Bookish Games: Behind the Scenes

Bookish Games

Bookish Games is a feature at Oh, the Books! where participants take on the roles of characters from a designated novel and play through a variation of Mafia (aka Werewolf). The end goal? For players to survive until the end of the game (which is much easier said than done).

Bookish Games, Behind the Scenes, Bookish Games Notebook, Top Secret

It is time. Today I’m opening up my Bookish Games notebook for the blogging world to see how I set up and moderate the Bookish Games. It is a lot of work, but totally worth it to see what happens as the games play out.

For this post, I have included pictures from my top secret Bookish Games notebook for the Harry Potter edition. Click on the images if you would like to see them in a slightly large size (as I know some of you have been dying to look into this notebook for a while now).

Creating the Game

Before the Bookish Games even start, I have to plan and work out a lot of the details. This is usually done a month or more in advance of the actual game. (For instance, both the Harry Potter edition and Divergent edition, which is happening next, were thought out and planned while the Hunger Games edition was going on.) That way, I can come back to it at a later time and see if the game still seems balanced enough or if changes need to be made.

Bookish Games, Behind the Scenes, Master Page

Bookish Games HP Master Page

The first thing I have to do is come up with a theme. Simple enough, right? For the most part, I stick to YA books that I feel are popular enough that it would have a large reader base who wants to play (but those who haven’t read the books are invited to play as well).

Books like Harry Potter and the Hunger Games were easy choices: most bloggers have read the books or have seen the movies, or if nothing else they at least are aware of and have heard of these series. The next Bookish Games, Divergent, was chosen for similar reasons.

The theme is the easiest part of creating the game. Next I have to actual come up with the teams. How many teams do I want? How many players do I want? What special roles should I come up with?

This is actual extremely hard. I try to create the game so that there is some sort of balance, but there are so many factors that are completely out of my control. A huge player can be eliminated Day One wrecking the balance, or unexpected disqualifications can throw things off track. There are moderators for these types of games in forums that really spend hours planning, playing out the game multiple times in their heads to see what works, and having others check their set up prior to going live. There are also even mathematical equations that some moderators have come up with to try and create a balance (such as a Doctor is worth 3 points, a Townie is worth 1 point, etc. Each role is given a point and then you add them up for each team to see if they’re the same). 

I don’t analyze my work in that much depth prior to starting the game. I take care and consideration to make it balanced, but in the end just go with whatever I think works best. The main rule I generally try to follow is only having one bad guy for every three good guys in the game.  If you look at both of my previous games, approximately one-fourth of the players were always evil (THG: 17 TT, 6 TK, 1 SK; HP: 24 DA, 4 DE, 3 DM, 1 SK). I also try and work out power roles so they’re not too powerful or too weak, but that always seems like a toss up in my opinion. (I was somewhat worried I was making DA too powerful in the last Bookish Games, but so many died off right away that it didn’t even matter.) Starting with the Divergent game, I will be having a sidekick who will help me out during the Bookish Games, and hopefully they’ll always be sure to let me know if things don’t seem right.

After I have sorted out my theme, teams, and special roles, I then have to prep everything so that it’s ready to go when the Bookish Games start. This includes creating the main game page with the rules, my secret pages where those with special roles or on a mafia team can go and discuss in private,  and writing everything out in my all-powerful Bookish Games notebook.

Once this is all done, approximately 800 hours later, I start to feel ready for the Bookish Games to begin.

Getting the Players

Of course, the Bookish Games can’t begin if there is no one signed up to play! I have to find some poor unfortunate souls volunteers to play the game first.

There are two main things I do to get players to join: I send out a mailing list to those who were interested at the end of the last Bookish Games and I create a sign-up post announcing the next game to the blogosphere. I’ll usually also tweet about the game as well, but that’s usually an afterthought.

For the most part, I like to make it so everyone who signs up can play, though that won’t always be possible. (This last game felt like it was too large with 32 players, so I doubt I open it up to such a large group again.) In the future there will be a few minor restrictions, but only to ensure those who sign up are likely to be active.

Bookish Games, Behind the Scenes, Roles

Bookish Games HP Team DA Roles

Once I have tricked convinced players to sign up for the game, I then have to assign them their roles. The first game was completely randomized when it came to assigning roles. I had no idea who would be good or who would struggle in the game, and therefore left it up to a random number generator to decide for me. The second game was random for the most part. I made a few changes here and there for those players who had played in the previous game. If I thought they would be an instant target just for their previous success (such as Cayce and Leanne), I attempted to give them some cushion so they weren’t eliminated for that reason alone. I also did try to make sure some players were switched to different alliances so they could experience the ‘other side’, but obviously I couldn’t do that with everyone. I have no idea what strategy will be utilized to assign roles in Bookish Games: Divergent edition because my super special sidekick will be taking care of that. ;)

The last thing I have do then before the games can start is sending out an email to all participating players. This is where I (attempt) to give a brief overview of everything a player needs to know in order to play the game and inform players of their own personal role and alliance. I ask every player to respond to the email confirming that they received it and understand the rules (though this usually requires follow up since most people never reply) and I ensure that those who have access to secret pages test out their passwords in advance so I know everything is as it should be. Even this is time-consuming in a way, just because I have to take special care that I send the right person the right information and don’t give anything away I shouldn’t! 

