Flash Game Design Friday

So, inspired by Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction challenges, I had a weird, possibly useless idea: Flash Game Design Challenge.

I’m going to give you three mechanical ingredients. You use at least two:

  • Two dice that you don’t add together
  • A single token that sometimes is and sometimes isn’t on your character sheet/possessed by the player
  • a countdown mechanic (whatever the hell that means)

Write a game that takes 500 words or less to explain, which should include a hint of setting. No “generic” games!

[Edit: if you have a question about the ingredients, answer it yourself in the design! I’m standing just by what’s there, and want to see what you do with it.]

Post a link to it here by Friday, September 23rd.


– Ryan


114 Responses to Flash Game Design Friday

  1. Fnorder says:

    Are those two supposed to be *the only* dice, or “out of all dice used, two should not be added”.

    • Ryan Macklin says:

      Open to interpretation. I’m not elaborating further. I’ll add that to the post.

      Thanks for asking!

      – Ryan

  2. MrPrim says:

    Man, I don’t know anything about game design and I’m still sort of excited to give this a go.

    I’m imagining the single token is a hat! Or perhaps bacon!


  3. EZ says:

    I got my game almost complete(ly written).

  4. catastrophe says:

    Currently prepping Lord of the Flies- The RPG

  5. Drew Stevens says:

    Finished my entry (with some vigerous editting from the wife, to chop the last hundred words):

    The Gold of the Sultan!

    • Drew Stevens says:

      Interesting, but it seems to be missing the implied setting. You’re in a jungle, but which jungle is explicitly not enumerated, capable of being filled in for several jungles.

      And having a To Be Determined tag for a section, in a challenge specifically about limited word count… ;)

      I’m also not tremendously clear how what the flow of the game is like. Or when your Escape counter decrements.

  6. BilbyCoder says:

    Working on it now. Thematically borrowing from Don’t Rest Your Head. Mostly because I didn’t want to borrow from Cthulhu and the endless Sanity variants (though it makes no difference system wise).

  7. misuba says:

    Weighing in at precisely 500 words according to Google Docs, it’s The End Zone.

    Thanks to Joel Shempert for the assist, or whatever the term is for that in football.

  8. Nick Wedig says:

    My game is The Alchemists of Pwang. WordPress claims it is 500 words long.

    • Matt Kauko says:

      Nick, enjoyed your game. I was thinking about doing a Alchemist game for this challenge, but ended up going in a different direction because I didn’t think I could fit it in in under 500 words. I’m impressed you were able to. Nice work! (also, would have left this at your blog, but you seem to have commenting disabled.)

  9. Here’s my entry: Kingdom Come. Word said it came out to 500 on the nose and not too much tweaking to get there.


  10. runester says:

    Pilgrim’s Journey

    (It got a lot easier when I realized I needed 500 words and not 500 characters!)

  11. EZ says:

    I bring you the game everyone knew must be made, but no one dared to make.


  12. Jeffrey says:

    What? Am I the first to submit a game where you play monkeys?

    Kanker’s Monkey: Fall of the Sorcerer Harish


  13. Drat. I need to trim 180 words from “Molemen & Missives.”
    Time to get the verbosity shears.

  14. “Molemen & Missives” clocks in at 499 words, including title, name, and apologies to John Hodgman.

    This was fun!


    Also, a fancy-pants PDF

    • Nick Wedig says:

      I approve of all RPGs based off of John Hodgman’s writings.

    • MrPrim says:

      You know, last week I’d suddenly come up with a brilliant idea to work up an “Areas of My Expertise” RPG. I couldn’t even maintain the energy to do THIS competition, so my idle idea will forever remain unfulfilled. But the chance to play as a Rabbit-Raising Utopian, a Thunderbird Riding Sociologist, or a Hobo Dirtamancer is too good not to dream about.

      And you know that even if Hodgman couldn’t/wouldn’t license such a product, he would totally be supportive of a free game that paid homage to his ridiculousness.

    • Forgive the spammishness, but Nick and Mr. Prim’s posts demand that I mention that me, Josh, and the rest of the Hex crew are currently working on a game called Hobomancer. It’s about magical hobos, and will be released in PDF format later this year. If we tried to claim that Hodgman was not an inspiration, we’d be lying.

    • Thanks, Nick and MrPrim! Hodgman has had an odd effect on my sense of humor and writing style over the last couple of years. I’ve thought about doing a beer & pretzels Moleman game for a while, and this challenge finally gave me the motivation to bang it out.

