The Leftovers

The Leftovers is a slapstick fantasy storytelling game. You tell the story of The Leftovers, the unlikely surviving lackeys of an ill-fated adventuring party. Stuck in the middle of a dungeon, The Leftovers must find their way out room by room and avoid The Monster at all costs. With luck, and the sheer power of cowardice, they just might make it out alive. Remember: Never fight The Monster. That's a sure way to a glorious hero's death – And these guys are not the heroes.

» Illustrations courtesy of Crazyred.
» Lots of ideas and help from Adam Dray
» Development Status: Beta, Slightly Tested.

What You Need to Play
10-15 Robot Dice
  • These are special dice first used in Happy Birthday, Robot! They have two blank sides, two sides saying AND and two sides saying BUT. You can substitute with regular six-sided dice or Fudge dice.
Several tokens or chips
A Pencil or Pen
A Dungeon Map
A Leftover character for each player, with a name like:
  • Step
  • Clik
  • Ohno
  • Aagh

Storyteller and Allies
When it is your turn, you are called the Storyteller. The players to your left and right are called your Allies. As a Storyteller, you begin a sentence about your character. The Ally on your Right continues that sentence. The Ally on your Left concludes that sentence.

Turn Order
The youngest player takes the first turn as Storyteller. Turns continue clockwise around the table.

How To Play
Step 1: Push Your Luck
Roll up to three robot dice at a time as many times as you want. Keep any BLANKs. Pass any ANDs to the ally on your right. Pass any BUTs to the ally on your left. If either the ally on your right or left get four or more dice, this is called busting. If you busted this roll, see the section titled "The Monster." For now, let's see what happens if you don't bust.
Example: You roll three dice and get BLANK, BLANK, AND. Great. You decide to roll again and get BLANK, AND, BUT. That gives you three BLANKs. The ally on your right has two ANDs. The ally on your left has one BUT. You decide not to push your luck any further and continue to the next step.
Step 2: Begin a Sentence
Write a sentence on the map. This sentence describes your character moving through this section of the dungeon with extreme caution. Some would say cowardice. But then again, your character is one of the lucky survivors, so a little paranoia is understandable.

As you write this sentence, remember that The Leftovers never fight The Monster. They run, hide, distract and do everything possible to avoid The Monster. Other creatures may make an appearance in the map, but these creatures are not The Monster.

Anyhoo, you can write one word for each BLANK you rolled. You can use your character's name as a free word, if you wish. When you write on the map, write one word in each space.
Example: You have three BLANKs, so you write three words on the map, plus your character's name, Pudd. Yes, Pudd. You write: "Pudd flings his torch"
Step 3: The ally on your right continues the sentence.
The ally on your right continues the sentence you just began. Usually she'll add some small details about what else your character is doing. Remember again, Leftovers do not fight The Monster.

She can write one word for each AND you rolled. She can use the word "and" as a free word, if she wishes.
Example: The ally on your right has two ANDs, so she has two words to continue the sentence. She also has the free word "and" at her disposal. She continues: "Pudd flings his torch and peeks inside."
Step 4: The ally on your left ends the sentence.
The ally on your left ends the sentence. Usually this is some complication or funny punchline to what you and the other player have written so far. This complication like slipping on a puddle of slime or creating a lot of noise while trying to sneak. Your ally may mention The Monster, but it's best to keep these complications focused on low-stakes slapstick or some minor creature living in this part of the dungeon.

