Each player starts with a number of karabiners or similar-sized pieces of climbing equipment. A good number is the same number that there are of players. Too many will make the game last too long.
The player who fills the glasses of the assembled group, or who last stoked the fire, asks any other player of his choice for an account of a particular climb. A skilful player will ask for a story that is in some way challenging to tell. Examples of such demands for a story are: -
"But that reminds me, Simon, that you never told us how you finished that solo you did in the Alps, during which all your fingers were bitten off by a mutant goat."
"So, Chris, I still am longing to hear just why it is that you are forbidden from wearing orange in the Lake District, ever since attempting the notorious route 'Brown Nemesis'."
"I've never understood, Hayley, paragon of lithic ascent, how it could be that your choice of stitch plate had such an influence on the outcome of the Gulf War."
"Now then, Arve, we are all longing to hear how you saved John Noakes from Trolls, despite having been blinded by home-distilled spirits."
"No false modesty now, Ed, we must learn how you were able to use your sideboards to win the hand of Princess Floeg of Holland at the Halifax climbing competition."
In so setting the story in motion, the proposer of the story hands the teller one karabiner. The teller then sets about telling the story. There is one way to avoid telling the story, and that is to pay twice the stake to the proposer of it, though naturally, once one has run out of climbing equipment, this is not possible, and the player must drop out of the game.
Any player may interrupt the teller at any stage of the story, and place a wager. Wagers are usually phrased in the negative, and an inventive player will use them to place obstacles in the path of a simple story. Examples are as follows:
"I'll wager, Jean, dearer than Blu-Tak, that as you got to the top of the crag, that there was not a full battalion of the Emperor of France's elite guard, waiting to shoot you the moment you appeared."
"I'm willing to stake this size three friend that the moment you saw that you had fallen above that terrifying abyss, you knew that your rope had truly not been severed in five places."
"Of course! There's no way that your belayer could have been drugged by passing bandits. I bet this sling I'm right there, aren't I?"
On hearing the interruption, the teller has two options. He may say that the man has won his bet, and so return his stake and the same amount from his cache of climbing props, or he may keep the stake, and say that the wager is lost, in which case honour requires him to incorporate the wager into the story, demonstrating its falsehood. An example of this play follows:
Teller: "So you see, there I was with the unconscious body of the helicopter pilot in one arm, and the crate containing the Lost Library of Peaks Guides in the other, holding on with my teeth, when-"
Interrupter: "But surely you don't have false teeth, which come out with the tiniest of pressure?" [Advances one rod/rock/nut/wire].
Teller: "Quite right. My teeth are all mine and are noted for their strength." [Returns the rod/rock/nut/wire to the interrupter, and adds a nut key of his own]
Interrupter: "But are your teeth not the quick-release prototypes, as invented by Dr. Krang of Switzerland, famed for his guarantee that they will never hold even one man's weight, let alone two, plus a small library?" [Raises the stakes by adding a rather nice chalk bag to the stake]
Teller: "Curses! I had meant to keep that a secret, but you lose your wager." [Takes the bag, the nut-key, and the rod/rock/nut/wire] "It was true that my false teeth would never hold the tremendous strain on them, and out they shot, leaving me to plunge to, it may seem to you, certain oblivion. Thank goodness I had instructed my manservant to pack my revolutionary but still experimental boots, with their unique distress flare system built in. As I fell... "
After each player has been asked to be the teller an agreed number of times, the players use what climbing equipment they have to vote for the winner. They should vote for the teller who has most effectively raised his status by telling stories proven by wager to be true, which show him in the most glorious and excellent light. The more equipment you won during the game, the more votes you have at the end. A most effective winning tactic, therefore, is to tell good stories and lose many wagers. That way, the fraudulence of the rival tellers may be revealed by their unconvincing and contrived fables which allow them to win wagers, and your own stories will by contrast be more convincing. Since no player may vote for himself, those to whom you have lost your tokens will have more tokens with which to vote for you. A contrasting tactic is to tell such wild tales, that the other players feel confident in raising the stakes of their wagers against you, and thus can you win much climbing equipment, if you can incorporate their wagers into your stories.
Players should limit their stories to about five minutes. If any teller is judged to be rambling for too long, any player may interrupt with the start of a new story, in a manner exampled here: -
"This reminds me of the strange incident in which Fuzz captured fifteen paragliders with the aid of her hair grip and a pair of tweezers, while scaling the north face of Snowdon, but she has never told us how or why."
On hearing such an interruption, other players may add one piece of climbing equipment each to the proffered stake. If a majority of the players has placed one piece of equipment, then the new teller takes up the tale, and the stake goes to the interrupter. If not, the current teller keeps the stake and damns the interrupter for his impudence.
The assembled company toasts the winner of the game, with such stout encomia as "My hat! I must say that you sir have told me the most astounding tale I've ever heard, and I am now utterly convinced as to the truth of it. Your health!"
Footnote 1: Some readers may have noticed that I have used masculine gender words throughout this piece. This is standard in the English language, and is nothing to be afraid of. Our bending author does not wish to imply that members of the fairer sex are in any way incapable of having equally glorious adventures as their male companions, despite their frailty and propensity towards fainting, nor that their skills in needlepoint and choosing wallpaper would be anything other than terrific assets while seducing the Queen of Egypt or escaping from mobs of rampaging ramblers. Indeed, I see the female members of our club as every bit as interesting and capable and brave as the chaps among us. Bless their little hearts.
Footnote 2: This game was originally written for a climbing magazine, hence the climbing theme. Of course, it could be adapted to any allow stories on any topic. Keen gamers may notice that this game is remarkably similar in spirit to the published game The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen (Hogshead Publishing) by James Wallis and others. I am well aware of this similarity, and apologise to the authors of that game (the wording of footnote 1 is a particularly flagrant crib). The actual rules presented above are different, and I think clearer and a bit better, but I would be worse than churlish not to admit that they were heavily inspired by the Munchausen game.