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A Game of Getting Out and Going Home
by Doyce Testerman
Frogger
T
ABLE OF
C
ONTENTS
Introduction ...................................................................................................................................3
Who or what is a Frogger?........................................................................................................4
How do I play this thing? ...........................................................................................................4
Before You Play ............................................................................................................................5
Stuff You’re Gonna Need ..........................................................................................................5
Jargon .......................................................................................................................................5
Figuring out the Setting .............................................................................................................7
Character Creation........................................................................................................................8
Home.....................................................................................................................................9
Character Creation Examples .................................................................................................10
Playing the Game .......................................................................................................................11
The System: Watching the Clock ............................................................................................11
Earning Experience: Getting Paid Time Off ........................................................................11
Critical Success: Punching the Clock..................................................................................11
Using Experience: Learning Behavior.................................................................................12
Crossing Traffic: An Overview of Play.....................................................................................13
Establishing Scenes and Complications .................................................................................13
Building a Scene: the Complication Deck ...........................................................................13
Conflicts: ‘Fair and Clear’ ....................................................................................................15
Conflicts: Modifiers..............................................................................................................15
Success and Failure Narration............................................................................................15
The Do Over........................................................................................................................15
Paying Off Karmic Debt.......................................................................................................16
Spreading the Wealth: Karmic Hand-off..............................................................................16
Multiple Character Conflicts ....................................................................................................17
Working Together................................................................................................................17
The Boss.....................................................................................................................................18
Stakes & Consequences.........................................................................................................18
Lanes of Traffic .......................................................................................................................18
The Highway: Discreet Threats...........................................................................................18
The Median: Taking Stock ..................................................................................................18
The River: In Over Your Head.............................................................................................19
Winning ...................................................................................................................................19
Losing .....................................................................................................................................19
Acknowledgements.....................................................................................................................20
Frogger
2
 Frogger
Introduction
It starts out young - you try not to be different just to survive - you try to be just like everyone
else - anonymity becomes reflexive - and then one day you wake up and you've
become
all
those other people - the others - the something you aren't. And you wonder if you can ever be
what you really
are
. You wonder if it's too late to find out.
-- Douglas Coupland,
Microserfs
This is the nightmare of modern office life: work that crushes the spirit, office cubicles as cells,
and managers as wardens. The office is a dehumanizing environment for the employees – the
kind of thing that makes you a cog in the machine – a number. Nothing.
Faced with that, driven to a breaking point, human beings generally do one of two things: create
their own petty fiefdoms and delusions of importance… or Get Out.
Frogger
is about Getting Out. You remember the artwork on the side of the old Frogger arcade
console? (Here’s a hint: look at the picture on the front cover of this game.) A frog, rushing
somewhere, vest and tie awry, briefcase in hand. It’s easy to think that he’s imitating the White
Rabbit, muttering “I’m late, I’m late…”, except that you know from the game itself that he’s trying
to get
Home
. He's an office worker, trying to get away, get across all these obstacles, and get to
the thing he wants – the thing he needs.
This game was written as part of the 1KM1KT 24-Hour RPG challenge, which called for
designers to adapt a computer game into a tabletop RPG in 24 Hours. Any computer game
would have been fine; I could have done City of Heroes… I could have done X-Com (heck, I
actually
planned
to do that one), but my girlfriend suggested Frogger as a joke, and the damn
idea wouldn’t get out of my head.
Aside from the game itself, I've pulled a lot of inspiration from movies like Office Space,
Clockwatchers, Falling Down, Lost in Translation, Harold and Kumar go to White Castle, and (to
take it a bit further afield) Shawn of the Dead, Grosse Pointe Blank, and Road to Perdition.
And this is what I ended up with. Enjoy.
Frogger
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 Frogger
Who or what is a Frogger?
Let’s start out with what a Frogger was; a drone in the
hive, a cog in the machine. Your character is just
someone who’s been playing the part of a dutiful
worker and getting by.
“Frogger was an early-80's arcade game
regarded as a classic and very popular
for its novel gameplay and theme.
“The object of the game is to guide a frog
home. To do so, the player must get
frogs to successfully dodge and navigate
hazards.
