Capture-the-Flag With Stuff
A somewhat psychotic variation on a classic game
By Andrew Plotkin
In Fall of '94,
a group called KGB
ran a game of Capture-the-Flag, using the labyrinthine
corridors of Wean and Doherty Halls at CMU. It was quite successful
(modulo a few sprained ankles); a good time was had by all. But deep
nasty things in my brain began whispering that perhaps more
fun might be made available... by the addition of Stuff.
Stuff is a key concept in game design. Pong plus Stuff makes Arkanoid.
Risk plus Stuff makes Cosmic Encounter.
Rock-Scissors-Paper plus Stuff makes Magic: the Gathering.
Capture-the-Flag plus Stuff makes...
Capture-the-Flag With Stuff.
Herein are the rules.
- Comments on the rules are given in this manner, as emphasized
footnotes. Comments are not rules; they are meant to clarify and
explain the reasoning behind the rules.
- These are the base rules to Capture-the-Flag,
as clearly as I can state
them. All the Stuff modifies these rules. The rules are equally applicable
to two-team games and multiple-team games.
The game space is divided into some number of team territories and
neutral space. (There may also be forbidden territory, which no player
may enter at all during the game.) No two team territories may be
directly adjacent; they must be separated by at least six feet of
neutral space. You are within a team's territory if either foot touches
or is within that territory.
- Six feet is assumed to be wider than
anyone can spread their legs. So no player can be in more than one
team's territory at a time. The rules could be extended to allow
territories touching, but I don't feel like it. Also note that territory
is a three-dimensional volume; you are still in a territory if you jump
up from the floor.
If you touch an enemy, and both of you are in your territory, he is
captured by you. You must lead him to your jail (see Glyph of Jail) at
reasonable speed. Once there, the prisoner must "enter jail" by touching
either the Jail or another prisoner already in jail. A captor may not
make any more captures until his prisoner has entered jail.
Prisoners may move around freely, as long as they all remain in constant
contact with the Jail (either directly or through a chain of other
- It doesn't have to remain the same chain.
Prisoners may rearrange themselves, or form multiple chains. (Really,
they should be called prisoner undirected graphs, but never mind.)
However, it is considered polite to enter jail at the Glyph and form a
single queue, so that the people who have been captive longest are
closest to freedom.
If you touch a prisoner in another team's jail, he is freed, as long as
his freedom does not break the chain of captivity for any other
prisoners. Both of you must then return to your home territor(ies) at
reasonable speed; you need not remain together. Both of you are immune
to capture until you re-enter your home territor(ies).
- If you
touch someone in the middle of a prisoner chain, he is not freed and you
are not immune to capture; the touch does not count at all. He cannot
wait for his neighbors to join hands and then leave; you would have to
touch him again after they join.
At the beginning of the game, there is a twenty-minute timeout, during
which no player may enter enemy territory; this is so that Flags and
other magic items may be placed.
If you carry another team's Holy Flag into your territory, your team
scores a point. Report to a referee and give him the Flag. There will be
a five-minute timeout while the Flag is hidden again.
Magic items may be dropped or given away, but they may not be stolen or
yanked away from other people. A prisoner must give up any items he
possesses, if asked. (To his captor or his captor's teammate.)
that a stunned player is NOT required to give up items.
Definitions of terms and supplementary rules
- Flags are large pieces of cloth or felt; 18 inches square is a good size.
Their magic is inherent; possession is all ten points of the Law.
- Belts are long sashes of cloth or felt; five feet long and five inches wide
is good. (The ends will dangle.) The magic is invoked by tying it around your
- Potions are foam-rubber balls. Bonking the subject over the head with
the ball invokes the magic. (Silly, but unambiguous.)
- Wands are floppy two-foot lengths of foam rubber. Whapping the subject
(anywhere) and shouting the keyword invokes the magic.
- Glyphs are 8.5x11" sheets of paper marked with the spell (in big
letters.) They function as long as they are taped to a wall or floor;
they have no effect while carried. A glyph is owned by a particular
team, and will be marked with that team's color.
