The Pickup Game at Uno’s
My friend K swung down to take me out for pizza, so we hit the local Uno’s for some savory deep dish (the leftovers of which I am devouring as I type this, yum!) I had some ideas, so I pulled out my dice-in-a-cube and started jotting on my napkin. I came up with The Pickup Game for just this sort of situation (because I came up with it IN just this sort of situation). The rules are based on Vincent’s “Otherkind dice” notes, crossed with Fred Hicks’ Pace, with some minor tweaks by me.
My protagonist: Mazio, a Feral (2) Prince (1), raised in the wild by bears. A shaggy, sinewy youth with jagged, broken fingernails, clothed only in a layer of dirt and blood that obscures that fleur-de-lis tattoo on his shoulder- the mark of the royal family.
K’s protagonist: Tim Lucinda Dodo, a Clever (1) Dodo (2), who enjoys melons, poetry, and wishes to earn a degree from an Institute of Higher Learning.
Mazio, Scene 1: A peasant farmer is woken by the clucking of his hens and rushes out to find a strange beast assailing his henhouse. He shoots it and it collapses with a howl of pain and falls unconscious. Inspecting it, he is surprised to find it is a child. The farmer and his wife take the child in, trim his tangled mass of hair, and bathe him. This is when they discover the mark on his shoulder- the tattoo given at birth to members of the royal line. Unsure of what to do, they put him to bed. He wakes up and immediately begins howling and rampaging around the room, being thoroughly unused to enclosed spaces.
Conflict: The wild boy wants out! The farmer’s wife tries to calm/lure him with food.
Result: The boy’s sensitive nose is intrigued by the smell of cooked meat which he has only on rare occasions scented from campfires he dare not approach. He attacks the food ravenously and eats himself into a pleasant coma.
Lucinda, Scene 1: Lucinda decides to leave her nest and set out for the nearest village to inquire about Institutions of Higher Learning where she might pursue her goal. She bundles up her few belongings and sets out on the forest path. It is not long before she encounters a fox, who immediately steps out to greet her with a cheerful “Good morning, Lady Dodo! Where are you headed this fine morning?” Lucinda wisely wants nothing to do with this fellow, and endeavors to confuddle him without offering any useful information.
Conflict: Lucinda wants to leave the fox behind without any information on her plans. The fox wants to know what Lucinda’s about so he can figure out how to take advantage of her.
Result: Lucinda launches into a long, involved story about her grandfather Dodo, founder of the local Dodo clan, which so bores the poor fox that despite his valiant attempt to feign rapt attention, he dozes off leaning against the bole of a tree. Lucinda smirks to herself and carries on her way.
Mazio, Scene 2: The wild boy wakes up the next morning covered in strange, itchy, unfamiliar fur. Whimpering and growling, he manages to claw the clothing off. Having eaten himself stupid, and not being properly housebroken, he relieves himself in a corner and attempts to cover it with the cast off garments. He starts banging around the room, trying to figure out how to escape this curious square cave. He and the farmer’s wife startle one another as she comes through the door, and she sighs at the mess he’s made of himself and the room.
I don’t actually remember what the conflict was in this scene. I know the boy ends up staying with the couple. Whether “Mazio” is the name given him at birth or by the farmer and his wife (who remain unnamed) has yet to be established, as are the details of how he became feral.
K, if you can recall the details of this one, comment away!
Lucinda, Scene 2: Lucinda carries on down the path, and meets a badger trundling a cart of melons to market in the village. They exchange pleasantries, and Lucinda would really like one of those delicious melons. The badger would naturally like compensation for her wares. That’s why she’s taking them to the market, after all. Lucinda has nothing of value, but she offers to read some poetry from one of her books (was it Emily Post? I forget)
Conflict: Lucinda wants a tasty musk melon! Will her poem be sufficient payment?
Secondary Conflict: Will her dramatic reading delay her progress long enough for the tricksome fox to wake and catch up to her?
Meta: K opted not to use either of her descriptors for this roll, and so was only rolling one die. She rolled a six, but I explained that she could only apply it to one of the conflicts, the other one she’d automatically lose. She wanted a re-roll, and I wouldn’t let her. Looking back, this was borderline assholery on my part, since I hadn’t explained that part to her before her roll. It didn’t occur to me at the time that this was unfair, and she didn’t really seem upset, but I think if she’d pressed the issue, I’d have let her re-roll with 2 dice.
Result: Lucinda’s poem, which well performed, does not impress the badger enough to part with a melon, however they do make good time toward the market, leaving the slumbering fox far behind. Lucinda even helped push the cart part of the way, and I decided that the badger gave her a melon when they got to town anyway. (Technically, she shouldn’t have got one, but maybe I subconsciously realized I’d cheated her out of her second die and gave it to her). And so she enters the village with a sticky beak and fingers (feathers?).
Meta: The Pickup Game is pretty fast and loose with mechanical responsibilities, scene framing and such can be done by whomever has an idea that everyone thinks is cool. We chatted for a bit about whether to pick up from the last scene or to fast forward, and ended up deciding to skip ahead.
