Spooky phantasmagoria with pictures

My friend Tazio and I are are playing S/Lay w/Me! I’d prefer not to discuss the current health crisis at this site except as it’s relevant, but it’s true that he is in northern Italy and I am in a hard-hit area of Sweden – there is just a little bit of shared worry between us and a sense of relief to get into this entirely escapist zone of play.

There’s an ulterior motive at work too, because Tazio is a notable artist and I am hoping the game works its famous imagery magic to gain some needed illustration.

This game receives some weird interpretations, obviously derived from one-step-removed impressions (“I heard that someone said …”). No, it is not “about” sex, no, it is not all X-rated and sex-orama imagery. The game is certainly curiously intimate, and that sort of thing can go on, but not extremely any more likely than with any other role-playing game. I’m sorry to disappoint you that Tazio and I get only a bit heated with our heroes’ and lovers’ passions – in cinematic terms, lots of soft-focus and intense music.

Our fantasy adventuring was, however, even more indulgent than such content might have been. We went all the way into “my guy is so spooky” fantasy: Tazio’s hero is Nerahl, the floaty lich pictured here (drawn by him!), and mine is Lorn, doing his best to channel Azhrarn from Night’s Master. Tazio also deserves credit for his cephalopod lover character, and I found myself annoyed with my own hero that he was not inclined to commit more fully to her.

We didn’t record the first session, Nerahl’s adventure, so the playlist begins with my thoughts about it. The second is recorded audio-only, which will be standard for my games with Tazio.

I’ve never really liked sharing S/Lay w/Me play this way, not because of its (occasional) content but because it’s hard for a viewer to understand how the rules work. You will think you see two people just riffing in a semi-competitive way, but that’s not what’s happening at all. There are very straightforward rules for what can be said, what is expected for what is said, and how the dice relate to it. They don’t match most rules either for ordinary play (“roll to hit”) or talking-resolved play (“now it’s your turn to say what happens”). So please ask any questions you like about the systemic side!


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5 responses to “Spooky phantasmagoria with pictures”

  1. Intimate & Dramatic

    This was an enjoyable listen. Thank you both for sharing. I have a few impressions, some of which may evolve into actual questions.

    I do like the I & You mechanic(?) and the way that is setup.  Is there an advantage in being I or You, first or second? The first spotlight would seem to set expectations that the second would have to follow on with. Is this the case or can tone shift wildly between the two?

    Are the points where dice are rolled very fixed or narrowly defined? How much control does someone have over when they roll dice and how important are those moments? They did not seem to be game changing, but I may have missed something.

    There was little dice rolling. What is wrong with you people? lol. Seriously I kept waiting to hear the dice clink on the table but it did not happen as reguarly as I expected. An interesting lesson in expectations.

    Can there be more slaying? Is it always just a single monster or could there be layers of enemies before getting to the goal? 

    There seems to be a certain My Dinner with Andre feel to it all. Was this more the system or because one player was learning the game more as they went? That is just my own observation of course, others might not get that vibe.

    • It’s very hard to discuss

      It's very hard to discuss without the rules; most of the answers to your questions are literally individual rules.

       "I" always describe the initial location, "You" always say how your hero enters it, then "I" have the first Go. The whole question of advantage is somewhat distorted in the first place, as there is no variable to have an advantage in.

      A Go is a given player's contribution, so you alternate Goes. The first Goes are called the Match, defined as the opportunity to roll one or more dice during each Go.

      The rules for rolling dice are that "I" roll dice if and when the hero is attacked by the monster, and "You" roll dice when seeking or obtaining the Goal, or interacting in specific ways with the Lover, or both. A Go doesn't have to include a roll, if the conditions aren't met but the player feels like the Go is done.

      Dice do not resolve things – for example, when "You" are playing the hero, you simply find and get the Goal as you see fit during play, you don't wait for the other player to tell you where it is, or say how you can get it, or to block you in any mechanical way. The values rolled aren't themselves important, or rather, they don't impose specific constraints on the fiction of the moment, because you roll them after saying what happens, including the effect of what you're saying.

