I love making simple “in-world” games for my rpgs. You can roleplay with an important noble while playing a real game with them, or use one to settle an argument. You can also use one for a palette cleanser, like the witcher 3 uses Gwent. I’ve brought in a lot of real world games to my table (Tsuro is often a big hit for this) but I’ve also designed a lot myself. Here’s one that pops up in a lot of my settings. Feel free to use in your own.
Rogue’s Folly was created as a morality tale by a stern priest, to test the character of children and show them the folly of ill actions. To his alarm, the game caught on and spread throughout the world as a way to pass the time and settle disagreements.
Collect 10 Gold
How to Play
Each player begins the game with 2 gold. Track each player’s gold with stones or dice. Both players count down from 3 together, and on 1 they simultaneously make one of the following hand-signs.
Work - A clenched fist, like it’s holding a nugget of hard-earned gold. Earns 2 gold.
Steal - An outstretched hand, palm-down, as if reaching to take something that doesn’t belong to you. Steals 3 gold from your opponent. If they have less, steal all their remaining gold.
Trap - An outstretched hand, palm-up, as if waiting to catch something. You pay 1 gold, traps aren’t free. However, if your opponent played Steal this round then you Trap the thief and instantly win the game!
At the end of the round, if one player has 10+ gold they win. If both players have 10+ gold, the one with more wins. If they both have the same amount, keep playing until someone has more at the end of the round.
All actions happen simultaneously. You are working WHILE they are stealing. So if you have 2 gold and play Work while they play Steal, they’ll steal only the 2 gold already in your bank (not the gold you’re earning this turn when you work). The same goes for if you both played Steal. You steal only the gold they already have in their bank.
Father Ivan’s Original Notes
This game is a simple test of a child’s character. Do they prefer to steal despite the risks, or recognize that hard work is the slow but sure path to happiness? Seeing a young sprout discover they have been trapped is a karmic moment, where one child shall harmlessly punish another’s greed and both will learn a lesson. I expect the game to be uninteresting to any child of strong moral character, as thieving is surely not the way to win and thus traps become unnecessary.
Father Ivan’s Continued Notes