The Fine Trousers, final days

The Spelens Hus is nearly finished with our do-it-all game of Dialect, having completed the Third Age and soon to play the Epilogues. We’ve already finished at least one session with some debriefing and opinions about the game, all of which I’ve saved for a closing video by request, and it’s likely that the final session will include some more of that.

The prior posts are A new language is a new life and Dialect: Meine ersten Eindrücke.

So … the Fine Trousers began as a “thieves’ cant” situation in the harbor neighborhoods of an unspecified North Sea city, in the late 1830s. The three Ages took us through its changes which were mostly expressed via the aging of and varying senses of disconnection felt by our characters: lugubrious Sir Silent, tough J, thoughtful Magpie, mysterious Jakob, and disreputable Der Duft. Even as they became elder statesmen of the ever-growing and slowly-assimilating Trousers, they bickered and bonded over whether the changes were good or mattered.

As I think is intrinsic to Dialect, the events which would receive the most attention in most role-playing, or in most media at all, are indicated mainly by our dialogue before, during, and after, rather by depicting and resolving the events themselves. Capers, arrests, shifts in status, death, and more occur constantly, it was a very eventful little Three Ages, but play and the instruments are about the talking.

Therefore rather than summarizing the implied or glimpsed events, here’s the final summary of our thieves’ cant as developed in play:

I’m holding off on some of the specifics because I’m pretty sure they’ll get beaten thoroughly in our closing discussion, but for now, I can say we as players differed widely on liking the game itself and on applying its methods (two different things), although I also say we went into it and did it with a good will and with a result that isn’t too shabby, unlike Der Duft. It’s a good opportunity to talk about structured act/phase design and about how, or whether, the formal instrumentation “fits” one’s personal hands.

The embedded video goes to session 6 inside the playlist, so if you want to see the whole thing, just go to the playlist there in the YouTube window.

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4 responses to “The Fine Trousers, final days”

  1. The lilies

    Our final session provided the epilogues and a completed – although by the game's system, deliberately incomplete – glance at the ending of the Fine Trousers gang … or community … or family of choice … or movement … however you'd like to view that. Second, the discussion following session 5, held in abeyance until now; it's placed in its proper chronological spot in the playlist.

    Third, and finishing the playlist, here is our closing discussion after finishing play.

  2. Intense

    Kudos to the folks who played and shared their play. 

    I have not watched all of the play sessions, but I did watch the closing discussions. My impression is that this was an intellectually and emotionally intense set of experiences. There was some critical evaluation of the system and if I was listening some critique of decisions regarding the setting and situation. I appreciate the critical eye everyone had for what they were doing.

    My question is: what might inspire the group to try the game again either as a group or as some subset of that. Is it a case of knowing the system better? Being able to manage expectations? Or just a genuine desire to play this set of rules again? If that was made more explicit and I missed it, then I apologize.

    • Playing it again was

      Playing it again was mentioned a couple of times, but not as a dedicated topic, so it's easy to miss. Combining what we said here with other comments scattered through our history of play, I think the collective conclusion is that we'd like to play again, but in person, not via screen. I suspect we all support the idea of formalizing the step from "this is the word" to "now we play." Speculative, intermittent, or individual thoughts included taking out some of the more abstract or derived-content cards, e.g. Decree, to focus more on straightforward slang vocabulary. I'm personally ambiguous about that because I like the idea that the Second and Third Ages will refine and elaborate on the existing terms, but I also think a little bit of that goes a long way and that some of the cards of this kind are definitely demanding.

    • I can answer for my own

      I can answer for my own person, which includes some more general musings. Yes, I will probably play the game again, after I've finished the process of working through my notes and thinking through the whole experience, which may take some time. Some preliminary thoughts include the realization that I after every single session noted that the transition from scene setup to playing the scene needs to become faster. I never really figured out how to do that. Part of that is that your character has to be in the scene for you to be able to influence what happens – and I take rules like that quite serious. Part of that is my inexperience as a facilitator, somebody with more experience would probably have found some elegant way to move the players minds from seeing the scene setup not as a black and white sketch to launch from but feeling that they have to color the sketch to be able to launch into play. No idea if that is something people do “naturally” if they have played a lot of games, or a certain kind of games? Maybe I was not explicit enough when explaining what should happen: “Conversation participants set the scene […] Where are we? […] What are we doing?” Once those two things are established the conservation should start. That very seldom happened. Even when it did, the resulting conversation could be anything from great to blah, and there was no obvious arc of getting better, more the feeling of a very rocky road. Whether or not the conversation was satisfactory wasn't even depending on how happy we were about the word/phrase we had come up with. We talk a little bit about the disconnect between word-building and play in the discussion and it well might be an effect of the game as such that would need tweaking to work better, I'm just not sure enough about it to say, I will actively change some rule to try and make it better.
      Something at least I would not touch is the way cards are played. For me the increasing “difficulty” of the cards is crucial for the story to build momentum. Each player has at all times 3 cards in hand to choose from and if you are very unhappy with all of them you have (at any time in play) the possibility to come up with a variation on some word already established which uses up a card of your choice and gives you a new one. Yes, some of the cards that came into play were very demanding and the enjoyment of these challenges varied widely (from not at all to eager). I really appreciated everybodys willingness to put up with things that they could not enjoy for the sake of others. For my own person the discussions about language(s) and how they develop that were caused by us seeking our way through the underbrush were often the highlights of a session.
      Something I'll definitely do next time around: talk a little bit about realism, perfection, expectations and wanting to much.
      Something I knew wouldn't be there but did not know how much I would miss is the effect of random failure. Sure, I can come up with any number of grievances for my character, but it has no real bite in a game like this and now I know how crucial it is for my personal enjoyment of play to be hit by fate out of the blue, oops.
      I absolutely want to find out how play would be influenced by sitting around a real table. Pretty sure that I still wouldn't like to play through a whole game in one sitting, I honestly can see no way how that would work. But I strongly suspect that a lot of things would be easier. The game has a lot of physical components that are easier to keep in sight and mind when they are right in front of you, not scattered about your screen, on your notes or lost in time and space. But I'm realistic enough to understand that the next time I play Dialect as a facilitator probably will be on screen again. It will not keep me from doing it if I can find another bunch of willing victims. I just need to be confident that I have addressed every bump in the very rocky road we travelled this time and have a possible fix for it. Hopefully those fixes will lead to faster play, to get through the game in 3-4 sessions, even online, should not be impossible to achieve.
      Last but not least, did this experience cure me from wanting to lead players through a game? Well, for starters, there is not much “wanting to be the leader of the pack” involved, more the insight: If there is a game that I absolutely want to play, I may have to be the “game master” to make it happen. So I will do it again? Probably, some time or other. But until then I will relax and enjoy being a player again for a while.

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