THE MATRIX GAME
This is a story telling game and you are the game host. You’ve gathered
together one to six people and are ready to play. Great! Here is how you
The rule book which includes characters, locations, and shadows.
Characters do thing. They are who the story is about.
Locations are where things happen. Place characters in locations.
Shadows are unknown things. Players define what they are during the
Components not included:
A Scene token to show where action is happening.
Two six-sided dice for when players disagree about what happens.
Miniature figures to represent characters.
A Map to show where locations are.
Blank tokens to show where shadows are.
Use at least six characters and three locations per game. Put two shadows
in each location. Other characters, locations and shadows may be added
GAME HOST RESPONSIBILITIES
Here is what you do as host.
Set up the game. Lay out characters, locations, and shadows on a table.
Pick a problem for the players to solve.
You pick one player to be the trouble maker, everyone else works for success.
Start playing immediately. Teach by doing.
Help the players come up with ideas and keep things moving.
And occasionally add in new problems to guide the story to a climax.
Above all else be a good party host and a fun game will follow.
Players do not run characters in Matrix games. Everyone works together
to make a good story. Most of the players work for success. They try to
make different character’s plans succeed. One player is the trouble maker.
They point out problems in plans and make the other players work for
success. Trouble making doesn’t mean being a jerk. Make the players work
but also work with them because that makes for the best stories.
Players may secretly pick a character they want to win but keep it secret
till the end of the game!
SO HOW DOES THIS WORK?
This is a story telling game which means players make up what happens
and then add to it. Bit by bit a story builds up. The story is about the
characters and how they solve the opening problem of the game. There is
no right way to do this so be prepared to see extreme creativity.
Here are all the rules the players need to know.
Put a scene token next to a character, location or shadow and say what happens.
Move characters and shadows as you speak.
Say what everyone does, not just what one character does.
Anyone can grab the scene token and start a new scene.
Use shadows to keep everyone guessing.
Try to connect what you say to what’s happened before.
Interrupt at any time to add to or change another player’s scene.
What you say happens unless someone asks you to roll for it.
Roll 7 or more on two six-sided dice to win.
If you win the roll, your action happens and cannot be changed.
If you fail the roll, your action does not happen but may happen in the next scene.
Keep on adding to a scene as long as you wish.
The scene ends when the scene token is moved.
Be polite, don’t hog play. Let other people speak.
So basically the players talk their way through the game. There are no
winners or losers. Everyone wins if the story is good.
EXAMPLE OF PLAY
Five players gather for a game: the Host, Ann, Bob, Cathy, and David.
The host picks a problem for the game. For this example the problem is
“Who is in charge?”
The Host hands the scene token to Ann.
Ann places the token next to a group of characters and makes up a scene.
A: The hero walks up to a potential ally and tells them what is happening.
The ally is amazed. (Ann moves the hero as she speaks).
Bob jumps in with an addition.
B: The villain overhears them and realizes the hero is lying about them.
Boy are they angry.
Cathy jumps in with a change.
C: No actually the villain is happy and the characters aren’t alone. (Cathy
moves a shadow up to the group.)
David adds to that.
D: The villain moves up and joins the conversation. (David moves the
villain and moves the shadow behind the hero). This unnerves the hero.
The Host adds to that but gets challenged and has to roll for it.
H: The hero makes an excuse and leaves. (Host moves The hero out of
the scene.) Once the hero is gone the villain tells the ally a lie that makes
the hero look bad.
Ann doesn’t like this because she is working for the success of the hero.
She tells the host to roll. The host rolls a 6 on two six-sided dice. They
need 7 or better to succeed so the action fails and will not happen in this
scene. Ann moves the hero back where they were.
Players continue adding to the scene till someone moves the scene token
and starts a new scene. There is no particular turn order, jump in when
you have an idea.
A FEW MORE POINTERS ON HOW TO PLAY
Simply put, the players talk their way through a story, making up actions
inspired by the idea of trouble or success, trying to solve problems and
make a fun tale.
The host does have a few more powers which they can trot out as needed.
Make up new problems to keep the game focused.
Outright veto any action that is socially unacceptable. Use this sparingly.
Pause the game for breaks and socializing.
Ask a player to start a new scene.
Move the scene token for them when players slide into a new scene through additions.
The scene token focuses play. Keep a close eye on it.
Ask players to make arguments to save hurt characters. They must roll 7+ to succeed.
The host is the voice of reason, keep the peace and keep things moving.
