Silence and inflexions

Our The Clay That Woke game continues, and I may post a little more about it the following weeks, as I’m currently reviewing my notes from the classes (mainly Action in the Action, Situation and Story, and Numeracy).

Here is a simple but interesting inflexion that happened.

In our twelfth session, one Minotaur earned a name: Pra’Nha. Pra’Nha is working inside the Estate of Saemauug, where ninety-nine wives are organized art ceremonies – singing, dancing, any kind of spectacles, in preparation of a new wedding.

Pra’Nah, played by Laura, is an assistant to Zemir, the choreographer. She takes care of a team of three young girls: Thesia, the lead dancer who has a crush for Zemir, Misha, her new best friend, and Ethel, Thesia’s ex best friend. Pra’Nha deals mainly with the social aspect of the group, the “people management” as the management literature names it, allowing Zemir to focus on his creative task.

Misha has disappeared, and Pra’Nah wants the girls to come with him in their rooms to look for clues. Thesia refuses, Misha insists. It’s one of the four cases which triggers an inflexion.

I put a few No tokens in the Krater (five No Tokens), makes the sound (I’ve recorded a sound  for each  number of tokens in the Krater : 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and I put the right sound in the Discord chan to simulate the real sound of the Krater and gives an indication to the players).

“There’s a lot of them”, says Laura. “You know what, I actually don’t care about what Thesia does”. And she puts 2 silence tokens in the Krater – expecting to get a truth or a possible truth.

She draws 2 silences tokens, and 2 “No” tokens. She gets a possible truth. I describe Thesia wearing Misha’s golden bracelet and explains how Thesia’s denial of the situation (“Maybe she left, we don’t need her anymore”) to clearly betray her own involvement into Misha’s disappearance.

This is a very simple inflexion, but it was strongly instructive for me. Suddenly, it was very clear how a Minotaur who has a lot of Silence tokens can actually use them to get to know more about the situation. Which is the case: Nassim has 11 silence tokens, due to two long expeditions in the Jungle where he faced multiple treats (a Player Minotaur gains 1 Silence token each time he is involved in an inflexion in the Jungle).

But also, how a player could actually strategize how to know more by doing things triggering inflexions but in which he isn’t really committed to “win”.

This pool of accumulated Silence tokens allows Nassim to breaks silence a lot. He used this opportunity with parsimony – but clearly more than when he had none. For instance, during a conversation with Pra’Nha later in the session, he said “I’m sincerely happy to see you” breaking silence by expressing his feelings. Pra’Nha, although having 3 silences tokens (his maximum, corresponding to his Silence number), answered by breaking silence too. While Paul’s philosopher Minotaur, also present in the scene and who has only 1 silence token in his pool, just nodded without saying anything.

The whole scene of those three Minotaurs, knowing each other since 12th session, and who just came back from a long expedition in the jungle together that lasted 2 sessions (they came back the previous session with 2 names tokens that changed their life conditions), was really vivid. They have a story together, sometimes harsh: Nassim’s Minotaur lost an eye his first expedition in the jungle, Laura got a limping leg while fighting a horrific entity. And moments of sharing feelings about each other never appeared.

The expression and non-expression of feelings between each other, after all those intertwined stories, started lightly as table talk “Hey I think I say I’m happy dude!” “I’m happy too!” into a more serious solemn moment:

  • Me: “Hey you expressed your feelings; do you think it’s breaking silence?”
  • Nassim “Hmmm. You know what, yes, I broke silence”.
  • Me: “So Laura, you broke silence too”.
  • Laura: “Ah Sh***!”
  • Me: “No, it’s not a trick, you broke silence if you really meant to break it, if you just forgot, maybe you didn’t”
  • Laura: “No, no. I answered, I broke silence.”

My previous posts have been about how the general skills of play were put into this game, and my own satisfaction of just knowing how to play successfully: reincorporation, playing in the situation, etc.

But now, I would like to focus on the specific properties of that game system, so pleases feel free to ask questions about that: our aesthetic choices, how the games works, how did it play out, etc.

8 responses to “Silence and inflexions”

  1. One of the many specific insights I’ve noticed, as people learn to play this game and as they develop play, is the difference between Mind tokens and Silence tokens. If one wants to be clever and solve (win) immediate problems, then Mind tokens are great … but that has nothing to do with what is or isn’t true, and it’s distinct from understanding and knowing things, or helping others see it your way, which can only be achieved with Silence tokens.

