When I’m not running one of my own games, I’m probably running Paranoia
I really like using props in my games. Even more than I like using Forms, and I REALLY like using forms. Here, I will post some of my more favorite things, bits that I use to put my games together or make things generally interesting.
Sometimes, your troubleshooters get lost. They don’t know what to do next. They need direction, and while The Computer is always ready to help, time and bandwidth are expensive.
The E:CHING consists of an Arduino-powered LED matrix used to display a 10 digit binary number. This number can be looked up in The E:CHING Reference Manual (which was constructed using script-generated sentence fragments).
I started this project wanting to use an 8×8 LED matrix and displaying a huge number of possible numbers. When I did the math on this, I realized that I would be unlikely to be able to fix several million volumes of instruction manual into the gaming room. Although I must admit, the idea is very appealing.
“Here is your mission. Look it up. Won’t that be fun?”
Soldering the LED matrix together was a piece of cake, and writing the code for the Arduino took even less time. But the first time around, I ran out of battery power on my laptop before I could finish writing the program, so what was running on the Arduino was the test code.
That was ok though. The test code loaded an instruction code, and changed after 30 seconds. Then again 15 seconds later. Then 8, 4, 2, 1, .5, .25 and .125 seconds later until the codes were just a blur. This made for a fun confusing bit, but it was less useful as a game prop.
For added fun, I did not clearly label the top of the LED matrix. So there was virtually no way to tell the difference between 0010110110 and 0110110100.
The next version of the E:CHING will change instruction sets less rapidly (right now it’s set to once every 30-300 seconds) but I still want the changes to occasionally come in flurries. Originally, I wanted instructions at 60 minutes, 120 minutes, 180 minutes, 240 minutes, 270 minutes, 300 minutes, 315 minutes, 330 minutes, 340 minutes, 350 minutes, 360 minutes, 365 minutes and every 5 or less minutes after. That can get harder to manage when you are taking breaks though.
Also, I added a Piezo element to beep whenever a new instruction set arrives. I will probably also move away from the 10 LED matrix, out to 12 individual LEDs. That would give me a satisfying 4096 different instruction sets with a manual about 100 pages long.
The full manual would would work for a 14 LED E:CHING, has over 16,000 possible instruction sets, and would be challenging to fit on a full ream of paper. Now THAT’S bureaucracy.
The Can Of Beeps
The R&D guy didn’t seem to want to touch this thing. Every time it Beeps, something could happen. It depends on who is rolling, what they roll, and if the Computer is watching.
The first model of this thing was based off a project from MAKE Magazine called Evasive Beeping Thing (You can find it in MAKE Volume 14 page 135ish). Essentially it’s just a 555 timer with some transistors, resistors, capacitors and a Piezo element. It’s a fun project (though my first one came out looking like an ‘Owl Pellet’ according to a friend). The version I finished beeped about once ever Minute And A Bit. Parts can be had for just a couple dollars.
Every time the beeper beeped, I made Team Leader roll, and I made a note of his roll. This proved interesting to me because it provided a great analysis of the die he was using: in 45 rolls, he rolled five 20s but not one 6. In the end, I decided there would be a reward if he rolled every number before rolling five 20s. In the end, it just exploded.
But I have to say, from a GM’s perspective, it was very satisfying seeing the tension grow the longer the device beeped, and seeing Team Leader’s almost Pavlovian response to the beep. One player (a good friend and fellow GM) suggested it might be fun to give every team member a task whenever the beeper beeped, so that the table is randomly thrown into a frenzy of activity every so often. I like this idea, but would need to lengthen the time between beeps.
The next version of this will most likely go into a large metal can, using several different types of beeping devices that go off at different times, and a single, ominous, red LED that blinks whenever a beep is to be heard.
These are laser-cut and etched 10000 Plasticred cards I had made. They came out so much more amazing than I was expecting. I wrote a little more about them here.
More To Come
I’ll be adding plenty more fun things here eventually, Citizen. It’s a pity most of them will be unavailable at your clearance level.