3 RPGs That Let You Control One Fish with One Knife! – Turn Order

Credit: @elventower

If you’re not plugged into RPG Twitter or other RPG social media spheres, you may have missed the recent kerfuffle around Wizards of the Coast, Dungeons & Dragons, and a a mysterious entity known as Ohgi El’Wun. We aren’t here to rehash that whole issue…we’re here to talk about FishBlade!

While @thomas_violence may have been making a tongue-in-cheek reference to all of us RPGers forever trying to get our friends to try D&D alternates the internet is simply unable to take anything seriously (or maybe unseriously) and a number of actual FishBlade RPGs were spawned!

Players looking to try new systems may be attracted to this unique game, but what is it? How do you all play as one fish? Are you going to get stabbed? Does there need to be Twitter discourse about this concept? (Don’t worry, there is.)

Wonder no further. Here at Turn Order, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to examine some of the suggested ways to play FishBlade.

A Game of Fish Fulfillment

2 Knife Fish. Burkhardt, Jacques, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Our first design is by @thomas_violence himself, originator of the concept. This game is all about teamwork. Each player represents a different part of the fish’s personality, like curiosity, kindness or bloodlust.

While they may have opposing goals, the players’ overall objective is to escape the aquarium and find freedom in the seas. A deck of standard playing cards is dealt out to the players who can use them to vie for dominance or attempt actions. Whoever has dominance holds the knife and takes control of the fish’s actions.

Other players can trigger “vying for dominance” as long as the fish isn’t mid-action; cheating is allowed. When that happens, each player places a card face down and announces its value; the highest value wins, unless they’re caught lying.

Actions are achieved when the dominant player puts down cards of adequate values to meet a difficult rating set by the GM. They can also cheat, and other players can announce their intentions to help or hinder actions based on their individual personality aspects. When players run out of cards, they’re “exhausted” and unable to participate until enough of them have run out that cards must be redistributed to continue.

The GM can also award Fulfillment or Failure as players control the fish in ways that are particularly in line with or against their chosen traits.

This is definitely one of the more complex FishBlades out there, with a whopping three pages rather than the average of one. It also requires more cooperation than many others.
FishBlade really gets into the psyche of the fish as it wars with itself. It wants escape, but what else does it want? Romance, revenge, a good meal?

Crew an Astral Vessel

A fish knife. Shadster, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

@ElvenTower’s take on the FishBlade RPG is a Lasers/Feeling hack that puts players in control of a vessel sailing the Astral Sea. The Fishblade is a crotchety living vessel with its own personality that may even throw a tantrum in combat.

Lasers & Feelings is a narrative RPG system that gives players only 2 attributes in direct opposition, with a single stat known as their “number”. When you roll on BLADES (combat, action) you’ll be trying to roll below your number and rolling on FEELINGS (empathy, manipulations) targets a high roll. Nailing your number gives you the opportunity to question the DM and drive the narrative.

This is a fun, quick-start RPG that moves away from the literal control of a fish and into a more esoteric space adventure! The Lasers & Feelings core is fantastic for players new to the idea of a narrative-focused rules-lite RPG. The “Fish Master” is encouraged to ask questions, not provide details, and it gives players a ton of creative freedom.

A Dexterity RPG Take

A knife for fish. Reinhold Möller, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Twitter user @LeoDoulton brings us this dexterity based version of FishBlade. This game’s nightmare fuel starts early with a suggestion to have a “licensed medical professional with a full surgical suite” on hand as a safety tool.

On the plus side, all you need are one dead fish and one sharp knife.

This is mostly a game of speed and strength. Initiative order is determined by whoever first grabs the knife. The knife holder then narrates the fish’s adventures and puppets the dead fish with the knife.

If another player gets bored or discontent with the storyline, they may attempt to take the knife—physically by any means necessary—and thus take over the narrative. The game ends when the fish is too destroyed to reasonably puppet. Unlike most TTRPGs, there is a way to win this one: have the most blood left in your body.

While FISHBLADE’s simplicity and unique mechanics are striking, this one may be more dangerous than it’s worth. If any adrenaline junkies out there want to give it a shot, we’d love to hear about it after you get out of the hospital! [Editor’s Note: For the love of god do not play this version.]