I put an ARG in my RPG and it actually worked. | Amazing Articles
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I put an ARG in my RPG and it actually worked.

Running a homebrew game with my players, I wanted to give them a secret opportunity to gain superpowers. I created an entire binder with custom super abilities tailored to each of their archetypes, and additional special abilities available to all characters. The binder itself took quite some time to make but there was a chance that none of the players were ever going ‘unlock’ the ability to use them.

The reason for this was because a Djinn was between the superpowers and the players. Early on in my campaign I introduced a menacing Djinn who was contractually obligated to give the players these powers, but he didn’t want to. He was ordered to come meet the players and tell them his name, which would force him to do their bidding. The Djinn didn’t want that but he was still obligated to fulfill his contract. He was also so otherworldly that often times he broke the 4th wall in gaming (something to be done very delicately, but this was meant to be a clue for my players) You see the Djinn gave the “players” his name, not the characters. And he did so in a real-life miniature ARG I created.

It started off with a QR Code on the [character sheet](https://i.imgur.com/UbZj66N.jpg). The Code was put onto an “ID badge” for the sheet (the game was SCP themed) and therefore many of the players didn’t think to actually scan the code. Upon scanning the code, it would take them to [this](https://imgur.com/ttrQ14c) image, which if the QR code was inverted and scanned, it would lead to [this](http://zombiekeech.wixsite.com/monarchtechnologies) website. The website had a series of clues that would lead them to using a secret message decoder on one of the first images I posed in the games facebook group. This would then lead them to our local library and to a dewey decimal code, and a page number. If the correct book was located and the correct page turned to, another QR code would be found, which would lead to another website with a message. The message gave X and Y coordinates, and a Minecraft server. Upon reaching those coordinates (which had no obvious landmarks) and digging down, it would lead to a cave with a sign that had another clue, which led to another minecraft location, and another clue, to another location and a final clue. Figuring out this would lead you to [this](http://zombiekeech.wixsite.com/submarine) website, which gave a clue for that someone had to drive to our local Quiznos restaurant, and go to the mens bathroom. Once there they would find the passcode written on the bathroom wall to access a video. The video would tell the players to go into the basement of the house we roleplayed at and find a special light. (it was a blacklight) the blacklight then needed to be used on a specific PC’s character sheet in order to read the name of the Djinn.
After much cooperation and about 2 weeks, my players finished the puzzle and called the Djinn by his name “Dantalion”

I then pulled out the binder and my players could use all of these mysterious “soul points” they’ve been accumulating throughout the adventure and purchased custom abilities to use the rest of the campaign. Surprisingly, the entire ARG took way more time to think up than to actually create, and they said working together in their freetime felt like a mini adventure. I was so relieved that all my hard work was not overlooked. Thank you for scanning that QR code and getting the ball rolling. This could have been a very different story.

edit: This was back in 2016, and I almost forgot the [base map I did in planner 3D](https://planner5d.com/view/?key=098f01c2bff4a36adde7114f12f90f9c). One of the QR codes is [hidden in one of the rooms](https://i.imgur.com/PEEKRC4.jpg) if you go into 3D mode. This program is pretty sweet for making modern day structures that the players are going to be involved in.

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16 Comments


  1. TacticalDave

    November 18, 2017 at 4:02 am

    Okay, that’s really meta. How’d you differentiate when the Djinn was talking to their characters or the players?

    Reply

  2. Hegar

    November 18, 2017 at 4:02 am

    Is it just me? What’s an ARG?

    Reply

  3. AdventureBen

    November 18, 2017 at 4:02 am

    That’s so awesome, how did you set up the QR code to do that? That’s so awesome.

    Reply

  4. nebulousmenace

    November 18, 2017 at 4:02 am

    That’s amazing. Every game I’ve ever been with a puzzle/mystery, the players either get it in five seconds or grow their own red herrings and pursue them with terrifying intensity.

    Going through ten distinct steps successfully would … I’m not going to say “never happen” but I’d bet my car against a new D20.

    Reply

  5. Archarzel

    November 18, 2017 at 4:02 am

    Brilliant idea. I’ve been wanting to put some labor into a cyberpunk campaign that would use an actual cryptocurrency (which would have to be made from scratch) and a mastodon server (twitter clone meant to run as a decentralized….aand you don’t care.) for their npc interactions and some out of game giggles. It’d be a huge hassle, but It would tickle me to be able to pull it off.

    Reply

  6. Czar_of_Reddit

    November 18, 2017 at 4:02 am

    This is really cool. What was your process like setting up the chain of clues? Did you know ahead of time your players would be willing to make trips around town to the library or Quizno’s?

    Reply

  7. dusmeyedin

    November 18, 2017 at 4:02 am

    Reminds me of that time I was running a game with three female players so as a bit of fan service I put in a ridiculously photogenic guy in the middle of a civil war. He was in charge of anti tank operations and was armed accordingly.

    “Yo dawg I heard u like RPGs so I put an RPG in your RPG and then I gave him am RPG.”

    Reply

  8. pepetd

    November 18, 2017 at 4:02 am

    I give you props for the attention to detail but me as a player I would have had no time to do all that with my current schedule! A bit too meta and time consuming but I hope to your players really enjoyed it! Loved it.

    Reply

  9. BennettF

    November 18, 2017 at 4:02 am

    That’s brilliant and I want to do this someday. Just one thing… You made sure the password on the bathroom wall could be washed off, right?

    Reply

  10. RexiconJesse

    November 18, 2017 at 4:02 am

    That is 100% badass. The SCP reference got an up vote, but the whole thing deserved a complement. Seriously, nice work.

    Reply

  11. semiseriouslyscrewed

    November 18, 2017 at 4:02 am

    WOW that is an amazing concept & execution. VERY well done.

    Reply

  12. basmith7

    November 18, 2017 at 4:02 am

    I wanna play in your campaign.

    Reply

  13. WhirlyTwirlyMustache

    November 18, 2017 at 4:02 am

    This is amazing! I wonder if our group would even be motivated to participate in this.

    Reply

  14. Rongmario

    November 18, 2017 at 4:02 am

    Really well crafted!

    Reply

  15. pmdrpg

    November 18, 2017 at 4:02 am

    I am shocked that it worked. Congratulations! It seems like you kept the clues unambiguous (no red herrings).

    Reply

  16. mycroftxxx42

    November 18, 2017 at 4:02 am

    If you’re not doing a 4th-wall break delicately, it should be a shock. The best I’ve been exposed to was in a “gimmick”-heavy game (intentionally done as such by the GM, it was a minor bucket-list thing for her) where we were on week two of an IC discussion about how to handle the information we had picked up. To break the stalemate, unbeknownst to us, she had brought in a ringer and changed the format of the game.

    We had managed to get back into character at the start of the session and done a quick recap and were _just_ about to move forward again when a knock came at the door. I got up to answer it and at the door was a stranger, who pantomimed pointing a gun at my face and threatened me in an Irish accent. I chuckled, guessed at his name, and welcomed him in. As I turned around the GM caught my attention and told me “Actually, you should take this seriously. We’re LARPing and he’s really got a gun.”

    Cries of “WHAT?!” and “AWESOME!!” both went off in my head as I requested a ten-second rewind and we started the scene again. The characters never entered combat, nor did they leave the hotel room (which just happened to have a living room that matched the RL in layout). It was, in a word, exposition being told to the party to break the deadlock. Normally this is a “don’t” in game design, but this time it was oh so very right. That little burst of adrenaline managed to get us thinking a little further afield and we were able to use the new information to get the campaign moving again.

    Reply

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