Listen at the Door

live-action fantasy role playing game

Listen at the Door

PART I: Game Overview

Listen at the Door is a live-action role-playing game of talking, requests and rewards. It can be played verbally or with touching. If touching people is permitted during the game, it is always with consent. It isn't a sex game, but you certainly can play it anyway consenting adults like to play.

Table of Contents
d40First Things First
d40Game Principles
d40Game Overview
d40Essential Concepts
d40Player Character or Character
d40Game Master/Mistress aka GM
d40Minion Monsters
d40Engaged Players
d40Exploration Mode
d40Intent Cards
d40Gold Pieces and Melee Life Points

First Things First (top)
Whether you are playing it as a verbal-only game, an innocent touching game (finger-to-knee) or an adult game, first things first:

1. Nobody is forced by any rule to do anything to anyone or to allow anyone else to do something to them. Every interaction that involves rewards and/or touching other players includes the option to decline, although there are in-game consequences. You must give consent to be touched and you may not touch without consent. If you don't want to do something someone requests, you don't have to! No rule violates you or allows any other person to violate you. Making a request in the course of the game is not a violation, even if it is a request you would otherwise be insulted to hear from a stranger.

2. Personal safety always trumps any game rules or any request by any player or the GM.

3. All players are allowed to pause the game by clearly announcing to the entire room:

d40"Game Pause"

Any player may do this at any time for any personal reason. This rule seems unlikely to be abused.

Only the game master can end a game pause when everyone is ready. They announce to the entire room:

d40"The Game Resumes"

The game master can actually announce
anything they like, so long as they wave their arms like a marching band conductor starting a song, or make it otherwise clear to all players at the same time that the game is resuming.

Game Principles (top)
Aside from the above foundational assumptions, these are the principles that guide this game:

A. The game is a set of rules for how players interact. It is up to the players to use their creativity, their imagination and their voice ito help make it fun. The game will give people lots of ways to be creative and interact.

B. Unlike other Role-Playing Games (RPGs), this one relies much less on dice and more on choices and shared judging of outcomes. Random choices are made when there is no alternative. Also unlike other RPGs, this on is almost exclusively role playing and there are comparatively few rules.

C. This is supposed to be fun. Winning is fun. Losing is fun in this game too. Players are required to say some things (loud enough to be heard by all) so that other players have a chance to know and interact. The game master is half narrator, half game facilitator. Together you tell a living story that goes along with the game. The vocal part of the game is absolutely essential.

D. Players agree to follow the rules and not to take unfair advantage of each other. Players agree not to touch without permission, and that No means No.

E. The players are required to say things aloud when certain events in the game occur. They have the option what they say and how they say it, but speaking is a required part of the game. It enables other players to take actions at the right time. It also adds to the background noises in the game and helps make it a better role playing game. Sometimes you are required to wait while someone speaks (such as the game master) but most of the things you are required to say can and should be said whether anyone is specifically listening to you, such as a "battle cry."

F. Most of the lists can be easily extended. The game master will adjust them if needed to preserve game balance. Don't forget that losing can be quite enjoyable in this game. The goal isn't to create characters that are invulnerable or win more frequently. The goal is to create interesting characters that are fun to play and play with. They should have style. Their artifacts should fit with their persona: think "super hero" or “self-styled adventurer." This game actually has nothing to do with weapons and combat. It is all about requests and rewards.

Game Overview (top)
There is one person who acts as "game master" or "game mistress." They are often referred to as the GM.

The GM and the players arrange the players into two teams. They can be considered monsters and adventurers, home team and away team, two teams of monsters, whatever the players and GM want.

The GM tells the players in advance how many spells they may prepare, how many artifacts and how many gold pieces they each start with. If there are Minion Monsters, the GM speaks with them privately about their role in the game.

It isn't required, but the GM is free to create a scenario or other context for the melee between the two teams. The GM may give the party a goal, such as to acquire an object from a dangerous locale, earn a certain amount of gold as a team, or solve some mystery.

Your house or apartment is the location for the experience, but the GM will describe what the player characters see. That isn't a couch, it is a ledge past which is a bottomless pit. That door leads to someplace unknown, and there are scary sounds coming from the other side.

You can imagine a dungeon or cave system, or you can play contemporary characters in a building, or even characters from the future in a space ship. The GM decides and tells the players.

