Cheating an Ungrateful City

Tonight we played two short games, Cheat Your Own Adventure by Shane Mclean and For the Ungrateful City by Alexi Sargeant.

In our game of (Don’t) Cheat Your Own Adventure in the world of Illuminati University, you find a special card with your name on it that provides access to unlimited funds. You decide to head over to the casino to place impossible bets, where you choose to play the Poisoned Chalice in which you bet that your clone doesn’t drink the poison. When your last remaining competition finally succumbs, she claims you were cheating and dares you to drink from the chalice to prove you’re not using anti-poison. You grab the cup and quaff it down, which imbues with you mysterious energy and power, so you leap through the window and become a superhero fighting crime throughout the city. You’re surrounded by villains one day when your powers mysteriously vanish, so you convince them you can fulfill their financial dreams and withdraw whatever funds they request using the card of limitless cash. As they’re leaving satisfied, you choose to join one villain named Bryan on a sailing voyage around the world, where he tells his story and says he’s ready to go straight. When he’s arrested at one port of call for his past crimes, you decide to return to the casino where you get embroiled with the mobsters who run the place, but since you’re related to one of them, they don’t harm you. Unfortunately, someone in the casino realizes that you’re underage for gambling in this city, so they call the authorities. Before they arrive, you revive your superpowers and fly off to resume fighting crime. After weeks of crime fighting, your grades at school begin to suffer, so you decide to find someone worthy of inheriting your powers and taking over your crime fighting duties. When you call down the lightning to transfer the powers, however, the lightning not only transfers the powers but takes your life. And since we refused to cheat, the story ends there.

In For the Ungrateful City, we are a group of superheroes in an underwater city that will soon face an unprecedented threat. Zip is a manipulator of electricity who can throw lightning bolts, leading most citizens to admire and fear her, the champion of the city’s downtrodden. Mr. Clear, who can turn invisible and erect force fields, dreams of the city’s potential to bring the people of air and water together, but is saddened to see the reality of their interactions turning cruel. Freefall, a human from the surface world, first came to the city with his mother and gran when 16 so the pressure of the oceans could offset the outward pressure caused by the emergence of his telekinetic powers. Jala is a water nymph with the ability to control water in all its forms who some fear could be more dangerous than the threat the city faces, but most believe the city leaders have her under control. Finally, the city’s official protector is Courage, whose brother had preceded him in the role before dying on a mysterious mission that the city leaders have yet to tell him about, but he knows the city’s secret foundations. When the threat finally materializes, we each choose to defend her—Freefall to earn the acceptance of her citizens, Mr. Clear because he sees beauty in her potential, Zip to protect the common people, and Courage to protect his brother’s legacy and the city’s past—all except one. Jala turns out to have been the looming threat all along and uses her vast power to try to take over the city as her teammates stand against her.

The Dungeons of Despair!

A corner of the page showing "Cheat Your Ow..." and part of the text of the game.
Cheat Your Own Adventure image courtesy of Shane Mclean.

Tonight we also played a session of Cheat Your Own Adventure by Shane Mclean. We start on a flight to Zoomtopia, a video conferencing conference, when we discover that the sessions we intend to attend are at the same time as the Snoop Dogg performance. We decide to reserve a spot at all sessions at that time, but when we arrive we learn that the only session that had space for us is one called “The Dungeons of Despair!” As we’re trying to sneak into the concert venue, an event guide shows up and escorts us into the venue’s basement where we enter a dark room with a roaring fire in a center pit. Throwing caution to the wind, we jump into the pit and find ourselves in an empty space, greeted by a man who says, “My name is Despair. Welcome to my dungeons.” He leads us past prisoners chained to the walls and tombs with the names of the interred. We’re unable to find Tupac’s tomb but do get a glimpse Biggie’s; of course, this is an East coast conference. Finally, we’re taken to a clean room in which sits a man in a business suit. He introduces himself as the Zoom CTO and starts a presentation about his block-chain pyramid scheme, which quickly puts us to sleep. When we wake, the CTO has been replaced by Zoom’s CEO who shows us the headlines about Zoom’s conquest of the world through their Bitcoin scheme. Desperate to escape, we ask for a bathroom break (due to conference chili) and at the mention of bodily functions the germaphobic CEO goes squeamish, tells us to use the facilities through a nearby door, and quickly leaves the room to compose himself. Using the large torture chair we’d been sitting in to climb up and use the novelty throwing star from the conference swag bag, we pry open the ventilation grating. A hand drops down which we pull on, pulling down a hideous monster by it’s proboscis that looks like a human arm. We use the stunned monster as a weapon to attack and knock out the returning CEO and crawl away into the ventilation system. By following the sounds of music, we find our way to Snoop Dogg’s performance and come out on stage, joining in with the backup dancers to our favorite song.

Notable wrong turns:

  • Throwing the novelty weapon, which boomeranged back, knocked us over, and caused us to pull the torture chair down on top of and crushing us.
  • Accepting the hand offered from the grate, so being eaten by the hideous monster at the other end.
  • Stopping in the ventilation shaft to take a selfie, and watching the tunnel python strike us.

Choose Your Own Crypt of War

We had time for a bonus game at our session on Thursday, so we played a quick session of Cheat Your Own Adventure by Shane Mclean called “Crypt of War!” Here is how it went:

Legend has it that War himself keeps a cache of magical weapons in this crypt, so you venture down to secure them for yourself. In the first chamber, you find an old suit of armor on display and choose to clean it. Once you’ve oiled the armor and made it shine once more, they thank you and challenge you to join them on a quest seeking a potion to restore their life. The armor tells you of the great loving relationship between them and their blacksmith creator so many ages ago. As you’re about to choose between corridors to explore, an undead army attacks! Grasping the suit as a battering ram, you barrel through the zombies and race down a corridor but fall through a trap door into the catacombs below. Orienting yourself along the walls, you find another room with a pedestal in the center and leap upon it, which activates a mechanism that corkscrews you into the air. The armor enters a chamber below the pedestal and emerges glowing with magical energy. They threatens to leave you stranded on the pedestal but you promise to be their new love, so they help you down. When you enter the pedestal chamber seeking the legendary weapons, the god War appears before you. You abject yourself before him and try to bluff your way into his graces. War sees through your deception but finds your gall amusing and thanks you for restoring his ultimate weapon to him. The god and the armor disappear in a flash of light, leaving you groveling in the dust.