The Secret Room

A ritual to build a secret room in our mind’s eye.

For five, including you.

You, having read this, will lead the ritual. It is your responsibility to be the guide. Read this text a couple of times before you begin.

You need a candle. Perhaps some incense and music.

We always build secret rooms when we play roleplaying games. The intent of this ritual is to become more aware of how we conjure such illusions. How can we simultaneously experience something which doesn’t exist?

You are all seated around a table. You explain:

Together, we will envision a room. It’s a secret room inside ourselves. But we can all see it. We see the room with our eyes closed. We listen to each other, without interrupting the other participants.

If you happen to interrupt someone, it’s ok. We will pause briefly, before continuing. (You may have to remind the participants of this rule as you go).

The other rule is listening to what others add, being willing to let the inner vision change as we speak.

Everyone can describe anything in the room, but each player has a special domain (point at participants, or distribute notes with the words on): SOUNDS, SMELLS, COLORS, TOUCH.

Now close your eyes. We will rehearse listening to each other by counting downwards from ten to zero. Someone says “ten”, someone else says “nine”, someone says “eight”. If anyone speaks at the same time, we’ll start over. When we have counted from ten to zero without interruptions, we begin. Then we’ll be in the Secret Room. You answer my questions, and add your own details about the room.

(You light the candle).

(You count down from ten to zero).

Examples of things you can say and questions you can ask. Remember to pause.

(It’s good to wait awhile before saying anything. It’s good if one of the others start on their own accord).

We’re in the Secret Room. (breathe)

What sounds are there? (wait)

What does it smell like? (wait)

Is it light, or dark? (wait)

What objects are there? (wait)

(wait, don’t speak)

Can you see them? (wait)

Why is the room secret? (wait)

What has happened here in the past? (wait)

Are there still traces? (wait)

(breathe, don’t speak)

Something hangs on one of the walls, what is it? (wait)

What colors does it have? (wait)

Who is in the room? (wait)

Why is the room secret? (wait. You may start knocking slowly on the table while repeating the question)

Tips:

  • Take your time. You can let a whole minute pass without speaking.
  • Support initiatives.
  • It’s preferable to let the participants take the lead. It’s great if they start describing without your prompts.
  • Several statements in a row may be spoken without you saying anything. This is good.
  • If necessary, you can remind the others not to interrupt each other.
  • Breathe slowly.
  • Speak softly, but clearly.
  • Relax. Take your time.
  • Listen carefully to what’s being said. You’ll sometimes want to tie statements together.
  • You may also keep your eyes closed.
  • Ask follow-up questions. It’s better if another participant answers the follow-up.
  • Build on what has been said. Bring it back to the conversation.
  • Remind the participants that discussions are unwanted.
  • Remind them to listen to each other, not interrupting.
  • The ritual is over when it feels right. You will know.
  • (Breathe)
Advertisements

Archipelago III: GMed one-shot for beginners

I was recently asked what I would recommend as a game for an experienced GM and a group of first-time players. This was my suggestion:

Skim the Archipelago III PDF.

Adaption:

Unlike regular Archipelago, have a GM.

Use a setting or genre well-known to the players. (E.g. “space pirates”).

Spend half an hour brainstorming a relationship map, connecting elements like NPCs, places, organizations and «plots». Make sure everyone gets to add a suggestion to the map.

Make character sketches, keeping the setting in mind:

  • Strength/talent, weakness/challenge, goals, concept/name. (“Swarmy the E.T.: Excellent pilot. Indebted to the pirate lord of Badg-ville. Wants to smuggle something green”).
  • What connects the characters? E.g.: Secretly in love with the group’s leader Halcyon Fez.
  • Decide on a common goal for the group, or something that will keep all the characters involved during this oneshot. E.g. “Their ship, The Phantom Eagle, crashes near Badg-ville”.
  • Rephrase “setting element you own” to “element your character is strongly connected with” for the purpose of drawing fate cards. Preferably unique elements to each player. (“Swarmy is strongly connected with Badg-ville, because he was born there”).
  • Make one destiny point for each character collaboratively. (“It would be cool if Swarmy meets his ex in Badg-ville.”) Drive towards these during play, as usual.

Let the cards provide inspiration and twists as usual. Everyone still gets to suggest resolution cards, and everyone still gets to draw one fate card per session.

Let players use the phrases you prefer. I suggest introducing these at first:

  • That might not be so easy (everyone gets to suggest drawing resolution cards)
  • Help

Invite the players to play NPCs and set scenes toward the end of the session, if they seem comfortable doing so.

nasavenus

Illustration: Nasa

Internæsjonal Flair

cover

Cover by David M. Wright

Do you like Archipelago III, improv techniques, freeform, card-based systems, German Expressionist movies of the 20s, the mythology of the Philippines, Russian sci-fi or just, y’know, the Nørwegian-gone-rogue tabletop game Itras By?