      The Match is over when the "I" player has rolled their set number of dice, from four to six; "You" do not know this value. So that's just fixed, unless the "You" player topples the other player's dice tower (as I did in this session), e.g., it's not like the "You" player can increase or decrease that number via his or her own results.

      At that point, the dice values and some decisions about them set certain outcomes in stone for the remainder of the Goes, which do not include dice rolling and proceed until all the required outcomes are met. It's sometimes important to remind people that this transition point is not imagined play and doesn't need description or justification, nor, as we go on, do we have to rush through completing the requirements – just play as usual and get to those requirements when it makes sense.

      Tazio mentioned that although he knew that "You" (in this case me) really don't have to worry about walls, doors, et cetera, and don't have to seek the goal in the sense of figuring out where the "I" player has put it, he fell into the habit of thinking this was the case and had to readjust when Lorn blew past all this silly dungeoneering to go kill the damn dragon.

      By contrast, he'd encounteered no such "habit"-clash when he was playing his hero in the previous session, and he mentioned that the habits in question were harder to throw off when one is wearing the more GM-like hat. I sometimes have to remind people that if they don't seek (find, reject, whatever) the Goal during their Goes, then they aren't going to roll, and that the "I" player has no responsibility to provide clues or paths or the location for the Goal.

      One of several binary choices the "I" player makes in creating the Monster is whether it attacks singly or in a group. If it's a group, they can be separated in any way, so that you would be fighting tons of things. Or perhaps the group represents minions or an army. Our first session's Monster had this feature, so Tazio's hero battled lots of different things/creatures throughout the adventure.

  2. “Avance”

    There is an interesting property in french. I translated the game the best I could, and I end up choosing "Avancer" for "Go" (literal translation would be "advance"), which can be a verb, or a noun. As a verb, "I Go" = "J'avance" = literaly "I advance". But as a noun, "Avance" is generaly used to describe a seducing process. "Il me fait des avances" (literaly, "He's making me … "des avances") = he makes me understand that he's interested in me (which is always an erotic relationship, that could be in any pole of the whole erotic spectrum, from tender deep romantic love interest to just sexual intercourse).

    Something that tightned the intimate property of the game. I'm playing with an old friend tonight, maybe I'll post more!

    • It’s the exactly the same in

      It's the exactly the same in English (direct inheritance), including the highly specific phrase, "making advances."

      I have mused more than once about whether the game's sexual content should be used as a promotional or branding device, or left as potential, even to the point of simply not making it immediately obvious at all. In the wild, I know that it's been played in a variety of ways:

      • Uniquely intense but not explictly sexual adventure
      • Unusually explicit adventure – and interestingly, "safe" in the sense that the people playing are not potentially interested in one another (the current game is a good example)
      • Perhaps rarely, as actual sexual-romantic activity between people who are either already involved this way in real life or getting very close to it

      Any of these is fine by me (speaking as the author), but the question is which way it would best be promoted. I think leaving the sexual potential entirely unspoken would be disingenous, and that playing it up as especially enticing or naughty would be both overly limiting and a bit juvenile and creepy.

    • Any of these is fine by me

      Any of these is fine by me (speaking as the author), but the question is which way it would best be promoted. I think leaving the sexual potential entirely unspoken would be disingenous, and that playing it up as especially enticing or naughty would be both overly limiting and a bit juvenile and creepy.

      I got interested in S/lway w/me because it thematics. I asked Laura (we weren't involved in a romantic relationship at that time, even if something was already "happening") to play with me, because the intimacy just fitted at that time, but we didn't play this sexual-romantic thing. We played three or four games, and we really liked the game, but because it really created this sense of wonder and weirdness as in an old unknown fantasy novel. I remember one time when she was in the frozen hearth of a sorcerer, and she died crushed in the frozen tower with the whole universe while she tried to steal the pulsating diamond in the heart of the tower. It's more these aspects that got us hooked with the game! 

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