    As a secondary and critical point, one doesn’t gain Silence tokens by according with the social rules regarding Silence, but by entirely different acts (interacting with intrinsics or experiencing the jungle). It’s not a cycle of obedience, e.g., be silent to get Silence effectiveness. Becoming a “minotaur of truth” seems to me to require a willingness to step outside norms, almost to the point of shamanism.

    • Yes, as trying to achieve two different outcomes (learning a truth/possible truth AND getting what you want) is statistically very unlikely, a player generally tries one or the other. That’s what happened in our game.

      It may be relevant to specify that silence were not really used often during inflexions before that point – I can remember one inflexion where it happened.

      Courage, Name and Mind tokens in a strategy of “winning” the inflexion has been mostly used.

      It took some time to see a Player Minotaur prefer to learn something about the situation rather than get what he wants. It also showed new options of what to do with this pool of Silence Token, beyond the obvious “Silence breaks”. And the weird nature of the situations, as sociocultural issues are embodied into NPC having weird beliefs that the players only experience in parts (through the effects of what intrinsecs ask or do), really questions sometimes the players: Do I want to win this? Or do I want to know more?

      Also, the game is really about breaking Silence. Sometimes you have to speak up, speak your mind and state clearly what you want, sometimes you want go get intimate and call that woman by her name or express your feelings. What I observed is that having a good Silence token pool is not interpreted here as “being the wiser in terms of Silence philosophy”, but being prepared and confident to break silence whenever it will be needed.

    • I definitely screwed up your final point the last time I GMed the game. I’m looking at my judgment call described in But not too silent quite self-critically, even though I was on the right track with the post title.

    • I may be overemphasing some aspects.

      Just to be clear, we don’t treat the token owned by the players are treated as abstract value. A character is not “more philosophical about silence” or “more ready to break silence” just because he has more token numbers.

      They are treated as dice pools in The Pool.

      They have no importance or influence on the character behavior in themselves. They just allow to weight the odds more toward a direction when a situation asks for it (ie. putting tokens in the Krater or, in the case of silence, being allowed to breaking silence without going into frenzy).

      One of the specificities of Silence tokens (in regard to courage, name or mind tokens) is that a character can’t refresh it with a refresh rule. The only ways are the one you mentioned: an inflexion in the jungle or gaining silence tokens after an inflexion including intrinsic characters (and only the ones with weird beliefs).

    • So, we played a session tonight, and the way Silence was spent in an unexpected way by Nassim’s Minotaur – who had 11 tokens (from a double expedition in the Jungle).

      8 sessions ago, I’ve introduced into the game a place, called the Temple of The Forsaken. That’s where blind Minotaurs, marginalized because of their disability, leaves. It’s an old Empyreus mansion with the mummified owner sitting a throne inside the main hall. There’s a big hole inside the floor. The blind Minotaur sacrifices here – throwing food to whom they call the Landlord in this abandoned unsanitary house. The Landlord is an Oracle, he answers questions Minotaurs asks if you sacrifice some gold. And Paul took gold he found in his master’s mansion.

      In the last game, Paul and Nassim went to see this Oracle to ask some questions about the situations they are in. Paul wanted to know if his master was lying to him. The Landlord is a supernatural entity, so it’s an inflexion.

      None of them wanted to persuade the oracle to tell them a truth (ie. using mind tokens). Paul had only 1 Silence token, and wanted to have a truth or possible truth. But he would have gone into frenzy if he did. So Nassim gave 4 tokens to Paul. Paul drew 1 silence and 3 No. He got a Possible truth. He kept the silence for him (not giving him back to Nassim).

      Then Paul wanted to ask a new questions. So I considered it was a new inflexion. The price was heavier, Again, he drew 1 silence and 3 “No”. A possible a truth again. He kept the silence.

      To this point, Nassim gave 6 tokens to Paul. He had 11 and was down to 5 Silence tokens.

      Now, seeing this, Nassim wanted to ask a question to the Landlord Oracle. He puts 4 Silence tokens in the Krater. But hey, you don’t milk the Landlord like that, I decided he was bored and put 5 No tokens now. So Nassim drew .. 1 silence and 3 “No” tokens – a possible truth.

