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Password -
Rule Fixes for the Home Version

Reworking a good, old joke: what is the least used sentence in the English language?

Wow, how did we get by this long without Don's thoughts on the home version of Password???

Knock it off. You got here somehow didn't you? Anyhow, when somethin's not right it's wrong (Bob Dylan, You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go, 1975.)

Password seems like it should be a good game. The tv show was fun; why shouldn't that transfer to the parlor, with a few good friends? Well... in my experience, there are some BIG problems. Never fear, though - where there are problems there are solutions. And here I am.

The first problem is: Password is fundamentally a lousy game. Instead of fun and frolic, it's a lot more likely to give rise to hurt feelings.

"How come you didn't say HOT when I said COLD???"

"Well, you shoulda said DOG or TAMALE!!!"

And when a player does give a certifiably brilliant clue . . .

"What else could MANUFACTORY possibly be but PLANT???"

. . . it's almost as likely to give the answer to the opposing team as to his own. Very peculiar... Imagine your 30-foot jump shot or 500-foot home run winning the game for your opponents!

It's not unthinkable, I guess, that there could exist a bunch of happy-go-lucky, laughing-and-scratching, don't-give-a-hoot type folks for whom these problems wouldn't arise. Still, there are problems with the rules themselves.

The first concerns valid clue words. How close can a Clue Word be to the Password without being illegal? Their rule is dangerously vague: "No part or form of the Password may be used as a clue." For instance, CHEMIST can not be used for CHEMISTRY, nor STEAL for STOLEN.

No problem with those examples, but a troublemaker might try something like LIGHTS or LIGHTING or LIGHTNING or HOUSING as clue words for the password LIGHTHOUSE, arguing that they're not "a part or form" of LIGHTHOUSE. Or someone may argue that his clue word STRAWBERRY is not "a part or form" of the password STRAW, etc.

All that's needed to tighten up this rule is to say something like, "the Clue Word and the Password cannot have any basic parts, etymologically speaking, in common."

I would stipulate that Clue Words must be related to the Password by meaning. They cannot be given for the sake of any similarity in sound to the Password. One might argue that such a rule isn't necessary, because how would a player know that a word is being given for its sound? But I've observed instances of people working hard on the synonyms getting upset when a clue giver - same team or opposite - starts in with rhyme word shenanigans.

Notice the box top rules don't allow for theatrics like tugging on your earlobe, although I know I remember some big gestures on the tv show. Allowing charades to slip into your Password game is a sure-fire formula for disaster! This applies to the dragged-out-rising-pitch-quick-cut delivery that signals "fill in the blank here." To avoid rhubarbs, deliver all Clue Words in a generic monotone.

Having ironed out the Clue Words, remember that there is another issue of closeness to deal with. When is a guessed word "close enough"?

Again the supplied rules are just a little too vague. "If a FORM of the Password is given as a RESPONSE, the responding player is given ONE CHANCE to correct the word to the exact Password." The problem is, what is a "form" of what?

I propose that the guess and the Password have to appear under the same entry in the dictionary to qualify for the second guess. Notice that this is a much tighter connection than what it takes to make a Clue Word illegal. Here we're talking about an extra or missing ending like -s, -ed, -ing, -er (comparative), -est, -ly, -ic, aand maybe a few more. Guessing LIGHT or HOUSE definitely does NOT qualify for another shot at the Password LIGHTHOUSE.

Notice that these firmed-up rules depend on a dictionary - something that was not originally a part of Password. Proper nouns were acceptable and, in fact, added some flavor to the game.

I hate to do this to you, but we must limit the Password word set to something like that for Scrabble. Proper nouns are out. They ultimately cause too much trouble. Watch a bunch of formerly-friendly gamesters get testy when somebody starts to argue, "But ARF-ARF was the little dog in a story I read once!"

There, I've done my best to make Password problem-free. In the process, I had to stomp the life out of it. Oh well, no matter. I don't even have a set any more. After the last rancorous round with some friends 20 years ago (late 1970s), I came home and tossed the whole darn box into the fireplace.

STOP PRESS!!! After writing my web page about how to fix the rules to a variety of games to make them more fun and friendly, it occurred to me that the guidelines should work very well with Password. I also found an old Password game, dated 1966, at a yard sale for a quarter. The following new rules have been road-tested, and work quite well.

Make yourself comfortable in a big, old raggedy circle. There are NO teams.

Give everybody his own card with a list of Passwords. Write your name on your card, so you can use the same one in future games.

Go round and round, each person taking a turn as Clue Giver.

The Clue Giver works on the first unused Password on his card - no skipping over the hard ones!

He gives one Clue Word at a time, up to a maximum of 5 Clue Words. He writes each new Clue Word in bold letters on a piece of paper in a list. (Number them downwards, from 5 to 1. This is for scoring.) He announces the new Clue Word and displays the list simultaneously - with an exaggerated flourish, if he's a ham. The list removes the need to memorize all the Clue Words. That's not what Password is about. It gets confusing with all the wrong guesses you hear, plus the words you considered as guesses in your own head.

If someone has a guess at the Password, he calls it out.

If the Guesser is right, both he and the Clue Giver receive points. Remember that the Clue Giver numbered the Clue Words from 5 down to 1 as he added them to the list. When someone guesses correctly, he and the Clue Giver each get that number of points. Thus, both players get 5 points if the Password is guessed on the first Clue Word; 4 points if it's guessed on the 2nd Clue Word; and so forth down to 1 point if it's guessed on the 5th and final Clue Word. Notice the mutual goodwill in effect here; if one were inclined to jerk everybody around with dopey clues, he's slitting his own throat.

If two people call out the same correct word at about the same time, calmly, and democratically, decide who was first. If it was a dead tie, they both get the points.

If a Guesser guesses wrong, he gets no points and is out of the guessing until the next Clue Word is given. If several people call out wrong guesses, they're all out until the next Clue Word is given.

If an ineligible guesser blurts out a guess, he must pay everybody $10. (That'll stop him!)

The Clue Giver is in charge of deciding if a guess is "close enough". You may safely dump that business about a second guess to get it exactly right.

When things grind to a halt on a given Clue Word, the Clue Giver moves on to his next Clue Word.

If someone thinks an earlier, rejected guess deserves the points, or that the Clue Giver gave an illegal Clue Word, I trust you to peaceably resolve the matter. Keep it friendly!

Whoo-wee! Isn't it lucky I gave Password another chance?


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