Mazio, Scene 3: Six months have passed, and the farm couple have basically adopted the wild prince and begun raising him to live like a human. He is wearing clothes now, helping out on the farm, and beginning to understand the rudiments of language. They mostly keep him away from other people, and take great care to hide the mark on his shoulder, which anyone would know on sight. One day, while the farmer (still no name) is away in the village, the wife falls seriously ill unexpectedly. After tugging at her prone form for a while, grunting “mama?” and getting no response, the boy decides he needs to find his surrogate father for help. Following his still-keen sense of smell, he traces the farmer’s path toward the village.
Conflict: Will his nose lead him to the farmer, or lead him astray?
Result: As he nears the town, the smells become more tangled and confused, and Mazio pauses, scratching his head and grunting to himself, uncertain how to proceed.
Lucinda, Scene 3: Following the signs in the village, Lucinda makes her way to the Information Booth (I was imagining a bulletin board, but K decided it was an actual booth manned by a person) and makes her inquiries there. The man at the booth is less than helpful, mocking her Dodo heritage. “Aren’t Dodos really stupid?” She is about to answer with a sharp retort when another man comes in and shoes the first one away. It turns out the first guy, Bert, was actually just the janitor, and was holding down the booth while the actual attendant went out for meat pasties. Lucinda attempts to get directions to the nearest Institute of Higher Learning from this supposedly knowledgeable person.
Conflict: Will Lucinda get the information she seeks?
Meta: This one came up “no resolution”, which in The Pickup Game means that the conflict carries over into the next scene, where it becomes a secondary conflict to the main one.
Result: The booth attendant did in fact give Lucinda detailed, albeit complicated, directions. “It’s about 47 leagues down this road, then turn left for about 15 leagues until you come to the border. Bribe the guards there, then continue another 23 leagues…” etc. Disheartened at the length of this journey, Lucinda asks where she might find a guide or bodyguard to accompany her on this quest. The attendant suggests the local Adventurer’s Guild, or of course there’s always the tavern on the corner. Lucinda decides she’ll have better luck at the tavern, and heads there.
Mazio, Scene 4: The poor boy, confused by all the conflicting smells and tracks as he nears the town, accosts a passing shepherd driving his flocks to market (there was a lot of going to market in this session, even though the stories were ostensibly set in different worlds, there was joking about having the protagonists run into each other. We figured Lucinda might just get eaten by Mazio, so maybe that wasn’t the best idea). The sheep were extremely wary of this person, who despite wearing clothing, moved more like an animal than an upright human. He tried, with his halting grasp of the common speech, to ask where the farmer might be.
Conflict: Does Mazio make it into town?
Secondary Conflict: Does his odd behavior start rumors among the local populace?
Result: In his state of distress, the poor boy’s language was even less coherent than usual, and having reverted to his hunched, four-footed posture does nothing to help his cause. The shepherd hurriedly moves on, and Mazio decides he has no better option than to follow this man, who seems at least similar to his foster father- perhaps they are going to the same place? The shepherd eyes him warily, but allows him to follow at a discrete distance, and so far has not made up his mind whether or not this is worth telling about over a pint of ale once he gets to town.
Lucinda, Scene 4: Lucinda stands at the door to the pub, her squat avian body visible below the saloon-style doors (an amusing bit of napkin-art ensued). She enters and hops up onto one of the stools with a “plok!” (this is apparently an inside joke from some book by Jasper Fforde that K’s been reading). The bartender asks what she’ll have, and she invents a new beverage on the spot- the Bananas Foster Smoothie (we had just ordered bananas foster for dessert). The bartender is intrigued and goes to rummage in the back for about an hour. He emerges with the world’s first exotic mixed drink and declares it fantastic. He brews up a huge batch for the whole house and a party ensues, with everyone congratulating the Clever Dodo on her invention. Of course, they’re all getting completely blotto (somehow the ratio of rum to other ingredients keeps growing as each batch gets poured), so getting information or assistance from them may prove challenging.
Conflict: Can Lucinda get help with her quest?
Secondary Conflict: Does everyone get salmonella from spoiled cream used to make the drinks?
Meta: I was kind of tempted to have the secondary risk be “everyone dies from the spoiled cream”, but so far Lucinda’s story had been pretty sanguine, so I toned it down to “everyone gets sick”. This would probably still damage Lucinda’s reputation among the locals, and was a bit less gruesome.
Result: Everybody gets sh!tfaced, but nobody gets sick. Lucinda corners a burly gentleman in a booth (one of the few who seems to be holding his liquor) and engages him in conversation. “This is great stuff!” he exclaims. “I haven’t had a drink this good since I found that Potion of Ebullience in that wizard’s tower back in ’82! Course I peed rainbows for a week… this isn’t gonna make me pee rainbows, is it?” he asks, conspiratorially. “I wouldn’t know, I’ve never had it before either.” Lucinda politely replies. “Did you say a wizard’s tower? That didn’t happen to be part of an Institute of Higher Learning, did it?” she continues, eager for any possible lead. “What, you mean like a school?” he thinks for a moment. “I don’t think so. Not like the old College of Fighting Arts back home.” he thumps the insignia on his tabard. Lucinda purses her beak. She hadn’t considered the possibility of such an education. As the burly fellow calls for another round and begins a bawdy song, she contemplates her next move.
And there we left off. Stupid patrons kept going out the emergency door behind our table and letting the cold evening air in, so we gathered our things and headed out.
The Pickup Game once again proves an amusing diversion for two players. The one time I tried with three was a bit messier, the rules for that still need hammering out.
K, feel free to add any details I may have forgotten, my napkin notes were not that comprehensive.