Moderating the Games

Once the Bookish Games have finally begun, I should just be able to sit back and relax, right?! Not so much. This feature of mine requires constant moderation, from beginning to end, from the comments in the blog posts to checking that nothing is discussed outside of the blog.

Bookish Games, Behind the Scenes, Day

Bookish Games HP Day Activity

During the ‘Day’ part of the game I keep a record of three main things: how often each player comments, who each player votes for, and which player is eliminated once the deadline is reached. In my notebook I record each living player’s name and each time they leave a comment I make a check next to their name. This is to help ensure that players are participating as they should and reaching their two comment minimum requirement. Usually by the 48 hour deadline mark, I will go through and make a circle or dash for those players who have not yet reached their comment minimum and then send them a tweet reminding them of their requirement.

I also like to keep track of who each person votes for. Throughout the day I post Voting Updates sharing who has voted for who at that point during the day. Players are allowed to switch votes, and once they do I just cross out their original vote and write the next one down.

Once my voting tallies are complete and the deadline is reached, I determine which player has been eliminated. I reveal their identity when closing the comments on the Bookish Games post for that day and announce the start of Night for the remaining players. In my notebook, I record what their identity is, who voted for them, and what other players were prime suspects that day. I don’t know if anyone else ever pays attention to this information once the game is over and my recaps are shared, but I find it quite interesting.

Oh, and of course I have to notify the player of their unfortunate demise. This is usually done through tweeting (my prefer method of communication with any participants in the game). These players are given the password to the dead player chat room page where they are able to communicate with the other deceased, if they so wish.

Bookish Games, Behind the Scenes, Night

Bookish Games HP Night Activity

During the ‘Night’ part of the game it’s all about that Night Action form. Those with access to secret pages do communicate during the Night, but I do not have to moderate their activity as I do during the Day. They can talk about whatever they want, however much they want.  All I care about is that Night Action form.

I write up my Night page as soon as it starts and list each player with a special role along with what action they can complete (and divided by their team). Once the Night Action form is submitted for that individual or team, I fill in the blanks with their selections. If the deadline is near and I still haven’t received the Night Action form, I usually send reminders.

That all sounds easy enough, right? Not so much. The thing is, I can’t actually see the results of any of these actions until all Night Action forms are submitted. Once I have them all, I have to go through the actions in a certain order: RPKI (Roleblock, Protect, Kill, Investigate). First, any role blocking powers are put into effect. If a role blocker blocks someone with a Night power, whatever their chosen action is gets cancelled out and I jot it down. After role blocks, I move onto protective actions. If anyone is protected by someone (or has their own personal protective armor), then I record that down and see if it stops any kills. If a killer isn’t role blocked and isn’t thwarted by someone’s protection, then their kill is recorded. Lastly, I go through and provide any remaining investigation results.

After all that, I notify players of their deaths (and give them the password to the Dead Player chat page), I write up the next Day post stating who were killed during the previous Night, and I also usually update the Bookish Games master page on my blog to mark those players as dead (which some players have caught onto during the past two games).

And then I get ready to start it all again during the next Day.

Bookish Games #3 - Divergent Edition

Now, it may be a lot of work to run the Bookish Games, but there’s no way I’m stopping! It is way too much fun to sit behind the scenes, knowing everything, and watching everyone struggle to figure things out. (I can’t help it, I’m a little evil in that way.) For this reason, I thought I would reward those of you who have read this post with a mention about the next Bookish Games.

As you may or may not already know, the next Bookish Games post is going to be based off of Divergent. You do not have to have read the book in order to play the game, but there is an element (or two) from the book that has been implemented into the construction of the game that might be spoilery for you. So, you can play, but play at your own risk.

I will be having a sidekick during this Bookish Games, and it is none other than my lovely co-blogger Kelley. I’m super-excited to have her see the game from my behind-the-scenes seat and she already has an idea for the next Bookish Games that will be happening at some point over the summer!

Those who have signed up for my mailing list will be given the exact date of sign-ups soon, but I can tell you that it will be sometime this month. Eek! There will be twenty available spots, and we’re hoping to mix it up between new and returning players. Hope to see you there!

Your Turn!

Phew! Even typing up what goes on behind the scenes required quite a bit of work. Now tell me, what do you think? Are you surprised by all the work that goes into setting up and moderating the game, or did you think there would be more? Does it seem like a less magical experience now that you know what happens?

