The Premise!

You are a superhero, sworn to oppose the nefarious plots of the Supreme International Cabal of Kaos, Lawlessness & Evil (S.I.C.K.L.E.). At any moment, your Crisis Alarm could go off, warning you of an impending disaster only you and your fellow champions can stop in time.

Are you ready to be a superhero?

Game Overview!

#CrisisAlarm! is a casual, comedic, lunch hour RPG that uses simple social media tools to tell a story about comic book super heroes battling crazy villains and over the top disasters.

Group Size: 1 Crisis Manager and 3-5 players is a good group size. You could play with as few as 2 players if you want to some head to head action, and while technically there’s no upper limit on players, if there are too many people some players may feel a bit lost in the shuffle.

Duration: 3-5 rounds per game is average, with each round usually lasting about 1 hour. Gameplay can and often will be be asynchronous – rounds don’t have to be played back to back, but may be played hours or even days apart, as suits the schedules and desires of the group.

Materials: An internet connection, image sharing capability, and access to social media is required. #CrisisAlarm! is designed to be played via Twitter, but any social site that allows image uploading and hashtags could work: Tumblr, Instagram, even Facebook. (We like how Twitter keeps things fast and to the point, it suits the game, but YMMV.) All players will need to able to see/post to the same social media site. No books, dice, or other gaming implements are necessary.

Recommended Ages: 12+. Play is competitive and requires response to prompts as well as the ability to use social media, image sharing programs, and basic image modification software.

Content Advisory: By default, #CrisisAlarm! is set for Saturday Morning Cartoon content: cartoon violence, disaster scenes, mild profanity (damn, hell), and perhaps very mild blood. It does not permit NSFW material, including but not limited to graphic violence, gore, nudity, sexual situations, vulgar profanity, etc. Use of NSFW material disqualifies a player for the round and possibly for the game. (See the optional rules for how to properly set up a NSFW game.) Play friendly, play fun, play smart!

Game Setup!

This page, and possibly the Optional Rule page, are the only rules you need to play – you may want to bookmark them for speedy reference, at least until you have the basics down.

One person will be the Crisis Manager, who announces the problem the players are responding to, and judges each round’s entries. They should be familiar with the rules, but that’s not too complicated. If they want to use one or more of the Optional Rules (see below), they should ask the players in advance. Optional rules should be announced at the start of the game, so everyone knows what’s being used.

All the other players are #CrisisAlarm! superheroes, ready to throw down with the forces of evil!

Basic Gameplay!

Here are the basic rules and stages of play. If a rule says one thing, but a wild card disagrees, the wild card always wins. In the odd event that it’s not clear which is right, the Crisis Manager’s word is final.

1 – Impending Doom!
The Crisis Manager tweets to announce an upcoming game. This tweet should include 1) when the game is starting, 2) how many Pages (rounds) they want in this Comic, and 3) the time limit for entries for each Page. (Optional rules should be announced here too.) Don’t worry if this takes a couple of tweets – just reply to the original to keep them together.

Example: “OK, who wants to play #CrisisAlarm!? Game starts in 30 minutes, 3 Pages, 1 hour each!”

2 – Tag In!
Everyone who wants to play “tags in” by replying to the announcement with their hero name & a number of #powers equal to # of Pages +1. This can take you more than one tweet, if necessary. An image of your hero – or just you in a heroic pose! – is traditional, but is not strictly required.  Silly is fine!

Example: Player 1: “Lightning Outlaw here! #thunderstomp #boltfromtheblue #eyeofthestorm #121gigawatts”
Player 2: “Ninja X-9 here! #cyborgkarate #smokebomb #amillionninjastars #trustysidekickmike”
Player 3:  “Mistress Winter here! #deepfreeze #snowpacalypse #icedup #letitgo”

3 – Crisis Time!
The CM sends out the first Page, briefly describing a #crisisalarm! If a pic is used to illustrate the crisis, the players cannot use that pic for their entry unless the CM says so.

Example: “#crisisalarm! Captain Throwback’s crazed #ultraapes are attacking Midtown!”

4 – Throw Down!
Before the time limit is up, each player must respond with a pic that involves one of their hashtag powers. It can be an image they make, something they pull online somewhere, something they find but alter, etc. It can be a literal interpretation or a creative one, but it must be clearly related to the challenge. Also, each entry must include a hashtag power either in the reply or in the image itself. Captions and word bubbles are fine, but keep them in game!

