Skip to toolbar

What’s Worse: The relating-to-disaster role playing game

Think of yourself and your fellow players as the brilliant minds behind scene and script or plot and dialogue development for your favorite dramatic medium - be it novels, films, afternoon soaps, theater or comic books. Prepare to flip perspectives to move the action forward.  Then bring the game to a close with a multi-perspectival shift.  

What’s Worse gets dramatic.  But don’t worry.  What’s Worse is fun and thought-provoking even when everyone plays themselves.  It isn’t about acting per se -- unless you’re into that!  

SETTING UP THE SPACE

  • Playing for the first time?  Print Worst Case Cards, Focus & Direction Cardsand Flow Table
  • Mix up (randomize) and lay out the four Focus Cards side-by-side in a line.   
  • Shuffle and stack the Worst Case Cards upside down.  Put to one side.
  • Have ample paper and pencil handy for writing.  Have the Flow Table handy as well. 
  • Have Role Die and two numbered dice available.  (See OPTIONAL below for digital resources.) 
  • Give each player a set of three Direction Cards -- one each Habits, Thoughts, & Emotions.  
  • Toss the dice. Highest number takes the Lead Role first.  Play proceeds clockwise. 

HOW TO DO A WHAT’S WORSE DIALOGUE

LEAD ROLE PREPARES

  1. Toss number die to determine the Focus. 
  2. Referring to the phrases on the Focus Card that is in the leftmost position, count down from the top to find the phrase that corresponds to the number tossed.  If you reach the bottom of the card before finishing, continue counting from the top.  Mark the selected phrase with a paperclip.
  3. Turn over the Worst Case Card that is on top.  Cover the bottom half of the card with scrap paper so only the top half is showing.  
  4. Toss the Role Die. 
  5. As other actors prepare, Lead Role considers what statement to make to start the dialogue.  It should combine your:
    1. Focus indicated on the first Focus card.  
    2. Trait indicated on the top half of the Worst Case Card.
    3. Your Role according to the die.

ACTORS PREPARE 

  1. Choose a Direction Card.  Toss numbered dice. 
  2. Counting down from the top, find the phrase on your Direction Card that corresponds to the number from your toss.  If you reach the bottom of the card before finishing, continue counting from the top.  Mark the selected phrase with a paperclip.  
  3. On your turn, toss the Role Die.  
  4. When it’s your turn, your response for the dialogue should combine: 
    1. Tension (selected phrase on Direction Card)
    2. Focus (free choice from the Focus Card that is in play on your turn)
    3. Your Role on the die

ABOUT ACTORS’ ROLES 

Victim, Villain, and Hero can be ambiguous.  

  • It may seem tricky to apply these labels consistently, especially as the statements (and characters) add up.  (If the dialogue starts out with a villain, adding another villain might make a victim of the first villain!)  The point of these Roles is to add tension to an actor’s statement making process.  No need to get hung up about whether the Roles stay consistent from one turn to the next.   

If Flow is your Role, you’re going for “the voice of reason.”  

  • It may at first seem tricky, especially when a dialogue takes on proportions of an extreme situation, to not let “reason” mean “fix the obvious conflict.”  Your goal is to have your “reason” (reflected in the statement you give) be guided specifically by your Direction and FocusTo get more nuanced Direction, Flow Roles should consult the Flow Table provided.  Look up the “release through” phrase associated with your Direction.  You will likely find it helpful.  

