American Jerkform: A Manifesto

by Elizabeth Snark and George Flocke

Mr. Humveeform (a/k/a will make you WEEP. With gasoline fumes. Credit: John Stavropolous


Bigger. Badder. More dice.

Playing games is so 1990. American Jerkform is part of the new wave of unplayable games. (Note: Do not attempt to play any of the following games.)

No one knows exactly what American Jerkform is. Don’t mistake it for the similar Libertarianform games (not to be mistaken for freeform), or the newer, spankier Humveeform. They are both subsets of its marvel.

American Jerkform cannot be defined. Literally. By definition. Its intensity is so intense that if you even think about trying to pigeonhole it with a definition, Jerkform will imagine itself into being like the Greek God Gaia and burn down your house.

American Jerkform is too intense to be played. It’s meant to be ridden, like a motorcycle through town, stereo cranked up, moustache hair tangling in the hurricane of emotion oozing off you like cheap cologne as you belt out Bon Jovi with your dude-bros in a dive bar because Jerkform does not CARE about mixed metaphors, continuity, or consistency.

All Jerkform wants out of life is for you to love it.

Jerkform is not meant to be understood. It’s meant to be grokked.


Collect 3-5 friends and head to the men’s room. Everyone puts two found objects into a bag. Stand several standard stoppages apart in a big circle. Ululate and call the spirit of the great artist Duchamp into you.

One by one, each person grabs one or two objects from the sack, joins them into a readymade and tags someone else to perform a short skit around that object. At the end of the skit, decide what Duchamp Scout motto has been uncovered and write it down into a little book.

Eat the book.


Grab a friend and head to the local Cheesecake Factory. Tell the hostess that you are waiting for your friend X. Drink at the bar until you are broke. Stand outside and talk with your friend until you realize that X isn’t a person at all — X represents an abstraction, like the futility of life, or your own inability to score a date under honest pretenses. Roll for bleed.


This is a pervasive game meant for a several-day conference event or other large social gathering. It discourages hipster behavior.

Give each player a false moustache, or teach them how to make a finger moustache, by placing a finger on their upper lips. Hand out the scoring cards, which should have the list of banned strokes on the back. The goal is to reach the end of the event with as few points as possible.

Banned strokes

  • unnecessarily introduces Foucault (or a similar intellectual figure) into conversation (+1)
  • unnecessary or irrelevant introduction of technical terms, esp. without explanation (+1 or +2)
  • referencing having liked people or cultural trends before they were cool (+1)
  • references a small band, author, or other cultural object as if you should have heard of it (+1)
  •  exuding apathy about political, social, or moral outcomes. (+2)
  • <insert your own>

Game Play
When a player executes a banned stroke, everyone around him or her simultaneously lifts false moustaches to their noses and solemnly intones “their first album was better.”

You may wish to handicap anyone wearing skinny jeans, plaid, or natural facial hair.


Collect 6-10 friends and reenact an episode of Murder, She Wrote. One person plays Angela Lansbury, everyone else plays her web of “friends” in Cabot Cove. The rule is that everyone fears Lansbury’s rage, since she’s a sociopath masquerading as a kindly old mystery writer who solves crimes. She kills at random, and no one is safe. She’s skilled and fearsome enough that even the police try to cover up her crimes with their own ineptitude. The game ends when the killer she’s framed confesses, and the player of Lansbury mimics her classic face of disgust and horror/contempt.

This game can also be played by adding Lansbury to any boxed murder mystery dinner party.


Coolness is a morally bankrupt currency. Take a minute and think of all the things you’ve done to seem cool. Do you feel bad yet? Good. This pervasive game teaches you how to overcome your natural tendency toward coolness by forcing you to do un-cool things like:

  • talking to people whose relative coolness level has not yet been established.
  • listening to people whose coolness score is equal to ½ of your own or less.
  • singing along to a pop song in public.
  • dancing without inhibition
  • caring about anything.


Everyone meets in the sauna wearing a bathing suit and an overcoat, and feeling a decent, God-fearing sense of shame about the human body.

