So yesterday we had another session of Hantverksklubben, and I already wrote a play report on rollspel.nu, where all our play reports are stored. But since we’ve now had some discussion about our activities on Adept Play, and since Helma joined us for this session, let’s post it here as well. This was session 19 (where the first session is “session zero”, since it didn’t have a theme, so it’s our 20th session), and the theme was “Fighting against oneself”. Since the Swedish original is available via the link above, might as well just do the English here. I’ll sun it through Google Translate myselfe and fix up the text; it’s not a lot of work. It’s not amazing English, but it should be understandable! If you speak Swedish, maybe read the original instead. 😀
It looked like we’d have a game yesterday, then it looked like it wouldn’t happen, and then it happened anyway! Participants were me, Rickard and Helma, who saw my interview with Ron on Adept Press and wanted to try. Cool!
The theme what “Fighting against oneself”, suggested by me. My thought was that there are a few different types of conflicts that are more or less common in role-playing games. Most common are probably external conflicts, where A and B want different things, and thereby end up in conflict with each other. A wants to take over the world and B thinks it would be bad. Then we also have internal conflicts, where A wants X and Y, but these are mutually exclusive. A wants to save his beloved, but also the school bus full of children. This type is also common in role-playing games. The conflict I was interested in here, which I feel is less common, is where A wants to do X, knows he should do X, but still finds himself there doing Y. A wants to stop drinking, but now they sit there anyway drinking red wine directly from the bottle. A wants to get in shape, but that chocolate cake looks so good, and they can start tomorrow just as well; it doesn’t matter, right? This type of conflict is what I was interested in exploring.
Here is the list of things we discussed before games:
- Sabotage for your own character. Czege principle?
- Accept their own shortcomings, instead of fighting them.
- Internal dialogue
- Try different masks: they have (perhaps negative) personality traits.
- Do not play to win.
- Everyone plays different personalities in the same person.
- Work with descriptions
- Plant personality traits in other people’s characters
- Self-sabotage, not reaching their ideals
- Cognitive dissonance, ego protection
- French movie Amélie
- Inside Out – Disney movie.
- Bird in the ear – someone “whispers” to the player.
- Ally McBeal
- Fight Club
- Externalize the mind as a physical person
- Do not exert yourself, then you have an excuse. Not daring to succeed. Jonah Complex.
- Seeing oneself as a minority / excluded.
- Hypothetical scenes.
As you can see a fairly long list, but much of it was examples from different media, rather than techniques. Here is a brief description of the story:
Helen and Sigrid are friends in high school. Sigrid is good-looking, happy, popular, successful at school and the star of the swimming team. Helen is … none of that. We follow their journey through life. Helen struggles with overwhelming self-esteem and alcohol problems. Sigrid lives life, wants well and of course wants to help her friend, but she has so much fun and finds it difficult to give up her own pleasure to be there for Helen. But life goes on relentlessly, and as Helen struggles through the blackness and learns not to give in when The Blot whispers horrible thought in her ears, Sigrid finds that she is alone when her own life is idling, and she is too proud to show herself weak in front of the only friend she has left.
It was a story that was very difficult to summarize, but incredibly touching. I felt a lot of sympathy for the two main characters, and we got a pretty nice dramaturgical status switch. Things I thought we did nicely:
- Somewhere in the middle of the story, Sigrid and Helen were out dancing. It was here that we began to see the cracks in Sigrid’s perfect facade. They talked about their friend Peter from high school and wondered what had happened to him, and Sigrid said “Those who are poppis in high school are the ones who get a shitty life when they grow up,” which of course was a comment on her own life, and overshadowed the turn that was taking place.
- Helma set a scene between me as Helen and Rickard as her psychologist, where Rickard played with the camera as a tool. We played with the camera on, and while he was talking like the psychologist, he sometimes stared straight into the camera and said what Helen perceived the psychologist’s speech as. Type “We are beginning to approach the end of today’s conversations BECAUSE I DON’T WANT YOU HERE”. Cool technique!
- I set a scene where Helen was lying in bed and could not sleep, and put Rickard and Helma to play her “angel and devil on my shoulders”. It became an interesting scene where she got up, got some fresh air, and went into the kitchen to drink wine, while her (weak) self-confidence argued against her crushing self-loathing.
- Rickard also set a scene with Helma as Sigrid at her father’s funeral, Helma drove off with Sigrid and let her talk shit about her father in front of her sister, and then go away and do drugs, after which Rickard abruptly cut the scene to Sigrid sitting alone and drinking, with the text message about her father’s death. The scene we just saw was thus Sigrid’s idea of what would happen if she went to the funeral. She would just sabotage everything, so better to stay home.
- I also played a bit on a scene with a subjective description in the beginning, where I as a narrator argued a bit with Sigrid. “That guy is pretty cute anyway. Aren’t you going to go and talk to him a little? He bought you a drink.” and so on. Worked quite well; would have liked to explore that technique more.
- Rickard also set a scene where he “coached” Helma, who played Sigrid, in a conversation with her father. Rickard wrote emotions in the chat that Helma read and played out as Sigrid. Interesting technique, and ironic, because the conversation was about how Sigrid’s dad tried to “coach” her (read “check”)!
- I put the last scene on New Year’s, a bit symbolic that all other scenes took place in the summer (but different years). Helma played Helen, who organized a New Year’s party. Rickard played Sigrid. I played The Blot, the manifestation of Helen’s problem with her self-image, which Rickard invented in the psychologist scene. The Blot talked to Helen, tried to make her feel obligated, tried to tell her that people only came to her party because they felt sorry for her. But Helen does not listen. She focuses, “I should not listen, it’s just The Blot, it’s not true.” So The Blot gives up, turns, and walks up to Sigrid. “Hi, Sigrid. It’s you and me now. You will not be alone anymore.”
I am happy with the story and with how we worked with the theme. We got to a lot of interesting scenes where we in different ways “externalized” the characters’ inner struggle and made it into role-playing between players instead of just one player sitting there going “woe is me”. It was a bit tentative at first, while we were looking for the right “problems” and how to attack them, but once it clicked, it was really good. Also a proper story with a lot of depth in just two hours of active play. The old problem that I think I have had, where giddy play can be played in a short time, but “heavy” play requires at least four hours, I feel has been completely broken with Hantverksklubben, which is also nice.