We're doing something a bit different for this week's Concept Art Writing Prompt. In fact, it's less a concept art prompt than a concept writing prompt. We'll be playing Machine of Death, the game of creative assassination. David Malki! of Wondermark and Machine of Death has given us a target to kill and a handful of intriguing constraints, and it's up to you to figure out how the target dies.
Machine of Death takes place in a universe where a special Machine exists, one that tells you how you are going to die. The Machine takes a sample of your blood and spits out a card printed with your method of death. The Machine is always right, but it's often unclear; your card might read "GUNSHOT" or "CANCER," but it might also say "BANANA" or "JOY." Machine of Death started as an anthology, which you can download and read for free. A second anthology, This is How You Die will be released in July, 2013.
Soon, the Machine will invade the gaming world as well. Currently, the MOD creators are running a Kickstarter campaign to bring a Machine of Death card game to life. The campaign has been hugely popular, allowing the team to commission new cards illustrated by artists like Chester 5000 XYV's Jess Fink (link NSFW), Nedroid's Anthony Clark, Dresden Codak's Aaron Diaz, Dr. McNinja's Christopher Hastings, Dinosaur Comics' Ryan North, Broodhollow's Kris Straub, Octopus Pie's Meredith Gran, and many, many more. These bonus cards are available to anyone who grabs the game as a PDF starting from a $10 pledge or as a physical game starting from a $25 pledge. There are a handful of other Kickstarter exclusives, such as posters, t-shirts, and handmade deluxe wooden game boxes.
So here are the rules. You're a hitman in the universe of Machine of Death. You've been given a target, a method of death, and a few essential details about your mission. You have to figure out how to kill your target sooner rather than later. You can write up your method of assassination in the comments as a complete story, or just as an outline.
David Malki! was kind enough to play game master for us today. Our target is Leonard M. Fritz, who will die of TAMPERING. Malki gives us all the pertinent details about Leonard and his death below:
The Chief met me at the door. That's how I knew it was big. He held open the metal warehouse door, a little too early so it was awkward walking those last twenty yards, him glancing at me, me glancing at him, then both looking away even though we knew we were headed right for one another.
He stared past me, at the city beyond, so hard that I turned to look as well. A bit of morning haze still clung to the tops of the tall buildings — offices, mainly. People running around, doing whatever. Office stuff. Making copies? Having a meeting where everyone sternly considers a jagged line graph? I watch TV. I know these things.
As I drew near, the Chief turned and let me follow him into the dark of the warehouse. As soon as I stepped into the darkness, I realized why he'd come out — it was LOUD in there, hammers and pneumatic wrenches filling the echoey space with the sharp sounds of creation. The path to Chief's office took us right by one of the many works-in-progress: a rickety orange scaffold mounted on a series of skateboards. Barnes, Swanson, and Johan were having a hell of a time holding it steady while someone up top — could be Radar, but hard to tell through the welding mask — was attaching a cage made out of rebar. The kind of cage that divers use to go swimming with sharks, but in this case mounted on top of a skateboard-scaffold.
Another typical day. When would this job get interesting?
The Chief slammed his office door and the sounds muffled a bit. Wasted no time with niceties — two envelopes tossed into my hands. I almost dropped them. A little test.
The first envelope was standard, business-sized. Return address: the Department of Determination. Still sealed. I held it up to the light. "Do you know what it says?"
"I trust you. I wanted the feeling to be mutual."
I tore open the envelope and drew out a folded sheet of paper. Form letter. Dear so-and-so, enclosed as requested is a certified copy of your prediction, blah blah blah. I scanned the name and vital stats. Leonard M. Fritz, school bus driver, dog lover, hapkido expert, allergic to roses. Weird. The Department knew everything.
Well, almost. Leonard did something bad. The letter didn't say what, and I didn't need to know. Leonard was going to die. That was my job.
I unfolded the bottom half of the page. Stuck with a dab of rubber cement was the card. Crisp, white, still had that copper smell from the test — or at least I thought I could smell it.
I showed Chief the card and he raised his eyebrows imperceptibly. "Could be easier than some I can remember."
TAMPERING. Could mean any number of things. Food, medicine, brake lines. I tore open the second envelope. Three plastic cards — gift cards. For the black market.
One was to Crimson Wonderland. I hated that place — so kitschy and weird, with klezmer music coming from seemingly everywhere. But if you needed something red, they had it.
The second was to Danny's Every Vehicle Ever. Now THAT'S a place I could get lost in. Danny knew everything about every kind of vehicle. You get him talking about a Triumph motorcycle and the next thing you know he's pulling open crates and yanking off canvas covers and talking about speedboats and hang gliders and I think I even saw a jetpack in there once. Picking up something from Danny would take me the better part of a day — I'd better think that through in advance.
The third was to Bort's Sports. Bort was a weird dude who hated every kind of sports. But he dutifully and resentfully opened his shop every morning and would sell you anything you needed. It was a good location that had used to be a Greek restaurant.
And, of course, I had the crew. If I provided the plan and the raw materials, they were there to make it happen.
The Machine of Death gave Leonard TAMPERING. Which means it also gave me a puzzle to solve. If I couldn't come up with a way to kill him via TAMPERING, it wouldn't work. The Machine was funny that way.
"You can see why I called you in," said the Chief. He'd known the prediction all along.
No matter. I was the best of the best. As I headed back out to my car, I saw that the crew was busy bolting chainsaws to the shark cage. I wouldn't want to be around when that thing went off.
The sun was bright outside. The haze was burning off. I had three gift cards in my pocket and an open-ended challenge. People were living and dying every minute in this city. One more of the latter should be easy.
So your mission is to continue the story so that Leonard ends up dead. If you need a little inspiration or you're unclear on how the game works, watch this video of a round of gameplay. And if you have fun coming up with creative ways to kill Leonard, consider grabbing the game through the Kickstarter campaign.