A very unofficial John Wick RPG
One day at work, I daydreamed about a system that assumed competence. Instead of "success" or "failure," a bad roll did one thing, while a good roll did that thing and let you keep going. I imagined players chaining actions together into elegant sequences, and then it hit me. Oh, man, this mechanic would be perfect for a John Wick game!
Murder Ballet learned from a lot of the lessons I discovered making Lightning War. It's slim - coming in at only 32 pages. It's simple - your character fits on a notecard... And it's a blast.
I ran a game at MomoCon 2023. At first, the players were worried that their characters were too powerful - they blasted through the first encounter with hardly any effort. However, the game went on, and their resources slowly dwindled. By the finale, their wounded assassins were trapped in the bullet-riddled husk of a stolen sedan, surrounded by goons with assault rifles, and the players were sweating. "How are we going to get out of this one?"
But of course they did, because they're playing badass assassins.
For me, Murder Ballet was a twofold exercise: it was a reminder that a game doesn't have to be 100+ pages to be tactically complex. It was also (unofficially) writing for an established IP. Fleshing out the John Wick universe for the rulebook required me to fill in some blanks about the worldbuilding in the movies. Why does the Continental Hotel use phone operators and fax machines? What's the business relationship between the regular mobsters from the original film, and the assassin society from the later movies?
Looking at the views-to-downloads ratio, Murder Ballet is my most popular project to date. Within the very first week, it was being shared around Reddit, and an extremely loyal fan even made a VTT setup for Fantasy Grounds!