The winner is the person who studiously ignores everyone else’s bodies, and/or  pretends that this situation isn’t totally awkward for the longest continuous time.


by Terry Romero

We play for the bleed. We play to be chewy, salty, and richly seasoned by fear, loathing, and nitrates.

There is only one game we play: close your eyes, chew on some jerky. Don’t care if it’s meat or soy or a doggie toy. Imagine the following, in no particular order

  • It’s your left arm
  • The first time you realized you are dead inside
  • The cat
  • The sweet taste of freedom

Trade your jerky with the person to your left. Repeat until all the jerky is gone.


Humveeform is a special subset of Jerkform so avant garde, that not only are the games unplayable, they are uncreated, intangible, and existing only in the deepest, darkest, most gasoline-inefficient corners of your mind…

But that is only how we define Humveeform. For each Humveeer defines the genre differently.

Humveeform is aimed at making you cry. Most of the games utilize a universal bleed mechanic designed to ensure that you do.

The bleed mechanic tells you how similar you are to your character and how bad you should feel about that.

Remember:  not every Humveeform involves a bleed mechanic, and not every game with a bleed mechanic is Humveeform.

Bleed Mechanic 1

Roll a d-20. On a:

1: You’ve forgotten what sort of game you are playing. Get the powerup and win the game.

2-3: You don’t feel very bad at all. Feel ashamed about your inability to commit to the role.

4-5: Is someone cutting onions nearby, or is this room just dusty?

6-8: That thing you really hate about your character? It’s true of you too, but everyone’s been too polite to say it until now.

9-12: You aren’t just bleeding now, you’re hemorrhaging. Put on a headband (size, shape, and color corresponding to your race and class) soaked in red Kool-Aid.

13-15: Break up with your significant other.

16-19: Make the sound of ultimate suffering.

Crit 20: Total success!  Kill yourself.


We invite you to add your own Jerkform or Humveeform games to the comments.


*Marc Machjer’s Twenty-Four Game Poems, an awesome book of completely playable super-short, almost prep-less games that you should immediately buy, inspired this post, as did the collective of gamers that attended a recent jeepy weekend in southern NJ.

** Also: have you bought my book? You should probably buy my book. It is journalistic nonfiction about larp.

25 thoughts on “American Jerkform: A Manifesto

  1. A game we developed in Lithuania:

    Truth or Truth

    Because Truth or Dare isn’t hardcore enough. The form of the game is sitting in a circle, you ask each other existentially personal questions until everyone is crying. Then go offgame and continue.

    • Truth or Truth sounds like Humveeform to me.

      Also, Magnar, Jerkform cannot be workshopped; it must be feasted upon, like the eyeballs of the sacrificial frog.

  2. In open defiance of the true spirit of the manifesto, I expect to actually play Hipster Golf soon enough — possibly after hack-localizing it into an Italian Jerkform. Thank you.

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    • Well, I guess it’s like immersion in the same way that Bon Jovi is like canned cheese spread.

      Perhaps we should introduce a new game, something like Theory Thunderdome?

      Two people enter. And only one interpretation of GNS theory leaves. The loser gets a flamethrower.

  4. Hipster Golf sounds like it would almost be fun… almost, like some sort of game involving a math exam, or a trip to the dentist.

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  6. Quick! Is there a Cheesecake Factory anywhere near Morristown, NJ? I need to stage Waiting for Beckett at this year’s Dreamation.

  7. Re: Theory Thunderdome:

    How about “Zeno’s Arrow in Plato’s Cave”
    Each combat is handled by shadow boxing, but after every melee you’re exactly halfway closer to punching the shit out of your enemy.

    And I want a new Nordic Larp art book entitled “Kuleshov Larp” where they place completely different larp photos together in a collage and writing up a plot/wrap of the one game all images came from.

  8. “I solemnly swear never to play the Handbook of Duchamp Scouts.” Recite the preceding and you will have joined the Duchamp Scouts. A Scoutmaster will make contact shortly.

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