. They talk it over for a while and decide that Sart is really handsome so they assign “Adonis Looks” as his Gift. Tom puts that down on his Character Card.
Step 6 – Receive your Flaw. Tom now asks his Opposing Player, Vincent to saddle Sart with a Flaw. Vincent thinks about it for a while and decides that Sart probably doesn’t have much of a sense of humor and assigns “Arrogant Pride” as his Flaw. Tom writes that down on his Character Card while Vincent thinks of a few situations which might test that Flaw.
At this point, Sart is finished and ready for play
That’s it. You’re done. Now you’re ready to begin your quest…once you decide what that is…
You need a reason for your circle of heroes to head off into the unknown and here’s where the group will come up with their purpose. Often there’s a great deal of prior history and background information that precedes an actual quest. The quest for the Golden Fleece starts with Jason and the Argonauts, but the Fleece itself has a story of its own, long before Jason decides to go get it. This build-up is what we’re calling the Quest Story and in this step, the group will create it.
Step 1: Have everyone sit in a circle. Choose one person to start and give them the notepad and the crayons.
Step 2: The person with the notepad and crayons will begin narrating the Quest Story. Generally, the player narrates a sentence or two and then draws a depiction of what it is they’ve just said. So if the starting player says “There was a far-off island kingdom ruled by a wise and benevolent king.” he has to draw an island and some representation of a wise, benevolent king. Once he’s completed his narration, he hands the notebook and crayons to the person to his left.
Step 3: The next person picks up the tale, adds a few new sentences of their own and then draws their addition. This could be an addition to the previous drawing, or it could be a wholly separate drawing (much like the panels in a comic book). The player is not allowed to directly negate any previous statements, but may modify them or introduce new elements to change what’s already been established. So the next player might say something like “The king had an evil vizier who convinced the king that traitors were plotting to kill him”. This doesn’t directly negate the good king described earlier, but does set him up to become a duped tyrant. Once the player is finished with his narration and drawing, he passes the notebook and crayons to the player on his left.
Step 4: Play continues in this way with each person taking a turn adding a piece of narration and a drawing to the notebook. When everyone in the group has taken a turn, one round is complete. When the group has completed four rounds, the Quest Story is complete and the players should know what it is they’re questing after and why it’s so important. If the story seems incomplete or insufficient, the group (by consensus) may opt to go an additional round and may continue to opt for an additional round until the Quest Story is complete.
No quest is ever easy. There are always obstacles and difficulties to overcome before the final goal is reached. In most role-playing games, a single player creates these challenges, but here, we’ll be taking advantage of every player’s innate creativity to provide obstacles and hazards.
Step 1: Each player takes four index cards and a pen. They also get 12 “points” to build their challenges with. More difficult challenges will be worth more points than easier ones. The points may be distributed any way the player sees fit. So you could create four 3-point challenges, or one 9-point challenge and three 1-point challenges. It’s all up to you.
Step 2: On each card write down the amount of points the Challenge is worth and what kind of Challenge the group will face. Generally, this is some sort of foe. It doesn’t necessarily have to be an immediately hostile enemy, but it should represent a significant obstacle to overcome. You might be able to negotiate with a sentient creature. It might also be a puzzle or a terrain feature. It should not be an obstacle to further movement however. If it’s a terrain feature it should be a building or magic ring or other feature that would be interesting to explore. So “the only pass through the mountains” is no good, but “the hut of the wise Mystic” is good. Also, try not to be too detailed. You want to sum up the challenge in as few words as possible without dictating any outcome or response. Finally, the amount of points a Challenge is worth will give an indication of how dangerous or difficult the Challenge will be.
For this example, we’ll turn to Vincent who is busy creating Challenges.
He knows that he wants to take advantage of the “Arrogant Pride” Flaw that he gave to Tom’s Character so he decides to create an average Challenge involving a troop of monkeys who make fun of the Heroes. So he takes an index card and writes down “Challenge: Mocking Monkeys – 3”. So this is a 3-point Challenge.
He knows that Meg has a Hero who’s really good at swimming (she picked a frog) so he decides to make another challenge about a dangerous swamp. So he writes down “Challenge: Swamp Monster! – 5” for a tough 5-point Challenge.
Once all players have created all four Challenges it’s time to distribute them throughout the playing area.
Step 1: Create four separate piles for Challenges. Each player puts one card into each pile. The Challenges should all be face down and once all piles have been formed, you should shuffle each pile to thoroughly randomize them. So you will have four piles of four cards each.
Step 2: The Quest will take place over four different “Levels”. Each Level represents a different floor of the house (basement, ground floor, second floor, attic). Assign one Level to each player. You may want to mark down the Level you’ve been assigned to on your Character Card for future reference.
