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Power Kill
©1996 John Tynes

POWER KILL is a roleplaying metagame. It is not a game unto itself---it is instead a layer of "game" that you add to whatever Normal Roleplaying Game (NRG) you are currently playing. POWER KILL has no particular rules system unto itself; just use the regular rules of the NRG you're playing as normal. POWER KILL only comes into play at the beginning and ending of each Regular Game Session (RGS).

POWER KILL works hand-in-hand with your favorite NRG. Whether you play Vampire: The Masquerade® or Advanced Dungeons & Dragons®, POWER KILL is there for you to use, seamlessly integrated with your usual play.

The intent of POWER KILL is to add an additional level of Fun And Excitement (FAE) to your NRG sessions. You'll play your NRG as always, but the addition of POWER KILL mini-sessions at the beginning and ending of your normal session will add a lot to your gaming experience. It'll give you all the entertainment you've always sought from RPGs, only now it's stripped down to the bare essentials with no distracting genres to get in the way. POWER KILL is a pure distillation of the roleplaying hobby---one hundred percent pure fun!

Getting Started
Each player needs to create his or her own POWER KILL Character (PKC). There are no stats, attributes, or skills to worry with---just create a name, gender, race, and background for the PKC. The setting is Earth in the modern day, just as you and I know it in real life. The PKCs should be ordinary people from all walks of life, no more bizarre than you or I.

The PKC sheet is a normal piece of paper. Write the requested information on the sheet, with the background running a couple of paragraphs or so. If the player wishes to draw a little sketch of his or her PKC, the player is welcome to do so. Once this is done, place the PKC sheet inside a folder. Write the PKC's name on the folder tab. Then, write the following on the outside of the folder:


(Since POWER KILL is a metagame, you will be playing a NRG at the same time. Preferably, you should already have an existing character in that game. If not, make one up now.)

Take your character sheet from the NRG you'll be playing alongside of POWER KILL. Write the following at the top of the sheet:


Place this character sheet in the folder with the PKC.

Now you're ready to play!

Opening Phase
You 'play' POWER KILL in brief sessions at the beginning and ending of your RGS. It's very simple to do. Here's how it works.

Before the RGS begins, the gamemaster---known as the Counselor in POWER KILL---addresses each player in turn and asks a series of questions. The player responds in character. Not as the PKC, but as the character played in the NRG to be played in that particular RGS. The questions that the Counselor asks are as follows:

1) How many times a month do you find yourself in genuinely life-threatening situations?

2) How many people have you killed in your life (approximately)?

3) Do you believe that there are times at which you must take the law into your own hands and dispense justice as you see fit?

4) Have you "dispensed justice as you see fit" in the last thirty days?

5) Have you ever taken personal possessions from a corpse?

6) Do you believe that you are, at times, persecuted or threatened because of your physiology? (e.g. because you are an elf, dwarf, halfling, drow, alien, vampire, ghost, werewolf, wizard, or faerie?)

7) Can you perform physical or mental feats that the average human being is utterly incapable of?

8) Do you believe that the acquisition of sufficient material possessions or the slaughter of living, sentient beings can suddenly and dramatically change you, physically or psychologically?

9) On a scale of 1 to 9, please rate your general feelings towards beings racially, ideologically, or physiologically different from you; 1 means fear, 5 means tolerance, 9 means hatred.

10) Are you proficient with any weapons or melee fighting styles? Which ones?

The Counselor should note each player's responses to this set of questions on a separate sheet of paper. Write the name of the player's PKC and normal roleplaying character at the top of the sheet along with the date, and put the sheet into the player's folder. Once this question-answer-record phase has been completed for each player, the initial POWER KILL session is complete and play of the NRG may commence. Note that the characters in the NRG will have no recollection or awareness of the question & answer process they just went through.

Play your favorite NRG as normal. Once the sessions is completed, the second phase of POWER KILL begins.

Closing Phase
In this phase, the player takes the role of the PKC rather than the character from the NRG. All of the PKCs are assumed to be gathered together in a single room, with the Counselor present. It is suggested that a five-minute break be taken between the end of the RGS and the beginning of the closing-phase POWER KILL session, to allow the Counselor time to prepare for the aforementioned closing phase.

When the closing phase begins, the Counselor thanks the PKCs for being there. Then, the Counselor explains why they are all together in this room: the PKCs have committed a number of crimes, and owing to their apparent delusional state, the PKCs have been remanded to the care of the state mental health care system.

The Counselor then states the nature of the crimes committed. This is the single most challenging part of POWER KILL, and demands substantial skill as a Counselor. The Counselor needs to mentally review the events of the just-completed game session and then "move" the events of the session into a real-world context. It is this process that produces the list of crimes committed by the PKCs. For example:

In the game session, the characters entered an underground complex. Moving methodically from room to room, they slaughtered the monstrous inhabitants and took their treasure.

