Princess, Jock & Nerd: The Lady Blackbird Hack

Last week at Gen Con, I had a chance to both run and play Lady Blackbird once more, which was just great. I played this little game extensively a couple of years ago and it never ceases to amaze me how much a few pages can deliver. After running it, I was talking to some friends at the lobby of the Embassy Suites about the game, comparing notes on how we ran the game, and I made the observation that for me, Lady Blackbird really sings when you have all the characters in one location, with their agendas out in the open where they can see how much at cross-purposes they are. After that it’s just a matter of seating back and enjoying the ensuing show.

Later, as I went back to thinking about Princess, Jock & Nerd, it occurred to me that the Lady Blackbird format would be a really amazing and simple way of doing this The Breakfast Club game since that is exactly what the movie is about: putting these characters in one location and letting them interact with each other. This was confirmed in my mind as I played the game on the last day of the con and then spoke about it some more with more people, including some of my players from the weekend.

I mentioned this on Twitter and immediately the idea was both liked and supported. It makes sense; Lady Blackbird is an experiment on character interaction at its core and fits well the theme and format of the movie.

So that’s what I’m doing now, turning The Breakfast Club into a Lady Blackbird hack that can be played quickly and in a short period of time, which fits my design goals to a T. In addition, Sean Nittner of the Narrative Control podcast issued me a challenge to have this done by the end of September so he can run it at Big Bad Con in Oakland, CA, which works for me as it lights a fire under my butt to get this done quickly. To that end, I’m just gonna go straight into writing, as opposed to blogging the process as I go along.

I’m starting it all by cheating, though.

Distilling the movie characters into stats is hard; I have to make a lot of assumptions based on actions, gestures, expressions and one-off lines of dialogue. I decided to start with the Keys[ref]Not familiar with Keys? Read what they are here:[/ref] for each character as these are the “stats” that most define who they are and what they want. It was also the easiest because the very stereotypes they are called in the movie create the first Key for each.

Below are the five characters and the Keys and Secrets I sketched out on my first pass. I am not defining them yet, though the names do give good indications about what they do. They are incomplete, however, so feel free to give suggestions.


  • Key of the Basketcase
  • Key of the Outcast
  • Key of
  • Secret of Lies
  • Secret of


  • Key of the Athlete
  • Key of the Pack
  • Key of
  • Secret of
  • Secret of


  • Key of the Criminal
  • Key of the Troublemaker
  • Key of the Tough Guy
  • Secret of the Smart Ass
  • Secret of


  • Key of the Brain
  • Key of the Nerd
  • Key of the
  • Secret of Insight
  • Secret of


  • Key of the Princess
  • Key of Vanity
  • Key of Popularity
  • Secret of
  • Secret of


  1. Daniel, looks good so far. I’m glad you put up the blog post because I have a concernt that is too long for Twitter.

    The issues is a lack if urgency. In Blackburd the characters are presented with a situation that requires immediate action on the part of the character, which are then followed with at least two, but probaly many more complications they have to address (starting: get free. Follow up: liberate the Owl and deliver Lady Blackbird at the very least.)

    Breakfast club, by contrast, is a movie about self discovery. By holding themsleves up to the mirror of strangers they find out who they really are.

    So, my thoughts are the hack need a little more in the way of goals. Concrete things to achieve with obvios and fun paths to get there. Things like getting a hall pass to get your stuff, er, go to the bathroom. And so on…


  2. @Sean Nittner
    I was thinking of this as I watched the movie again the other night. It was extremely obvious how Bender is an agent of Plot in the movie, always prompting the story to go forward beyond them just sitting in the library.

    I want to build obstacles into the format. Bender has a Key that “forces” him to create trouble/situations for the characters to get into trouble, so it helps push the action along. But furthermore, I also had the idea of having situational goals; your comment only underscores that this needs to be in there somehow.

    Perhaps there should be an act structure for the game to follow? Perhaps defined sections based on the movie? Perhaps just the situation generator and letting a couple rolls decide what the goals are?

    I want this to be able to emulate the story-arc of the movie but also be able to go beyond if needed.

    I also fleetingly thought of having an overarching goal that can only be achieved by the combined use of XP from each of the characters, but I haven’t done anything with it beyond go, Hmm…


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