Because it isn't about weapons and armor, the game mechanisms are never in the wrong era. The GM can adapt or invent rules to suit the locale and era in which the game is played.

Once the players know their goal (if any) or what they might be up against with the other team, all players prepare their artifacts, spells, etc.

The GM might initially place the teams on opposite sides of a door or in different rooms, and the game begins.

While on opposite sides of a door the two teams take turns listening at the door. The GM coordinates which team's turn it is to listen and which to make noises. The noises are supposed to give a clue as to what the teams are about to melee, to build dramatic tension. Players make noises associated with their characters or the Minion Monsters they are playing in this melee.

When the door is opened by one team or another, a melee begins and is resolved according to the rules of the game. Players are allowed to move and engage each other in a "struggle of the mind." That is, each player uses their mind and magic to try to win against their opponent. It isn't combat, there are no weapons, armor, etc. Instead, it is a battle of wit and creativity.

Each battle is actually resolved by the two players, who decide together which one won each round. They can also ask the GM or flip a gold piece to decide.

Players win and lose gold pieces, find and use artifacts which have magical properties in the game, and they use spells cards they have prepared in advance. Sometimes players touch during the game, but only with consent.

It is also possible to play verbally only, devoid of any physical contact, and it can still be a *very fun game.*

Essential Concepts (top)

A player refers to a person and not the character they are playing in the game. The game master is not considered a "player" in the game.

Player Character or Character
A player character or character refers to the person when they are acting according to the rules of the game and participating on a team. It is the character that a player is "playing" in the game. A player character might be a Fighter, Magic User or Thief or they can be a Minion Monster, who works with the GM and has a different role each melee.

A group of one or more players who (work together to) oppose the other team. Each team must have a name. It gets used during the game by the GM to address the team and describe the state of the game.

The name for the team of Minion Monsters is decided by the GM for each melee, but doesn't change during anmelee.

Game Master/Mistress aka GM (top)
The Game Master or Game Mistress is a person who understands all these rules and is willing to carry out the role impartially. Well, mostly impartially.

We often, but not always call this person the GM for short.

The GM is a trusted steward of the game's processes and rules. The GM cares that all players have a good time and that the game is balanced, so that nobody becomes too powerful or too weak, or that one team has too much of an advantage over the other. The game plays best and has the most diversity and fun when it is balanced. The GM is responsible for keeping the game balanced.

As such, the GM can invent rules, create gold and artifacts at will and allow players to find them. The GM can simply give gold and artifacts to the Minion Monsters.

The GM is an active participant who has a speaking role in many of the game's processes. This speaking role is like the narrator, but the GM uses their speaking role to help the players easily follow the game processes.

The GM will control the flow of the game and has the authority to decide anything except that the GM may not give consent in place of another person, ever. The GM cannot command anyone to touch or be touched.

The GM is also responsible for the helpers known as Minion Monsters. The GM may tell their minion what they are to do and be in each melee, but the GM also cannot command them to touch or be touched; however, the GM can a Minion Monster to not touch an opponent and the minion must comply.

Two people could act together as the GM, but there isn't that much GM work to do, unlike the GM of other role-playing games. One person as GM is enough for two teams.

If there are four or more teams it makes sense to have more than one GM to make sure that separate melees can be be occur simultaneously.

Minion Monsters (top)
Minion Monsters are players who are willing to be minions of the GM and act as monsters in the game. They are fun to play and are really just like player characters, but they make more noises and do monstery stuff. Because they have less free will they get some extra capabilities and characteristics in the game. There are special rules just for Minion Monsters. But, they start with the same amount of gold as non-Minion Monsters and through the melees they usually have as much chance of winning and losing as the non-minion players players.

With the GM's approval, Minion Monsters may choose new artifacts for each melee, or may change the characteristics of artifacts they keep to any other active and passive powers.

If the GM gives a Minion Monster a mission that requires them to lose gold, the GM may, but is not required to replenish some or all of the Minion Monster's lost gold. This would usually be based on the quality of the performance while losing. The GM can also return *more* than the amount of gold lost by the Minion Monster as an incentive to lose very well.

A GM might sacrifice a minion to see if the heroes will expose their backs to a waiting horde.

The GM can also create any artifact at any time, for example as an incentive for a Minion Monster to fight a losing battle. Because, those can be fun too.

When a Minion Monster has an incentive to lose, the game gets very interesting...