DELIVER A DIALOGUE 

  1. Lead Role, deliver your statement out loud and write it down.  
  2. Each Actor, proceeding clockwise from the Lead Role, add your response.  Your response is a statement that in some way builds on the context of the statements delivered so far in the dialogue. When you are satisfied, write down your statement too.  It’s important to let each player take as long as needed. If you want to offer suggestions, ask the actor if they’re open to it.  
  3. Continue until at least four statements have been added to the dialogue.  If you have fewer than four players, continue play clockwise (some players will end up creating more than one part). If you have more than four players, let each player have a turn for each dialogue (you will end up with more than four statements per dialogue).  Players over four, when play reaches the last Focus Card (farthest on the right), return to the leftmost card and continue in the same order. 
  4. Dialogues work best when there are few or no constraints in interpreting what a response can look like (other than those given in the “prepare” instructions).  For instance, the Lead Role can embody the worst case or be reacting to an imagined somebody else embodying that worst case.  Actors can embody or interact with any and all forms -- objective observer, friend, neighbor, family pet, even a nearby rock.   
  5. Each time the group wraps up one dialogue and moves on to the next Focus Card, no attempt should be made to tie the new dialogue to previous ones.  It’s possible for dialogues to vary wildly from one to the next.  See the Appendix for sample dialogues.   

MOVE TO THE NEXT DIALOGUE

There are four Focus Cards.  A typical game will include doing four dialogues -- one proceeding from each of the four Focus Cads.  It’s also desirable to mix up the order in which the Focus Cards are used.  So...

  • For the first dialogue, lay out the Focus Cards in random order as shown in “Lead Role Prepares” above.  (If you have exactly four players, you can simply hand them out to players for a given dialogue.  Otherwise, it’s best to line them up in a common space.)
  • For subsequent dialogues, choose a Focus Card that has not yet been used first in a dialogue and put it in the first position.  Mix up (randomize) the remaining three and lay them out.  
  • Make it one player’s responsibility to keep track of which Focus Cards have yet to be played by the Lead Role (first in a dialogue). 
  • A long play variation is to randomize all four cards between every dialogue and do as many dialogues as it takes to achieve at least one starting with each Focus Card. 

COMPLETE THE GAME

Once at least four dialogues of at least four statements each are completed (one starting with each of the four Focus Cards), shift gears to complete the game.  

  • Vote among players to choose a favorite dialogue from among the four. 
  • Vote among players to award the following single statement superlatives
    • Funniest
    • Most surprising
    • Most convoluted
    • Most sublime
    • Feel free to come up with others on the fly!
  • Seek resolution within the dialogue that the group chose as overall favorite.  Resolution is similar to the role of Flow.  

FIND RESOLUTION

  1. Locate the Worst Case Card that corresponds to the favorite dialogue and reveal the bottom half of the card.  
  2. Read aloud the origin and trigger/fuel from the card.  Reflect on ways that the dialogue aligned with those.  
  3. Now, next to each statement, write down the action the corresponds to the Focus Card:

F1 = generate goodness

F2 = be willing

F3 = notice value

F4 = renew vision 

  1. Begin speculating how each statement might resolve to the action (listed above) for its Focus area.  
  2. Read aloud the corresponding failure to and imagine phrases from the card.  Engage in spontaneous role plays for the various characters in the dialogue.  This can be done in an organized way or be freeform.  Listening is an acceptable form of participation. 
  3. The game is done when all players are satisfied that they have shared/received actionable possibilities they feel good about and experienced a sense of resolution among the characters in the dialogue.  And had fun doing it!



OPTIONAL

Use Wild Cards.  

  • Players collect a Wild Card any time they toss a double.  
  • Any player may use a Wild Card at any point during play.

Solo play.  

  • Do all four statements yourself.  Follow all steps as for multiple players. 

Generate Role Die results online, go to https://www.random.org/lists/

  • Enter the following list, and select “randomize:”  victim, villain, hero, flow.
  • Use the Role listed in position 1 for your turn.  Keep the window open.  For each turn select “again.”   Each person can do this for themselves, or you can have one player be the designated Role randomizer.  

 

Sample Dialogues

Performing Monkey  (Worst Case Card)

Role

Direction

Focus

Statements

If Reconciling

villain

See PC

F4 (guidance)

I’m going to teach that “performing monkey” a lesson. 

See WCC 

villain

rage

F3

Let’s throw eggs during the presentation.  

