A downloadable game

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Murder Ballad is a storytelling/roleplaying game for two to five players, about how we relate to stories about violence and death.

Over an hour or two, we play out the evolution of a folk-song, from the true crime that inspires it to its eventual forms in the present day. Along the way, we each play a variety of characters who encounter this ballad, and consider what songs like these mean to people, why we find them fascinating, and why we pass them on.

To play, we need a deck of standard playing cards, a tabletop space, and some index cards to write on.

Thanks to Jessi for graphic design expertise, and to everyone who helped proofread and brainstorm, or just had to listen to me endlessly hum bluegrass music.

Update 2/20/2020 - I've uploaded some notes on the game, including some info about its development, observations following playtesting, and advice for improving play.


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Click download now to get access to the following files:

murder ballad text.pdf 187 kB
murderballad.pdf 2 MB
murder ballad - design notes.pdf 71 kB

Development log


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I had a blast playing this a year ago at Big Bad Con. Not only does it give space for individual creativity and collaborative shaping of the feel, but it also is an insightful tool to understand stories, myth, and truth. A version of this game would be a great resource for a high school social studies teacher, which I say in the best way possible. 

This game rules. You should play it with friends.


A badass game where you and your friends tell a MURDER BALLAD with branching narratives. I love the use of playing cards in the mechanics, and how the game represents the changing nature of stories that get passed on over time.