The People’s Revolution needs you, comrades!
The People’s Revolutionary Committee is a large-scale sort-of-game, almost a larp, where everybody is gripped by a collective madness and spends a frantic session creating a new culture for the world of games, mostly by eradicating the old one. I created it almost twenty years ago, and have run it at games events and conventions around the world. It’s These rules describe how to run it: they’ve been on my hard-drive for more than a decade waiting for me to do something with them, and I finally realised that the right something is to release them onto the net.
The PRC isn’t exclusive to games events, obviously. It can be run at any kind of large gathering, but it tends to go better with people who know each other or who work in the same industry, and who have a playful spirit, so games is a natural home for it. The hands-down best session I ever ran was an industry-only gathering on the Saturday night of a Gen Con in the late 90s, when everybody was exhausted and full of piss and bile after a hard day on the show floor. It went on for hours, hundreds of people died in horrible ways (offstage there was a pit filled with grotesquely defiled corpses and, for some reason, badgers), and it remains one of the most cathartic and hilarious experiences of my life.
Anyway, comrades, here’s the rules for the People’s Revolutionary Committee, a sort-of game of public speaking, catharsis, and and making a better world by shooting people.
The People’s Revolutionary Committee
A convention event created by James Wallis
The Revolution has come, comrades! The old marching-order has been swept away by the owlbears of change, the lickspittle character-class traitors have been captured, and a glorious new dawn waits to rise over the world of gaming. You are hereby recruited to the People’s Revolutionary Committee Gaming Sub-Committee (being people, you are eligible; being gamers you are qualified; being at a games event you are probably guilty) and it is your job to put the villains of the games world on trial for their crimes against the People, give a fair hearing to the evidence for and against them, and shoot them.
The People’s Revolutionary Committee is the Moscow Show-Trials for games, or if you prefer the McCarthy Hearings for games (‘Are you now or have you ever been a Munchkin supplement?’). It is a 60-90-minute event requiring one moderator with a watch and an audience of participants. It was designed for games conventions but can be adapted to fit other types of event without trouble, and would probably work on a web forum or mailing list too. At events it works best in the late afternoon or evening, or whenever people have built up a head of spleen and want to vent it.
The tone and vocabulary are borrowed from any fringe political gathering. The audience should understand that nothing that happens in the PRC is to be taken seriously or personally, though the moderator should never say that out loud. Stating that something is ‘just a bit of fun’ is a good way of killing it dead.
The event runs according to a strict format, and doesn’t work if that format isn’t followed. Things go as follows:
1. People gather in a place, ideally where there is booze. Critical mass is about fifteen; more than that is great. The moderator, in the persona of the People’s Judge, briefly explains what the PRC is and how it works, and says ‘Comrades!’ (or ‘My fellow Americans!’) too much.
2. The moderator calls for suggestions for the first case to be tried. Anyone on the PRC (including the moderator) can nominate any aspect of gaming to be put on trial for its crimes against the Revolution. This can be a game or product, a company, a person, an event, a trend or tendency, a publication, a group, a hashtag, and so on. Nominations should be at least vaguely connected to the subject of the convention.
2a. The moderator can reject the nomination if they think doing so is valid, justified or funny (e.g. ‘We’ve already shot them three times this evening.’) Otherwise the nomination is accepted.
2b. ‘Crimes against the Revolution’ is deliberately left nebulous, as is the nature of the Revolution itself. Things may be tried for being bad, unpopular, too popular, too successful, too expensive, over-productive, under-productive, too complex, not complex enough, too intelligent, too stupid, out of date, smug, pretentious, not knowing what ‘pretentious’ means, behaving in a reprehensible manner, or being generally objectionable. Go with it. The PRC is all about letting people get things out of their system.
3. The accuser comes to the front of the room and makes a speech no longer than two minutes explaining why their nomination is guilty of crimes against the People and the Revolution. The moderator watches the time and cuts them off if they exceed it.
4. The moderator asks if anyone wishes to defend the nomination, and picks a volunteer from the audience to do this. If the nomination is someone who is present, or that has representatives in the audience, they should be the moderator’s first choice. If there is no defendant, move straight to a vote (see 8 below) because it’s usually a sign that people aren’t interested and you need to get to the next topic fast.
5. The defendant comes to the front of the room and makes a two-minute speech in defence of the nomination.
6. If things are going well and the nomination is a contentious or controversial one, the moderator can repeat 3–5 with new accusers and defendants.
7. The moderator takes points of information and points of order from members of the audience, preferably ones who have not already spoken.
7a. A point of information is a short and pithy statement about the nomination, or possibly about the accuser or the defendant. The moderator should be careful not to let this turn into a speech for the accusation or the defence.
7b. A point of order is a procedural matter concerning the running of the meeting. Often this will be that the Committee should move straight to a vote on this matter. Others may try to have members of the meeting banned from speaking on the grounds that they are biased, have undeclared interests, or were shot earlier. The moderator should judge each of these on their merits and how they’re likely to affect the tone and pace of the meeting.
8. Once there are no more points of information or order, the moderator calls for a vote on the guilt or innocence of the nomination. This is decided on a show of hands. Try to avoid counts or recounts if you can.
8a. If the nomination is found innocent, it cannot be tried again this session.
8b. If the nomination is found guilty, it is declared to have been taken out and shot. No further action is taken against them: no ridicule, and absolutely nothing physical. Some moderators choose to ban any persons shot from speaking in the rest of the session, but that is generally considered bad form and also cuts off many potential sources of humour. Some groups choose to make up imaginative punishments for their victims; this can be very funny or deeply tedious, so be careful.
8c. Each of the cases should last around five minutes.
8d. The PRC event as a whole should be fast-moving and ruthless. You should be aiming for a kill-rate around 85–90%. Clemency is a type of tangerine, not something that has anything to do with revolutionary committees.
9. At some point the moderator will find themselves on trial. This is inevitable. Don’t sweat it. It doesn’t mean they hate you. If the moderator is found guilty of crimes against the Revolution, it’s their call whether they should stand down and let someone else take over – but any replacement should know the rules of the PRC before taking the chair.
10. Once the PRC’s allotted time is over, the moderator thanks the audience for their good work in the name of the Revolution and declares that they will meet again in a month or a year. The Committee then disbands and, if not already there, goes to the bar.
The moderator has various important jobs: to make sure that all members of the audience get a fair crack of the whip, to make sure that debates don’t drag on or become hideously one-sided, to make sure that anyone shot is not the victim of any kind of retaliation and doesn’t get upset; not to hog the limelight; and to address all speakers as ‘Comrade [name]’.
Most importantly they should never forget their main job is to make the audience laugh and have a good time. The Committee should never get bogged down in bureaucracy, to-and-fro arguments over tedious or minor points, or personal score-settling. If it does, declare them all shot for slowing down the pace of the glorious Revolution and move on to the next case.
That’s it. Have fun. Long live the People’s Revolution!