We Who Once Ruled

I put together a game for this year’s 200 word rpg challenge and I’m happy with the initial draft. It’s called We Who Once Ruled.

I’d appreciate any design feedback but I’m particularly interested in:

  • Do you think you could run this from the provided directions?
  • Are the prompts specific/ contrained enough that you think you could respond to them (though obviously the open range of possible responses is intentional)?
  • Is there enough tone implied in the structure? (Especially unsympathetic tragedy.)
  • Is the mask-based resolution clear enough? Is ‘more red’ a thing you’d be able to determine quickly, without discussion?

This is very neat! And I’m not even particularly fond of vampire rpgs in general! Here are my opinions in order:

  1. Yes, but see below (*).
  2. The only one that leaves me thinking is the betrayal challenge. Maybe it’s me but I would call betrayal the act of challenging a memory. This one seems more of an assault out of spite or savagery, I’m thinking the most vicious attacker of memories will have their mask the reddest first.
    2-a. On regret does the player elaborate on their regrets?
  3. Yes, the tone transpires pretty well I think.
  4. Provided the players don’t go too artsy with the smears it should be pretty obvious I think. Some things aren’t too clear though: how much black should I smear? Does it matter? Can I smear black on red parts? Does it matter?

(*) The way information is presented makes the document a bit of a puzzle. I started getting the flow of play only at the second read. For example instead of:
The others respond freely
Which at first I thought could be a collective thing, you could go with something like:
A challenger replies saying
Which I think would make it easier to understand who are the challenger and the challenged right from the start.

I would also try and see if the conditions can be moved at the top, right now they are a bit awkward. Maybe you can even do without a coonditions section if you manage to incorporate the criteria in the action titles like:

Take turns, if your mask…
some white: memory

some black: regret

no white: betrayal

Another thought. In case you wanted to make it friendlier, after an attack both players could rip their own masks in the middle by a visible amount but otherwise their choice. This way you can sort of decide when to die, but still will be killed if you get attacked over and over.

  1. Yes… but I agree with everything @nonsonogiucas points out. I also wonder if it would be too easy to game the black paint in order to Regret and paint more red pain
  2. I think so yes but players always find a way to break things :stuck_out_tongue:
  3. Fantastically! Yes!
  4. I can’t think of them right now but it usually works in board games where you have more color on a card sort of mechanic is there. I think it might be a good idea to describe how the paint gets applied. Fingers, paint brushes, brushes of certain size? Type of paint. I could see certain moves being using bigger brushes than others, or 1 finger versus a handful. Perhaps, this is all finger paint, and the black paint is added by 1 finger and 1 the regret move as well. Then, the red paint is added in the “battles” by 2 fingers and a thumb?

What if also a third color was added for those that respond / challenge before all red. Like green for envy? Then, in the betrayal, anyone for with green must support the betrayed and anyone with all red must support the betrayal?

In any case, it is a pretty original and visceral idea. Thanks for sharing!


Great insights, thanks!

I reworked the sequence and saved a few words (back under 200!)

I renamed Betrayal to Rage, which fits better with “an assault out of spite or savagery”.

I think I like the all-or-nothing comflicts for now. If theis were a longer form game, I’d probably change it.


I like the idea of more granularity for paint-resolution. That might go into a one-page version, where I’m not limited by word count.

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The relationship between the mask state and what you do on your turn is a lot clearer now I think.

Now I’m thinking: would the design benefit from a rules that disincentivizes going for a draw on red smears?

Imagine I remember and you challenge. Because we both have a lot of ideas and want to spend more time narrating we both mark the mask with the bare minimum of red paint. To the point that the smears are so small the others can’t adjudicate and declare a draw.

Would making challenger and challenged both smear some black on white after a draw make a difference?
I’m thinking it may convey the meaning that if you don’t win, you lose some of you facade anyway (black covers some white, will become red next turn). Also with black they both will have to regret which might be seen as disincentive.


I think if both parties are looking to prolong play, they won’t issue a challenge. One can just stick to “but now…” and preserve your mask unpainted (when it’s not your turn). Something else might happen in play.

Building on the question of paint quantity, I wonder how I could communicate that the mask painting can be a way to be expressive non-verbally.

Smearing a ton of red says: I’m this committed to destroying you.
Or a blog of black paint over your eyes says: My loss cost me this much.

Does that intent come through?

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Ok this was not clear to me.

I thought that responding to a memory would make you a challenger anyway. Maybe it’s just me but I’m failing to see that in the way memory is written.

What about:

Another can respond:
“But now”

Or challenge:
“But I envied you…”

By using two separate verbs you can make it clear that only the second options entails a challenge.

I think it depends. I can certainly see how a group of people that really buys in the flavor of the game will go for that. I’m focusing mainly on what the system itself says though. I believe the perfect system is the one meant to be exploited, because it is designed to be exploited in a very precise way.

So from a purely mechanical stand point, becaue all the black becomes red, I would put a load of black on the mask if for some reason I wanted to stop narrating my sad tale of loss in order to rage. But If I wanted to rage, why didn’t I smear all my mask red in the first place?

In short: the intention behind the amount of red is clear to me: more red = faster rage.
Black needs to have its own purpose, otherwise looks just like a small pause in the narration.


Yep, good fix! I think that’s clearer. I’ll think on how to refine the meaning of black paint, narratively.


It’s live! Thanks for the notes, all.


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We Who Once Ruled is a finalist for the 200 word RPG challenge!


Hi Michael,

It turned out the day after I read yours, I was confirmed as a 200 Word RPG Challenge reader. Luckily (for purposes of slightly possible conflicts of interest), yours was not in my list of RPGs to read or nominate. Now that my part it is over though, I can tell you that yours is my favorite that I have read. I think you have a fighting chance to win this challenge from what I have seen (which was something like 10% of so of the entries)

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Thanks for saying so! It’s been a really fun puzzle to make a game so compact but still communicate procedure and tone.

I’ve learned a lot from the feedback I’ve gotten!

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