Notice value

hero

anticipation

F2

I heard your plan and will make sure the authorities know to search everyone. 

Be willing

flow

ignorance

F1

I am going to trust you to register your grievances appropriately if you wish to be heard. 

Generate goodness

 

Self-Righteous  

Role

Direction

Focus

Statements

hero

 

F1

(media)

I will ban all self-righteous comments from my news outlet. 

villain

proof

F3

I will hack your server and publish your banned content. 

flow

apathy

F4

I will write jokes and make comics about robot commenters.

victim

boredom

F2

I will make comments about how boring it is to be on a news outlet that requires sensitivity and niceties.



In Fantasy-Land  

Role

Direction

Focus

Statements

hero

 

F1 (domination)

Son I’m going to ground you because that’s the only way to get you to obey my rules about who to hang out with.

villain

chaos

F4

The only option you’ve given me is to burn the house down.

victim

neglect

F2

As your friend, I can’t stand the shame, so I’m pulling away from the situation. 

hero

uncertainty

F3

Actually, I’m not sure I’m going to burn down the house. So maybe I’ll be able to be in touch. 

 

Hot-headed  

Role

Direction

Focus

Statements

villain

 

F4 (promises)

I promise to destroy the world to dust.

villain

justification

F3

You are completely justified in doing that.

victim

isolation

F2

I accept your plan because I’m already miserably alone.

flow

laziness

F1

I’m pretty sure you’re not capable of that so don’t waste your time trying.



Know-It-All  

Role

Direction

Focus

Statements

victim

 

F2 (possessive ownership)

I am limiting access to my extensive library.

villain

sorrow

F4

You’ll be sorry.  I will dis-organize the books and even tear out pages from some before you can save them. 

hero

duty

F3

People need to see what’s in that library in order to wage a proper modern war. I will make a law so you will be a criminal if you limit access. 

flow

ignorance

F1

If you prefer to keep it private, fine. However, make public a list of everyone who enters.



Worry-wort  

Role

Direction

Focus

Statements

hero

 

F1 (devotion)

I created a character in my children’s show who is an adorable worry-wort.  

hero

denial

F4

I won’t let my child watch it because it would probably make her worry needlessly. 

villain

chaos

F2

I will mock my child when she acts like that, calling her that character’s name in a derogatory way. 

victim

chaos

F3

I will do role plays with stuffed animals and pretend to be that character to show my child how to respond with miserable fear to threats. 

 

Wanna-be  

Role

Direction

Focus

Statements

villain

 

F4 (disciplined activity)

I’m going to the gym every day to workout so I can be a top mobster one day. 

villain

proof

F3

I’ll send a hitman to injure you to prove you’re nothing.

hero

awe

F1

I know a guru who will save you from harm by teaching you inner knowing. 

flow

consistency

F2

If you are reliable, I’ll hire you for honest work if you take an ethical oath.  

 

Untouchable  

Role

Direction

Focus

Statements

flow

 

F2 (approval)

My immunity is compromised.  You must do a washing procedure supervised by my nurse before you can visit. 

flow

justification

F4

I will help out by keeping the entryway and bathroom need and orderly.  That way it won’t be as much of a hassle to get through. 

victim

denial

F3

But father, I can’t possibly meet those standards no matter how hard I try, so I will not visit. 

   

F1

Intentionally omitted



Tough Cookies 

Role

Direction

Focus

Statements

villain

 

F4 (guidance)

I just bought a bark shock collar because my dog doesn’t stop barking from 2-4 am. 

victim

dualism

F3

I (dog) am going to get back at him by pissing in the house. 

villain

uncertainty

F1

I (dog) don’t know if my owner will understand me.  I’m seething with rage, pissing on the floor, but I can’t bark anymore.  How will he know why I’m mad?

villain

ignorance

F2

I (the neighbor) don’t know or care what you’re doing with your dog but keep doing it.  I’m sleeping better than I have in weeks.



s2Member®