Previously: The Living Doll Game.
This game goes by a number of names; Deadman’s Tag is the most prevalent, but you might also find it under the title of Dead Man Tag, or simply referred to as How To Play Tag With The Dead. Regardless, though, you’ll almost certainly recognize its form: It’s a classic childhood game… although the ante has been upped considerably.
The game of tag has existed for centuries — we have evidence of it that dates back to the second century AD — and, as a result of its longevity, there are almost as many versions of it as there are cultures in the world. Deadman’s Tag is probably best likened to Manhunt: Played outside and in the dark, it’s as much a game of hide-and-seek as it is a game of tag. The darkness adds a sense of thrill to the activity, as does the predatory nature of its framework… so when you add an “It” which may not be of this world? Well, let’s just say that it doesn’t get more thrilling than that.
[Like what you read? Check out Dangerous Games To Play In The Dark, available from Chronicle Books now!]
It’s also, of course, a lot more dangerous.
As always, play at your own risk.
- At least three participants. There are no principals.
- One flashlight per participant.
- One timekeeping device per participant. (Optional, but recommended.)
- A playing field. Ideally, the playing field will be outdoors, spread out over a very large area, and equipped with spaces or geographic features that may be used as hiding places.
- Begin shortly before dark on a night with little to no moonlight. An overcast, cloudy night or a night on which the new moon falls are ideal.
- Gather all the participants together with their flashlights and timekeeping devices at the playing field.
- As a group, decide where home base will be. Home base must be a physical object in the area you can touch; an easily identifiable rock, tree, or other unique geographic feature is ideal.
- As a group, decide how long you wish to have to hide once the game has begun. This length of time should be measured in seconds; a number between 10 and 100 is recommended.
- Wait until night has fully fallen.
- When it is fully dark, assemble all the participants at home base and face out into the darkness.
- Choose one person to speak the following: “We invite you to play a game of tag. Home base is [name your home base]. When the game begins, we have until the count of [name your length of time] to hide. Then you may look for us. Once we have all returned home, the game is done.”
- Then, in unison, call out together, “You’re It!”
- Scatter. Run. Hide.
- If using timekeeping devices: Refer to them to track how long you have left before It comes looking for you.
- If not: Estimate the passage of time as accurately as possible through the method of your choice.
- In both cases: Use your time wisely.
The Main Event:
- Your goal is to make it back to home base without getting caught. Do whatever necessary to accomplish this goal. The following pieces of advice may prove useful:
- You may move around and/or change your hiding location as much or as little as you desire.
- Do not hide or move with any other participants.
- Your flashlight may be used whenever necessary; however, it is recommended that you use it as sparingly as possible. Nothing makes someone easier to find in the dark than a bright light indicating where they are.
- If, at any point, you sense someone else nearby, you may do one of two things:
- Remaining hiding where you are;
- Or, leave your current hiding place and either attempt to find a new one or run directly to home base.
- NOTE: Whomever — or whatever — you sense nearby may not be one of the other participants.
- Above all: Whether hiding, moving, or running for home base, remain as silent as possible.
- When you see an opening to get to home base, take it.
Olly Olly Oxenfree:
- When you return to home base, touch it with your hand and call out the word, “Safe!” NOTE: You MUST both physically touch home base and call out “Safe!” in order for your return home to count.
- Wait for the other participants to return to home base.
- NOTE: Before proceeding, confirm that all the participants assembled at home base are the same participants with whom you began the game. If they are not, DO NOT PROCEED.
- When all the participants have returned home, face out into the darkness once more.
- Choose one person to speak the following: “We win. The game is over. Thank you for playing.”
- Go home. But in the future, when you’re alone in the dark… be careful. Your opponent might try to begin another game with you — whether you want to play or not.
The game’s difficulty may be scaled or increased by making the following adjustments:
- Choosing a cemetery as your playing field;
- Deciding upon a brief length of time with which to hide;
- Playing without a flashlight;
- Playing without a timekeeping device;
- And/or playing with just one participant.
However, it is NOT recommended that you play this game with only one participant. See: If A Participant Is Caught.
Do NOT attempt to finish the game if the participants gathered at home base at the end are NOT the same participants with whom you began.
Do not assume there is only one It.
If A Participant Is Caught:
Avoid interacting with that participant at all costs.
If they have been caught, you’ll know.
You might be able to strike a bargain to get them back, but be warned — souls don’t come cheap.
If the participant who has been caught is you…
…I hope you trust your friends.
And I hope they’ll have your back when you need it most.
Please don’t copy or republish this post on other sites. Linking to it or sharing the URL is fine (and encouraged!), as is writing your own unique version of the game, but copying/pasting, republishing, or otherwise reproducing the text of this piece in its entirety or near-entirety on other websites without permission isn’t.
[Photo via Marco Bianchetti/Unsplash]