      Also, yes. Hobomancer.

    • MrPrim says:

      Joshua, not to tell you what to do… but I think you should send a link to your game’s beautiful pdf and some context to John Hodgman. Perhaps via Twitter. Writers seem to love/be forced to use Twitter. He seems like the sort of fellow to appreciate a nice fan work.

    • Y’know, I thought about that (I follow Hodgman on Twitter), but nerves got the better of me and I chickened out. But y’know what, I’m gonna do it anyway. Thanks for the encouragement!

    • Mike Olson says:

      Dude, I’m pretty sure John Hodgman would be into it. He may even mention it on his podcast.

    • el Mīko says:

      very nice! With everyone mentioning Hodgman I must ask, what work inspired this?

    • John Hodgman’s second book “More Information than You Require” talks about (among other things) the secret history of the Molemen in great length, including a list of 700 Moleman names.

      I highly recommend the audiobook, which Hodgman performs (not just reads) with the aid of Johnathan Coulton and several others.

    • el Mīko says:

      that sounds cool, thanks.

    • MrPrim says:

      Moleman names AND occupations.

      The third part of the trilogy releases 11/1/11.

  15. RDA says:

    Just stumbled on this… Will probably crank something out, but it’ll be late! :) Gotta hit the hay

  16. David Berg says:

    I like deadlines! Ryan, I’m interpreting this one as “before it hits Saturday in Dave’s time zone”, and if I’m running late, I may change that to “Ryan’s time zone”.

    If you need to correct me, please do it now!

  17. Mike Olson says:

    Nerdball is done! Check it out. Enjoy. Bring some dice. Bring all your dice, actually. Just in case.

  18. Ryan Macklin says:


    So you all know, I won’t be commenting on these until I get back from the Nerdly Beach Party this weekend. I didn’t want to skew anything by opening my mouth too early. :D

    – Ryan

  19. el Mīko says:

    I’ve been lurking here for a few weeks, really enjoying the content and the conversations.

    Here’s my entry, Time Punks. enjoy :)


  20. William Ward says:

    Weighing in at exactly 500 words, we present Company Loyalty; a game where Executive Samurai strive against all odds to protect the assets and interests of their chosen corporation.


    • Oh, I like this. I’d totally watch a movie/TV show in this setting. Dark future. Corporate espionage. Dangerous men in black three piece suits with glossy black katanas.
      “You failed to file your T-9 report properly Mr. Haversham. Prepare to meet your ancestors.”

    • William Ward says:

      Thanks, Joshua!

  21. Graypawn says:

    This was mind-warping, punishing, and fun.


  22. Fnord says:

    I bring you: Robots in a postapocalyptic wasteland, a combat heavy game about robots, who fight, because they are programmed to do so, in a postapocalyptic wasteland. MSWord says that it is 490 words long (including title).
    Game written in less than 30min from when the idea for the mechanics popped up in my head. I’m sorry if the English is a bit wonky, it is not my native language.
    (countdown is the turn countdown in combat until a robot shuts down, each skill roll is handled by rolling 2 dice, adding the stat to them individually and then comparing it to a target number)

    • I like the dice mechanic. Roll two dice. One success is minor. Two success is Major. Simple and spiffy!

    • Fnord says:

      Thanks! The dice mechanics is really the only thing that I’m proud of about the game, the rest was just tacked on. Robots are easy to write simple rules for, and as I had to leave home less than 1h after I first found out about this competition, I just wrote down the first things that came to mind in each field.
      I might actually create a decent game using that dice mechanics at some point down the line, depending on how inspired I feel to create a game, and then I’ll spend a bit of time writing a proper ruleset, with proper examples and a good or at least interesting setting (which feels like the most important bit in any RPG)

  23. Daniel Hunsaker says:

    By 23 Sep 2011 could be by the *end* of or by the *beginning* of… Might want to keep that in mind for future contests.

    Going by the “end of” definition, I’m submitting my entry now. Just found out about this yesterday.


    – Dan

  24. Mark Sherry says:

    Hopefully “by Friday” means “before Saturday”.

    Sunk: Greed in Atlantis, weighing in at 486 words.

    My first attempt was much more verbose, and I’d run through half of my budget before mentioning mechanics at all.

  25. MrPrim says:

    Alright, I finally made a game. It’s not a very FUN game… but I wanted to have SOMETHING to show for this challenge.