Only members of that team may move it, and it only affects members
of enemy teams (with the exceptions noted below.)
- One charge
- An item with this attribute may only be used once; it must
then be recharged by touching it to any Glyph of Charging. If you pass
the item to a teammate, you should remember to say whether it is charged
or not. If the item passes to an enemy, it is automatically recharged.
- A stunned player must sit down on the floor and wait until
the stun wears off. He is incapable of capturing or freeing anyone. He
may easily be captured according to the normal rules,
in which case he is unstunned and must get up to go to
jail. If a player is stunned while leading a prisoner to jail, the
prisoner is freed. A player may not be stunned again if he is already
- A stunned player is not restrained from anything else; he may
- Most items must be worn or carried openly. The only
exceptions are items tagged "may be concealed". A concealed item must be
brought out into the open to be used. A prisoner must give up a
concealed item if asked, but only if the asker really knows the prisoner
- That is, you cannot just tell your prisoner "give me all your
- Some glyphs affect you when you see them, if you are close
- Take this literally: if it crosses your vision, and you are
within the range, it affects you. No ducking back and saying "whoops!"
Contrariwise, if your eyes are closed or your head is averted, so that
it doesn't hit your retina, it doesn't affect you.
- The Holy Flag
- A flag, in the team color. This is the flag.
- Flag of Delusion
- A flag, in the team color.
It is identical to the real flag, except for a label in
one corner which says "Psych!" To invoke the magic, hold it with the
label hidden. 'Nuff said.
- Glyph of Jail
- A sheet of paper marked "Jail". This is the jail; see the base rules
for its definition. It may be
moved if there are no prisoners in jail.
- Glyph of Charging
- A sheet of paper marked "Still Going". Any magic item touched to
this regains full charge. Unlike other glyphs, the Glyph of Charging may
be used by anyone.
- It is still true that only the owning team may move
- Glyph of Entrancement
- A sheet of paper marked "Gotcha". If you see an enemy Glyph of
Entrancement, and you are within ten feet of it, you are stunned.
The stun lasts ten minutes.
- Glyph of the Disgusting Doorknob
- A sheet of paper marked "Yukko".
If an enemy Glyph of the Disgusting Doorknob is on the side of a door
facing you, you may not open the door or prevent it from closing.
If the Glyph is mounted on the side of an elevator door
facing you, you may not push any of the elevator buttons, or prevent the
door from closing.
- Glyph of the Net
- A sheet of paper marked "Thanks". If you see an enemy Glyph of
the Net, and you are within ten feet of it, you must place one magic
item on the floor next to it. If you have no items, nothing happens, and
you need not leave any Holy Flag even if you have no other items. The
Glyph can only affect you once every ten minutes. You may not pick up
magic items sitting next to an enemy Glyph of the Net.
- Potion of Lubrication
- A brown potion. May be concealed. One charge. A prisoner in
jail who has this item may use by bonking himself on the head with it.
He may then "slip out" of jail -- just walk away -- as long as this does
not break the chain of captivity for any other prisoners.
- Note that using this item does
NOT give you safe passage out.
- Potion of Truth
- A blue potion. One charge, and may be used no more than once
every fifteen minutes. A person may use this on an enemy prisoner by
bonking him over the head with it. He may then ask six yes/no questions.
The prisoner may lie no more than once. The prisoner may say "I don't
know" if he really doesn't know (he may not lie about that), but then
that question doesn't count against the six.
- The questioner may ask the
same question more than once.
- Potion of Jolt
- A green potion. One charge. May be concealed. A stunned
player who is bonked with this is awakened.
- You may use this on
- Long Wand of the Law (keyword "gotcha!")
- A blue wand. If the bearer whaps a person or object
with this, he is considered to have touched him or it, and they continue
to touch while the wand is in contact.
- This counts for all forms of touching in the rules, including
capturing, staying in contact with jail, and freeing teammates.
- It is convenient to not require
the keyword when whapping an object or teammate. On the other hand, it's
clearer if you use the keyword.