Game (top)
A game is a collection of one or more melees. It requires a GM and at least two players (one on each team.) The player characters explore between melees.

Melee (top)
A period of play where two (or more) teams meet and interact with each other.
The outcome is dictated by the rules and the choices of the players and the GM.

The simplest case is two teams rushing toward each other from opposite sides of a room or space. Terrain can make this more interesting. The GM is free to indicate which furniture is made of molten lava and which are safe to walk or sit on, for example.

A classic case is meeting on opposite sides of a door. Then it opens and the players interact with each other.

Melees might have a purpose, but they don't need one. They can also be simply a contest between two teams. Even two teams of Minion Monsters!

On the other hand, a good GM can weave melees into a more cohesive story or quest. If the GM has Minion Monsters and can set up fun melees that relate to that story.

The actual process of a melee is broken into successive rounds. Each round has three phases:

The GM will announce each phase so there is no confusion.

There are rules for what happens in each phase of the round. The GM keeps it all running smoothly, but most of the game is players interacting with players, and saying bizarre things for no apparent reason.

Lots of bizarre things get said, and that is one of the fun parts of the game. You get to make these up and hear what other people have made up. Thieves, for example, are required to tell outlandish lies when there is a spare moment. They invent these lies using their imagination. They aren't scored in any way, it is a rule that just adds flavor and fun to the game.

All character classes speak and interact, during each of the three phases of a round, even Minion Monsters (unless the GM has limited their speech.)

While battle cries are almost always permitted, some of the phases have very specific kinds of things that are said, and players and the GM must listen for them.

The melee continues, round after round, until one side surrenders or all of they players on one side are disabled.

To prevent each melee from being a death match and control how long melees take, the GM sets the stakes for each melee by indicating the number of gold pieces are "at stake" in the melee. These are the
melee life points with which the players begin a melee. When you run out of your melee life points, your character is disabled. Regardless of class, characters start each melee with the same number of melee life points, unless they didn't possess that many gold pieces, in which case they start with only as many as they possess.

When the melee is over, if a player has any melee life point gold pieces left, they simply add them back to their regular gold pieces. The next melee will start a fresh supply of melee life points, but the GM might have a different stake in the next melee.

If you have no gold pieces left you must get some during the exploration that follows or you are out of the game when the next melee begins.

Encounter (top)
Players encounter each other during melee. Each encounter is of one of these three forms:
- Face-to-face
- Not face-to-face but still within peripheral vision
- Out of peripheral vision, also know as an attack from behind

There are rules for confrontation, retreat and “just talking.”

The rules for how these different forms are resolved are in
Part II.

Exploration Mode (top)
When teams are not interacting with each other they are said to be "exploring" or in exploration mode.

Players may pick things up like treasure and artifacts if they find them.

Players may give gold pieces to other players on the same team.

Players may explicitly give an artifact to another player on the same team (but they must announce it, described below.)

Some player character abilities and artifacts only work during Exploration. For example, thieves can only "Listen At The Door" and "Detect Traps" during exploration, and only if their team is quiet.

The strict definition of Exploration is that no players are able to touch members of the other team without changing locations and no members of either team are able to attack with an artifact at a distance. They might be in the same room though. If so, the melee is about to begin and an attentive GM will end exploration right then so players don't suddenly reach each other.

When Exploration ends and a melee begins the GM must name the two teams and indicates that a melee has begun between them.
d40"The deep mountain folk have been attacked by the hill giants of white hill!
d40What is your intent!"

If the GM makes such a statement, a new melee begins and the first intent phase of the first round of the melee begins (explained below.)

Once that melee is finished the GM returns the game to its "Exploration" mode. For example, the GM might say:
"And so, the hill giants were defeated and the deep mountain folk reveled in their victory."

It helps if the GM sounds a bit like a herald. Or, an overzealous soap opera announcer. Or, any fun accent, really.

The winning players would briefly revel in their victory.

Then exploration mode would begin.

Any Minion Monsters return to the side of the GM. The GM may make verbal requests of their minion, but the minion are not required to obey, and there is no penalty. However, the GM may mutter about how hard it is to get good help. If Minion Monsters follow instructions well, they get to eat juicy explorers sometimes. Yum!

But, the game is about the players encountering each other. So, the GM will set up the next melee by telling the Minion Monsters what their special goal is, or what kind of sounds to make, or other details that make each melee interesting and different.