And lastly, the host is also a player. They add to scenes just like everyone else.
This is a game like few others. It may take a while to get used to.
Here are some suggestions to help players start.
Nothing happens in the game except what you say happens.
You are not one character. Say what everyone does.
You may use a shadow to make up new locations, characters, and shadows as needed.
Replace revealed shadows with new figures.
Use shadows to cover up who is doing what until you reveal it.
Make actions that change things. Solve or create problems.
When in doubt think about your role: success or trouble.
Don’t overlook peaceful solutions. They complicate the hell out of things!
Keep actions simple. Don’t try to do everything at once.
You can create tension by telling half a story, leaving it for someone else to finish.
Always remember, everyone wants the hero to win. But you might not agree on who
the hero is.
And once the opening problem is solved, the game can end.
Matrix games are fast. They usually only last a hour so you can play
several in a day. Link games together by using the same characters and
locations but giving them a new problem. Each game is a episode in a
MORE ON MOVEMENT
Players move characters and shadows as they speak but how far can they
As far as you want them to.
If a character moves away from the scene token, they move out of the
scene. Characters within a hand span of the scene may move into it. (A
hand span is the distance from the tip of the thumb to the tip of the little
finger.) Move the scene token to move people outside that circle.
DIFFERENT WAYS TO PLAY
The game is written to be played face to face, with miniatures on a map but that is
not the only way it can be done. Players may dispense with the map and miniatures
and describe where characters are. This approach works well for play by mail or on
line games. Another approach is to move the map and miniatures on line and play
on any available virtual reality platform. No matter what the medium the game
plays the same.
PROBLEMS: THE GAME HOST’S CREATION
Games are about solving a problem. The host makes up a problem and picks a cast
of characters and locations for the players to use. Problems fit the genre. In a mystery
it may be “Who committed the crime?” In a horror game it may be “What is
going on? And how do we stop it?” In a spy game it may be “Steal the plans for the
new fighter plane.” The book includes pre-written scenarios but after a few games,
creative hosts may begin making up their own problems.
MORE ON MYSTERY GAMES
At the beginning of a mystery story no one knows what’s happened. Clues are revealed,
the hero detective makes brilliant deductions, and eventually it all points to
one guilty character. Players reveal clues by making them up. Without any master
plan they come together to solve the mystery. The game ends when one players
sums it up and tells how the detectives explains the crime.
Players may choose to end the game with a trial. One player presents the prosecution
case. Another player presents the defense. The remaining players form the
jury. They decide what number the prosecutor needs to roll above on two six-sided
dice to convict.
MORE ON HORROR GAMES
Horror games start off with a curious event that foreshadows evil. The basic problem
is to reveal the evil and defeat it. As players make up terrible events after
terrible event the evil is revealed. In this way it is a lot like a mystery game but the
game ends when the players confront the terror. They don’t have to win or survive
but they do have to face their fears. If the hero tries to run away from the terror, it
follows them. There is no escape.
MORE ON SPY GAMES
Spy games and crime games are about planning and relationships. The spy has
a mission but the police and counter-intelligence have a mission to stop them.
The spy recruits agents and makes plan while the police set up defenses and try
to uncover and infiltrate spy rings. Eventually the spy makes their move and tries
to get away.
The host can up the tension of spy games by giving the players more and more
problems based on what they do. Each action suggests a negative counter-action so
player reap what they sow.
Campaign games are made up of repeated games using the same world, a few core
characters with similar opening problems. The players agree up front to not kill
any core characters and to build on the previous stories. For instance, a murder
mystery game might use Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson as core characters with
a rotating cast of suspects.
Individual sessions play as described above. The linkage comes from what happens
after the game. Each player gets to make up an event in the game world. The host
uses these events as inspiration for making up the next game. Player suggest possible
characters, locations and opening problems in what they make up. The events
also put the game world in motion so nothing stays the same. Over time events
tell stories that might not come up in sessions just like currents events happen
around us now. They make the game world richer even if they don’t directly affect
the games played.
The host has final say in making scenarios but it is useful to discuss it with the
players so campaign play is a negotiation about what happens next.
DOES THE GAME NEED MORE STRUCTURE?
Feel free to add in any extra structure that you want to to your games. There
are many ways to do this: go around the table taking turns, spend tokens to buy
additions, add “to happen” roll, rate rolls on likely hood of happening, etc. But I
don’t think you need to. If you trust your players and keep asking “What happens
next?” A good game emerges.