four things Jenni Sands

At the start of 2014 I joined a new squad at work, we’d never any of us worked together before so we had a day out of the office doing exercises to get to know each other and focus on our upcoming projects.

One of the exercises we did was a game where we split into two groups and each person wrote down four facts about themselves on post it notes. The facts were then shuffled up together with everyone else’s and each group took a turn reading facts out to the other group. The other group had to guess who had written the fact, who it was true about. You scored a point if you got it right.

Aside from being an excellent test of my poker face, it was fascinating to me. Because we knew these facts would be read aloud you chose quite carefully what to write. You had to think ‘what do I want these people to know about me?’

I chose a deeply personal one ‘once went to Idaho to meet a girl’, knowing that the other group would almost certainly assign that fact to one of the men in my group. So in game terms it was a clever move, but it also revealed something pretty pertinent to me: it was a quick and easy way to come out to the whole group, to get that out of the way.

Other people chose various things of varied importance, like ‘favourite colour is green’ or ‘cried in the movie Up’ which revealed or didn’t reveal different parts of their personality.

How do you decide which random facts about you are the most important?

Which form a large part of who you are and how you act?

Which inform how you interact with other people?

It was these questions that spurred me to create the game Four Things. In this game people select two from a list of established facts, add one true thing from their own lives, and create their character based on those things. Then you spend a few rounds of the game exploring the characters, their interactions with each other and what the facts mean in the grander scheme of things.

It’s a deep character game – one designed to make people think and ultimately, to increase empathy between the players. I have had a lot of fun with this game, I playtested it at a convention where some people chose to share deeply personal things and we had a really supportive debrief afterwards.  It made me better friends with those people, and I hope it will do the same for anyone who plays it.

It’s somewhat informed by the minimal rules/deep character game play of Grace, (link to game in the comments), which is one of my all time favourite games. Four Things is GM/Facilitator less, letting everyone play and create the story equally.

I recently got to play the game Deadbolt by Elizabeth Shoemaker Sampat. It felt like what this game would be on steroids, or possibly, Four Things is Deadbolt Lite

I really like games that deepen our understanding of ourselves and how we interact with other people. Games are great for escapism too though, and that’s why I also wrote a horror movie version of  this game, but more on that in a later post.

Four Things is best played with people you know, make sure you agree on a tone and where the line that shouldn’t be crossed is, and then go for it. It can be about an hour long, or play longer scenes to draw it to two and a half or so hours.