At the Stroke of Midnight

A short game of nerves, for three to six players. Requires ten d6 for each player, preferably of a uniform size and color. Black, blue, red, and orange dice recommended.

The sun sinks in the sky, bringing long shadows and a wisp of cool air. In a handful of hours it will be midnight. The veil between the world of the living and the world of the dead is growing thinner with each passing moment. At midnight it will open, and those who are able to stand unshaken before the Beloved Dead will be allowed a boon. You and your friends set out for the graveyard, each eager to meet the Beloved Dead and ask a favor from those who have gone before. If that should be you, ask wisely, for these are your own people and your own wish. Take a moment now to think of your own Beloved Dead, recent or long past, and what you might wish to say to them.

To make your wish, you must arrive at midnight in the graveyard undaunted. On your first turn, roll all of your dice. For each that shows a 5, describe one thing you are carrying with you on your nighttime walk through the town toward the graves of your Beloved Dead: a light of some kind, a photograph, candy, a note, a warm jacket, a pocketknife, a small backpack or bag, etc. Set aside any fives you rolled. If you roll no fives, you are spooked and flee for walls and light and the world of the living. See Being Spooked, below. You may sacrifice one thing you carry to avoid fleeing, and instead remain able to press on toward the graveyard again on your next turn.

On each following turn, roll any dice remaining and set aside the fives. These do not add to the things you carry, and are no longer available for rolling.

Watch for signs along the way, and add details accordingly. If you roll several signs, choose one you haven’t talked about yet, and build on what has been said before.

Snake Eyes (two or more ones) — animals, lights in strange places, and things that bite.

Ballerinas (two twos (or more)) — your fellow seekers, costumes, disguises, and things not as they appear.

Little Woods (two or more threes) — trees, brambles and environmental obstacles.

Bootlaces (two or more fives) — grit, remembering good things about your Beloved Dead, strength of purpose.

Squares (two or more fours) — stone structures, roads, paths and written signs.

Box Cars (two or more sixes) — sounds, vehicles, movement.

Being spooked: If you roll no fives and you have nothing to sacrifice, you are spooked! Say what spooked you and run for home! On your following turns, roll your remaining dice, look for the clearest sign, and add to the story. Two or more 5s for you is Jolly Rogers — the thinning of the veil, the restlessness of the Beloved Dead, their eagerness to communicate with the living, skulls and crossbones. Add a spooky detail!

When there is one player left undaunted, the stroke of midnight arrives! Each spooked player, describe one final thing about the graveyard as the clock chimes and the Beloved Dead gather around. Undaunted player, address your Beloved Dead and ask for the help you need from those who have passed from life. Do this aloud, and listen for the answer or guidance you receive. It may be quiet or loud, it may be fleeting or persistent, it may be in words or in sensations or impressions. Once you have received the message from your Beloved Dead, thank them and bid them farewell. Tell your fellow players they are safe, the night is over, and the veil is closed for another year.

(This game is part of my Patreon-supported cycle of short, seasonal games. Patrons receive a pdf with art and additional content. This is the eighth in that series, and completes the first year. )