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The Uchtman Factor: An Overview

Started by Peter Nordstrand, March 19, 2006, 01:11:46 PM

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Peter Nordstrand

See the end of this post for specific questions.

The Uchtman Factor

The Uchtman Factor is a narration game for three players and one game master. Players take turns playing the different aspects of one and the same character; Gene Waylon Uchtman. Only one of these personas are real. The others are figments of his imagination.

The Objective of the Game

The objective of the game is to find out the truth about Gene Waylon Uchtman.

What the Character Does

Gene Waylon Uchtman is incarcerated, and spends the entire game trying to escape. He also has difficulty distinguishing reality from fantasy, and only in the end, when he finally escapes, does he find out who he really is, and why he was imprisoned.


Gene Waylon Uchtman's three personalities are known as personas, each played as a separate character; one is a ruthless killer, the other a savvy negotiator, while the third is an escapist, perpetually avoiding the unpleasantries of life. Only one persona is played at a time, but the other personas may attempt to take control. Each persona has a different talent. The escapist is good at running away from conflicts, so that he does not have to deal with them. The negotiator is good at conflict management and working out compromises that are acceptable to all parties. The killer is good at destroying things, fighting people, and killing them.

What Players Do

Players take turns playing the different personas of Gene Waylon Uchtman. The player currently playing Uchtman is called the acting player. Personas are not personal. Each player will play all personas at different times during the course of a game, but he will only play one persona at a time. A big part of the game are the internal conflicts when players use the personas to gain control over the action.
The climactic scene is showdown where the winning player gets to decide the true nature of Gene Waylon Uchtman. However, the winners final narration is restricted by certain previously established facts. Players can establish facts by playing question cards (see below).

Question Cards

At the start of the game, each player is dealt five question cards. Whenever Uchtman is imprisoned by his captors, the active player reveals one of his question cards, and answers its question. The answer to becomes an established fact of the fictional content of play. It cannot be changed, and the winners narration (see above) must take the fact into consideration, and may not contradict it.

Dice Pool

Each player has a personal dice pool. It measures his influence over the events of the game. Whenever a player wants Gene Waylon Uchtman to perform an action he rolls dice from his own pool. Actions that a persona i particularly good at utilizes the player's entire pool. If a persona is particularly bad at something (such as the negotiator trying to kill somebody), the player rolls only one or two dice, or perhaps none at all. To reiterate: The dice pool belongs to the player, not the persona.

The players' dice pools are part of the games reward system, which at the moment is a bit vague and quite complicated, so I'll deal with it some other time.


The Uchtman Factor is inspired by movies like Fight Club and The Bourne Identity, and episodes 'Reckoning' and 'Colour-Blind' of the the show Alias, season one. It is influenced by games such as Dogs in the Vineyard, My Life with Master, The Pool, Prime Time Adventures, Shab-al-Hiri Roach, and Sorcerer.

For those who wonder what happened to my previous game idea Guilt and Frustration, The Uchtman Factor is what happened.


What books should I read? What games should I take a look at? What movies should I see?

What intrigues you with this game idea? Based on the information above, what makes you want to play the game? What makes you reluctant to play the game?

What question do you think I should ask next?

Naturally, all comments and questions are welcome.

Thank you for you kind assistance.

/Peter Nordstrand
Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.
     —Grey's Law

Christoph Boeckle

Hello! Give me a more accurate end-game, a simple reward system, the question cards and a first draft of the rules and I will playtest your game asap!

Check out the french movie Dédale by Réné Manzor (2003). I've no idea if it has been dubbed though. Half the movie could more or less be taken into account by your game, the other half is an investigation and trial (but both run parallel in the narration).

I've always liked stories dealing with madness and having enjoyed the above movie a great deal (as well as Fight Club, American Psycho,...) I'm really interested to give the "genre" a go with my friends (of whom at least one has been talking about similar game ideas without ever writing up anything, alas).

Mister Six

The 3 personas vying for which one is real intrigues me about the game. I like the idea that much of the social dynamic of the game is coming from one guy's head. Do they ever interact directly, or is more like time-sharing the host? I'm also a big fan of ongoing escape scenarios, like The Fugitive or The Prisoner tv shows.

The one thing that I'd be relucant about is that I'd rather pick one persona & play it, rather than have them shuffle. It seems like it'd give you a greater stake in establishing that persona as the real one. But I'm guessing your reward system will address this.

"Through a Scanner Darkly", a novel by Philip K. Dick, keys right into your premise. A cop has drug-induced dissociative identity disorder and begins spying on his drug-user persona. The "Lost Highway" movie by David Lynch has a weird tangle of dissociative identity & psychogenic fugue themes.

