Une Saison en Enfer? (#RPGaDay 2017, Day 6)

August is RPGaDay month. Yep, a month solid of RPG-related posts, answering these questions:

Today’s question is this:

You can game every day for a week! Describe what you’d do! 


Ha, fat chance of that. Grownups with kids? Not likely.

Okay, okay, it’s speculative. Fine. Here’s what I would do:

I’d run a “season” of a campaign. It’d have been prepped over a few months, so that the stakes would rise throughout the week, to a feverish intensity in the last session. It’d likely involve some kind of investigation or exploration, but would end up with a lot of stuff going on: some wilderness/fugitive survival stuff, some combat, lots of weirdness.

What exactly would I do? I don’t know. See, the thing is, I know a lot of stories that work well as a sort of episodic, week by week thing. I don’t think those would necessarily work seven days back-to-back. I think the cogs would start to show, on the kinds of campaigns I’ve run over a longer period, with more breaks.

I guess what I’d want to run would be something new to my group: maybe something like Tales from the Loop, or a Gumshoe game where the investigation could sort of build up: perhaps that’s something The Yellow King RPG would be great for: leaping back and forth between settings and alternate versions of characters, with the connections deepening and building up throughout the week?

(The Dracula Dossier for Night’s Black Agents also sounds like something a group could sort of charge through a season of, given enough prep time. It’d be interesting to see it played out hardcore for a week, with some kind of countdown to Draculageddon set for the last day if the player characters don’t manage to complete the adventure—though I don’t know how practicable it’d be to get through that specific adventure in a week.)

But honestly, I think  what would be really fun is to do a kind of gaming retreat with a group of non-gamers who’re interested in playing, and doing a sort of Lovecraftian Dreamlands-type game, where the sessions take place each night, and where, during the day, we don’t talk about the game at all—as if we’re keeping the dream adventures secret from one another, say—but each night, we’d return to play a session in a room lit by a few candles, perhaps down a set of stairs, and settle back into the narrative where we left off the night before—but as if waking and going about our days had happened to the characters, too—that they’d woken and gone about their days, and came back with the detritus of all that clinging to their minds. The characters would have waking lives that would be secret to other players, but which players could drop in and mention along the way, as surprises—and which the themes of the onscreen, dreamlands-type game would of course rub against in interesting ways.

I’d probably include some kind of ritual-like element—maybe the playing of a certain atmospheric song? or different parts of a recording of a single phone call, or answering machine messages with clues to the game? or someone in the group reading a certain preselected text to the group? or even just a short walk through the woods to the small cabin where play would occur?—to the beginning of the game, a notion inspired by what I’ve heard about Ben Lehman’s Polaris. It wouldn’t be LARPing—I’m not a LARPer—but it would have a kind of psychologically mood-building effect, which I think would contribute to making the game something unlike anything the group would ever play again. It’d have to be the right group of people, though… probably not experienced gamers, unless they were also people willing to put aside their expectations and embrace some other way of experiencing a game.

You could do it with Wraith: The Oblivion, too, if Dreamlands isn’t your cup of tea. Or, you know, set up a portal fantasy (like in countless fantasy novels like the Narnia books, or Lev Grossman’s The Magicians, say) where characters are coming and going at long-spaced-out intervals, and have their lives leapfrog five or ten years and shift in unpredictable ways, so that they’re always meeting one another having experienced a few new developments. Their characters would be the same people, and yet somehow different each time. (One’s life is going wonderfully, with her company just having been sold for a few hundred million dollars; the other has just lost a loved one to cancer; a third is now in a coma, and hasn’t been conscious for a year; a fourth is just trying to figure out who she is, and why she’s alive.) None of those waking life circumstances would change play in the Otherworld, but all of them would affect it (and the characters) indirectly. I think that’d be a brilliant exercise in gameplay.

Yeah, I think that’d be cool. A seven-day Dreamlands adventure with a trippy, ragged edge on the sessions? That sounds fun. (Though I realize it’d not be for everyone, and totally understand why.)

One more thing: I might actually just be happier playing for a week. I have rarely had the chance to settle back and play in someone else’s game, and I think it’d be fun.

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