    *All Portal-related jokes are totally played out. And yet I still did one.

    • MrPrim says:

      Dang, should have put this stuff in the first post:

      The game is called STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE. It is mostly a not very funny Portal joke; though if I could get GlaDoS to narrate it, it would become noticeably funnier.

      Also, the constantly repeated terminology totally ate my word count.

    • MrPrim says:

      Oops, took some pruning to get it down to 500 Word Count in Google Docs. Word said it was noticeably less. Weird. It’s at exactly 500 now.

    • Drew Stevens says:

      I like the concept :)
      However, the Test Facilitator has no incentive to try and eliminate players slowly, nor is there any real decision making involved for the Test Subjects. Indeed, it’s not entirely clear if there’s any narration going on or not.

      Plus, there’s a fairly high liklihood of the game ending on the first roll; if the players generally distribute their attributes, they’ll have a 2 in each of them- which gives only a 1/3 chance of passing. With 5 players (not counting the facilitator), you’d fully expect 2 to die- and 4 or 5 dying would hardly be shocking.

    • MrPrim says:

      Heh, while you were reading I changed the number of points to 9. Six was from back (like an hour ago) when there were only two stats, not three.

      And you’re right, is there narration? Story? Plot? I didn’t mention any of it. As it stands now it’s, literally, a pointless dice rolling game of random chance where everyone dies except for one person… who then dies!

      Ryan never said the game had to be a ROLEPLAYING game… just a game. I almost considered a game where you play Badminton with two d20s while using a chess clock and throwing a hat between the players… but I went with something simpler :D

      Besides, I wanted to have something to post AND something to do with the last hour of my day job. ;)

    • el Mīko says:

      very nice, I especially like the attribute names. Also +1 on the Portal jokes :)

    • I like it. It’s got a Paranoia kind of vibe.

  26. Lukas says:

    I was going to just keep this to myself, but Andrew is insisting that I submit it.

    On The Plans of Creation

  27. Fnorder says:


    I hope I’ve made it in time!


    And now I can finally read all the other entries!

  28. Stan Shinn says:

    Here’s my entry — ‘Museum of the Mind’s Eye’:

    Whatever you think of the game, I hope you at least enjoy the layout and artwork. :-)

    There are two optional 1 page accessories as well.

    I hope you like it — feel free to leave comments.

  29. coelocanth says:

    A cynical take on reality TV gameshows written in 2 hours:

    I’ve observed that the games including a countdown mechanic seem more like boardgames, while the ones which skipped it seem more like RPGs.

  30. Matt Kauko says:

    I read the countdown mechanic and immediately thought of death. So here’s my game: Terminal.

    “Everyone has a time to die. You just happen to know yours.”

  31. Feral Survivors

    Lord of the Flies meets the Exquisite Corpse in this storytelling journal game.



    • el Mīko says:

      I really enjoyed reading this one, plus having the character sheet and the whole mechanic of passing things around seems cool.

  32. David Berg says:

    Here’s the 500 word version (well, 499, actually).

    That constraint was really tough for me! If anyone finds that interesting but can’t parse it, this longer version with more explanation may be clearer.

    It’s basically a Wolverine type escaping a war-torn region after his secret mission went awry and his animal side is struggling to get out.

  33. David Berg says:

    First submission attempt awaiting moderation, so here: http://shrikedesign.com/games/weapon_q_short.pdf

  34. Haven’t seen any updates on this… Had a chance to select a winner, yet?

    – Dan

  35. Stan Shinn says:

    Ryan, any updates on selecting a winner (or winners) for this Flash Game Design Friday challenge? Thanks.

    — Stan

    • Ryan Macklin says:

      I don’t see anything in my post or anything I’ve said about there being a “winner.”

      – Ryan

  36. Hrm, I never really thought it was a contest per se, so I don’t think there is supposed to be a winner… More like a challenge to see if we, the gaming community at large (and perhaps designers more precisely) could rise up to meet the challenge proposed by Ryan. I’m more curious to see what Ryan thinks of the games presented because there is some good stuff out there!


    • Mike Olson says:

      Yeah, I don’t care about anyone declaring a winner or anything, but I am interested in the thoughts of the guy who started it.

    • Ryan Macklin says:

      I’ve gone through some, but not all. I don’t want to post until I’ve done all, because I don’t want to be unfair to anyone.

      Except the guy who decided my arbitrary limit of 500 wasn’t good enough for him. That guy gets piss all from me. :D

      – Ryan