- Wand of Snoozing ("stun!")
- A green wand. Anyone whapped by this is stunned for
- Belt of Twofer
- A red belt. One charge. The wearer may capture two prisoners at a
time. The first must sit down and wait; when the wearer captures a
second, he must go straight back to the first, and then lead them both
to jail. The first capturee need only wait one minute; after that, the
capture is void and he may leave.
- Note that the first capturee is
captured, not stunned.
- Wand of Vengeance ("toast!")
- A red wand. If the bearer whaps an
enemy with this, in the whappee's home territory,
the whappee is captured.
The wielder gets safe passage with his prisoner back to his
jail. When this item is used, the bearer must immediately drop it. You
may not move or pick up this item if it is in enemy territory; you
may only do so in your own or neutral space.
- Remember, this only works in the victim's territory;
it has no effect in the bearer's territory or neutral space.
- Light Grenade
- A red potion. If you pick this up or voluntarily accept it
from someone, you are stunned for ten minutes. It has no effect if it is
thrown at you (as long as you don't catch it.)
This item may safely be picked up during the initial 20-minute "set-up"
- If you are holding it when the set-up period ends, you are
still safe from it; the Light Grenade only goes off when it is picked
- You can safely move this
by kicking it around.
- Anti-Magic Wand ("dispel!")
- A brown wand. One charge. May be concealed. Whapping a
magic item nullifies the magic for one minute. Whapping a person
nullifies the magic of all the items he is carrying for one minute. Has
no effect on flags or a Glyph of Jail.
- Note that whapping is distinct
from touching. You can recharge an Anti-Magic Wand at a Glyph of
Charging, or nullify the Glyph, depending on whether you use the
- If two Wands whap each other, both are nullified.
- A nullified item loses all magical properties; you may treat it as
a mundane piece of foam. For example, you may pick up a nullified
Wand of Vengeance even in enemy territory. Exception: nullifying an
enemy Glyph does not give you the right to move it.
- Goombah's Humiliating Protection
- A green belt. The wearer is totally immune to
capture and stunning, as long as he is jumping up and down and loudly
singing "Yankee Doodle". This protection may be shared by any number of
teammates if they are all holding hands with the wearer, and all jumping
up and down and singing along. A player carrying either Holy Flag may
not use (or share) this item.
- This may look overpowered,
but consider that you can't move very fast
while jumping. An enemy can pretty much follow you around until you
leave his territory, and you have to keep using the magic the whole way.
And you can't sneak up on anyone.
- The Belt of Humiliating Protection protects you against all the
capturing and stunning magic. You cannot use it after you're captured or
stunned to get free / wake up.
This means that it will protect you from the Glyph of Entrancement, but
only if you're using the Belt when you first see the Glyph (and continue
to use it as long as you see it and are in range.)
- The Belt is affected by the Anti-Magic Wand, if the wearer is hit. If
a group is using the Belt, and any of them are hit, the Belt fails for
the whole group.
- Anti-Magicking a Glyph of Entrancement wakes up everybody currently
stunned by it.
- Anti-Magicking a Glyph of the Net allows anyone to pick up the magic
items piled there (since the Glyph is inactive.)
- Anti-Magicking a Light Grenade allows you to pick it up, and you do not
get stunned when the Anti-Magic wears off (since you haven't picked it
up then, you're just carrying it.)
Organization and play
Each team should get one of each type of flag and one of each type of glyph.
The remaining items should be rationed by team size; each team
should get one wand, potion, or belt per person. A ten-person team can
thus have one of each kind of item. (It's up to you whether duplicates are
permissable. I recommend not, since some items are more valuable than
This game is meant to be played indoors. Lurking in hallways, finding
unexpected things around corners, and putting glyphs on doors are all
integral parts of the strategy. An outdoor version would take considerable
fiddling. Any takers?
For the sake of sanity, you should have a central room in neutral territory
where the head referee will preside. He can answer questions, resolve
disputes, and so on. The players wouldn't mind if there were cold drinks
If you have enough spare people, it is also helpful to have some field referees
who wander around and follow the action, so that questions can be resolved
All this nonsense obviously takes a lot of familiarity with the rules.