Exploration mode allows for some important non-melee activities, such as:
- A Thief may listen at the door
- A Thief may try to detect traps on an object
- A Magic User may regenerate one spell
- Anyone may use an artifact that doesn't affect Resolution
- Treasure may be collected if found
- Players may move from room to room
- Players may fulfill some of the requirements of carrying artifacts (passive side effects)
- Players may ask for a pause (this is usually the best time for it)

Unless the teams might have a melee shortly, there is no need for much structure. Unless something can interfere with the players, they have impunity to act without structure, while still following the rules of the game.

During this unstructured time players may simply walk at a normal pace and hand each other items, but they must still announce transfers of artifacts to the room at large.

At some point the GM deploys some or all of the Minion Monsters with instructions and provisions. If they need to move invisibly to their destinations the GM simply announces:
d40"You see nothing. Nothing!" with a German accent.
d40"You don't need to see their ID" with a smile and a small wave of your hand.

The GM makes clear that that the monsters are not interacting, but taking their places for the next melee and everyone ignores them. However, heroes are allowed to speak to nobody in particular about foul odors (for example) as the minion pass by, if they wish.

At any point the GM can announce something like:
d40"Harken! You hear a noise in the distance! What is your Intent!"

This means the unstructured exploration has ended and now you are at the beginning of a melee and the Intent/Movement/Resolution phases are beginning for the first round.

But, if by some chance two players from opposing teams find themselves close enough to touch each other, the GM should be notified immediately to begin the melee. Usually the GM knows before the players when the melee should begin.

If a player doesn't want to trigger the melee, they could lean away from the other player to make it harder to be reached. Whereas, to willing opponents can lean toward each other to determine if they are close enough to touch.

The melee begins only when the GM announces it. For example:
d40"Suddenly, out of the darkness springs a three-headed hydra!"

Three Minion Monsters might have been bound together back to back and told to move as one and fight like three. Why not? Get inventive! Extend the game!

Round (top)
Each melee is broken into rounds that each follow the same pattern of game play:

Each player and the GM gets to make choices in each phase that affect the outcome of the round.

Different members of the same team may have different outcomes in a round -- some may lose and some may win. The teams may also share resources amongst themselves to spread out the win/loss effects across the team. They may only share resources, melee life points and artifacts during the movement phase.

Intent Cards (top)
These are small paper cards on which players have written simple statements in a few categories. They are used when resolving what happens when people melee each other. They are also used as spells.

You create these cards for yourself, some during the game and some before it starts. So, you need a supply of cards and a writing instrument.

Experienced players may dispense with written intent cards, but are still required to prepare spells in advance if they want to use spells.

Gold Pieces and Melee Life Points (top)
Gold pieces are used for life points for a character and also as treasure. Any character without any gold pieces of any kind at the beginning of melee is out of the game.

When each melee begins, the GM sets a "stake" which is the maximum number of gold pieces each player may use as life points in this one melee. Running out of these
melee life points only disables a player so long as they still have any other gold pieces. See “Disabled Players” later.

Players can use any kind of real-world token such as poker chips or pennies, or a tally can be kept on paper, etc.

Each player must keep their melee life point gold pieces separate from their other gold pieces.

Players win gold pieces by winning rounds during the melee. They may also lose gold pieces during a round.

Gold pieces are not a zero-sum game -- the GM acts like a treasury and will create and consume them as needed.

You can also find gold placed by the GM as treasure. Gold pieces found as treasure cannot be artifacts, but they can be traps.

Artifacts (top)
Artifacts are objects that have enchantments that affect the game through "special rules" that modify how the other rules of the game work, just while the artifact is used or even carried by a player. All of the details are in Part III.

Within the limits set by the GM, players are free to create their own artifacts and use them in the game. They don't have to be "found" in a game to be valid, but the GM has the final say on whether an artifact can be used in their game, or whether it can be with some changes.

It is much better to adjust the power of an artifact before the game than deny its use. Perhaps it can be used less often, or sometimes something else happens instead of what was intended, etc.

Traps (top)
Traps are simply bad consequences associated with being the first to touch an object. Artifacts can contain a trap, gold pieces, or any object. However, walls and floors cannot be traps. Once a trap is triggered and the effects are resolved within the game, the trap will not fire again during the game. So, a trapped artifact can then be used as an artifact and transferred among players without triggering the trap again.