In the real world, the PKCs entered a low-rent tenement building inhabited primarily by ethnic minorities and/or individuals living below the poverty line. Moving methodically from room to room, the PKCs murdered the residents and took readily-portable valuables such as cash, illegal drugs, and jewelry.


In the game session, the characters were secretive vampires confronted by a rival clan in a nightclub. A period of heated discussion ensued, followed by a sudden outbreak of violence in which the characters killed the rival clan.

In the real world, the PKCs entered a nightclub. A number of random club-goers were hassled, and provoked via argumentative behavior into an altercation. The PKCs, being prepared for the use of deadly force, subsequently killed the chosen club-goers.


In the game session, the characters were a loose band of cultist-hunters who believed that their evil, demon-summoning quarry were holed up within a large manor house. Breaking into the house, the cultist-hunter characters caught the cultists unawares and killed them before they could commit further atrocities.

In the real world, the PKCs broke into a residential household and murdered the family within. Alternately, the PKCs broke into a small collegiate dormitory and murdered the residents.

When this summary is completed, the Counselor once again asks the standard set of POWER KILL questions listed earlier. Responses are again recorded and placed within each POWER KILL player's folder.

Analysis Phase
Once a month, the Counselor should analyze the two sets of questionaires contained in the files of the POWER KILL players. First, a test for reliability must be made. Compare all of the Opening Phase questionaires; they should be virtually identical, accepting established variance for situation-specific questions such as #2, #4, and #5. If the tests are not nearly identical (given acceptable variance), compare the tests closely to determine if, in some tests, it is the PKC who is answering the questions. This is a good sign, as it suggests that the schizophrenic beliefs of the PKC are subsiding and that a stronger grasp on reality is being gained. Should this be the case, the Counselor should examine his or her notes to see what variables might have influenced the PKC in the direction of a healthy mental state. It may be that the events of the previous RGS were such as to prod the PKC in such a direction, or it may be due to random environmental factors. In any case, this direction from character in a NRG to PKC should be encouraged.

The goal, of course, is for the PKC to stop identifying with the schizophrenic psychosis emblematic of the "other character" persona and learn to accept reality. As this becomes the case, the answers to the before-and-after standardized tests will grow closer and closer together: the PKC's normal reality will become the dominant view, and the character in the NRG will fade into unreality.

At some point, it is desirable for the player to abandon the PKC entirely; this is the ultimate goal of the POWER KILL gaming process. Once the character in the NRG has been reconciled with the PKC's view of our real-world reality, the challenge yet remains for the player to abandon the PKC persona and accept his or her own literal existence. This, of course, cannot be done with any NRG on the market---at that point in the therapy, purchase and play of the boardgame The Game of Life® will be necessary.

If the PKC refuses to refute the character in the NRG, continued therapy is required. If the PKC refutes the NRG character, but the player does not refute the PKC, continued therapy is recommended but not required---odds are good that the player will have abandoned the sort of violent, cathartic, socially irresponsible sense of justice that characterizes the vast majority of NRG characters.

The actions taken by characters in NRGs would almost always be completely unacceptable in the real world; it is only the shoddy trappings of genre conventions that allow RPG players to consider their stories "heroic" or "dramatic." Stripped bare of themes and story arcs, RPG sessions consist of endless variations on the life of a criminal.

No roleplaying game currently in print encourages players to act out roles that are fully in accordance with the laws and customs of society, either those of the real world or of the fictional world that the RPG is set in. Murder, theft, extortion, burglary, and other serious crimes are the bread and butter of RPG storytelling; regardless of a game's higher purpose, it still amounts to story after story that consist of nothing significant other than gross criminal behavior covered in a glossy coat of genre acceptability.

Whether your character is a vampire, medieval hero, occult investigator, cybergear netsurfer, or starship pilot, few game sessions will pass without the players taking actions that would be considered a crime in our world---and probably a crime in the world of the game. Roleplaying game storytelling has used the crutch of crime fantasies since the beginning, and there is no end in sight. Layers of drama and symbolism aside, is there not something wrong with a storytelling hobby that glorifies criminal behavior as the primary protagonistic component? What is the true source of our enjoyment of this hobyy? Is it the portrayal of an alternate personality? Is it the exploration of a given set of genre conventions? Or is it the illicit thrill of engaging in criminal behavior, sanctified with a safe trapping? What is the source of our FAE anyway, and why?

POWER KILL is meant to suggest a few answers. Or at least, to ask a few questions.

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