Step 3: Each player should grab a random pile and go to their assigned Level. Once they reach their Level, they should place the Challenges face down somewhere on the level. The Challenges should not be hidden, but may be placed into closets or side rooms. Doors should be left open and Challenges should be in plain sight. Challenges may be placed on tables, chairs or cabinets, but Challenges placed above the level of the floor will be worth fewer points (reaching them will be a challenge in and of itself).
Step 4: Once you’ve distributed your Challenges, you should go to the first level (the basement) and get ready to play. The player assigned to this level will act as the Leader and will decide where the players will assemble. It should be a couple of paces away from the nearest Challenge. Pull out your squeak toy and set it down on the floor.
Now you’re set to play.
On each Level, the Characters (and the Players) will move around from Challenge to Challenge. The system for movement is really pretty simple. Basically, the Leader suggests where the group should go next and that’s generally where the party will go. If there’s any disagreement, the group will have to work to reach consensus, but should, eventually, come to some agreement. After all, how epic is your saga if it ends with “but they couldn’t make up their minds on where to go next so they gave up and went home”?
Usually, the group will move along the floor or up gentle inclines to reach the next level. Occasionally though, the group will want to reach the tops of chairs, tables, desks, bookshelves and the like. They may even find cause to cross sinks or tubs. Obviously, these obstacles present a little more difficulty than the usual walking around. To represent this, we resolve the issue with a Movement Challenge. These challenges are resolved exactly as a regular Challenge would with only a few small changes noted below:
Eventually, the group will move onto a Challenge Card. This is where most of the action will take place as the players tell the tales about the obstacles faced and overcome by the circle as they continue on in their quest.
Each level was assigned to a given player when the Challenge Cards were distributed. That player is responsible for narrating all the challenges on that level. When a Challenge Card is reached it gets flipped over and the Narrator must describe the nature of the Challenge and the number of Challenge points it’s worth. Once described, the Narrator should take the crayons and the notebook and illustrate what was just narrated on a new page in the notebook. He then begins to narrate the story of how the group overcomes the challenge. Generally, the Narrator retains full control of the story and after every few sentences the Narrator will draw a picture depicting what was narrated.
There are, however, a couple of situations under which the Narrator may lose control of the story. If the Narrator mentions another Player’s character and has that character perform an action, the Player controlling that character may do one of several things:
1. He may let the inclusion stand and allow the Narrator to continue
2. The Player may demand a Boon, if this Boon is not granted, the Player may expend a Challenge Point and narrate a complication or reversal in the Narration. The Player will then take the crayons and notepad and draw in their narration. Control of the story passes back to the Narrator who must now deal with the new addition.
3. If the Narrator mentions the character’s Talent or Gift, the player may demand a Boon and cannot be refused by the Narrator.
4. He may expend a Boon and take control of the story. The player now becomes the Narrator.
The Narrator’s Opposing Character has an additional option:
1. When the Narrator mentions their (the Narrator’s) character performing an action, the Opposing Character may invoke the Narrator’s Flaw. The Opposing Character narrates how the Narrator’s Flaw causes him to fail. As usual, the Opposing Character will take the crayon and notebook and draw in their narration. Control of the story passes to one of the other players (who is not the Narrator or his Opposing Character) – the Opposing Character chooses who will get control.
Once all Challenge Points have been expended, the Narrator is allowed to conclude the narration – only if Gifts or Flaws are exploited can story control be passed on at this point. Once the Challenge is concluded, any remaining Boons may be converted into Treasures. These represent some sort of loot or gift or prize won by that character as a result of the Challenge. These Treasures are basically Boons that can be used in future Challenges. The Player must narrate the use of the Treasure when using it. If the Player cannot reasonably include the Treasure, they may not use it. Once a Treasure is used, it gets discarded, just like any Boon. If desired, a player may invest additional Boons into a Treasure so that it can be used more than once (up to the total number of Boons invested into it). Treasure can be just about anything, so you can get things like a magic sword, an animal companion, a sack of gold, etc. Players should mark down Treasures they gain on their Character Card.
Note that it’s pretty much impossible for a group to fail at any given Challenge. It’s possible that the final Narrator could, in fact, narrate a bad ending, but that’s probably something that the group as a whole should discuss. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Stories of great Quests generally result in the hero or heroes succeeding against all or most foes. The Challenge Points simply make individual stories longer or more exciting.
Returning to our sample game, we find our intrepid Players on the first floor of the house. Tom is the Narrator for this floor and the group has just moved over a challenge card. Tom picks up the card and flips it over.
