We met again to keep playing Tales of Entropy, and I think we’re getting a good look at how “story” happens, or perhaps, an exercise in whether fictional events are or are not a story. It won’t surprise anyone to know my position: that the more we anticipate and compose a story, the less we do create one.
My topic concerns agency. We spent a lot of time, way too much in my estimation both in the moment and on reflection, on negotiating and approving things which were supposed to be handled by one person. I grant that a friendly atmosphere of chat and suggestion is important, and given our collective practice, I was an ardent lobbyist during those moments myself. But that practice isn’t an emergent preference among us; it’s due to the strong – even intrusive – personalities displayed by me and Paul. We nearly became the de facto bosses, not through fiat and mandate but through ever-so-helpful and what-about and just-suggesting. Too much.
You know what sort of Black Card this group-ish, high-chat, anyone-suggests type of play needs? The one that says everybody shut up, I am thinking and will tell you presently, for the person who is nominally supposed to tell us. “Loser assigns points of Burdens equal to the margin of victory,” or “Grain carrier says which Grains apply to each side,” any and all rules like that, which in this game are very carefully parsed in distribution and in the order they’re applied. I especially think that the Card should be playable by anyone, to disperse the dogpile and end the conferencing. It’s way too easy for this kind of play to turn into ongoing, all-equals, consensus blather … and you can even see that neither Paul nor I wanted this, and struggled against it! But also that we fell into it more than once.
I wondered during play, and was shocked during viewing, to see that Santiago genuinely felt obliged to justify every single input, to entertain others’ suggestions, and to have his rulings laid open for discussion. Again and again he treated his chairmanship of the moment as supplication to the group to approve his suggestions. Santiago, given my knowledge of your play history and having played Cold Soldier with you, I suggest you are really still feeling your way into the very concept of “I play my character, he goes where I say, he says what I say, he does what I say,” and it’s mixed up with anticipating and planning for longer-term story outcomes, or to put it simply, “writing.” Playing in the moment is tough for you, doubly so when it comes to defining conflicts and distinguishing that from their open-ended content upon conclusion. You were heroic in managing the end of that second conflict coherently, but the struggle was real – you even exclaimed “this is so hard!” at something which is supposed to be really, really easy and fun. You weren’t lying or wrong – there is something awry with how we explain and demonstrate these things.
Petteri, that’s your task now. How shall your text and your table-practice teach this ease, such that play itself does not attend to “how the story is going,” and instead simply to the maximum engagement in the moment?
There are two points during the session when I shifted into full consult mode, and I hope everyone checks them out. Lots to discuss from there.