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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Davidson

Alice is Missing: Tips & Tricks


Tips & Tricks


A few weekends ago, I decided to host a game night. I wanted my glorious game night to stray away from typical “game” structure experiences. For me, this was a no-brainer. It took around thirty seconds to realize that my precious game night needed to transform--become something else--into a unique narrative experience. How could I accomplish this task? There are at least half a dozen non-traditional roleplaying games in existence. Do I go with Fiasco?--a game that heavily relies on play-acting and improvisation? What about Weave?--a game with a central narrator who runs the story by using an app to scan cards to build upon other preexisting story elements? Or, perhaps, Icarus?--a shared, cooperative storytelling experience lightly sprinkled with theme and excitement. What about Once Upon a Time?--a competitive storytelling game that uses cards to drive the story. No.

None of those would do.

In fact, it took a mere amount of minutes to decide: Alice is Missing.

Alice Is Missing - A Brief Breakdown

Alice is Missing--designed by Hunters Entertainment and published by Renegade games--allows players to step into the pants of a character who lives in a sleepy coastal town entitled Silent Falls. Each character played is connected to an NPC named Alice Briarwood (although the designers recommend using whatever name and gender the group wants) in various ways: the older brother, the ex-lover, the best friend, the secret crush, etc.

The fundamental story is located directly on the front of the game box, in its title: Alice is Missing. Alice Briarwood disappeared on Wednesday, and nobody has seen her for three days. The game “objective” (for lack of a better term) is to uncover and discover what-in-the-world happened to Alice? However, there is a twist.

Billed as a “silent roleplaying game,” players may only communicate using their smartphones in a group chat (or a private chat between two players should the narrative call for it).

Alice is Missing / First Game / Tips & Tricks

Does Alice is Missing sound right for you and your play group? You want to give it a go?

After trying Alice is Missing as the host and moderator (the Charlie Barnes character). A game of Alice is Missing takes ninety minutes to play (there is a rather sweet timer for Alice is Missing found on either the website or YouTube); however, setup and character creation can take the better part of an hour (depending on player count). I scribbled down a few tips and tricks to help your play session run smoothly.

We live in a day and age where typing on either an actual keyboard or a digital one is standard. Recommend that your players bring a laptop or tablet--if available. Anything they can write on with a decent amount of proficiency and speed. During character creation, players will be giving their character a personality, a physical description, a memory of Alice (or their perception of Alice). The more in-depth the players go into character development, the more they will “come alive” during gameplay. More information known about a particular character can possibly help serve the story once the game gets started.

During character creation, remind players not to create anything story-related that changes the Alice character. Yes, of course, the object is to create a believable character who has met and knows Alice. But, regarding Alice, things should be superficial. For example:

“I remember the first time I hung out with Alice. It was the summer of two years ago. We went for a walk together. We laughed and talked about so many things… I remember the weather was gorgeous that day.”

Clean. Simple. And yet, still gives a strong sense of interconnectivity; without changing the shape of the game. Here is an example of what you don’t want:

“I remember the first time I hung out with Alice. We left her grandma’s house to go for a walk. This was two summers ago before Alice’s grandma passed, and she was sent to live with her foster family. We went for a walk together. We laughed and talked about so many things… I remember Alice laughing so hard that she took a bad step and ended up falling down the side of a nasty hill. We set out for a leisurely walk full of frivolity; it ended with Alice breaking her ankle during the fall. I felt so bad. The ankle never did heal quite right. She still has a slight limp when she tries to walk.”

Whoa. Too much information is forced upon the Alice character. One player has already created that Alice lived with her grandmother (who is now dead), lives with a foster family, and has a permanent limp when she walks. It would not be so bad, but ALL the players start creating who Alice is and describing specific things about her; not only are you limiting your story options but details about Alice created by the players can (and will) conflict. This limits the character of Alice to grow organically during the gameplay.

Allow players to record their voicemail messages on their own phones. This is a no-brainer. Typically, people get skittish letting another person walk off with their phone (completely unlocked). Also, encourage the players to have their voicemail tie into their secret, but leave a substantial amount. I tell players to take their time but to try and record about a two-minute message. Without these elements, your game experience can end with a group of six-second voicemail messages saying:

“Hey Alice! It’s me. I’ve been thinking about you. Give me a call when you get this. Bye.”

Technically, the above message works and is not breaking any of the rules. However, after building a solid narrative with in-depth character relationships and unique secrets, the end result of your game will be a super-massive disappointment.

I recommend using Facebook messenger for the “group chat.” This way, people don’t have to share their phone numbers (if they don’t want to), and Facebook chat comes with a “nickname” option to change the name of the players. Players can use the “temporary profile pic” option to change their profile picture to a picture of their character and set Facebook to automatically change it back after a few hours. jI can use Facebook messenger on my laptop. As the Charlie Barnes character, this is beneficial because I can type with my fingers faster than on a digital keyboard on the phone. Plus, I’ve been known to jump onto the internet on the fly to find a picture that I can send to the players as if Charlie himself had just snapped it with his phone. Finally, Facebook chat is also suitable for implementing private one-on-one conversations.

The Charlie Barnes character (the character who is also a rules moderator) should jump in with “global information.” For example, I tell my players that if they ever see something in all caps, followed by quotes, they ALL know the presented information. While thematically it does not make sense, tell the players to invent some story to make it believable--it does not have to be a big deal. Here is an example:

RADIO: “Tonight, police are gathering around a residential house on the corner of Laramie Avenue and Ninth Street. Silent Falls Sheriff, Chase Douglas, has indicated to reporters that the police have a person of interest and have tracked him or her to the corner residence. More on this story as details unfold…”

The players are to assume (however they want) that they heard the information from a radio. This could be from a radio in their car, playing at home, or perhaps at a gas station while paying for their items. It does not matter. By interjecting game master elements--based on what the characters are doing and where the story is headed--is influential in developing the world. In one particular case, the information ended up being the crux of what happened to Alice. Happy accidents are always lovely.

I recommend either doing a session of Alice is Missing as either the only event for the night or, saving it for the last event for the evening. The story resolution within Alice is Missing is always bleak--boarding on tragic, sometimes--and it is far better to send players home afterward to process and decompress the events of the story. This way, the “experience” is far more powerful. You don’t want to break the spell by whipping out a game of UNO or Charades right after a session of Alice is Missing.

Alice is Missing is what gamers call a one-off or one-and-done. It means that players do not have to return next week to see where the story goes; however, I would encourage you to try and link at least two or three sessions together with a loose narrative thread. For example, play a regular session of Alice is Missing one week. Then, the next week, play it again as the same characters only this time, for example, Alice’s kid brother, David, is missing. Maybe the two disappearances are connected? Obviously, the second and third games will have to connect to something from a previous session; there is no template to follow. However, if you are looking to get creative and add a small amount of interconnectivity within a few sessions, I highly recommend trying. Also, for the best experience, I would recommend making your own 10-minute plot card (the last card that a character reveals with 10 minutes left in the game) to assist in a “customized ending” and to “set up” the idea for the next session.

At the end of the day, Alice is Missing creates an incredibly unique experience, unlike anything I have ever participated in before. The subject matter can get dark, and narratives that revolve around rape, homicide, suicide, incest, sex-trafficking, and the like can be a deterrent to many; however, if you and your friends can stomach the adult concepts that Alice is Missing has to offer, follow the aforementioned tips and tricks, you and your friends will never be disappointed.


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