Game Preparation Gimmicks

Some optional rules that change the way the Game Preparation Phase is handled.

Additional Coin Refreshment Before First Scene

Submitted by Roy Penrod

In the core rules, Refreshment occurs at the end of a scene and before the next scene begins.  This means that there is no Refreshment before the first scene.  Players begin the first scene with whatever Coins they have remaining after the Game Preparation phase (Chapter 2).

With this Gimmick, groups can allow a standard Refresh before the very first scene of a game to give everyone a few more Coins to start actual play with.


Instead of a standard Refresh, reset each player’s Wealth back to its starting value (25 Coins is the default) before the first scene. This will encourage players to really spend Coins to add additional detail to the setting during the Game Preparation Phase since any Coins not spent then are wasted since everyone will be reset back to full.

— I really like this one and intend to use it for my own games, Ralph.

Setting Creation Phase

Submitted by Mike Holmes

After the normal Game Preparation Phase, but before the first scene is framed, insert a new special Setting Creation Phase. Give each player a separate pool of 25 Coins (or more if you like) just for this phase. During this phase only setting information can be generated. This includes, but is not limited to, declaring Tenets that relate to the setting, Creating Components that exist within the setting, and establishing a variety of Facts related to historical events. Anything is possible really, as long as the player can rationalize it as setting development (and the other players do not challenge). The phase will continue until all players have either spent all of their Coins, or until all players pass (or the phase can be extended at that point with a new gimmick). At which point any unspent coins are returned to the Bank.

NOTES Use this Add-on for a game that emphasizes a more developed setting before play begins. This is a more involved version of Roy’s Coin refreshing Gimmick.

OPTIONS One can also insert separate special phases to address characters, or to develop a detailed situation or premise. Whatever you think needs more attention.

Serial Game Structure

Submitted by Roy Penrod

Declare that a game is to be part of an ongoing series of sessions. Players are required to leave at least one plot thread dangling to be picked up at the start of the next session.

NOTES I use this Rules Gimmick to add a serial structure to a campaign game of Universalis. It’s really just a reminder to make sure we leave a plot thread dangling so we have something to look forward to next session.

Metagame Jobs

Submitted by Mike Holmes

These Gimmicks can be established at any time, but are least disruptive to institute during the Game Preparation phase. Essentially, a player may be designated with a title and certain responsibilities for which he receives some scheduled remuneration in Coins. The game pays the player Coins from the Bank to perform certain duties. The payment can be received on a per scene basis; or, for multi-session games, at the beginning or end of each session. It can be on a “per item produced” basis, or any other schedule of payment. The amount and timing should be well designated as well as the nature of the duties. Gimmicks can also be instituted, of course, to terminate any such contract between a player and the game.

Some sample jobs:

Record keeper – Potentially onerous depending on the speed of play, this player is responsible for taking notes on the game. He records all Components created, all their Traits, and all Facts, and organizes their presentation so that he can recount details when necessary. Having one player do all this (as opposed to each player making his own notes) makes recalling records easier, and frees the other players from note taking leaving them less distracted.

Librarian – often the same player as the record keeper if there is one, this player is responsible for keeping all notes between sessions of play. If there is no sole record keeper, he collects the notes from each player. The downside to the librarian is that he must be present at every session, or have his archive accessible for play. Else play is very difficult.

Illustrator – players can sell articles of art created during the game or between sessions to the game on a “freelance” basis. Truly gifted artists might be able to do a running account in which case they could be paid per scene, theoretically.

Journal Writer – between sessions a player can write the reflections of a character into a fictional journal entry. These can be submitted like art for payment.

Disc Jockey – a player can be paid to act as DJ for a session, ensuring that a constant supply of appropriate music (or sound effects) is provided. Discuss well with the group what music is appropriate before hiring a DJ, and promptly fire a DJ that gets out of hand.

Host – consider paying the host of the session a fee to account for the problems associated with having the players over.

Caterer – similar to the host, payment can be assigned for food brought to share.

Prop Master – players can be paid for creation of interesting and evocative props.

Multiple Tenets

Submitted by Ralph Mazza

Over the course of many games, one of the most frequently forgotten rules is the rule that limits a player to Proposing only one Tenet on their turn. This rule was designed to make sure that all players had an equal opportunity to set the Tenets for the game by limiting each player to just a single idea at a time. As it turns out, some ideas require more than 1 Tenet to express properly (especially Story Elements involving adding Traits to Components) and so its become commonplace in many groups to allow players to introduce multiple Tenets on their turn so long as they’re all related to the same basic idea.

Seed Element

Submitted by Adam Kelly

This is one of those clever ideas I wish I’d thought of myself. Its ideal to use for an experienced Uni player to use when teaching the game to a new group and makes a fantastic way to give focus to one shot convention play. The experienced player (or the one hosting the convention game) comes to the table with a single Component already Created. That Component has a largely ambiguous name or role Trait plus 1 other Trait which, while equally ambiguous, serves as a call to action. This Component is then presented at the beginning of the Game Prep phase, introduced as the first Tenet.

For example:  Introduce a Component named Orion. A perfect choice. It could be a man’s name, or a woman’s, or the code name of a secret government agency, a constellation, a mythological character, or an entire planet. What exactly it is, is left unsaid it serves as a creative seed for the other players and their efforts to define it is what will give the game focus. This gimmick was used at several different tables at a convention and in each Orion was something different. In one it was a ship carrying the last remnants of humanity, in another a teacher in a school beset by zombies (of course, there are always zombies), and in another Orion was a political party seeking equality for wingless faeries.

The second Trait Orion had was the equally effective “needs to be rescued”. A specific call to action where the specifics (why, from whom or what) are left open. Other Traits could also be effective such as “On a mission from God”, or “seeking Vengeance”, or just simply “Searching”.

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