Orange is the New RPG

Like many of you, I've spent quite of bit of time lately watching the second season of a particular show about women in prison made by our good friends at Netflix. If you haven't been wasting time on it, I have to ask... why the hell not? It's a damn fine program, the likes of which you won't see anywhere else besides the industry-changing Netflix. I don't mean because of the swearing and violence and nudity and lesbian prison sex (which are all great, don't get me wrong) - I mean because it features a large cast of strong female characters of all shapes, sizes, ages and colors, and almost entirely without make-up.

Seriously, what other TV show or movie can boast such a claim?

Anyway, whenever I really get into any sort of program, movie, or book I start asking myself: How can I turn this into a game?

As it turns out in this case, very easily.

I imagine this women's prison RPG to be a pretty simple "beer and pretzels" type of game. I hate that name but it does express what I'm going for: A quick and dirty RPG that can be played over snack foods and drinks for a laugh in a couple of hours on a lark. It should be akin to watching a couple episodes of the Netflix show, except you get to act out the drama yourself.

Much like the program that inspired it, this game can be funny, dramatic or very dark. Hopefully some combination of all three. Unlike with Splatter-Elf, which I've been fighting hard to keep from bloating out of control rules-wise, this game can probably have all the instructions written on a couple of pages, and be learned in a few minutes. It can be played as a one-off or a longer campaign depending on the whims and desires of the player and game master (which we'll call "The Warden" to help set the mood).

I threw this together in just a few hours, but here's the basic outline of how it works. Lemme know what you think.

You've Got Time - The Role-Playing Game

You are an inmate in a medium-security women's prison. You have been charged and sentenced with a crime and are serving your time while navigating the tricky and dangerous halls of the institution. Maybe you're guilty, maybe you're remorseful, maybe you're terrified - but you're trapped in the cage with all the other rodents, and only the toughest, meanest rats are going to make it out in one piece.

The goal of the game is to survive and to keep yourself from getting thrown into solitary confinement, or transferred to a maximum-security prison. You have to protect yourself from the other inmates and guards and maneuver the dicey and dangerous political landscape.

The main focus of the game is building relationships with the right people. Whether that's joining a gang or doing favors, you need to have someone watching your back if the shit hits the fan. Good behavior (or at least, not getting caught) increases your chances of getting released on parole. Bad behavior ends you up in solitary or shanked in the courtyard.

Each player should choose a "concept" for their character. This doesn't have a game-rule effect but is very important to how you portray your character and how the other characters and players view her. You could be a "Goody-Two-Shoes," "Conniving Backstabber," "Butch Lesbian," "Meth Head," "Dirty Prostitute" or whatever you want. It might be a stereotype but that's okay if helps everyone picture the character. And who knows? Maybe you will be able to break the stereotype through mature and creative play (though honestly I doubt it).

Each player should also choose which crime they were convicted of as well as a Dark Secret. They may be the same thing or completely different. You don't need to share this with the other players, but you need to tell the Warden so he or she can work it into the game. You just know that some element of your dirty past is going to rear it's ugly head - that's just how good games work.

Each character has 4 stats of which they need to keep track:

Perhaps your most important stat, this is a rating of your badass-ness, whether legitimate or not. Maybe the other inmates fear you because you beat someone to a pulp, or maybe they just think you did. Characters with a high Reputation can call the shots and will rarely be a target. They could even start their own gang. Characters with low Reputation will be constantly harassed, threatened and abused.

Your other really important stat. This is not a measure of how you actually behave, this is a measure of how well behaved the guards and administration think you are. You may do bad stuff, but doing the deed and getting caught are two very different things. Characters with a high Behavior will be treated better by the guards and have a good chance of getting out if their parole comes up. Characters with a low Behavior score will end up in the shoe (solitary confinement), which is pretty much game over.

This represents how much damage you can take in a fight. It heals slowly over time. Going into a fight with already low Health will mean you could get knocked out faster and put you at risk of serious injury or death.

Prison is hard on the mental faculties. Constant threats and bullying, as well as being locked in solitary, could have negative effects on your Sanity. A low Sanity score will have adverse affects on your other skills, including the chance of making you snap during a fight and potentially beating another inmate to death (which is game over for both of you).

You have 5 major skills that you will use to interact with the other characters. Your character will be good or very good at one or two of them, and probably very poor at an equal number. You will have to carefully take advantage of your strengths and weaknesses to survive.

Gettin' Up in Yo Face
This is used to threaten and bully other inmates into doing what you want. Some people are violently aggressive, others are more subtle but the outcome is the same - taking advantage of someone else. You can attempt to use this skill on guards but the chance of success is very low.

F*cking Shit Up
Sometimes words aren't enough, sometimes you have to make a point with your fists (or knees, or a screwdriver). Both sides of the fight rolls their F*cking Shit up Score - the side with the lower score loses Health. Both sides continue to roll against each other until one of the following occurs: One side backs down (which will cause a hit to the loser's Reputation), the fight is broken up, or someone can't continue. Winning a fight will increase your Reputation.

Making Nice
They say you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar (which isn't actually true, but work with me here). Some folks can get what they want by talking nice and making friends with the other inmates, especially if what they want is to get it on behind the tool shed. This also tends to work better with guards than outright threats.

Sneakin' Around
The trick to surviving in prison is not to keep your nose clean, but to not get caught when you're wiping it. Everyone does bad things, but you have to make sure the guards don't see you doing it. In order to keep stuff on the down low (including sneaking out of the your bunk at night or hiding contraband in your underpants), you roll your Sneakin' Around skill.

Bullshit Detector
Threats and promises mean nothing if you can see right through them. When folks try to Get Up In Yo Face or Make Nice with you, you roll your Bullshit Detector skill to oppose them. Very important to know who you can and cannot trust (also who legitimately wants to murder you).

You will survive or fail based on your relationships with the other inmates and the guards. You need to make friends and minimize your enemies. You have a Relationship score with everyone you interact with - positive interactions will increase your Relationship while negative encounters will make it plummet. Gettin' Up in Faces and F*cking Shit Up may bump up your Rep and get you what you want, but you're not going to make many friends doing it.

Other characters who have positive Relationships with you will watch your back (and pull your aggressor off if a fight goes bad) and be more likely to help you if you need a favor (just make sure you return it someday!). Characters with a negative Relationship score will rat you out, threaten you and possibly shiv you in the lunch room, so try to make sure your friends outnumber your enemies. As much of a friend as you can have in prison, anyway.

Joining a gang will increase your Relationship with everyone in the gang, but reduce your Relationship with rival gangs.


That's the basic idea. Whaddya think? Would "You've Got Time" fly as a one-off game?


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