He can write one word for each BUT you rolled. He can use the word "but" as a free word, if he wishes.
Example: The ally on your left has just one BUT, so he only has one word to add to the story. He also has the free word "but." He writes: "Pudd flings his torch and peeks inside but flinches."
Step 5: Collect Tokens
For every word you wrote from a BLANK die roll, collect one token. Each token you possess gives you a free word when you begin a sentence. This bonus does not apply when you are continuing or concluding someone else's sentence. Also, you do not collect tokens for using free words.
Example: You rolled three BLANKs and wrote three words to begin your sentence. So, you get three tokens. Hooray! Next time you begin a sentence, you'll get three free words.
You may also give tokens to other players, which may become necessary so you can buy time for the group to get out of this map. (See "Endgame" for more about what happens when you collect too many tokens.)
Example: At a later point in the game, you decide to give a token to another player as she begins her sentence. She can now say one more free word.
Your turn is now complete. Everyone returns their dice to the pool and the ally on your left begins a new sentence starting from step 1.

Filled-In Words
Occasionally you will come across spaces that are already filled in. When you come across these spaces, try to work the word into the sentence you are writing. If you do so, they will prove useful later.

Pink Words
These are words describing useful items that you might discover in the dungeon, like provisions and tools. Unfortunately, these scrounged-up belongings rarely have much life left in them.

You can use a pink word as a free word when you are beginning a sentence. The drawback is that pink words can only be used as a free word once. Fortunately, they can be carried over into future maps.
Example: You're writing for the character named Crud. As you plan your sentence, you see a pink word already written in a space. That word is "food," so you write "Crud finds food." So, at some point in the future, you can use "food" as a free word.
Black Words
These are words describing obstacles or other aspects of the dungeon. They all generally follow a theme for that particular map. The Spleen has lots of slimy stuff, the Pit draws on volcanic imagery, and so on.

You can use a black word as a free word for the rest of the game in any situation (whether you are beginning, continuing or concluding the sentence). You can only use it once in a sentence and you only have it available to you in this map. Once you are out (if you can make it out), you cannot use these free words in another map.
Example: Another player is concluding this sentence. He sees the word "slime" in a space ahead. He concludes the sentence: "Crud finds food in a pool of slime." So, for as long as The Leftovers are on this map, he can use "slime" in a sentence as a free word.
If you cannot use a filled-in word in your sentence, simply cross it out and move on to the next available space. It's not as good as getting a free word, but at least it jumps you forward one space.

The Monster
If you busted your roll, you and the players next to you will write a sentence just as you would otherwise. However, this sentence will be about The Monster lurking in this map. Follow the same steps as written above, except instead of your character's name, your free words are "The Monster." (Those are two words, so they take up two spaces.)
Example: You are rolling for Pudd. After several rolls, you get BLANK, BLANK, BUT, BUT, AND, AND, AND, AND. Aww. That's four ANDs, meaning you busted the roll. So, this sentence will be about The Monster doing monster-type things like snarling, chasing, stalking, that sort of stuff. Together, you write: "The Monster smells meat and hungers for fresh dinner but is sleeping."
Also, at the end of your turn, any tokens you would have collected instead go to the Monster.
Example: You rolled wrote two words from the two BLANKs you rolled. So the Monster gets two tokens.

Endgame, or "Why must I be made of meat?"
If a Leftover or the Monster has ten tokens at the end of their turn, the game is over.

If your story does not reach the exit of the map, then your characters perished in a deadly death. Next time you play, you'll play different characters who may have better luck with the whole "surviving" thing.

If your story reaches the exit, congratulations! You and the other players may continue writing that last sentence as much as your dice will allow. Your Leftovers survived another section of the dungeon. You can play these characters again, along with any pink free words they collected in this map.

Designer's Notes
In developing Happy Birthday, Robot!, I got to thinking about slight variants on the basic storytelling system. This, like HBR, is mostly an engine for writing short sentences as a part of a larger silly story. There are more spatial tactics here, as you plan out your sentence to pick up items and generally try to write your way out of the dungeon. The essential elements of co-operation and creativity are still here, with a new coat of fantasy paint.

Replaced "coin" with "token" to make it clear that they always give free words. Because this is based on Happy Birthday, Robot!, it's easy to assume that the same Heads/Tails coin rules apply. However, that restriction makes getting through the dungeon a little bit too difficult. Note that you still have incentive to share tokens because that will buy more time to write your way out of the dungeon.


