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52 Pick Up: Reshuffled. A New Game each, err... month or so

President of the Galaxy

by Jason Morningstar, selected by Chris Czerniak
September 5, 2001
Six of hearts  

"President of the Galaxy" arose from the confluence of two lurid streams of pop culture: American-style presidential debates (which are neither) and too many late nights curled up with '30's space opera paperbacks. What emerged is a sort of twisted party game that is half improvisation, half parody, and another half cutthroat competition. I hope you enjoy it!


This is a game for four players. Each player will assume the role of both a Candidate for President of the Galaxy and a Moderator of the debates between other candidates. The goal is to obtain the most points through skillful debating and clever use of tricks. A typical game lasts less than 20 minutes.


Randomly assign each player a number, 1 through 4, and give them 9 tokens or coins. Have a list of questions and a pencil handy. You'll also need four small cans or cups labeled 1-4 (or more pencil and paper), along with a stopwatch or egg timer. If you play with really competitive people, have something to represent tricks on hand (rubber dinosaurs, playing cards, whatever). Give each player two to discard as they use them.

Arrange the space so that there are two uncomfortable chairs (or better yet, two podiums) facing two comfortable chairs across a room. The plush seating is for the Moderators; if you have spectators, put them behind the Moderators chairs.


Each Candidate will debate every other Candidate. Thus, 6 rounds:

1 debates 2
2 debates 3
3 debates 4
4 debates 1
1 debates 3
2 debates 4

When not called on to debate as a Candidate, a player acts as co-Moderator.

Each Candidate must answer one question each round, and each Moderator must ask one question. The order of questioner and player who answers isn't important; if there is any friction, low number goes first. The second Moderator may choose to ask a new question, or have the second Candidate answer the same question posed by the first Moderator (and already answered by his or her opponent) if appropriate.


One Moderator must keep track of time - this should be the one who isn't asking the question at the moment. When you are a Moderator, you will want to pose difficult questions to sabotage potential rivals and easy ones to prop up straw men. When asked a question, a Candidate has one minute to reply. If they go over, the Moderator should ruthlessly cut them off.

Never give any points to a Candidate who won't shut up promptly. Don't reward lunkheads who smear their opponents outright. *Do* give points to Candidates who are creative and fun, who actually address the issue, and who are skillful in their manipulation of the question - even if you don't really like them, or it means they will win. Give credit where it is due!

It is fun for the two Moderators to loudly sum up the previous debate between themselves, noting character flaws and fumbles, before spending their points. They can even try to persuade one another to vote a certain way...


As a Candidate, you have 60 seconds to sway the Moderators to your side on whatever issue has been raised. If you feel you can do this, jump right in and start making stuff up - you can't possibly prepare for a debate like this. Be theatrical and pull on their heartstrings with your homespun patriotism, verbal acumen, jingoistic fables, whatever. If the question is a tough one, or the game is close, you might want to play a Trick.

Don't just claim your opponent is a liar - you're a galactic Candidate, and that sort of mud-slinging looks terrible. Find subtle ways to imply bad things. Innuendo is your friend! The important thing to remember is that you want to entertain and edify your Moderators, who you will also face in debates at some point. Have fun, improvise wildly, and be sneaky but not mean.


Each candidate gets to use two Tricks during the game. Two of the same Trick can be used, or any two different Tricks. They can be played during the same debate or different ones. Once they are gone, they are gone!

Pass: Force your opponent to answer the current question as though it were initially directed at them. "Thanks for that excellent question, Moderator. But I'm afraid you've got your facts mixed up. It was actually my esteemed comrade here who was found nude and intoxicated in the Imperial Red Fleet disciplinary barracks." Note that this means your opponent will be answering all the questions for that round of debating - which may not help you at all.

Steal: The opposite of pass. Allows you to answer a juicy question. "If I might interrupt here, it was actually *my* grandfather who discovered the Cone Approach Corrider. He was a great explorer..."

Note that this means you will be doing all the talking that round (unless your opponent also steals).

Bribe: Force either Moderator to vote for you. When you do this, you get 1 point and the Moderator you are bribing gets 1 point. They can use the third point as they please. "Moderator, I'd like you to sit on a blue-ribbon panel investigating malfeasance at each of the eighteen Imperial Pleasure Resorts scattered around the galaxy."

Balk: Demand another question. The Moderator must choose again. "Frankly, that's a personal matter. I refuse to answer on moral grounds. The people of the Galaxy don't want this race to sink that low. You can do better than that." This might alienate a Moderator, though, so be careful.


After both Candidates have spoken for the round, the Moderators allocate three tokens. They can give two to one Candidate and one to the other, or all three to one. These are placed in the numbered cans or cups without fanfare, and counted at the end of the last round of debates. The new President of the Galaxy is the player with the highest point total! Next time you play, they have to bring the chips. In the event of a tie, have a final debate for all the marbles, with each moderator again allocating 3 points. If this is also a tie, you have new co-presidents and double the chips next time.


What approach will your administration take on the issue of Tornado Nebula independence? How far are you willing to go to preserve the integrity of the galaxy?

Suppose your spouse was on a pleasure cruise through the Palateir Circuit and a gang of trash storm pirates kidnapped him or her and demanded a ransom. What would you do, and why?

Some critics call the Cloudshark-class orbital defense vehicle a galaxy-sized boondoggle and waste of the taxpayer's money. What priority will the Cloudshark program have in your administration, and how do you justify the expense in the face of crumbling third-tier homeworlds and an aging galactic fleet?

