Winter (for One): Draft

January 7, 2011

Well, that nap lasted a little longer than I expected… 😉

Below, you will find the lightly-playtested version of Winter, written for one player. Any and all comments would be greatly appreciated!

Winter for One

It is winter. You are in the trenches. Who cares about winning and losing – are you going to survive?


To play, you will need: a pen, pencil, piece of charcoal, or other writing implement. A notebook. One twelve-sided die. A place to play – ideally somewhere cold, lonely, and not particularly clean.

Once you are properly settled with the necessary accoutrements, proceed to Characters.


To make a character, simply write this across the top of the first page of your notebook

Health: 10 Hope: 10 [ ] [ ] [ ] Day Zero

These are the starting scores for every fresh soldier in the trenches – from seasoned veterans to fresh-faced recruits. Those three boxes represent rations – more on those, later. For now, choose one of these three sentences and write it in your notebook:

  • I never wanted to be a soldier.
  • The wintertime has a certain beauty here.
  • I can’t believe I volunteered for this.

This is the beginning of your first journal entry. To complete this first journal entry, do the following:

– Take a moment to describe your character’s current state of mind – feel free to borrow from your own thoughts, or wholly create the mindset of your fictional soldier.

– Then, describe your post: the trench, the hole where you sleep, any aspect that leaps clearly into your mind’s eye.

– Be sure to include at least one strong point and at least one weak point in your description.

– Also, don’t neglect to mention how long you expect to be stationed here.

Once you have set the scene for yourself properly, proceed to Starting Play.

Starting Play

To begin playing Winter, take a moment to properly situate yourself. Sit quietly and watch your surroundings – remember, you are playing a soldier on the front lines. When the mood strikes you, begin describing an action, or speaking, or, well, anything. I often begin play by singing quietly to myself.

This is a very free-form exercise. You are evoking for yourself a moment of life in the trenches – trying to picture what it’s like standing guard duty day-in and day-out all by yourself, without another soul in sight. Let it go on for as long as interests you. When you stop feeling engaged by the moment, sit back, and proceed to Scenes.


A game of Winter consists of an interminable number of days in the trench before you are relieved. Each day is made up of one or more scenes – you decide how many. These scenes can be played out over the course of one session or many sessions – again, it is entirely your choice.

A scene is just a moment that has an impact on play, they can be as long or as short as is necessary to achieve the desired result.

Scenes can be any of four different types of scene: Camaraderie, Survival, Violence, and Volunteering. Each scene is described in detail below. Your first scene is a special, introductory scene, and it is always a Camaraderie scene.

Camaraderie scenes are moments in which you share a fleeting emotional warmth. This could be:

  • A game of cards with a fellow soldier
  • Sharing a meal with a stray dog
  • Singing a song with your comrades while shoring up the trench

Camaraderie helps to keep one hopeful and sane. Note that, while you can play a camaraderie scene by yourself, you’re probably talking to a dead body, or to yourself.

Camaraderie scenes can be followed by any other type of scene.

Survival scenes are the moments where you are pushed to the limits of your physical endurance. They might be:

  • starting a fire with no wood
  • enlarging a foxhole to stay out of the wind
  • finding food when your rations have run out

Survival scenes are more complicated than Camaraderie scenes. In Survival scenes, you are struggling against the forces of nature, there is great uncertainty. To signify this, before you describe the events of a Survival scene, roll your twelve-sided die. On a 1-5, your attempts to improve your conditions are a failure – you have no fire, your foxhole collapses, you find no food. Play out the desperation and despair of failure. On a 6-9, you have a gruesome choice to make. You can build a fire, but you have to strip a dead body for kindling. The only food you seem able to find are a few dead rats. You enlarge the foxhole, only to expose the bones of someone long dead – will you still sleep there? A 10 or above means you’ve found what you were looking for.

Rations are important to Survival scenes. At any point – including after you’ve rolled – you may opt to eat your rations instead. This counts as an automatic 10+ result.

Survival scenes can be followed by any other type of scene.

Volunteering is the most specific kind of scene. In a Volunteering scene, an officer comes down the line and asks for volunteers for a special mission. Missions might be:

  • acting as a stretcher-bearer for the hospital corps
  • sneaking out to cut razor wire for the spring offensive
  • raiding the enemy lines

You may volunteer, if you so desire. If you do so, you learn the nature of the mission. If you don’t, you don’t. Either way, the scene ends – either you leave with the officer, or you don’t.

Volunteering scenes are always followed by violence scenes. Let me say that again: Volunteering scenes are always followed by violence scenes. If you volunteered, the violence scene represents the mission. If you did not volunteer, it is either unrelated or a reprisal from the other side.