Note: If a player doesn’t turn in an entry for a round, that’s OK! Stuff happens, or maybe they just got stumped. It just means they can’t score points. They can still banter, and even play certain wild cards!  

5 – Winner Takes the Page!
When the time is up or everyone has played, the CM picks the winner of that Page. The winner loses the power hashtag they played, but they get 1 Triumph Point, plus they get to pick a wild card effect to replace their lost hashtag. (See Wild Cards, below.) All other players keep their hashtags.

Note: This time between rounds is a good place to exchange some heroic banter, bad puns, witty quips, blooper images, and otherwise goof off with your fellow heroes!

6 – On to the Next!
The CM announces the next Page, along with the next hashtag threat, and play goes as steps 1-5 before. Using any previously played images for future Pages is forbidden. Repeat until all Pages are finished.

7 – A Hero Triumphant!
After the last Page concludes, the player with the most Triumph Points is the overall winner for the Comic. In the event two or more players are tied at the end of the Comic, hold a popular vote for the win, with CM as tiebreaker if that vote deadlocks. Hurray! But don’t lose heart, everyone else – you’re all still heroes!

Note: Consider creating a Tumblr, Facebook album or other page to immortalize your comic book glory! Use each Page’s entries to create a lovely collage – featuring the winner especially, of course – and you can enjoy your titanic team-up efforts for years to come!

Wild Cards!

Wild card effects are listed below. As noted before, if a wild card disagrees with the rules, the wild card always wins. If two wild cards are played and timing is important, the first one played is successful (pays to be on your toes). If two wild cards are played that would directly conflict, they cancel each other out – ignore them both. Each player may only use a particular wild card once per Comic.

Technically, wild cards are an optional rule – but unlike other optional rules, this is considered “on” by default. We find they make things fun and shake things up a bit. But if you want to play without them, you certainly can do so. The game still works fine; it’s just a little bit less chaotic as it goes along.

Wild Cards
I’ll take that! Take a hashtag someone else played – even the CM’s! – and keep it to use as your own in another round.

#teamup: Thanks, buddy! Use another player’s submitted pic as the base for your own entry. A good one if you’re stumped.

#glitter: You … you wouldn’t dare! Name something disgustingly cute – kittens, rainbows, unicorns, glittery sparkles. Any entry this round that’s played after you drop this wild card must include this element to count for scoring. You don’t have to use it yourself.

#recharge: Power up! Regain one of your own expended hashtag powers.

#SICKLE: Super villainy! Force another player to incorporate a second crisis hashtag in their current entry. The CM picks the new hashtag. Should be related, but nasty. Must be done before they submit an entry for the round.

#retcon: No, it happened like this! Use any previously submitted image for the basis of your entry this round.

These are just some basic wild card effects – feel free to invent your own! Any new wild cards must approved by the CM (and potentially the group) between Pages – no coming up with a wild card in the middle of a round!

Don’t Tag In Big Brother!

Hey folks, one serious thing needs to be mentioned before you run off and have fun. #CrisisAlarm! is deliberately designed for a casual, pretty goofy comic book play style, in keeping with its lunch hour RPG goal. So most of the hashtags used by players and Crisis Managers are going to be clearly silly and over the top. (If anyone in our government trips a red flag because of #cyborgapestampede, I’m worried for very different reasons.) That said, be smart, people. If you’re playing on public social media, don’t use hashtags that are going to bring the FBI knocking  on your door – bombs, gunmen, terrorism, jihad, etc. When in doubt, keep it superheroic and silly, not dark and gritty.

Optional Rules!

#CrisisAlarm! is designed to be pretty fast, fun, and simple to pick up. That said, nothing’s stopping you from adding a little more complexity to it if you want to deepen the game experience, or change around some of the requirements, or even the tone of the game itself. You can change up the scoring, the subject matter, you name it! We don’t mind.

In fact, we’ve got some suggestions for variations we’ve cooked up ourselves – everything from incorporating action figures to switching to a popular vote system to swapping Crisis Managers between pages. We recommend you try a round or two of “vanilla” #CrisisAlarm! first, just so you see how it works, but if you want to jump right to hacking, have at it.

As the name suggests, the following are optional rules you can use to alter, enhance, or otherwise generally mess around with your #CrisisAlarm! experience.  There is no limit to how many optional rules you can add on to a game, though some may not be compatible with others, and in general the more optional rules you add the longer you should give players to read and make ready for the game. We recommend a getting a couple of regular games under your belt before you try these out, but as always, that’s up to you.