Then it changed.
“The player guides a frog which starts at
the bottom of the screen. The very top of
the screen contains "frog homes" - the
goal for each frog.
Something happened to our worker bee that made her
want to get away from the buzz; something hit that cog
and made it slip off.
That’s where this game starts; that’s where the story
begins – when you decide you’ve got to get away.
“The only control the player has is
navigating the direction for the frog to
hop.
“On the bottom half of the screen, the
player must successfully guide the frog
between opposing lanes of traffic. The
middle of the screen, after the road,
contains a median where the player must
prepare to navigate the river. The player
can then guide his frog safely to one of
the empty "homes". The player must
avoid threats, but may catch bugs or
escort a lady frog for bonuses.”
How do I play this thing?
"Can you keep a secret? I'm trying to organize a prison
break. We have to first get out of this bar, then the
hotel, then the city, and then the country. Are you in or
you out?"
"I'm in."
-- Bob and Charlotte, Lost in Translation
When you get together with your friends to play
Frogger
, each player creates a fictional character in
the story. One person is The Boss (referred to in many
roleplaying games as the GM or Game Moderator), while everyone else makes up a
Frogger
character.
-- Wikipedia,
During play, each player takes turns working toward your character’s goals (their “frog home”, to
steal a term from that Frogger entry quoted above), trying to cross metaphorical “Lanes of
Traffic” that are in their way.
Sometimes you make it, and sometimes you get squished. Finding out what happens is why we
play the game.
Frogger
4
 Frogger
Before You Play
Stuff You’re Gonna Need
First, you need these rules. Luckily, you have these rules, so that’s all right. You only really
need one copy of the game for the whole group, as the rules are pretty simple. In addition to the
book, you’ll need copies of the player sheets (one for each character), and some kind of tokens
to denote bad karma. You can use poker chips or coins if you like, but I’d suggest paperclips,
just to capture the feel of the setting – one’s ‘borrowed’ from a supply closet are even better.
You will also need either one standard deck of playing cards and one twelve-sided dice, or just
two standard decks of playing cards; the option is yours. If you’ve played a few role-playing
games, you probably already have the die you need, but if not, and you want some, I talk about
where to acquire dice in the “Jargon” section, below.
That’s about it. You need some players – somewhere from three to six – but hopefully you’ve
figured that out.
Jargon
Like a lot of role-playing games,
Frogger
uses some words in specific and not-entirely-
conventional ways. The following list should explain “when I say
this
, what I
mean
is
that
.
Bad Karma.
A measure of how currently screwed your character is. You pick up Bad Karma
when a Conflict goes particularly badly for your character, and you get rid of it either by going
back to the office, or inflicting your own bad fortune on other characters, during their Scenes.
The Boss.
One person playing the game doesn’t make up a character; they’re The Boss. The
Boss sets up Scenes, helps you figure out Conflicts in those scenes and what the Stakes are,
moves the action from one character to the next, and plays most every other character in the
story except for the ones under the control of the rest of the players – basically, they do what
your computer has to do when you’re playing a computer game. Don’t confuse The Boss for the
game with your character’s manager, though; that’s just mean.
Breaking Point.
Determined during character creation, this is the moment near the beginning of
the character’s story (or the part of the story we’re looking at during the game) where the
character decides they aren’t going to continue on as they have been – they are going to try to
change. The Inciting Event. This could be as simple as your Manager telling you that you have
to work through the weekend again, to an assassin killing your wife and youngest son.
Conflict.
Where the rubber meets the road – a conflict is a point in the story where your
character attempts to overcome a challenge that’s been put in his or her way to prevent them
from crossing the current Lane of Traffic. An attempt to win a conflict is referred to as Crossing
Traffic.
D12.
A twelve-sided dice. You may or may not be using a dice during Conflict resolution, but if
you are, it will be a weird 12-sided dice, which we’re calling a d12 from here on out, because it’s
faster to type, and we’re lazy, lazy people. D12s, d4s, d20s and even plain old d6s like the
ones you find in Yahtzee games are all available on the internet and local gaming and hobby
Frogger
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