Nathanael Cole / Alliterated Games

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Quad: Harold and Kumar in “Trials of the Chosen”

One of the most unexpected joys of this past GameStorm was a pick-up game of Quad on Saturday night. Started initially as a way to pass the time while waiting for rides home, this game turned out to be one of the several comically hilarious moments of the con.

It all got started after the fabulous-amazing Jesus Camp Massacre session of Cannibal Contagion. After leaving the scheduled gaming room, I ran into Nick and Gilbert, and we all three had about an hour to kill. I blurted out “let’s play Quad” without thinking, and a few moments later we had started on in. After a few minutes of deliberation over what number-generator to use – for some reason they were both hardcore against using dice right then – we settled on a deck of cards. The built-in random scenario generator quickly laid out the basics:

  • Setting: Ancient Earth (we decided Egypt)
  • Location: An Institution (we decided a Temple of Training)
  • What starts it all off: A natural disaster (we decided on an Earthquake) kills all the priests in the temple leaving only two survivors

The characters were created quickly enough, each being only a small list of good and bad Merits. One was a fairly inept acolyte conman, the other was a Pariah being beaten for the crimes of heaven or some such. I like to call them Harold and Kumar, as their dynamic was equally hilarious.

Once the core scenario’s conflict was established and the characters introduced, we quickly went to town. Nick and Gilbert were both experienced story-gamers, and thus took to the game’s mechanical concepts quickly. Within a few minutes, the mechanics were in play and more conflicts were introduced. I think for the purposes of the Pick-Up style of game play, the simple mechanics worked very well to move the game quickly along.

The temple guards took both the characters into protective custody, and one of them quickly managed to convince the guards that he was the Chosen One and the other character was his faithful Companion. A series of Sacred Rites of Testing were then undergone, which included eating (and stomaching) terrible foods, surfing the back of alligators while blindfolded, an epic game of Madden BC-199, and more. My favorite of the trials was definitely the game of Five-Card Draw, played with giant stone slab cards carried on the backs of teams of slaves. Each time a card was discarded, the stone was smashed to bits and the slaves carrying it were thrown to the crocodiles.

And there was much death by crocodile in this game. From Nick’s character’s lost arm to the gobs of sacred virgins they fed to them post-coitus, the crocodiles played an unexpectedly crucial part in the session. In fact, at the very end, when Gilbert’s character castrated himself to prove that he was in fact the REAL Chosen One (claiming the title by default, as he prevented Nick from winning), he was then fed to the crocodiles to appease the angry gods.

Within the span of an hour, we had run a pretty damn awesome game session, consisting of at least a dozen hilarious conflicts and a large handful of scenes. For me, the hardest part was actually coming up with the Seven Sacred Rites, but once the game started moving along, those came pretty easily too.

All in all, a damn fantastic session, one which all three of us have laughed about many times since.

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Cannibal Contagion is in “Release Candidate” Stage

It’s official: Cannibal Contagion is almost complete – it is in a “release candidate” stage of near-final development. After this weekend’s session, I can see exactly what minor tweaks need to be done to make this game ready to go. It does exactly what I want it to. With a good month of focused editing, art assembly, and formatting, it is entirely possible that I could have a handful of copies to pimp out by this year’s Gamestorm convention. I’m thrilled by this notion, but I also understand that if at any point I feel like I’m rushing it, I’ll step back and wait until after the con. I don’t want to publish a rushed game, as that would just piss me off, and I’d be pretty ashamed.

This excites me, and gives me a feeling inside that both turns my insides to warm, pleasant putty while chilling my bones with apprehension. I felt this very same sensation when I got my very first piece of commissioned artwork for the game from Vero and Leo. I’ve watched a project which started largely for me as a method for distracting myself from heartache over an ex-girlfriend morph into a great goal of actually accomplishing something with this over-abundance of fluctuating creative energy. Soon, hopefully soon, I will see tangible results. I just have to make sure and frequently remind myself: be patient, don’t rush this, yet don’t coddle it either. It will be ready when it’s ready.

Speaking of this weekend, Saturday’s “serious” Cannibal Contagion session was one of the best I’ve ever played with these rules – a session of a caliber that exceeded even that of the much-loved “Spaghetti Monster Must Die!” first session ever. The revamped Crazy-Go-Psycho rules worked almost flawlessly, and after only a few minor tweaks will be exactly how I want them. It was good to see the mechanics applied to a scenario with a more serious, less tongue-in-cheek theme, as it proved to me that such an approach to this system is very feasible. All in all, the session was just plain awesome – so awesome, in fact, that I’ll be fully fleshing out that scenario and making it available as a free downloadable demo scenario at the time the game is launched.

Anyway, to further entice you with the new rules, I’ve uploaded a one-page special preview of the newly-redesigned character sheet. Download it here. As of now, the playtest rules are being taken offline. The Draft 5 Revisions are mostly staying in as finalized rules, and the online rules available until now are a bit defunct. Massive thanks to all of the testers who helped me bring this game this far!


What else have I been up to? Playing (and loving) Mass Effect and planning for my first ever Gen Con.

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Cannibal Contagion: Playtest Draft #4 is Now Live!

Awright! I’ve just now compiled and uploaded the new fourth draft of the Cannibal Contagion playtest rules. There have been a crapload of updates and revisions. This will be the last major revision for a while, so download it, read it, and let me know how your play goes!

  • Threat Pool now called Adversity pool, so as to no longer cause confusion with Threat scores
  • Bad Guys are now called Threats, and have been made a lot easier to distinguish and employ
  • Added new Allies rules, which function as special Gear
  • Added clarifications to existing Gear and Weapons rules
  • Updated and improved rules on Turning characters and threats
  • Updated the contagion aftermath effects to fit the new Adversity rules.
  • Added a whole mess of new sample NPCs and Threats
  • Implemented new “cold open” narrative structure
  • Added lots and lots of example text
  • Updated CiC and Player sheets to have lots more information and better use of space

As always, the downloads can be found here

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Cannibal Contagion: Call for 4th Draft Playtesters

I posted this on my personal blog, but figured I’d try the same here. I’m currently looking for a few groups across the country who would be willing to try out Cannibal Contagion’s upcoming Fourth Draft Playtest. To best facilitate this, I’m offering to print out the copies of the playtest rules and send them out to you at no cost. I’ll even include some character sheets in the mix.

So, if you have a group that is up for playtesting something new, and the idea of a comedic survival horror session interests you, drop me a comment, and we’ll work it out. Thanks!

– Nathanael Phillip Cole

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Cannibal Contagion: New Playtest Rules Update

Finally, all the updates are live. There’s quite a few, which is why this has taken so long to get out:

  • Added option rule in the Gear section for “inventory slot” mechanics, allowing a simulation of the Survival-Horror game inventory management.
  • The “Threat Pool” and NPC sections of the GM side of the book have been almost entirely re-written, and completely reorganized. NPCs are now purchased with fewer Threat Pool tokens, and enter the game with frequently-higher Threat scores. They’re supposed to be dangerous, and now they are.
  • Expanded section on game themes, and how to effectively incorporate them.
  • More info in both the Player Tips and CiC Tips sections.
  • A bit more detail in the introductory scenario. Still working on that one.
  • A large handful of errata updates, typo fixes, and corrections to outdated information.
  • Added spacers for several future additions, such as Index, character sheets, and a few planned art pieces.
  • A few more sections of example text have been added.
  • Added advice for using player-framed scenes.

The updated rules and sheets can be found here, as usual. Next on the immediate design list is to create some additional helper cards, to assist with management of the optional limited inventory system.

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