I’m in the process of working on and playtesting my next game, which is called Inner Circle. It is a lightweight black comedy story game about terrible people working for a terrible dictator.
My inspiration came from watching the film Death of Stalin (Wikipedia entry) and by contemplating the revolving door at the White House in 2017-2020. What if you have a situation with a bad tempered bad boss who is likely to have you killed (or exiled, or fired) at short notice for any reason? What if you all play members of the inner circle working directly for that tyrannical figure, jockeying for position and attempting to avoid the ultimate sanction?
The general concept can sit in any number of settings - fictional, historical or contemporary. I understand that there are some historical or contemporary settings which are too painful for some people to treat even with humour, so I want to tread somewhat respectfully. There is however a rich history of using black humour to cope with bad situations, so it would be remiss of me to fail to mention some of the options which are out there.
I intend to provide some terminology and helpful suggestions where I can, but some of the obvious fictional inspirations may have problems with copyright. For these circumstances it may make sense to provide options with the serial numbers filed off but with enough information that it is obvious how to add those additional authentic touches!
Fictional settings which I would like to support include:
- Lord of the Rings: Orcs serving under an orc captain (“meat’s back on the menu, boys!”). You will be cut down and eaten.
- Star Wars: Military officers serving under Darth Vader (“I find your lack of faith… disturbing”). You will be force-choked to death.
- Game of Thrones: Family heads where nobody’s head is really safe (“Winter is coming”). You will be executed.
- Gotham City: Aspiring henchmen of a Gotham City supervillain. You will be shown the pencil trick.
Historical settings include
- Emperor Nero A time of extravagant construction projects, a murderous mother, political rivals, murder of family members, treason, and taxes. You will be murdered.
- Joseph Stalin A time of GULAGs, famines, the great purge of detractors and rivals, removal of people from photos and history. You will be murdered.
- Queen Ranavalona The bloodthirsty queen of Madagascar whose population halved under her brutal rule.
Contemporary settings include
- Boris Johnson Members of the cabinet at a time of Brexit, pandemics, bluster, buck-passing, and nationalism. You will be reshuffled.
- Donald Trump Members of the White House at a time of gross incompetence, media whoring, money grabbing, rallies, partisanship, and did I mention incompetence? You will be fired and smeared.
- Vladimir Putin A time of assassination of dissidents in foreign countries, control of energy supplies, building up and then tearing down oligarchs. You will be imprisoned or murdered.
Big Business settings include
- Big Pharma Smarmy 'old money' boardmembers
- Big Tech Slick tech bros who turn customers into product
Low Stakes settings include
- Academia Haughty professors trying to one-up each other in Academia
- Office Politics Petty wage slaves angling for the corner office
Weird settings include
- Hell's Kitchen Contestants on a TV cooking show
- Haunted House Ghosts trying to maintain their grip on reality in a haunted house
Important! The point of this game is to mock despicable leaders and those in their inner circle who propose and carry out their plans!
The next instalment will discuss the mechanics of the game.