  1. Perhaps that'll be the final form the game takes, but I wanted to see how it handles ANDs first before going all the way to BUTs.

  2. Is "robot dice" a typo/cut-and-paste error, or are you trademarking your and/but dice under that name? Maybe you should?

    Looks nifty. I could see some minor rules expansion to give it a hair more heft and make it more interesting for adults. Specifically, you could give each character 1 special ability. Should be easy enough to come up with some, e.g., steal the first coin the monster would get; the first pink word you miss, you can rewrite somewhere else in the room; etc.

  3. Hey Justin,

    It's not an error. I plan on someday compiling a handful of Robot hacks into a supplement called "Robot and Friends" or something to that effect. Thus, all the games would use Robot dice. Strange though, I haven't thought about copyrighting the phrase. You really think I should?

    Also, little fiddly mechanical powers would be totally appropriate for this game, if you have any further thoughts in that direction. I'll add them in as an appendix, if you like.

  4. You could probably copyright "robot dice". More importantly, you could probably patent the actual dice themselves (assuming there's nothing already patented). Of course, then you are getting into attorney area, i.e., money. I don't know a lot about patents, but I know they're not easy to do on your own. You could check out

  5. Do you think it's one of those situations where if I don't patent the dice, someone else could do it under me and I'd get into some legal trouble?

    Or... Would I be able to bypass all this by making the concept creative commons?

  6. Maybe we should take it to e-mail: jdj[at]floridacollections[dt]com

  7. As I understand things, you could trademark the phrase Robot Dice, but not copyright it.

    Patenting the dice. Hmmm. I know a patent lawyer...let me pick her brain on whether they are patentable.

  8. Sure, if you like. I'm honestly leaning towards CC license, if anything.

  9. Okay, Kris tells me that you could not get a utility patent on cubic dice. Which, I think, we knew. They're just not novel.

    But, you could possibly get a design patent on Robot Dice, based on the particular design of the faces. This would be akin to the design patent on the Starship Enterprise.

    But, honestly, patenting Robot Dice would be like patenting Fudge dice. Who'd do such a thing? On the other hand, trademarking the phrase Robot Dice would be useless without also patenting the design and linking them.

  10. Right, so it's not even a thing I'm thinking about for now. Heck, I only even gave them a name because it was more convenient than saying "special dice with AND, BUT, and two blank sides" all the time.

  11. Maybe we should take it to e-mail: jdj[at]floridacollections[dt]com

  12. Playthrough of The Leftovers map “The Spleen”
    Names: Blorp, Chloe, Hefpo, Gigglepops
    Story: Blorp crept quietly and slipped softly but still fell. Hefpo laughed and fell too but they found food there. Chloe slipped on slime too and laughed out loud. The monster was very hairy but he was gross and slimy and smelly. Blorp saw some slime, said “gross” and Hefpo got up but gooey mess ensued. Hefpo stretched and fell over again but it was funny. Chloe laughed at Hefpo’s bottom and spat water but Hefpo dodged aside! Gigglepops crawled along and suddenly bumped into Blort and it was awesome but smelly. A scary growl was heard from down the hall. They ran and shouted “sticky!” but stopped. “What was the big green stinky thing?” And they ran away but too slowly. Chloe found Hefpo on the slimy floor in gooey, sticky, smelly boots and looked aghast but kissed her. Gigglepops gathered everyone together with haste and threw her shield forward but food and water where safe.
    Notes: Yeah, this game was really fun :D The rules where simple and not rolling any blanks got a bit of a pain sometimes, but it ended up a great experience :) Everyone enjoyed it so we’ll be running through another map tomorrow!
    (Also I know we used the items at the end of a sentence which you’re not supposed to do but we wanted it to finish that turn as it was time to rap up)

  13. This is awesome! Thanks for playing and I hope you enjoy it again!

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