The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen

A game of competitive boasting, based on the exploits of the titular C18th adventurer and raconteur. Players portray nobles and challenge each other to recount an extraordinary story from their past. Dice and pencils are replaced by money and fine wine, a simple bidding system allows for interruptions and rebuttals, and it all wraps up in under an hour. The rulebook was ostensibly written by the Baron himself, with his unique and charming style.

Released in mid-1998, Munchausen has a strong claim to be the first 'story game', in the sense of a GM-less single-session game focused on character and storytelling. The first edition was a slim 24-page book; but the second (2008) doubled its word-length, and the third (2018) was three times longer than the original, adding variant play styles and genres.

Author(s): 
Game Type: 
Roleplaying Game
Collaborative Story
Crunch: 
2 - Focus/Imagination
Players: 
4+
GM?: 
No
Free?: 
No
Excerpt: 

The Play of the Game
My game is a simple one. The players sit around a table, preferably with a bottle of a decent wine or an interesting liqueur to moisten their throats, and each takes a turn to tell a story of an astonishing exploit or adventure. The subject of the tale is prompted by one of the others, and the rest of the company may interrupt with questions and observations, as they see fit, and which it is the task of the tale's teller to rebut or avoid. When all are done he who has told the best story buys drinks for his companions and, the players being suitably re-fortified, the game may begin again.

The inspiration for my en-gamification of this ancient and noble pursuit comes not from a ritual of I witnessed among the tribes of the Amazon river, as I have claimed in the past (their game, I am reminded by several noted authorities, is more along the line of spillikins; in my defence I confess that the tribesmen had forced me to consume a great quantity of sage and onion prior to roasting me, and my senses were confused) but instead from a memorable evening I spent in a coaching-inn outside St Petersburg, in the late winter of 17--.

Myself and several other travellers, many of us adventurers and soldiers of great renown, had been caught by a sudden blizzard and forced to spend the night in the same inn. However, being suddenly crowded the inn had fewer beds than patrons. Having firstly allowed the ladies of the company to retire to sleep, the gentlemen agreed to a contest to see who would receive the remaining unoccupied rooms, and who would be forced to seek their repose in the stables or--worse--with the servants.

Accordingly we sat down to a contest or wager, and when it was discovered that none of the company had cards, dice, teetotums or backgammon board about them, we agreed to a contest of stories. Each man among our number took a turn to ask the neighbour on his right hand to recount one of his most extraordinary adventures; and the others of us then tested the tale on the wheels of veracity, credibility and laudability.

When all were done a vote was taken and I, by sheer cunning, came fifth. This position exiled me to a tiny attic garret, the location of which allowed me to sneak out when the rest of the company was asleep, to spend the rest of the night warmed by the counterpane and company of the Duke of N—'s daughter, whose beauty, interest and proximate room number I had noted before the game began. Herein lies one of the central principles of the pastime I will shortly describe, and the core of its philosophy: it counts not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game.

This game itself follows in similar fashion, but without the presence of the noble Duke's daughter. More is the pity.

Have you played it?