After finishing Island at the Dawn of Time for the Iron Game Chef competition, but being distinctly unsatisfied with it, the idea for Frigid Bitch came storming into my head and demanded it be written down. A few days later, Frigid Bitch became my second entry into the contest, and probably my favorite of the three. It has had some rules changes since its initial form, but is still the same game in both form and spirit. In theory, this game applied to the Ice, Dawn and Assault angles of the competition.
Acknowledgements go to Paul Czege (his game My Life With Master has left many fingerprints), Rich Forest for the basics of the Trust mechanic, Nathan Banks and Michael Goins, the only person who told me I had to design the game, just to run it for him. I'm sure there's other influences in these rules that I'm not noticing, but those are the big ones.
How did you get yourself into this mess?
Deep in the forest, with no company but your loser friends, the ones who talked you into coming up here in the first place. You were all lazing about in the village square, drinking and avoiding work like usual, when one of you brought up the idea of marching down to the Frigid Bitch's castle and curing her little man problem.
I mean, it was almost the Solstice, and the village had been overrun, like every year, with so-called heroes talking it up about how they'd be the one to succeed when all before them failed. It's been centuries, jackass, and no man had ever returned from the castle of the Ice Queen alive. One of you - you don't remember who - said, "Y'know, if it was that easy, we could do that."
It sounded like a good idea when the sun was high above your shoulders and the ale was warming your belly. Now the sun is setting, and the cold is sinking into your bones, and the alcohol is wearing off, bringing you back to your senses. But you weren't going to look like a coward in front of your buddies - you weren't gonna back down first. You looked around them, but none of them backed down either.
So now you're all standing on the edge of the bluff, miles from home, as the sun dips down towards the horizon. Past the bluff to the west, in the shadows, you can see the outline of the castle poking out of the forest like an island on a sea of green. It's been grown over for quite some time - vines and, of course, rosebushes. They always said the Bitch liked roses. It doesn't surprise you - they're all blood and thorns. Nothing a decent lady would like.
You've got some leftover leather vests from the last war, stolen from the miller's basement. You've got some knives and pitchforks, maybe a scythe that hasn't seen work in years - and if you're lucky, a rusty sword. But the castle is guarded by more fearsome things - things that have brought down many a real knight, out for glory or to make a name. Heck, you grew up with stories about the Ice Queen, watching champion after champion march into the forest, never to return - or coming back with stories enough to chill your blood. You should know better than anyone.
Yet here you are, waiting for the sun to go down and the castle to awaken. The legends say that the curse can only be lifed if some man melts the heart of the Ice Queen - but if you can't do it, you better be ready to run, because when dawn comes, you'll be trapped, frozen in the castle just like every other man before you. Women are safe, of course, but they can't melt her heart, and generally don't enjoy her company.
The only way to make it into the castle alive is to trust your friends - to go at it in a group. But you can't trust them for too long, because in the end, if you're lucky enough to get through the death trap alive and find the Bitch, it'll have to be every many for himself.
Anyway, the sun's going down. Time to get going. After all, the Bitch waits for no man.
The setting of Frigid Bitch is pretty bog-standard fairy-tale fare. There's a village in the middle of the forest, and nearby is a legendary castle overgrown with roses and ivy. Inside is the Ice Queen - or as the locals have come to nickname her, the Frigid Bitch. The Bitch cursed all the men in the castle, freezing them forever; soon after, the women of the castle fled to the nearby villages, and the Bitch was left alone. As long as the curse is in place, the Bitch will be forever young and beautiful - and every morning, any man who sets foot inside the castle is frozen.
As the introduction suggests, the characters are pretty much the losers of their village - the sort of people who've never done an honest day's work in their life. They're the embarassment of their families, the black sheep who are kept fed and clothed out of duty to blood. They are kitted out in castoff clothing and stolen second-hand merchandise - traveling towards a fate that has taken real champions, with real gear. None of your characters really want to be going on this foolhardy, suicidal quest, but a combination of peer pressure and pride have carried you this far, and it's too late to go back.
One player won't be taking on the role of one of these poor wretches. This player will instead act as narrator, setting the scenes, giving the descriptions, and providing the voice-overs. While everyone else is creating their layabouts, he'll be setting up the forest and the castle, to help define the challenges that the characters will face.
And what about the Frigid Bitch herself? Well, she'll make herself known through the play - all the players, including the narrator, will have opportunity to shape her final manifestation. She doesn't belong to anyone.
In addition to paper and players, all you need are six-sided dice.
Characters in Frigid Bitch have three statistics, scores that measure their general aptitude in certain areas. These three are Gear, Work, and Heart. The "average human score" for each of these is 3.
