WARNING: When I wrote this article I asked some friends of mine to create some Everyone is John characters that I could include. I just thought I should give you all a heads-up as some of them might not be in the best of taste. Also their hand writing can get pretty bad.
We all have a silly party game we play when everyone is just relaxing and having a couple of drinks. One of my favourites is Everyone is John, an incredibly simple role playing game about a man who makes Malkavians from Vampire the Masquerade look sane.
Everyone is John is a little hard to review as there are no formal rules. You can find the basic rules online, but there is no such thing the definitive rules for Everyone is John. However, while groups might play it slightly differently the essence of the game is still the same.
The focus of the game is John, the most insane man on the face of the earth. The players each take on the roles of voices in John’s head, each competing for control of John in an attempt to achieve their own obsessions and aims.
One player takes on the role of the GM, providing the voice for John (sometimes) and everyone else that John comes into contact with, as well as acting as the ring master for disputes among the players.
To play the game you need four simple things: paper, pens, dice and the craziest and most sick minded gathering of players you can bring together.
Each player writes down a persona for themselves. They then choose two skills, which can be in absolutely anything, from generic ones like driving to more specific skills like playing the flute upside down surrounded by sharks (you’d be surprised how useful that is). Then an obsession is chosen. This is the aim which the player will try and steer John towards throughout the game, gaining points for both how often and how difficult that obsession is.
Each player is assigned 10 willpower points. These are used to bid for control of John, with the highest bidder making the roles to make John perform actions while the other players can continue to have an influence.
As in any RPG players have to role to see if an action is successful. If the player in control of John has a skill which relates to the action they succeed on a 3+, otherwise it will be either a 5+ or 6+ depending on how much of a git your GM is. Players can spend will power points to raise their roles up to 6. If they fail a role then not only does John fail to do what they wanted, they lose control of him and players must start bidding once again.
This is a great game to GM. Not only is it incredibly easy for the players to learn it also doesn’t need all that much supervision. You don’t even really need to think up much of a story as you will find that the players will often create the story as they try to enact their obsessions. All you have to do is think of a weird situation for John to wake up in at the start of the game.
For example, I once played a game in which John woke up in a sports locker in Manhattan Island. By the end of it we had blown up a bridge and were swimming out to sea in hope of escape from what one player had persuaded John into believing was an Escape from New York style scenario, all while I was trying to persuade him to stay and build the Empire of John in New York.
It is also very amusing to see how a player will adapt their strategies to fit with the ones being used by the controlling player. In a different game which I ran one player had given their persona the innocuous obsession of eating whenever the opportunity presented itself. This initially started with her persuading John to search everywhere for kitchens. However, when a more violent player took control they changed tack entirely and started getting John to cannibalise the bodies of those he killed.
It’s fun for all the family!
Everyone is John is the perfect party game. It is not held back by any official rules, or even a need for a coherent plot. Perfect for when you’ve all had a couple of drinks, the game can go on until you are all bored or John dies.
The best bit is that practically every play spawns new gaming water cooler moments, which you will find yourself eagerly recounting to your friends. Trust me, you will soon learn to recognise that glazed look and backwards shuffling motion as you continue to spout utter drivel which had you all in stitches the night before.
Definitely give this game a go and be sure to drop us a comment with some of the bizarre results you come up with.