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  Mechanic #219 - Madness in the Museum
Posted: Jun 22, 2016

A multiplayer hidden-role game where players attempt to stop a thief (or group of thieves) from stealing a painting.

  Madness in the Museum

This is a "hidden betrayer" type multiplayer game, inspired by the party game "Werewolf". The basic premise of "Werewolf" is that a bunch of players are working together to discover a betrayer in their midsts, while the betrayer is trying to get the angry mob to blame someone else in his stead. Helping the betrayer is the fact that nobody has perfect information about the game state. Most players have only one or two pieces of pertinent information, which they must work together to use. Of course, a good betrayer may lie and use this trust to introduce false evidence to frame someone else.



Fig 219.1 - A Museum.

This game idea, however, only uses some of that. Instead of being about an angry mob deciding who to lynch, this one is about a museum heist. Basically, everybody playing is (supposedly) working together to protect a museum filled with valuable paintings, sculptures, and other artifacts. They have a bunch of tools at their disposal, but they have severe limitations to them that require gathering information to know when and where to use them best.

Meanwhile, a group of art thieves have infiltrated the museum, posing as security guards. These are the betrayers, and depending on how many players are playing, one or more may be randomly (and secretly) chosen at the start of the round. The thieves have information that the guards don't have, such as their target and who exactly are thieves, while the guards have a large area to protect without knowing where or who to focus their attention on.

  Tools of the Guards

The museum is large and has many rooms, while there are only a few guards to protect all of them. To do this, they have several abilities they can use to sniff out hidden thieves.

First, and foremost, is the ability to mark NPCs (or players) who are doing something they aren't supposed to do. Every location in the museum, including the storage and back rooms, has rules for what kind of NPC/Player can be there, and what actions they are allowed to do (sort of like the excellent Hitman series of games). For instance, a security guard can not be in a room with a second security guard for longer than 30 seconds (it makes the patrons uneasy), museum patrons can not be found in the off limits storage areas or be seen carrying guns, and janitors can wander anywhere, but they can't be seen carrying anything except a mop or trashcan.



Fig 219.2 - Marked

If a security guard (player) is in a room where a person is somewhere they aren't supposed to be, or doing something they aren't supposed to do, that person is marked. Once a person is marked, a security guard can search them and they will be stopped automatically at security checkpoints and searched by the NPC guards that man it. The way searching works is that the security guard will say "hey stop", the person will stop, and the guard walks up to them and searches them.



Fig 219.3 - Security Camera

In addition to marking persons when they are seen in person, there is also a security center from which a single guard can flip through the security cameras and what they see. In these cases, the guard can see everything in a single room (even if there is already a security guard in it), and a little security camera icon will appear in the bottom corner for any players in that room (alerting them that they are being watched). The security feed can only watch one camera at a time, and it takes several seconds to flip between cameras. It's less time than walking between the rooms as a security guard, but it is slow enough and limited enough that it doesn't make it impossible for the thieves to move around and do their thing.

Finally, there are various security devices around the museum which can be used to prevent the thieves from having too easy a time. Metal detector security stations cover the main exits, doors are locked that only janitors can unlock, alarms are attached to more expensive exhibits, and wandering NPCs may start panicking if they see a guard or somebody misbehaving, alerting others to misdeeds.

  Tools of the Thieves

At the beginning of a round, one or more thieves are randomly selected amongst the players and they are given a shopping list of five works of art that they can steal, each one more expensive and difficult to steal than the last. Getting any one of these out of the museum would result in a thief win, but the better the prize, the greater the win. More importantly, it prevents the guards from fixating on a single work of art. If one guard just will not leave the room of artwork A, the thief can change plans and make an attempt on artwork B instead.

The thieves themselves have tools they can use to conceal, obfuscate, or frame their actions so as to not get caught. The primary one being that they can pose as guards, meaning they can walk around the museum anywhere guards can, not get searched at security checkpoints, mark innocent NPCs to draw away suspicions, and even hog the security center so nobody else can use the cameras. But guards aren't the only persons they can act as.



Fig 219.4 - Quick Change In a Bathroom

At any of the bathrooms, a thief can change his identity into one of the other person-types available (patron, janitor, guard, possibly others). If the thief is marked, this loses his mark. There are also no security cameras in the bathrooms, so they won't be seen. To become a janitor, however, the thief must first locate a janitor's outfit somewhere - possibly in a locker or hanging on furniture in storage.

Thieves can also sabotage the various devices the guards have access to, such as destroying security cameras, picking locks, using firecrackers to panic NPCs from a different room, disabling alarms, and even turning off the power to the entire museum.

Once the thieves have managed to get a priceless work of art, they must also get it out of the museum. For paintings, they can roll them up and hide them in their clothes (which can be found during searches), but sculptures are a little bit more difficult. Remember the janitors who walk around with trash cans? Or they can stash them somewhere else in the building (in a locker?), start a distraction, and then grab it on their way out while the guards are busy.


The end result is that thieves have a lot of mobility and more information than the guards. The guards don't know who the thieves are and can't even trust each other, and they must spread their force over a large area. To add to it, there could be additional wrinkles thrown into the mix that could help or hurt either team, like a security chief role which can never be played by a thief, specialized NPCs the thieves could pose as (mechanic to fix the security cameras? Art collector gets VIP treatment by museum, distracting guards? Art restoration team who can move paintings around at will?).




Click for Prototype Note.

The original idea here, which I've changed substantially from the prototype, was that the betrayer role wasn't a thief, but a murderer, who needed to manipulate security guards in order to assassinate a particular target. I felt that this was a little too much like Hitman and wanted something a bit more systematic that required the betrayer to accomplish multiple objectives (it's not enough to take a painting, you have to escape with it).

The one idea I did like that I didn't use was that the murderer would be color blind, making it difficult for them to figure out which NPC was their target and giving clues to the guards when they couldn't follow color-based rules (men's room have a green door, women's room have a red door).



Copyright 2007-2014 Sean Howard. All rights reserved.