Besides the attributes, characters also have two more scores: Luck and Fear. Fear is the measure of how frightened the character is, which contributes towards the difficulty of all the tasks the character might perform, while Luck measures the character's chances of getting out of the fire and back into the frying pan. Fear can be set to any value desired, and Luck always starts as equal to Fear. Note that this corresponds to the number of dice rolled, so try to choose a number smaller than the total number of dice you have available.
Finally, each wastrel has a series of Trust scores, which track how much he trusts his fellows. This should be a series of numbers, one for each possible pairing. Character A should have "Trust B", "Trust C" and "Trust D" on his sheet; Character C should have "A", "B", and "D". And so on. All Trust values start at zero, but you'll have the opportunity to raise them over the course of the game.
While all this is happening, the narrator should be setting his own numbers - the challenges of this particular adventure. Every game of Frigid Bitch has a different Castle of the Ice Queen, and a different countryside to face, and these numbers play a big part in how they're all different. Narrators have two scores, called Challenges, to describe the ordeal their fellow players will soon be enduring. Both can be set at whatever score is desired - higher scores will lead to longer, more challenging games, while lower scores will bring quicker games.
The two Challenges are Ice and Magic. Ice represents the cold, barren hostility of the quest; Magic, conversely, represents the more fantastical elements. When Ice is higher than Magic, the game tends to be grittier, and full of dark humor; when Magic is higher than Ice, the game is more fantastical and light-hearted. Neither one may be zero.
One last thing before the game starts - each player other than the narrator must write down The Thing That Scares Me Most About The Countryside. Generally no more than a sentence or two, from the perspective of your character. The narrator will use this to flesh out the quest to the Castle.
Frigid Bitch is divided into four distinct chapters: Countryside, Castle, Courting, and Escape. The latter only comes into play if nobody is able to melt the Ice Queen's heart. Each chapter has certain options and variations on the rules, but the core remains the same.
Frigid Bitch uses only six-sided dice pools, rolled in opposition - one pool by the player, the other by the narrator. Discarding the fives and sixes, add together the rest of the numbers: this is your score. Whoever gets the higher roll wins. Ties represent an interruption - the situation changes, often more complexly, without resolving itself.
Chapter 1: The Countryside
At the start of each game of Frigid Bitch, the Narrator always frames the opening scene with the characters walking down off the bluff and heading towards the castle. Each player must then give their character's name, along with a brief description, as the Narrator sets the scene and mood. All narration in a game of Frigid Bitch by either the players or the narrator must be couched in the past tense, as if this is a story being told by a third party long after the character's adventure has completed.
After that is over, the narrator is free to describe anything he wishes, keeping in mind that the other players have suggested numerous obstacles for their characters to run afoul - the Things That Scare Them Most About The Countryside. When one of these special obstacles is used, that character's Fear score is automatically raised by one, permanently, but that player has the first chance to roll to defeat the obstacle. Try to use these obstacles first.
Players must choose one of their characters three statistics (Gear, Work, or Heart) to face an obstacle, and describe briefly how they plan to use this attribute. Each of the three attributes works slightly differently, as explained below, but the core is the same - the value of the statistic is rolled vs. the sum of their Fear and the Ice Challenge. If the players desire, two characters may choose to Trust each other, and work together - in this case, only one of them rolls, but one extra die is added to their statistic for each Trusting character. However, if the roll is a failure, the player rolling gains a Fear point - and so does anyone who Trusted them.
If the player succeeds, the narrator describes their success. If they fail, the player may choose to narrate the appropriate defeat (and are welcome to add additional details to the setting through their narration). However, as long as the result is not a tie, the player also has a second chance to succeed - by pressing their Luck. If you choose not to push your Luck, it is raised by one. Choosing to press is slightly more complex.
When pressing, the character rolls their Luck score against the attribute used in the first contest, plus the Magic challenge (remember to double this if using Heart). In the game, Luck favors the inept - the higher your attribute, the more difficult it is to successfully get Luck to help you. Trust dice may not be added to Luck rolls. If this roll fails, you've still failed, but now the narrator gets to describes your failure. If it succeeds, everyone's Fear is lowered by one - and the player gets to narrate their character's unwitting victory out of the jaws of defeat (again, they may feel free add more detail to the setting through this description). Also, remove any die that rolled a six from your Luck score and add it to your Gear score - there's a lot of nifty equipment scattered about the countryside from centuries of champions, and a lot of it is really good stuff. Of course, Gear is also expendable.
No matter what the outcome of either roll, any pair of players that Trusted one another have their respective Trust ratings boosted by one. If the first roll succeeded, the player collects a number of Tale Points equal to their Fear - failures give zero. If the player failed the first roll and successfully pressed their Luck, they collect a number of Tale Points equal to their Luck (after the sixes are removed) - but if it failed, they reduce their Tale Point total by one. Ties mean no Tale Points were gained or lost.
