Welcome back, dice fondlers! This week we’re trekking down a slightly different road. We’re talking drama, we’re talking zombies, and we’re talking cards! So get ready to shuffle as we take a look at a wickedly tense game of introspection and existential horror for two players. Get ready for The Bite.
The Bite: A Fun-Sized RPG
At first blush, you might not think much of The Bite. At a total of two pages of rules, it definitely fits the bill of a micro RPG. There are a couple additional pages to print so that you can cut out the cards you’ll be using for the game, but I have a feeling most of you have had receipts longer than the entire book at some point in your life. Thankfully, as the gaming renaissance has been kind enough to remind everyone, one or two-page games can be amazing fun. Just look at the extremely popular Critical Role podcast and their hilarious episodes of Honey Heist (literal bears stealing honey) and Crash Pandas (a team of raccoons cooperating in illegal street car races).
The Bite boils down to being a conversation. Two players have just recently escaped from a zombie horde and are trapped together. The dead thump at whatever barricades you have erected and you can still hear their low moaning beyond the walls of your dual-purpose prison/shelter. As you and your companion catch your breaths, paranoia sets in. “What if they’ve been bitten?” In order to stall for time to gather enough information on what to do next, the players take turns telling each other stories about themselves, all while a gun with a single bullet rests between them…
In this scenario, each player will be dealt four cards that may be conversation starters or… the dreaded Bite card. If you’ve received the Bite card, it must be the very last card you play, and it ends the game if no one has chosen to pick up the gun. Should someone choose to pick up the gun, they have three options — shoot the other character, shoot themselves, or destroy the gun. If they shoot either themselves or the other character, the game has ended. If they choose to destroy the gun, the players continue to alternate telling stories until either the Bite card is finally played or it is revealed that neither player had the Bite. If both players reach for the gun card at the same time, whoever can wrestle it out of the other’s hands is the one who gets to use it.
Get Under Your Opponent’s Skin
This all seems simple enough, right? Well, not exactly. See, this game requires a lot of buy-in from the two players. Otherwise, either player could simply shoot the other at the beginning of the game and declare themselves “the winner.” In the Bite, there is no winner. There is only survival and guilt. The conversations you have with each other include memories of your (now presumably dead) family, your first friend that turned, and when the last time was that you were truly moved or bothered by the death of a companion. The subject matter in this game can be intense, and because of that, a card marked with an “X” sits between the players next to the gun card. The X card is the card you tap to let your fellow player know that the conversation is getting too intense and that you have to break without breaking character.
So, this game really isn’t one that we can modify to make “more” random, and it doesn’t have massive quantities of dice to fiddle with. Why have I chosen to feature it then? With those few cards and the fact that the players genuinely don’t know if their fellow player has been bitten, everything comes down to the cards and the off-the-cuff improvisation that follows. According to the rules, you can certainly ask a question that isn’t listed, but I generally find those provided to be plenty to really dig under the skin of a character.
In this spooky season, I hope you give The Bite a chance. It certainly isn’t a conventional RPG option, but it is certainly one that can change your perspective of what RPGs can accomplish. Also, it’s available here on DriveThruRPG for only $5.
With that, I leave you. Next week, I’ll have another eerie Spooktober selection for you. Until then, remember to…