Have you ever tried Resonant Praise Singing, even once? What are your feelings about Resonant Praise Singing today? Do you feel that you are a credible anti-Resonant Praise Singing spokesperson, should you be elected?

The Yukaghir Star Empire has been a constant threat since the cease-fire following the Second Flower War. What will your administration do to ease border tensions and bring the Yukaghir to the negotiating table for a lasting peace?

Growing up on a Tensegrity Sphere must have been a unique experience. What is one event from your childhood that you see as indicative of your character and ability to govern?

Vidstar and all-galaxy postergirl Cadmium Biollante has endorsed your candidacy, which sent shivers of revulsion through the community that has traditionally supported you. How do you feel about Miss Biollante's endorsement, and as a follow-up, what did you think of her in "Slave Girls of Jagonath II?"

As you know, our current president has made some controversial decisions related to her administration. If elected, will you move the presidential palace from its current home on Zond Floating Pleasure Island? If so, can the taxpayers expect to pick up the tab?

As Governor-General of Trevinor, you received a Yukaghir diplomatic delegation and even toured a Yukaghir Plattership in orbit over your planet. Since we are still technically still at war with the Yukaghir, your actions were technically treasonous. How do you explain yourself?

Many people were surprised when you picked vidstar and all-galaxy posterboy Bantam Whaley to be your running mate. How do you defend your decision, especially given the sharp attacks on Mr. Whaley's lifestyle and checkered past?

At one point in your life, you were a Top 100 thermopod racer with legions of fans and corporate sponsorship courtesy of Fobolex, Incorporated. Do you worry that your close ties to the Fobolex Corporation could influence tough policy decisions regarding thermopod regulation?

I think it is time you told the galaxy about "Uncle Jimmy", candidate.

Several intermediate time-cycles ago a series of holo-pictures circulated showing you in various athletic and compromising positions with an artificially intelligent love-bot named "Kim". I think the galaxy would be interested in your side of the story.

As potential commander-in-chief, how do you feel about the state of readiness of the galactic armed forces, specifically in light of the recent criticisms leveled by Colonel Eileen Chow?

You said in an interview recently that you attribute your good health to a heaping plate of organic, non-hydroponic vegetables every day. How do you explain that guilty pleasure to the starving children on New Bangalore and Riktronabu-7?

Your campaign has portrayed you as a hero of the Supercrack Ridge disaster, but isn't it true that you were really just an entry-level tensegrity specialist? And isn't it true that you had to be evacuated with a "hurt foot"? I have the medical reports right here.

You've pledged to balance the galactic budget, but you've also pledged to beef up the armed forces and provide Three-Way Radiant Education to every eligible citizen. Are these empty promises, or is something going to give?

What were your thoughts after being marooned in space during the Third Battle of Jorca-10?

Will you repeal the widely-unpopular Fire Moon Resident Alien Surcharge, or will you bow to the interests of the fat cats who run that sector - fat cats who happen to be fellow members of the Legion of Doom Society from your days at Jagonath University?

During your tenure as Senator from the Tornado Nebula, you voted against emergency food aid for Tensegrity Sphere 223 after it was hit by a comet. I believe you exact words were, "let them chew the teflon off their superstructure." I know you have been a longtime opponent of the

Tensegrity Sphere program, but at what point do humanitarian needs outweigh political ones?

Your mother is an ex-President of the Galaxy. What do you think you've learned from her experience, and what role does she play in your campaign?

Prominent activists within the Tornado Nebula have intimated that your election as President of the Galaxy would signal the beginning of their revolution. What steps would you take to soothe fears of a crackdown and to calm the Tornado Nebula dissidents?

When you voted "NO" on referendum 1312.16, the Emergency Appropriation Measure, did you and your cronies in the galactic Senate specifically intend to cripple the Tornado nebula military infrastructure?

What is your relationship with Lily Consoutle-Mathis and Hound Dog Support Services?

Cardinal Jeanetta Buntzen, speaking on behalf of the entire Church of the Merciful Hammer, has called you, and I quote, "The Whore of Babylon" and "Lapdog of the Antichrist." How do you respond to the Cardinal, and what can you say to Mercy Hammer voters to ease their minds?

You have pledged to clean up the Cone Approach Corridor but have not outlined any specific policy initiatives to do so. How about a few?

Of course, "President of the Galaxy" will really take on a life of its own when you begin to craft your own questions (the examples supplied won't last long). If you think about the alternately vicious and pedantic questions posed in presidential debates and hang a few quirky science fiction elements on them, you can't go far wrong. Build on the whacked-out future history supplied in the sample questions, or strike out on your own. Ask every player to whip up a dozen or so before you play and then let the Moderators sift through them.

Have fun, and let me know what you think. TQo0~^DҒt< ek&Ǿ$\۵ZFȃuwݝIŃU QYir2HR2.u3MFoعq]4#A`pP5(b& )b)ⰾp7(i<[-2gL#5[f g?*rVGf8*)s'+20ϟ̑F}KB<7wSL\gbvm9WiRބYŜvd y0'p2I_Fc2>#o A )VL[Qk?3`)<У[(*W.JH ?tXCt谙 X:@ \0w ~LqĤE-rFkYœj4q 5AQ6[AxG [>w|?( fХθY䝛$c=_qNĦoǸ>O_|&/_Mi7"宥CЧk0dӷLh;TmuCGU-!Ul{ h<\bQX.~"O2*yPcz!ŠGg

What do you think?

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Reshuffled: 52 Pick Up, edited by Chris Czerniak

52 Pick Up original run, by Gareth-Michael Skarka

Other columns at RPGnet

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