In the Countryside, Tale Points collected are all put into a communal pool shared by all the players. When it reaches a value equal to the sume of all the character's starting Fears, added to the two Challenge scores, they have reached the Castle.
Chapter 2: The Castle
Once at the Castle walls, the second chapter begins, and it doesn't end until the first character finds the Ice Queen and begins courtship. Unlike the first stage, Tale Points at the Castle are collected separately by each player. The first person to collect twice the Tale points needed in the first chapter finds the Ice Queen.
While in the Countryside, the players acted for their characters in more-or-less a free-for-all - the only indicators of order was being the first person to react to your own worst fear. This stops at the Castle walls. Starting with the player whose roll ended the Countryside scene, players take turns going from left to right around the table. Each turn involves the declaration of a goal, and a roll.
The first goal, of course, is to get past the Castle walls - and this isn't something the Ice Queen made easy. After all, it's her home you're trying to break into, and she's got it well-protected. A separate successful roll has to be made for each character to get into the Castle - players may choose to roll themselves, or Trust someone else to help them inside.
Getting through the Castle walls is a special roll that doesn't follow the standard parameters - players must simply roll their Heart (+ any Trust) vs. the combined challenges (Ice + Magic). Fear and Luck do not apply, and neither does skill - crossing through the walls is entirely a matter of inner strength. Ties and failures are simply ignored; Fear doesn't change, and there's no chance to press one's Luck. Tale Points are never earned for passing the walls, or helping someone else pass the walls - getting inside is its own reward.
Once inside the Castle walls, Challenges are reversed - attribute rolls are against Fear + Magic, and Luck rolls are against the appropriate attribute + Ice. Players can choose to help others come in, upping their Trust scores, or they can take this opportunity to ditch their friends.
Ditching is an encouraged tactic - the group is meant to splinter once inside the castle. Remember, Tale Points are collected individually, and whoever gets to the goalpost first has an advantage in the next chapter, the Courtship - but if any other player's character is present, they get the same benefits. However, ditching also comes with a cost - you have to spend one Trust point from each person you ditched (yes, if you take someone with you, you don't have to pay to ditch them). Once fragmented, players can gain Trust points by accepting another player's offer to have their characters reunite... maybe to once again ditch after a roll or two.
Trust takes on new meaning in the Castle. In addition to earning them, Trust points can now be spent - and not just on ditching, as described above. Before any person rolls for their turn, you can declare that you're using Trust to screw them over (even if you're in different parts of the castle). Describe how this manifests, and spend as many Trust points as you desire - which gives extra dice to their opposition. Trust points can never be spent on Luck rolls.
Chapter 3: Courting
The player who completed the Castle Chapter first immediately gets another scene. From this point onward, scenes continue counterclockwise around the table, instead of clockwise.
Courting scenes are very simple - roll your character's Heart + whater Trust points you have left + the Magic Challenge vs. your Fear + your Luck + the Ice Challenge. Yes, when wooing the Frigid Bitch, your Luck works against you - it knows better! Other players may spend Trust points to further increase the character's opposition. The Ice Queen might grow angry, but she's just playing hard to get - she won't kill any of the characters, trusting her curse to freeze them if they don't succeed. Instead, she laughs at them. Every failure reduces Fear by one as the character becomes more determined to survive. Obviously, one cannot press their Luck.
Thereafter, turns proceed counterclockwise. Any player whose character arrived at the same time gets to make a Courtship roll on his turn. For the other players, their scenes are framed as if they were in the Castle - but now all they need is one successful roll, of any sort, to arrive at the Courtship. Then, on their next turn, they can make a Courtship roll as well.
Once the final player has reached the Courtship stage, everyone gets one final turn around the table - yes, the poor sucker last in line gets only one shot. If nobody has successfully wooed the Queen by then, it's too late - dawn is coming, and you have to get out of the castle before you're frozen forever. If someone has courted the Bitch by this point, the game is over, and they can declare themselves the winner.
If the game progresses to the Escape level, every player has exactly one chance to flee. Roll your character's Work vs. the combined Ice and Magic challenges. If he succeeds, he makes it out of the castle. Otherwise, he's trapped. Instead of escaping, you may also choose to make one last Courting attempt. If you choose this option, a roll is made without any sort of Challenge - simply Heart + Trust vs. Fear + Luck. If you fail, of course, there's no chance to escape, and you'll be stuck in the castle forever. If you succeed, you've managed to melt the Ice Queen just in time for the romantic sunrise. You poor bastard.
No matter whether someone successfully courted the Ice Queen, or everyone stumbled on their way out, getting trapped inside forever, you've still managed to create a tale worth telling. Enjoy it, and be ready, for the next time you decide to send a bunch of losers in to melt the Frigid Bitch, it'll be a very different experience.