I am very pleased to present the Roman on the Rhine, my submission to the game chef competition. This is a one-shot roleplaying game for 3-5 people to play over a bit over an hour. This game is presented in the form of an interactive audio drama. All of the rules are present in this mp3 file, which you play in the background during the session in order to teach you the rules and manage the game. This is a diceless and paper-less game which you can play in a car. For those hard of hearing, I also offer the text version of the rules in this post after the “Read more” line.
As is typical in the game chef competition, this is more of a proof of concept and thought experiment than a fully polished piece. That said, it’s also free and I hope you find it interesting.
This game would not have been possible without the kind permissions of Wes Otis, whose RPG background loops were invaluable in producing this audio-piece. If you like any of the background music, they are all available over at DriveThruRPG.com.
Game Title: The Roman on the Rhine
Historical Reference: Battle of the Teutoburg Forest
Mission Statement: A game about leadership in the imperial war.
The Roman on the Rhine
This is a game about leadership in the imperial war. The Emperor Augustus reaches his hand into the dark forests of Germania. Roman legionaries wield sword and plowshare alike in a bid to absorb this wild land into the Empire. This savage land of axes and wolves will turn into prosperous farms tended by the roman sickle.
This is a game about diverse cultures, unified to stand firm against the invading foes. The many tribes of Germania have been brought together in a council of war to organize their fight against the roman conquerors. We the free peoples will push them back to the southern seas and reclaim this land of our ancestors.
This is a roleplaying game where you explore the conflict of the roman principate against the Germanic tribes. With 3-5 people and this audio-recording, you can discover who will be victorious.
This game consists of a number of scenes, each of which represents some major meeting of powerful leaders in northern Europe. In the odd scenes, the players portray mighty chieftains of Germanic tribes who meet in war council. In the even scenes, the players portray great Roman Patricians. In all scenes, the GM portrays the great leader who makes the final decisions; a Great Chieftain in the Wild Lands, or the Roman Governor of Germania. Play the roles of these great leaders making difficult decisions.
Each scene begins with a question every player must answer honestly, in an order of their choosing. The GM can ask further questions during the scenes to learn more about those characters. Each player then must either make a Proposal for what their Leader should do, or describe an additional Benefit of some existing Proposal. After each Proposal is heard, each player may choose to add one more Benefit for a Proposal, or describe a Cost associated with one instead.
The GM administers the game, fostering fun and deciding which Proposal she accepts at the end of each scene. If the Proposal has more Benefits than Costs, she gains Doom. Between meetings, the GM may spend Doom to target a character in the upcoming scene, either to destroy their anchor or to slay them. If a character has their anchor destroyed, they cannot make a Proposal or speak of Benefits. If someone is slain, their heir is forced to take their place.
The First Council
15 minutes play
You are the chieftains of the Germanic tribes, united in a general council of war under this Great Chieftain. You have assembled from far and wide, unified by the great injustice and wanton cruelty of the roman legions.
As you may be strangers to each other, tell us your name and which people are your anchor in times of strife.
Is there one who speaks for the Cherusci of the Plains, who once allied with rome and knows their way?
Is there one who speaks for the Chatti, whose valour and discipline put the legions to shame?
Is there one who speaks for the Bructeri, who follow the foretellings of Veleda the living Goddess?
Is there one who speaks for the Sicambri, masters of the marshlands and thorny woods?
Thank you for gathering here to speak for your peoples. How shall we send a message to the Romans to curb their ambitions and punish their cruelty?
The First Senate
14 minutes play
You are Rome’s finest, condemned to tame the barbarous new province of Germania. Each of you have been sent by Imperator Augustus to aid me in this effort thanks to your skills. The tribes have risen against us and I need your talents to regain this land for Rome.
As you may be strangers to each other, tell us your name and what resources anchor you to the Emperor’s favour?
Is there one who speaks for the Traders, who trade in iron and slaves alike?
Is there one who speaks for the Legions, fists of the empire of discipline unmatched?
Is there one who speaks for the Auxiliaries, allied barbarians and skillful scouts?
Is there one who speaks for the Labourers, civilizing and fortifications on the borderlands?
How will we secure our borders from raiding barbarians and dissuade their attacks?
The Second Council
13 minutes play
The Romans have gone too far! Which of your spies have successfully infiltrated the roman operation, and what is their current cover?
Which spy should we activate to damage our foes?
The Second Senate
12 minutes play
The Barbarians are far too organized to be easily defeated. Which of the tribes to each of you have ties to, and of what kind?
Which of the tribes should we appease and bribe, to get them to serve our ends?
The Third Council
11 minutes play
How will the council react?
The Third Senate
10 minutes play
How will the Senate react?
The Final Council
9 minutes play
The Romans fear us. Now we must decide how we will communicate our terms to the Imperials to get them off our lands. What message should we send?
The tribes must move.
The Final Senate
8 minutes play
Rome demands a swift resolution to this conflict. Augustus assumes that these simple barbarians would be no match for trained legionaries, but he has never faced an alliance this fierce. How can we strike at the tribes during the winter, when our foes least suspect.