The Play's the Thing


If Life imitates Art, where is the reality in a play performed by fictional characters?

The Play's the Thing is a modern-day live action role-playing game in which a group of five friends put on a play. While the characters and gist of each scene, as well as the play's overall plot, is set, the exact actions and words of the characters are not. It might also be surprising how much influence the relationships of the actors have on what happens on stage.

For five players; at least two male and two female. No system, no randomisers. One session, of at least two hours length (I haven't run this yet, so I am guessing).

Note: Given the nature of this game, there may occasionally be confusion between the characters that the players are roleplaying, and the characters who are the parts in the play. Hopefully this is easily resolved; I have made no special attempt to use a single set of terminology, although in the character descriptions I tend to use the words "actor" and "character" to represent the two concepts, and in the GM notes "character" and "role".

GM Information

If you have any wish to play in this game, do not read the following information. The following is a list of the characters, with links to their individual descriptions, which are to be read only by the GM and the appropriate player:

The GM Notes give all the details necessary for the GM to run the game.

Duty Bound : the Play Script Outline

Dramatis Personae


Scene 1

[Enter Monarch and Heir, in castle corridor]

Monarch informs Heir that it is time for marriage, and that Guest is the best spouse. Marriage to Guest will cement an alliance with Guest's home kingdom. Heir reluctantly agrees to the marriage.

[Exit Monarch]

Heir soliliquises about unrequited love for Noble, and that one must harden one's heart and do one's duty, not noticing the arrival of the Servant part way through, who waits for a pause before informing the Heir that he is awaited for by the Monarch and the Guest.

[Exeunt Heir and Servant separately]

Scene 2

[Enter Guest and Sibling into Grand Hall, approaching Monarch]

Monarch greets and welcomes Guest and Sibling. Guest enthuses over coming marriage.

[Enter Heir]

Heir greets Guest and Sibling, is reserved but polite to Guest.

[Exit Guest and Monarch]

Sibling queries Heir about feelings, makes sure that the Heir will treat Guest properly and well, even if Guest's love is not reciprocated.

[Exit Heir and Sibling separately]

Scene 4

[Enter Noble and Servant, in castle corridor]

Noble laments Heir's betrothal, and asks Servant to bid Heir farewell, as Noble is leaving to take up vows. Servant tells Noble of Heir's love and persuades Noble to declare love for Heir. Noble sends Servant to invite Heir to Noble's quarters.

[Exit Noble and Servant separately]

Scene 5

[Enter Jester and Heir, in courtyard]

Jester tries to amuse Heir, but Heir is in no such mood.

[Enter Servant]

Servant tells Heir that Noble wishes to meet with Heir to declare love. Heir does not believe and threatens Servant with death if it is not true, but Servant swears it is true.

[Exit Heir]

Jester asks Servant what is going on, but Servant is rude and unhelpful.

[Exit Jester]

Servant soliloquises, revealing dislike of Heir and desire to cause mischief. Servant leaves to speak to one who would be interested in the Heir's assignation.

[Exit Servant]


Scene 1

[Enter Heir to meet Noble, in Noble's quarters]

Noble declares love for Heir. Heir laments that Noble did not do so earlier, for now Heir is duty bound to marry Guest, despite loving Noble.

Scene 2

[Enter Monarch, Guest, Heir in Grand Hall]

Talk of the wedding that is about to take place - Monarch happy, Guest excited, Heir trying not to be down about it. Guest wonders where Sibling is. At that moment:

[Enter Sibling]

Sibling is in a rage, accuses Heir of loving Noble and carrying on an affair, accuses Heir of betraying Sibling's trust and friendship by treating Guest so badly. Demands immediate satisfaction; draws sword and fights throughout the preceding. Heir draws own sword and defends, both with blade and words, denying the accusation. Heir is forced to admit that Noble loves Heir, and vice-versa. Sibling takes this as final proof and continues the assault. Wounds Heir, but Heir is forced to kill Sibling.

Guest and Monarch both try to stop the fight. Guest is concerned about either or both of them getting hurt; Monarch is angry at Heir, and calls Guard. When Sibling is killed, Guest is grief-stricken and has no sympathy for Heir, and calls the wedding off. Monarch tries to soothe Guest.

[Enter Guard]

Monarch orders Guard to remove Heir. Heir goes quietly.

[Exit Guard and Heir]

Guest orders the Monarch to prepare Sibling's body for transportation home with Guest, as soon as possible.

[Exit Monarch and Guest separately]

Scene 3

[Enter Magician and Monarch, in Grand Hall]

Monarch explains to Magician that as long as Noble is alive, Guest will not consider marrying Heir, and Heir will be reluctant to marry Guest. Monarch asks Magician to take care of matters so that Noble dies from seemingly natural causes. Magician agrees and will summon a demon to put Noble in a death-trance, allowing her to die (messily and obviously unnaturally) after Heir has married Guest.

[Exit Magician. Enter Servant and Heir]

Monarch explains that Guest is, despite Heir's outrageous and inexcusable behaviour, prepared to go ahead with the marriage if Heir shows the suitable dedication by travelling to Guest's home and proposing to Guest. Servant is to accompany Heir.

[Exit Monarch, and Servant and Heir together]


Scene 1

[Enter Heir, in castle corridor]

Soliloquises, relating how Guest rejected advances at first, but then agreed to marry. When pressed, Guest had admitted that the change was because Servant had told Guest that Noble was dead. Heir confronted Servant, who said that Noble had died naturally, and that though it was unfortunate, why should they not capitalise on this fact? Heir killed Servant in a fit of rage and immediately returned home.

[Enter Jester]

Jester is delighted to see Heir, and when Heir asks about Noble, replies (in oblique, confusing fashion as always) that Noble did not die naturally, but because of the spell of Magician. Before Jester can finish, Heir draws sword and leaves to kill Magician.

[Exit Heir in rage]

Jester laments (in less confusing language, since alone) that there is more to tell, and hurries after Heir.

[Exit Jester]

Scene 2

Enter Heir in Magician's lab, where Magician is practicing magic]

Heir confronts Magician. Magician pleads for life, but Heir believes that the spell will end when Magician dies, despite what Magician says. Heir kills Magician.

[Enter Jester as Magician dies]

Jester explains that Noble is alive, for the spell only made Noble seem dead, but that the Demon is now loose and will want payment for its summoning. Heir groans in despair and laments his unfortunate actions.

[Exit Heir hastily]

Scene 3

[Enter Heir. Noble lying on floor, slowly waking up]

Heir again professes love for Noble, promising never to leave Noble again. Noble likewise.

[Enter Demon]

Heir bargains with Demon, offering own life in return for Noble's. Demon drags Heir to Hell. Noble commits suicide, overwhelmed by grief.

[Enter Monarch]

Monarch laments the destruction of family and plans and the consequences of having too dutiful a child.


The Play's the Thing
Document created: 16 January 1999
Last updated: 26 February 1999