Courts & Corsets seeks to reproduce the intrigue involved in such films as Amadeus and Dangerous Liasons. The goal of the players is to collectively tell a tragic and melodramatic story.
The rules of Courts & Corsets rely entirely on a bidding process, by which players are able to influence play with an ever-dwindling resource. In this game, the tokens used for bidding are called Crowns no matter what physical piece is actually used during play. You may use any type of tokens to bid with, provided all players possess the ability to hide their tokens during a bid.

When a bid is called for, the bidding players must secretly select a number of Crowns from their available cache. Once all bidding players have done so, all must fairly display their amount. The highest bidder is considered the winner, and all Crowns bid by winner and losers are discarded (and are unavailable to the players until their caches are legally replenished). Ties are broken by the winning players conducting a second bid, or however many more bids are required to achieve a single winner.

If a situation arises where levels of triumph are needed, the player with the highest bid obtains the best goal, descending bids until the lowest bid achieves the worst result. Ties during these bids are resolved as aforementioned.
Setting Up Court
Initial Steps
Players must all politely agree to the length of the game, a shorter game yielding less Crowns for bidding during actual play. A short game offers double the number of players in Crowns; the longest of games may be ten times the players in Crowns. At the beginning of each Act the players receive this amount in Crowns, in addition to Crowns they have saved from prior stages of play.

This beginning stage of the game offers players twice as many Crowns as there are participants. Any Crowns remaining after the the pair of initial bids are retained by players for actual play.
Dramatic Personae
From their initial Crowns, players must bid for the chance to describe their Court Member. The highest bidder recieves the first opportunity, the second-highest speaks next, and so on. Players may opt to retain some Crowns for a stronger hand in choosing their Tragedy.

The first player is allowed the loftiest description, in terms of charm, wit, power, or any other arena of courtly influence. Each player thereafter must describe their Court Member in lesser terms than the player preceding them.
Triumphs and Tragedies
Using their Crowns remaining from the above bid, players must bid for the fate that must ultimately befall their Court Member. Again, the highest bidder speaks first, et cetera, until the last player illuminates their Court Members finality.

Each player must describe a triumph or tragedy which does not place their Court Member in a better disposition than the players before. In such an occasion that a Court Members final Tragedy is death, the remaining players must resolve to ever more gruesome and terrible ends for their own Court Members.
Holding Court
Game Play
At the beginning of each Act, every player receives a number of Crowns determined in Initial Steps, above. An Act involves the introduction (and possible resolution) of a Conflict or Theme. At the beginning of each Act, the players make a bid to win decision on this Conflict or Theme. The winner states the Theme or Conflict in a few sentences, describes the Opening Scene (inserting other Court Members as desired) then proceeds to act through her own Court Member as the Central Player. The rules governing what a player may and may not affect are as follows:

The Central Player may:
  • Announce her Court Member's actions.
  • Provide a voice for her Court Member.
  • Act and speak for any character in the game which is not another Court Member.
  • Begin or resolve a conflict within the game, provided she has the consent of the other players or wins a bid.
  • Appoint another player as the Central Player.

Any player may not:
  • Cause another Court Member to act or speak.
  • Begin or resolve a conflict without the consent or bid of the other players.

Another player becomes the Central Player when:
  • The player's Court Member speaks or acts towards another Court Member in a manner that demands a reaction. In this case, the reacting Court Member becomes the Central Player.
  • The player announces and appoints a another player to become the Central Player.
  • The Central Player is Interrupted (as per the rules below).
If a player announces events that run contrary to another player's desires, that opposing player must speak up! This is called an Interruption. A player may Interrupt, when the Current Player has finished their sentence, by announcing the fact. All players who wish to be involved in the Interruption must then make a bid which includes, if desired, the Current Player. Whoever wins the bid to Interrupt chooses the resolving events and becomes the Current Player, if she wishes. If nobody contests the proposed Interruption, the player who vocalized her dissent with events becomes the new Current Player without expending any Crowns.

To end a Scene, the Current Player must declare the Scene over. If other players do not wish the Scene to end, they may Interrupt, referring to the preceding rules. All players keep their Crowns at the Scene's end for use in the next scene.

An Act may be ended upon completion of a Scene at the choice of the Central Player. The Act must come to an end if all but the Central Player are out of Crowns. A player's remaining Crowns are saved for addition to those gained upon the beginning of a new Act.
Triumphs and Tragedies
When a player attains their decided Triumph or Tragedy, their Court Member is either removed from the story or, if still alive and functioning within the confines of the game, becomes a non-Court Member controllable by all players.

A player without a Court Member is still allowed to bid and provide actions for chracters which are not Court Members, but the rules concerning winning an bid to Interrupt are as follows:
  • You may Interrupt to cause any action or event that does not directly affect a Court Member in body or mind.
  • Your own once-Court Member may be affected by your Interruption as any other non-Court Member.
  • You can never be the Current Player. Once you have caused an Interruption and the event has transpired, the Current Player resumes their role.
Ending the Game
Once all the Court Members have experienced their Triumphs and Tragedies, the game is effectively complete. Whoever ends the Scene in which the final Triumph or Tragedy has played itself out should end the Scene and thus completes the Final Act. Unless, of course, other players desire to continue play with Interruptions. Even so, when all but the Current Player stands with every Crown spent, the curtain must be drawn and the Final Act is over.
Copyright Notice
This entire document and all contents is Copyright 2001, by Zak Arntson. Permission to duplicate for personal use and captions for review purposes is granted. You must receive explicit permission from the author (email: to use this game and any portion therein for public use, such as publication or convention play.