It will probably take even more tolerance to play "at speed". Pay
attention to people; see what magic items they're carrying so you won't
be surprised if they seem to violate the rules.
If it impossible for you to know something, don't worry about it. For
example, the Potion of Truth may only be used every 15 minutes; but if
you come across one and don't know if it's been used recently, assume it
hasn't. Make every reasonable effort to tell people about time limits
Every player should wear a watch.
The teams will be pink and yellow. (If the players object to the wimpy colors,
inform them that great wizards are above that sort of whining. If they
continue to complain, go home.)
- 16 feet (total) of black foam pipe insulation, 1.5 inch diameter. (Look
in hardware stores.)
- 8 neutral-colored foam balls (black or white). If you can't find any,
substitute another 8 feet of pipe insulation; see below.
- 20 feet each of blue, red, yellow, green, and brown cloth tape.
- One (square) yard each of pink, yellow, and orange felt. (Look in fabric
stores. Felt is reasonably cheap, it doesn't unravel like cloth, and when you
tie the belts on they don't come off. Don't yank on it, though.)
- Pink and yellow highlighter pens, preferably fat ones.
- As many rolls of masking tape as you can scare up. Each team will need
at least two.
- Several pairs of scissors.
- A black permanent marker.
Cut the pink and yellow squares of felt into quarter squares. Set aside two
quarters of each color to be the Holy Flag and Flag of Delusion of each team.
(Write "Psych" in one corner of the Flags of
Delusion, in permanent marker. A little
smiley-face with its tongue sticking out adds to the effect.) Cut the remaining
quarters into long ribbons, 18 inches by one inch, which the team members
will wear to identify themselves.
Cut the orange felt into eight yard-long strips, and tie pairs of strips together
to produce four orange belts, each about five and a half feet long. Add bands of
green and red cloth tape to form two of each kind of belt. (You could just use
red and green felt, of course, but this is a little easier. I used orange because
it's distinct from the team colors and the other colors significant in the
Make up two of each kind of glyph, and color the borders with the highlighter
pens to indicate which team owns each. Make sure there's enough color to
be recognizable from down a long hallway.
(You were wondering why the teams
are yellow and pink? Those are the highlighter colors I found. You could make
the glyphs on colored paper, if you wanted to be fancy. You could rearrange
the entire color scheme if you wanted. Just make sure the team colors and the
magic colors are all easily distinguishable.)
Cut the pipe insulation into eight 2-foot lengths. Put bands of colored cloth
tape around each length to make the eight wands (two of each type.) Four bands
of tape per wand is good.
Put a band of colored tape around each foam ball. We couldn't find foam balls
in time, so we took eight 1-foot lengths of pipe insulation, bent them into
doughnuts, taped them that way, and added more bands of colored tape.
Allow at least half an hour for all this construction foofaraw, plus another
half-hour to go over the rules and pick teams.
This game was first played by
in April of 1995. Another round was organized
in October of 1997.
KGB games have continued regularly since then.
(Once per semester since, I think, 2001.)
The rules have been
extended considerably -- both with new items and with tweaks to
improve gameplay. If you are planning a game, you probably want to
look at the
KGB CTFWS Rules
-- that's the one that's had all the playtesting.
Photos from the
KGB game, Nov. 4 2005.
(Thanks to AlanV.)
Tom Lotze at Harvard has a moderately revised and rewritten
- Designed and written by Andrew Plotkin (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Primary inspiration from
The Rules of Moopsball,
- Wand of Vengeance inspired by Farslayer in Fred Saberhagan's
Books of Swords.
- Light Grenade inspired by Mom and Dad Save the World.
- Belt of Humiliating Protection inspired by the thought of otherwise
rational adults bouncing down a hallway singing at the top of their lungs.
Last updated November 11, 2005.
KGB CTFWS Rules
KGB Home Page
The original Rules of Moopsball