Violence scenes are exactly what they sound like – any scene that directly features violence. For example:

  • a raid on the enemy trenches
  • a raid on our trenches
  • a mortar shell, grenade, or other explosive going off nearby

For your purposes, Violence scenes come in two varieties: regular violence scenes, and missions. Missions are a special type of violence scene that plays out when you have volunteered in the previous scene (see Volunteering). Note that you do not need to be injured in a regular violence scene – it is merely being involved in or witnessing an act of violence, bloodshed, or horror. If you volunteered, play out an appropriate violence scene, but turn to Missions for additional results – note that this does not replace the regular Violence results.

Scene Diversity

you can choose to play through scenes in whatever order you like, with however many scenes-per-day you wish (to a minimum of one). Of course, in the interest of remaining whole in mind and body, one would be inclined to play only camaraderie missions and survival missions. Lest we forget, though: War is long periods of boredom punctuated with periods of sheer terror. With that in mind, one in every five scenes must be either a violence or a volunteering scene.


There’s an old saying in the military: Never Volunteer. You volunteered. Roll on the following table and consult the appropriate entry below:

1-2 Missing, Presumed Dead.

3-5 Killed in Action.

6-8 So Cold…

9 Badly Wounded

10-11 Lightly Wounded

12 Unscathed!

Missing, Presumed Dead.

There’s nothing left for you here. Turn to “Missing/Dead” under Finishing The Game.

Killed in Action.

There’s nothing left for you here. Turn to “Missing/Dead” under Finishing The Game.

So Cold…

There’s no hope for you. You’re hurt too badly to save, and you probably know it. Lose three health. You may continue to play the game for as long as you wish, but any time that you would turn to the “Relief” section of Finishing The Game, or when you decide you’re ready to stop, turn to “Missing/Dead” instead.

Badly Wounded

You’re the luckiest soldier alive. Lose Two health, and play no more scenes today. Turn to “The Hospital” under Finishing The Game.

Lightly Wounded

Lose one health. Proceed to the next scene as per usual.


Lose no health. Proceed to the next scene as per usual.


At the end of the day, when you’ve played out all of your scenes, it’s time to write your thoughts in your journal, and do a little math. Run through the scenes you played today:


If your Hope is at 0, every time you would normally lose Hope, instead lose one Health.

Did you play a Camaraderie scene? If yes, good for you, if not, lose one hope.

Did you play a violence scene? Lose one hope.

Did you play out a survival scene with a gruesome choice? Lose one hope.


If your Hope is at 0, every time you would normally lose Health, lose one additional Health.

Did you succeed at a survival scene? If yes, good for you, if not, lose one health.

Across the top of the page, write your current Health, Hope, and three little boxes. Check one box for each day’s worth of rations you’ve used. total. Now, keeping in mind your character’s present state (that is, their health and mental well-being), write the day and number, and begin to write your thoughts and recollections from the day’s events…

When you are done, don’t forget to roll for relief. To do that, roll your twelve-sided die: if the number on the die is less than the number of the current day of your rotation, a soldier arrives the next morning to relieve you. You’re free to go.

Finishing The Game

There are three ways for Winter to end. If a character’s health drops at any point to zero, the character dies – from cold, from his wounds, from starvation, or suicide. Characters may also die on Missions (see Missions for details). When this happens, turn to the Missing/Dead section, below.

Alternatively, a character can be relieved from his post – yes, amazingly, you are not expected to hold your post indefinitely! Details about relief can be found above, in Reflection. When this happens, turn to the Relief section, below.

Finally, in some very rare circumstances, a soldier can be removed from the front prior to the end of his rotation on account of wounds received during a Mission, and be sent to a recovery hospital. If this happens, turn to the The Hospital section, below.


When your character has died, the game is nearly over. Take a minute and write (or I prefer to type out and print) a short condolence letter from your former character’s commanding officer. The letter should be addressed to your character’s mother – or wife, if he has one. If your character composed any death letters to be sent home in the event of his dying, you might also include these here. Proceed to Closing Thoughts.


When your character is relieved, the game is nearly over. Take the time to write a closing journal entry. Then proceed to Closing Thoughts.

The Hospital

If you are lucky enough to have survived your wounds and been sent to the rehabilitation hospital, the game is nearly over. Take a moment to compose a cheerful and optimistic letter – either to a sweetheart, your mother, an old friend, or maybe even a comrade-in-arms– and inform them of your lucky injury. You might even mention how pretty the nurses are – if you’re not writing to your sweetheart, that is. Then proceed to Closing Thoughts.

Closing Thoughts

Well, you did it. You played Winter. And you got a journal and (possibly) some letters out of it. I recommend that you take a little while to reflect on the events of your game, and keep the journal and letters around to read another day. For now, go make yourself a strong cup of tea.

Infoporn: This draft is EXACTLY 1900 words long (at least according to Open Office).

Edited to include an omitted rule: scene diversity.


One Response to “Winter (for One): Draft”

  1. Noam Says:

    I like it! The mechanics are simple and cover the bases when it comes to the types of things you would do. I think this game might actually have some use in as a high school history/creative writing class home project (the gameplay yielding the project itself).

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