I would like to hear more about the incarceration setting.


Clyde L. Rhoer

This sounds neat. I would like to toss in another idea of inspiration. Oldboy. While not strictly the same as your source material it does involve a man mysteriously imprisoned who has to piece together a confusing past in his pursuit of revenge. He at times seems to represent each of your three personalities. I preferred the subtitled version.

I think I might consider purchasing the game when you get done, as I'm intrigued by the idea of the three personalties vying to establish reality. I'm unsure I'd actually play it. My past experience with shared characters has suggested that sharing gets in the way of actor stance. Actor stance is my preferred way to game so I haven't enjoyed shared characters. This is a personal bias though, and shouldn't influence your design. Your present idea is very interesting.

As far as what you should ask next? My thought would be to ask, "What kind of questions are on the cards?"
Theory from the Closet , A Netcast/Podcast about RPG theory and design., Clyde's personal blog.

Christoph Boeckle

Quick question: What does the gamemaster do? Is he necessary at all?


Hey Everybody,

If you haven't seen it yet, Identity with John Cusack was neat, and dealt with multple personalties fighting amonst themselves for control of one guy, though they didn't know it at the time. A little off your premise but may be good inspiration. Plus nothing inspires disconbobbulation like Momento. Not quite the same, but it deals with solving a mystery without the ability to remember stuff, and there is a little splintered self piece, too.



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Jonas Ferry

Hello Peter,

I think it's great you're developing the game. What makes me interested is that you would so clearly create something while playing it. You'd create Uchtman and his history and when the game is over you'll know who he is. You would explore this guy's life, but not in the sense of "let's figure out what the GM has prepared," but instead "no one knows what the facts are, let's create them."

First a couple of questions. I'm not totally clear what the players other than the acting player is doing. Do they present outside obstacles and play NPCs? How do they take control over Uchtman and become the acting player?

And the personas, are they just basic characteristics that you slap on facts to? For example the negotiator persona, would you use facts to decide how Uchtman learned negotiation techniques as a part of deciding what his earlier life has been like?

I can help you find relevant movies through one of the neat features of the Internet Movie Database. For each film, for example Fight Club, there's a genre list just below the picture. If you click "more" you'll get a list of keywords. Some are very relevant for you (identity and split personality) and some are just bizarre (severe tire damage and explosion). "Oh, I wanna watch a movie with an explosion right now!"

Anyway, that's a neat way to find films on certain subjects or that employ certain techniques. If you want a specific recommendation, it has to be A Tale of Two Sisters. It's a South Korean mystery-horror film I recommend without saying anything more, to not spoil it. Ask me in a PM if you want to know more.
One Can Have Her, film noir roleplaying in black and white.

Check out the indie RPG category at Wikipedia.

Jason Morningstar

A hearty second for A Tale of Two Sisters.  Go find it now.  OldBoy is also like watching someone play the game you've decribed, without seeing the players (If that makes any sense).  I really like your idea. 

What's the deal with the question cards?  How are they generated?  Are they static?  Is that what the GM is for?  Because (wait for it) I'm not at all clear what the GM's role is, or why the role is even necessary.  I like the idea of making other players accept their inherent wrongness through sheer force of will and clever play. 

Why not let each persona create a series of "facts", with a goal of promoting their own agenda without alienating the other two into rejecting the fact outright?  So if I'm the escapist, I'll have some infromation related to how I avoided a situation in the past that required me to use minor violence - it supports my agenda, but will appeal to the killer, too.  Will the question cards serve a similar purpose?

Tell us more!

Peter Nordstrand

Hi everybody,

Your replies, suggestions, and questions are turning out to be a lot more helpful than I imagined when first posting. I am going to let it all ferment in my head just a little bit longer, before addressing all the (very relevant) stuff you have brought up. I am taking my time replying to you all because I am considering your points, as well as the most meaningful way to reply. The fact that I take my time before properly replying to your posts should be taken as a sign of dedication.

Again, thank you. And keep posting.

Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.
     —Grey's Law

Peter Nordstrand


I am thrilled that you would like to playtest my game. And I am kind of gearing up for a playtest myself. However, there are a number of issues that need to be dealt with first, I think. When I am ready, I will let you know.

I've tried to get my hands on the movie Dédales, but baven't had much luck so far. I cannot even find it at Amazon. I don't speak French, so I will need subtitles (in Sweden, only movies for children are dubbed; I wouldn't want to watch a dubbed film). A shame I can't find it, since it seems interesting.

I'll deal with the question about the gamemaster's role in a later post. It is important, and needs a little bit of extra consideration.


Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.
     —Grey's Law

Peter Nordstrand

Before we go any further, here are some

Additional Design Notes

I want a roleplaying game that you can just pick up, read through, and play in one evening. And it should still be a meaningful play experience. That's how it was when I first played Monopoly. That's what I still do when I buy a new Cheapass Game; I get a few friends over, and then we figure out together what the game is all about, and then we play. It is the Monopoly Principle of game design. I'm not sure I can pull it off, but I can try, at least.

This game is all Situation. There is no character creation, and no setting. Or, as Jonas put it, both characters and setting are created during play. The funny part is that once the character is created and the setting is established the game is over. I find that hillarious! Anyway, I guess that answers Chris' (Mister Six) question about the incarceration setting: You make it up as you go.

Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.
     —Grey's Law

Peter Nordstrand

Hi everybody,

Again, thank you for your kind encouragement. Some of the things you brought up are difficult to answer without a more complete game writeup. I am working on that. Anyway, I thought I'd add a few things before we close this thread.


Many good movie suggestions. Thank you. I'm about to see the ones I haven't seen: Dédales, A Tale of Two Sisters, and Oldboy.

A Summer Darkly

Philip K. Dick, the novelist whose books everyone has seen on the silver screen. I haven't read this one, but I will. Thanks Chris.

Speaking of books, no one mentioned the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Read it, if you haven't already.

GM or no GM

I presently believe that a GM is probably not necessary. However, I am going to contradict my earlier statement about this matter, and say that this is not my primary concern right now. Whatever turns out to work best in the end. Thank you for bringing it up, though.

Inter Player Interaction

Internal conflicts play a major part of the game. There isn't much socializing going on inside Mr. Uchtman's head, though. Players compete to get control over Gene Waylon Uchtman, because that's how you have fun in this game. Only the actice player gets to establish facts. Only the active player gets to increase his dice pool, and a larger pool = more influence over the game.


There's a word I had to look up. :-)

Question Cards/Fact Cards

At the start of the game each player is dealt five Question Cards ... executing change of terminology ... Fact Cards. Each card lets the player establish (or even change, in some instances) certain elements of the fictional setting. For example (making it up as I write):

  • Describe a bad childhood experience.
  • What year is it?
  • Narrate an event that includes Taj Mahal, the color blue, and a tuxedo.

Important Note 1: While the events established through this process are considered to be in-game truths, the people involved in the events are not! So, for example, if I describe an event where a kid gets his head shoved down a toilet by three other kids we do not know the identity of any of the participants. The only thing we know is that it is someone's bad childhood experience (because that's what the card says) and that it involved someone getting their head thrust into a toilet by three other people.

Important Note 2: Fact Cards are only played when Uchtman is Captured after being On the Run.

Establishing Characters

When Gene Waylon Uchtman is neither On the Run or Captured, the non-active players have the opportunity to introduce new NPCs into the game to cause conflict and trouble.

In the endgame ...

... the established characters (including Mr. Uchtman himself) are assigned to the events generated by the Fact Cards, thus answering the question "Who is Gene Waylon Uchtman?"

If this makes any sense at all, let me know.

Thanks for reading.

Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.
     —Grey's Law

Christoph Boeckle

Makes sense to me and it's becoming ever more interesting!

I liked the question cards though. Something in the lines of "draw a card, choose one of three questions and ask somebody else to answer it" would be pretty nice I reckon.
The fact cards seem less interactive, as I understand them now. I do like the idea of including Color in them (Taj Mahal for example).

On what level do you see the player opposing themselves? On the scene narration or rather how they fit together (which seems to be sorted out in the end)?

One interesting thing could be that the players secretly determine which personality they will play at the beginning of the session, narrating the scenes in a way that will assure them victory in the end. However, if they do it too obviously, the other players could try to counter, based on their guess of which role the first player has been given. (Have you played the board game Clans? It has got some of those elements.)
You might want a few more possible personalities in this case to make it more difficult.

David "Czar Fnord" Artman

Just call me Mr. Matchmaker... I always feel compelled to introduce folks with closely-aligned designs.

Have you checked out this thread, which is currently only two or three below yours on the main page. :-)
[Cranium Rats]Personality Makeup, Boardgame Feel and other Questions

On the surface (i.e. with the details you both have so far provided) it seems to me you are making the same game--though yours may be a bit more Narrativist-oriented than CR.

Just tryin' to help!
If you liked this post, you'll love... GLASS: Generic Live Action Simulation System - System Test Document v1.1(beta)


Most movies where the protagonist doesn't know who they are, ala Revolver and Mulholland Drive can give you more inspiration. Memento can give some indirect inspiration by way of neurons Zinging! together.
Guy Shalev.

Cranium Rats Central, looking for playtesters for my various games.
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