Tom: “OK, this one says: ‘Mocking Monkeys’ and it’s worth 3 Challenge Points.” Tom picks up the notebook and the crayons. “OK, the party beds down for the night while crossing the Plains of Gartet. Everyone is just drifting off when the night is rent with a series of sharp cries and howls.” Tom pauses for a moment to draw in a (crude) representation of the party being surrounded by black shapes. “As the howling mass approaches,” Tom continues, “the party can make out this growling, barking speech coming from the creatures approaching. They reach the edge of the light cast by the campfire and you can see that it’s a wild band of monkeys. They look a lot like baboons, but with this evil, malign, intelligence. Again, there’s a pause whilst Tom draws some sort of cave painting representation of the baboons.
“The baboons start circling the group,” Tom continues, “and they begin to hoot and howl with this weird laughter. Kellar begins to organize the group to defend against whatever is coming.”
Now, Kellar’s Talent is Leadership so by talking about his organizing the group, Tom has opened an opportunity for Vincent (Kellar’s player) to gain a Boon. So naturally, Vincent requests such a Boon. Since this is a Talent of Kellar, Tom is forced to relinquish a Boon to Vincent. Vincent marks it down on his Sheet while Tom does a bit more drawing.
“OK, so Kellar has everyone organized into a defensive circle as the baboons continue to whirl around them with this eerie laughter,” Tom continues, “Suddenly, a rain of disgusting clods begins pelting down on the Heroes. The creatures are flinging poo at them. Kellar leaps to the fore and strikes out at the nearest one.”
Again, Vincent’s character has been mentioned taking an action so he decides to ask for another Boon. But nothing that Tom’s narrated has anything to do with Kellar’s Talents or Gift. Further, Tom’s getting tired of being the Boon Fairy so he turns Vincent down.
Vincent, not to take such thing lightly, decides to issue a little payback, so he announces that he’s spending a Challenge Point and narrating a complication. “The stench of the projectiles drives Kellar back and now, you can make out some guttural words from one of the baboons who looks to be a leader. You feel the chill of magical energies swirling around.” Vincent takes the notebook and draws a gripping, comic-book level representation of the action. As this was a 3-point Challege, there are still 2 more Challenge points to spend before this Challenge is resolved.
“With the chanting rising in pitch,” continues Tom, “Sart sees that he must take action, he leaps out at the spell-slinging baboon and grabs him with the Strength of Ten.”
Vincent, who is Tom’s Opposing Player, is tired of the crappy drawing, the ping-pong Boon play and the sub-standard narration. So he opts to invoke Sart’s Flaw (Arrogant Pride) since there seems to be a reasonable way to work it in.
“Sart holds the magical monkey in a deathgrip, when this huge baboon steps forward and points at you,” says Vincent, “He’s clearly looking to take Sart on. Sart, not about to turn down the challenge of a mere baboon, drops his current victim and charges forward, confident in his Strength of Ten. Unfortunately, the Challenger and his 19 buddies have the Strength of Twenty.”
Vincent wastes no time on a quick sketch of Sart’s Failure and nominates Emily to take over the Narration.
Emily takes up the notebook and the narration. “Sart goes down under the weight of the swarming baboons. The others begin fighting their way towards him in hopes of effecting a rescue.”
“From beneath the howling mass,” interrupts Tom, “a shining spearhead pierces up through the monkeys as Sart claws his way to the top.” Tom is using a Boon to retake control of the story. In this case, he’s using Boons stored up in a Treasure (a magical spear) that Sart found earlier. Tom draws this new development and the Challenge continues apace.
Obviously, being more or less confrontational can have an impact on how long the group spends at any given Challenge.
Each Challenge completed by the group (both Movement Challenges and Challenge Cards) provide a number of Victory Points equal to their Challenge Points. So if it’s a 3 Point Challenge Card, the group will collect 3 Victory Points after completing the Challenge. Once the group has collected a total of 8 Victory Points, the group may proceed to the next level. The Narrator for the level should narrate the group’s passage to the next stage of the quest and then, after drawing in the narration, hand over the crayons and notebook to the Narrator of the next level.
The group should go upstairs to the next level of the house and the new Narrator will assemble the group in a new start area and begin the next round of the Quest.
Once the Questing circle reaches the final level and collects 8 Victory Points, a final Challenge is Narrated describing how the Circle overcomes any final obstacles and achieves the objective of their Quest. This final Challenge has a Challenge Rating of six.
Cats are the benevolent angels of squeak toys everywhere. They are good and kind and never bother squeak toys at all. For that reason, cats are considered to be omens of good by all squeak toys.
To represent this, if a cat rubs up against a Player or the squeak toy they control, then that Character immediately gets a free Treasure.
Only the first Player so blessed by the Cat on any given Level may receive this gift.
Dogs are the demonic bane of every squeak toy’s existence. They attack, maul and devour innocent squeak toys of all shapes and sizes. Dogs are foul and hated creatures.
To represent this, if a dog rubs up against a Player or the squeak toy they control, then that Character immediately loses any and all Treasures they may possess. If the Character has no Treasure, they may not receive any Boons or Treasure from the next Challenge.