For your convenience, we’ve tagged them by the type of modification they represent – Voting (voting process), Scoring (value of entries), Content (what’s allowed), Images (what kind of pics are required), and Gameplay (basic game mechanisms). In additional, these rules are numbered so that you can refer to them quickly and easily on Twitter or in other condensed social media formats – “We’re using optional rules 1, 4, and 7 this game.”

Ready? Here we go!

1 – Excelsior! Mode (Scoring)
Instead of victory awarding 1 Triumph Point, the number of points is based on how much manipulation went into the winning image. Stock or barely modified pics are worth 1 Triumph Point, heavily modified pics are worth 2 Triumph Points, and primarily player-created images are worth 3 Triumph Points. This encourages people who put a bit more effort into their entries, though it might discourage more casual or less artistic players.

2 – Vertigo Mode (Content)
As a regular game of #CrisisAlarm!, except that you’re going for a serious game, not a silly one. Note that this does not automatically mean you can submit NSFW entries, though it’s often used with that rule.  This usually takes a bit more effort, though, so make sure you give players enough time each round to complete a worthy entry. Tends to make for a much slower game, but can have some truly badass results.

3 – Warren Ellis Mode (Content)
This game allows NSFW content. Before using this option, please make sure all players are in agreement, and of appropriate age and location to participate. In addition, please make sure that the content shared does not violate any laws, or the terms of service of the hosting program. Don’t lose your job, traumatize innocent kids and/or wind up on a watch list. Seriously. Play smart.

4 – Robot Chicken Mode (Images)
As a regular game of #CrisisAlarm!, except that action figures – representing heroes, villains, bystanders – are required in all submitted images. Note that you don’t need to actually have action figures at hand yourself, though it certainly might help – they just need to be used in the submissions.

5 – Rising Stars Mode (Gameplay)
In this mode, everyone loses the hashtag power they played each round (the winner still gets a wildcard). This makes the game a little more strategic – do you use one of your solid ones early, or save it for later? – but it can be a bit frustrating for some players.

6 – Millennial Mode (Images)
As a regular game of #CrisisAlarm!, except that each player must somehow include themselves in all submitted images.  Note that this doesn’t mean each shot must be a full-on selfie, just that you have to work yourself into each submitted picture somehow. But if you wanna dress like a superhero and bust out some action shots, hey, nobody’s stopping you!

7 – Avengers Assemble Mode (Voting)
Instead of the Crisis Manager determining the winning image each round, the players vote after time is up/all submissions are in. The Crisis Manager only votes to break ties. Every player who’s tagged in to the game can vote, even if they did not submit an entry this round, but you cannot vote for your own entry. This rule takes a little pressure off the Crisis Manager and can be a lot of fun in a group that doesn’t mind this extra bit of competition, though it does slow the game down just a bit and requires some extra setup time to determine how to vote – by private message to the CM, by favoriting your chosen pic, by public reply, whatever works.

8 – Red Son Mode (Gameplay)
In this mode, S.I.C.K.L.E. is quick to bring the hammer down on those pesky heroes giving them a particularly hard time. If a hero wins 2 or more Pages in a row, they automatically suffer the #sickle wild card effect every round until they lose a round.  Note that this doesn’t stop other players from throwing even more #sickle effects at them in a single round – they might have three, four or more hashtags to handle at once!

9 – New 52 Mode (Gameplay)
In this mode, everyone makes a character at tag in. The winner of each round becomes the Crisis Manager for the next Page, and the previous Crisis Manager becomes a player. The resulting Comic is probably going to be a bit schizophrenic as editorial decisions change hands constantly, but hey, it’s gonna be a fun ride! Right?

10 – Dynamic Duo Mode (Gameplay)
In this mode, players play and are scored in pairs. These pairings should be announced at tag in. How each team divides up their duties is up to them – one partner might do captions and hashtags while the other handles the artwork, for instance. This is a fun variant when you have a mix of artists and non-artists, but does make gameplay a little more cumbersome as it requires more coordination.

11 – Betty & Veronica Mode (Content)
This is the opposite of NSFW mode. In this mode, only G or at most mild PG words and images are permitted. Not a bad way to play if there are kids around. Perhaps even better – combining it with #9 for some truly titanic parent/child team-ups!


#CrisisAlarm! is a Game Chef 2014 Competition Creation by Peter Woodworth & Scott Katinger. 

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