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Gate Watch: Collaborative Cinematic Storytelling (Digital Print & Play)
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Gate Watch: Collaborative Cinematic Storytelling (Digital Print & Play)

Watermarked PDF

About Gate Watch

You and your companions are members of the Gate Watch—charged to keep an eye on the border between realms. Who built the gate? What is on the other side? Why are you watching? What are you guarding against? These are the questions you will answer as you explore the mystery of the Gate. Every game session is different, every world, every Gate unique.

Gate Watch is a creative tabletop storytelling game for 2-5 players, where player interactions take the mystery of the Gate to dramatic resolution. It is diceless and GMless and uses 18 cards, with rules on front and inspirational images on the back. You will also need two sheets of paper, some index cards, and some markers. The typical playtime is about 2-3 hours.

This is the "Digital Print & Play" PDF version of the game, Kickstarted in May 2012, and is suitable for printing on Avery 5392 "Meeting Badge" Cards or cut out manually using the cut-lines. There will be also a DriveThruCards version available separately, which are printed on 18 US Premium Poker Card Cards, available as soon as all Kickstarter backers have received their cards.

Overview of Play

Players first choose the Gate for this game, optionally selecting or drawing one from the 18 images on the back of the cards. Reading through the cards, they together create a Map and describe Locations, establish Truths & Mysteries, and ask key Questions of fellow WatchersHook cards help players set key goals for Acts 1 and 2, then take turns setting Scenes that drive the story forward. Resolution cards increase tension or resolve complications until a clue reveals one of the Gate's Mysteries in Act 3.

Gate Watch inspires players to be creative, supporting a nearly infinite variety of potential stories. Thus far in play-testing, the Gate collaboratively selected by players resides in a wide variety of settings & genres:

  • in a classics fantasy, with the gate lying between the real-world and the Greek heaven & hell, and Watchers possibly hired by Charon;
  • in a 1950's noir mystery, featuring the gate between a Hollywood producer's mansion and the hardscrabble blue-collar world of post-war Los Angeles;
  • in a sci-fi adventure, where a collapsing underground mutant civilization has a hidden exit to a post-apocalyptic landscape;
  • and in a dark fantasy, where a water well located in a German farming village at the end of WWII leads into the perilous lands of the fae, but may be the only escape from invading Russians.

We've found the mechanics of Gate Watch work well for experienced gamers as well as those who are completely new to collaborative story games. From improv actors to experienced role players, a wide range of people have found the instructions and mechanisms easy to understand and fun to play. The resulting stories were imaginative, the settings and genres intriguing, the play dynamic, and most importantly, all had a satisfying ending in just a couple of hours of play. A fun evening entertainment.

Reviewer Quotes

“You wouldn't think a whole three-act story game could fit in 18 playing cards, but Gate Watchcleverly mixes a combination of well-honed story prompts, act-specific scene frames, and a story hook brimming with potential, focusing on just what's needed to improvise compelling fiction.” — Aaron A. Reed, author of the Archives of the Sky story game.

Gate Watch is an intriguing, distilled world-crafting, story-telling, and role-playing experience in the guise of a simple game. I wouldn't be surprised if some of the principles it is based on are used in basic literary, plot-writing or directing courses. Involve everybody around the table and collaboratively set the background through a pool of questions. Create exciting scenes involving both the background and the participating characters with nothing but narration. Dice? Nah, too random. Cards? Yes, but only a handful. Rules? Less than a single page. Duration? As long as you wish. Fun? Loads! The game can explore any setting and genre you want it to, with everybody simultaneously starring and directing. Veteran gamer? Hardcore role-player? Total newbie? It doesn't matter. All you need is a vivid imagination.”— Antonios Reviewer & Columnist

Inspirational Quotes

“The world is all gates, all opportunities, strings of tension waiting to be struck.”  — Ralph Waldo Emerson 

“Yog-Sothoth knows the gate. Yog-Sothoth is the gate. Yog-Sothoth is the key and guardian of the gate. Past, present, future, all are one in Yog-Sothoth.”  — H. P. Lovecraft

“My paintings always feature trails that dissolve into mysterious areas, patches of light that lead the eye around corners, pathways, open gates, etc.”  — Thomas Kinkade

“The enemy is within the gates; it is with our own luxury, our own folly, our own criminality that we have to contend.”  — Marcus Tullius Cicero

“Still round the corner there may wait, A new road or a secret gate.”  — J. R. R. Tolkien

“It is easy to go down into Hell; night and day, the gates of dark Death stand wide; but to climb back again, to retrace one's steps to the upper air - there's the rub, the task.”  — Virgil

“Near the gates and within two cities there will be scourges the like of which was never seen: famine within plague, people put out by steel, crying to the great immortal God for relief.”  —  Nostradomus

Peter Venkman: ‘She says she's the Gatekeeper. Does that make sense to you?’ Egon Spengler: ‘Some. I'm with the Keymaster now.’ Peter Venkman: ‘Oh, we have to get these two together.’"— Ghostbusters by Dan Aykroyd & Harold Ramis

“We did not choose to be the guardians of the gate, but there is no one else.”  — Lyndon B. Johnson

About the Author

I am fascinated by the art and craft of collaboration and have its practice and the study of how and why collaboration works at the center of my professional career as an entrepreneur, a software architect, and as a creator, producer & publisher in the game industry.

I have been a fan and supporter of games (especially roleplaying games) for decades, with old favorites including Call of Cthulhu and RuneQuest II. My new favorites are the collaborative games that have emerged in the last couple of decades, both in the form of GMless story games as well as in board games.

Professionally, I've done considerable work in the computer game industry: I was the lead designer for Castle Marrach and Lovecraft Country online games and producer for mobile adaptions of several strategy games by Reiner Knizia and Michael Schacht. In the tabletop games industry, I produced Chaosium's award-winning Beyond the Mountains of Madness RPG supplement, resurrected Arkham Horror cooperative board game before licensing it to Fantasy Flight for their bestselling 2nd edition, and I support the tabletop gaming community as the owner/publisher of the popular website

Recently, I have been doing more personal projects, directly creating releases for the tabletop industry: I co-authored with Shannon Appelcline Meeples Together: How and Why Cooperative Board Games Work (2018) published by Gameplaywright with a successful Kickstarter last year, and I am preparing to release a number of story games through Dyvers Hands Productions. I am also an avid supporter of other game designers on Kickstarter and Patreon.

Credits & Links

Written & produced by Christopher Allen. ©2019 by Christopher Allen.

More details, advice, optional rules, credits at

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File Last Updated:
July 13, 2019
This title was added to our catalog on July 15, 2019.
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