With Friends Like These

by Rik Kershaw-Moore

Art by andi jones


These rules were worked out a few years a go whilst at university. I've played them in a number of different houses with a number of different people, and in every case they proved not only popular but immensely fun. In one house I played in, it became common to see one housemate microwaving her letters before opening them just in case someone had planted something nasty in there. If you wish to try these "house" rules, you will of course need a copy of Killer from Steve Jackson Games.

Basic Rules and Aims

As with all other Killer games, the idea of House Killer is to kill everyone who is participating. The main difference is that all the targets live in the same house and all the kills must be accomplished within said house. The winner is the person who at the end of the game has gathered the most points.

Participation & Game Length

Before you begin you need to appoint one person as the Huntmaster. This person is then responsible for ensuring everything goes according to plan, that the rules (such as they are) are not infringed, that players are not being victimized, and to be an arbiter in any dispute over kills. Finally, and most unusually, the Huntmaster is positively encouraged to play.

Next, the Huntmaster needs to get the consent of everyone who wishes to play. This should be done in a face to face encounter and not via proxy.

The game length is variable and is totally up to the Huntmaster and participants. Games can last anytime from an entire semester down to just a few days. From experience, I've discovered that the ideal length is three to four weeks.

Once everyone has signed up, the Huntmaster should post on a notice board the list of players, the start and end date and time of the game, and the points list. Next to this the Huntmaster should also put the score card.

If people wish to drop out then they should not only inform the Huntmaster in person but should also post a written message to that effect on their door. Once a player has dropped out they cannot rejoin the game. There are two exceptions to this:

If the player is sick, he may temporarily withdraw from the game by putting a red cross on the outside of his door. This cross should stay there for the duration of the illness, or until the Huntmaster deems them fit to continue, since malingering is positively discouraged.

Secondly, each player has three excuses given to them by the Huntmaster. These excuses are basically a sheet of paper with the word Excuse written on it in large letters. When a player wishes to put his excuse into action he simply hangs it on his door, and there it must stay for a full 24 hours. During this time no hunter can attempt to hit this person, and if any long-term cumulative-effect weapon is being used -- such as radiation poisoning -- then this day does not count toward its effects. At the end of the 24-hour period, the excuse must be surrendered to the Huntmaster.

At the end of the game the Huntmaster will add up all the points scored by all the players and will post the point totals for each. The winner is the person with the most points.

Off-Limits Areas

Since the game is going to be played where people live, there need to be off-limit areas. Such areas are defined as being anywhere where a person is inconvenienced. or somewhere where non-players may be regularly disturbed. The basic off limit areas are:

* The bathroom(s) of the house.
* Corridors and stairs.
* Non-player rooms.
* Living rooms.
* The kitchen -- although there are certain hits that can occur here (see below).
* The yard -- especially if it is barbecue season.
* Anywhere else outside the house.


There are several categories of weapons which may be used in House Killer, listed below. Once one successful method has been used to kill a particular victim, you cannot use that same method on the same victim.

Joint kills are allowed, but ganging up on a single player is not allowed, because it's just plain cruel. Victims and killers do not have to reveal the means of termination, especially if it was an exceptionally sneaky or devious method.

If you are caught in the act of setting up a hit by the intended victim, then you are not allowed to go after them again for 24 hours due to the shame and embarrassment of being found out.

Finally, in cases where the weapon used is going to make a mess, such as contact poison toothpaste on a door handle or a confetti bomb, the hunter must be prepared to help the victim tidy things up.

Point System

The following points are used in House Killer:

* 2 points for each successful kill.
* 2 bonus points for any amusing or stylish kill (Huntmaster's option).
* For joint kills, the 2 points are divided among the killers.
* 1 point is awarded for disarming any bomb or device before it goes off, even if you weren't the intended victim. (Obviously, you get no points for disarming something you set up yourself.)

Allowed Weapons

The one category that is outright banned is guns of any kind. In play, they were simply too irritatingly easy to use, and greatly reduced the sneak level of the game.

With Friends Like These Only the following classes of weapons are allowed in House Killer:

1. Bombs. All forms of bombs in the rulebook are allowed.

2. Animal Attacks. These are permitted, but please make sure that the person you are going to get with a plastic snake or spider isn't going to flip.

3. Fire. Allowable, but tricky, since in most cases it does mean wrapping the entire house in red crepe paper, and all the problems that entails -- such as finding enough paper in the first place, and then you've got the problem of what if you live in an apartment building.

4. Poison. All poisons, as defined in the Killer rules, are allowed. Poisons are the only weapons that may be used in the kitchen, since that is where most normal people keep their food. Please bear in mind that if you spoil any food, you must be willing to replace it; after all, no one likes eating mashed potatoes that have been dyed bright blue.

5. Futuristic Weapons. Most futuristic weapons, as defined by the Killer rules, can be used. However, in the case of posting exotic diseases or poisons to your victim in a letter, you should name the contents on a slip of paper inside the letter, as some methods of "decontamination" will work against some futuristic weapons but not others. For example, microwaving a letter (on high for one minute) will kill any exotic bacteria.

Hints and Tips

I'd like to end with a brief list of hints and tips that have occurred to me over the years.

The first is to be sensitive to your victim. You should not do anything that could potentially embarrass them, especially if they've got a date. No one wants to walk in to their room and get blown up by a confetti bomb, especially if the person they are with doesn't understand.

Secondly, be careful if you are in a relationship with someone else in the house, simply because it is too easy to be killed by your significant other. I've both killed and been killed by my partner in a number of interesting and highly embarrassing high-tech methods, most of which were not funny at the time.

Thirdly, whatever you do, don't become paranoid. Whilst being a little bit paranoid is of course an important point of the game, don't take it to the nth degree.

Finally and most importantly, have fun and don't take it all that seriously!

Article publication date: November 12, 1999

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