Oh, and don’t you worry, I’ll be sure to change some things up now that you know the secrets behind my work. I wouldn’t want you to have it too easy during the next Bookish Games ;)


Read 39 comments

  1. I’m so jealous of Kelley :P I definitely think it’s a lot more fun when you know what is going on and seeing everything pan out. Even being on one of the evil teams and knowing who is on your team is enough to get you excited about knowing more than the good guys haha! Props to you Asti! I knew it was a lot of work but it also sounds really fun too!

    • Haha yes, Kelley is lucky because she is in the know now, and it definitely is entertaining watching everyone try to figure everything out when you know all the answers. That being said, I wouldn’t mind being a player again. Half the fun is making guesses and seeing how right / wrong you are, and using your skill (and luck) to survive until the end. :)

  2. This looks intense but awesome! We played assassin in our dorms at college, but it was the simplified version with secret notecards with names on them and socks for killing the person. Those were the most stressful weeks, worrying about socks flying at you wherever you went.

  3. EEP! I’m excited for this Bookish Games xD I really want to take part!! But I’m not sure if I signed up for it? :\ I really really cross-my-fingers-and-my-heart hope I did!! :D But wow, Asti! That’s a super organized way to keep track of things! :O It’s like BOOM!! ORGANIZATION. And it looks like a lot of work goes into this, and it’s absolutely mind-blowing that you have the patience to tabulate every detail and chronicle every action! :O I would be feeling pretty exhausted after it all xD But I guess it’s all worth it when you see it come together so nicely! :) And The Bookish Games will always be super exciting and now that I see how much work it takes, Asti my admiration for you (though it is already hitting the roof) just burst through that roof!! (oops, let’s call the repair man!) :O

    • Oh Emily, your comments always make me laugh! <3 It definitely is a lot of work - and organization is a must - but it is so worth it! You haven't signed up for the next one yet, but neither has anyone else because they're not open yet! There will be a post going up before the end of the month where people can sign up though, and it's first come first serve, so just keep your eyes open and you should be fine! :)

  4. “I was somewhat worried I was making DA too powerful in the last Bookish Games, but so many died off right away that it didn’t even matter.”

    BAHAHAHA! Oh poor DA, we really had a rough go of it at first. I swear, I (lovingly) thought about how EVIL you were at least two or three times an hour towards the end!

  5. I love that you shared all these photos of your handwritten notebooks! I dunno why, but I love that sort of thing. It’s so fun to get to see how people do things behind-the-scenes like this. I’m SO excited for the Divergent edition! :D

    • It’s the only time I’ve actually used a notebook for my blog! I prefer to do everything online usually, but for some reason it just worked out that way. I’ll miss my notebook when it comes to the next one, but I can’t see it making any difference so it should be good :)

  6. Wow. I always knew that it must have been a lot of work, but wow you’re doing the work of what 10 people? *bows*
    I’m glad you’ll have Kelley to help you out in the Divergent games. :) Yay for evil sidekicks! I’m sitting out that one, but hoping to make a return to the summer games. Muhaha~

  7. I’ve never played it before, but I’m totally up for it! Can I be added to the mailing list? :D info booksandbindings [dot] com.

    That’s a lot of work you put into the games. I’m very impressed. Shows how much you love it. ♥

  8. Wow, that’s so cool! It’s a whole lot of work, but for a really fun game. :) It’s been interesting to watch the previous Bookish Games play out, and I’m sure this next one is going to be just as awesome. :D

  9. Thanks for sharing this Asti :) I’ve always been intrigued by how you organize it all! It is SOOO much work, good thing that you have a helper this time but now Kelley won’t be playing *sobs*. I will be watching my email box for the signup list like a hawk :P !! OH, and I love that you keep everything in hand written notebooks, I use a handwritten blog note book as well so I’m always excited when I see others :D :D

    • It is a lot of work, but always worth it to see everyone try to figure it out when the games are going on! And it’s definitely exciting that this time around I’ll have someone who I can talk to about the game that actually knows everything that I do, haha. Kelley won’t be playing this one (or the next), but if she ever wants to she can volunteer to play again!

      Oh, and the Bookish Games are actually the only thing I’ve ever used a handwritten notebook for when it comes to my blog (because as you know, I love my OneNote). Now that I’m showing Kelley the ropes though, I’ve moved everything online so no more notebook. It’s sort of sad! :P

    • Haha yes indeed! Even though each person is trying to make their decision on what they think will be best for their team, they still have to think about how others’ decisions might impact their action and whether or not it will actually happen. It’s all entangled in one big mess of fun!

      And see, being a villain isn’t enough. You have to be a smart villain that gets joy out of making everyone struggle – that’s how you know you’re evil. ;)

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