Then Itras By: The Menagerie may be the collection of supplements for you! 294 pages, 40 collaborators from 10 countries.

More info (and free samples) at the publisher’s site.

 

credits

Cabin Flavor

Bilde 27.08.2017, 09.11.39Sometimes you rent an entire fishing village on the west coast for a week, so 120 people can play-pretend they’re in occupied Norway during WW2.

Other times, you settle for a cabin in the woods for a one night game of 9 players. Which is what my organizers did this weekend.

A lot of Norwegians are into outdoorsy activities, which means there are a fair amount of cabins of varying standard reachable from population centers.

There was a 4 km hike to reach the cabin.

For the larp this weekend, we pretended we were in 1969. All the characters knew the eccentric trickster “Uncle” Waldorf, but not each other. Everyone thought they’d be meeting solo with him, but it turned out Waldorf wasn’t even present. But he had written individual letters to all of them. With specific instructions. The full title of the larp was Uncle Waldorf’s Testament, so you might be able to picture how it went. Genre? Sort of an odd, medley of noir, light crime fiction and the purely farcical.

The lost son, the shady business deal, the lover, the other lover…

This sharply focused, deceptively simple set-up helped provide a fun and intense play experience on par with longer big-budget events I’ve sometimes attended. Game time was Saturday at around 2 pm to Sunday morning. The cabin had no electricity or running water, and there was an outhouse. This used to be your standard Norwegian cabin setup in the era of the larp, today it’s almost a bit exotic. Character descriptions were kept brief, similar with the onsite rules-walkthrough (cut/brake, that’s about it. Some notes on play style and genre).

Bilde 27.08.2017, 09.06.49Play was fed and generated by the letters, giving certain instructions. The non-present Waldorf NPC was a successful con-man, and a bit of a dick. He wanted my character to write his wife and admit the Christian small-time publishing house he ran made most of their money from erotic literature and forgery, for instance. Why would the characters demean themselves like this? In the hope of securing a part of Waldorf’s significant riches (and in my character’s case: perhaps avoid having livelihood and marriage destroyed).

Bilde 27.08.2017, 08.45.38For me, the larp really hit home. Was an energizer, rather than draining me. Helped me enter that fizzy simulated-hypomania fugue state that lets me connect, free-associate, take charge, hang back all in a natural flow I get a bit high on. A kick, pure and simple!

And the night sky beyond the city lights… it was pure Disney. Two shooting stars, one with a big tail. The blood red crescent Moon before that. I’ve been to the great Norwegian outdoors since I was a child. But I forget. I always forget.

I think something like half the Norwegian larps I’ve attended have been in a cabin. Usually more people than this one (we were nine. It was a private event, rather than an open-invite). This wasn’t a black box, there were no meta-techniques. Just focused, tight play, good improv, a fairly basic “testament plot” that worked like a charm. And the secret ingredient in most Norwegian larps I’ve really enjoyed: continuous in-character play until we’re done.

Bilde 27.08.2017, 07.11.47

The view from the cabin. 07 am Sunday 27th August 2017. 

0. Get a tarot deck

  1. Draw one card to inspire the setting. Take turns narrating detail, build on what is said. The setting card will remain face up on the table. During play, it’s also used for pacing. A player may place a marker on the card at any time. The third time means the game is over and it’s time to wrap up.
  2. Every player draws a character card, placing it face up in front of them. Take turns introducing your characters, in light of the setting card stories. Go with your gut; what does the card say?
  3. Take turns dealing three cards, face down. The Dealer uses the first card to establish how the scene begins, and who is present. She decides when it’s time to turn the next two. The second card represent a twist. The third the scene ending. Other players play their characters, narrate details and ask questions. The Dealer has final say, and a special responsibility for the scene. If the third setting card marker is placed during your scene, you help wrap up the game. The scene ending card may be used for inspiration.

(Ask questions, ask for ideas, reincorporate concepts, play secondary characters).

Playtesters: Magnus J, Mikael T, Ola L. Thanks: Astrid, Banana C. Originally posted to the 200 Word Challenge 2017.

The Elf archaeologists are saying hurtful things about your skeleton

This is a short game for 1 passive and 1-4 active players.

You will be the passive player. You play yourself. Lie down on the floor. You’ve been dead for 1000 years.

The other players are elf archaeologists. They have dug up your skeleton and are investigating it. They’re free to say and do whatever they want; walk around the room, prod you, talk about you.

The game consists of the elves saying hurtful things about you, based on deduction and speculation. You just lie there and take it!

The game ends when all the archaeologists have left the room to go on their lunch break.