      They have puzzling information (“you want to know if your wife’s master is dangerous as he told you, your Master’s wife is not a human, she’s a dangerous jellyfish”, “you want to know if the guy you’re looking for is the real father of his children, he is, but he is not a human, he is a Jade Scorpio”, “you want to know if your work as a mercenary is doing justice, but you’re not, you’re fighting the Everwar, and there’s no justice in war.”

      Nassim has now has 1 silence in his pool.

      I didn’t expect to see this big pool of silence token disappear like this, and surely not created the Oracle to play this role when I imagined him 8 sessions earlier – I just wanted a creepy supernatural entity milking the character’s resources, like a Landlord often does.

  2. Here is another rule that I’ve misunderstood before we actually faced the situation: there is no link between a Player Minotaur getting a name and a Player Minotaur changing situation.

    In this game, the players don’t have the choice of their living conditions. They inherit their social and professional position. For instance, Laura’s employer fired a nurse with whom Laura’s Minotaur had a crush. Laura stood up, humiliated her employer (by throwing her a bucket of paint in the face) and said “I quit!!”. But by doing this, she broke silence and lost her last silence token … pushing her in a frantic state that lead her to the jungle. Let’s not that if Laura’s Minotaur can, of course, do this to his employer and state that he “quits” – he actually can’t quit like this. It’s up to the GM to check what the employer wants to do. The Minotaur is still embroiled in this situation, though again his will. I think this is important because you can’t GM this kind of situation “situation” for you is a clear path to some key events and resolutions

    Laura had two name tokens in her name pool. The rules state that when you leave the jungle with 2 names token, the GM defines a new situation for you (which means two things: a new occupation with new social conditions, but also a new “situation”, in Circle of Hand’s terms, to be entangled with – which mean the GM has to design something new).

    At first, I thought that when a Player Minotaur left the jungle with 2 names tokens and a Minotaur foremost (a Minotaur leading him in the jungle and able to suggest him a name if conditions are mot), that’s how he would get a name. Then once he got a name, the situation would change. But that’s not the case. In our game, a weird situation happened where the three players happened to be in the jungle in the same time, at first separately, and they all had 2 names token in their pool. So they all qualified for a name and new situation if they left the jungle – and they left the jungle together.

    So basically, a player doesn’t have the choice of its occupation and social conditions of life – but he has the choice to leave a situation in which he is entangled with, if he goes in the jungle then leaves it with its 2 names token. Note that he also have the choice of NOT leaving his situation – he just chooses to spend all his name tokens before leaving the jungle.

    To summarize : a character can change the situation in which he is embroiled with if he has name tokens and travels into the jungle, then leave it. Although he doesn’t choose the new occupation and life circumstances. I think Trollbabe has something like this – the Trollbabe can’t quit the situation just by stating it – there’s at least one roll involved for her to leave the place without having NPC grabbing her back in their problems.

    • I don’t think I understand this point. Are you referring to a formal, prescribed version of “changing a situation?” Or perhaps using a definition of situation as excluding the player-characters?

      Because it seems to me tht a newly-named minotaur is now a different person, socially among minotaurs at the very least, and quite likely as perceived by entities like the Voices. Even if all else remains equal, e.g. employment, the situation as I conceive the term is changed because this altered person is in it.

    • You’re right, I used “situation” as a synonym for “life circumstances in which the Player Minotaur is entangled”, so it was excluding the player character in own sphere of activity. My use of the word is confusing, it’s not a good one.

      I was trying to find a word to describe the GM-side preparation needed to bring in play, but in the same time including “play” and not just “what has been prepared” – because the initial formal preparation happened like 12 sessions before.

      In Circle of Hand, it would be the sign that the Venture is finished and that the GM now has to design a new venture.

      In the Clay that woke, that is decided when a Player Minotaur comes back from the jungle with 2 names tokens. Then, this “adventure” is finished and the GM prepares a new one. This has nothing to do with the Player Minotaur getting a name or not. Prior to that session, a new occupation and new life circumstances were related to getting a name or not – which is not the case.

      My point is to highlight that the player has the choice to end this adventure or not (if he doesn’t want to). There is some feeling of empowerment to see the player being able to choose if he want to stop with all that Empyreus non-sense when he had no choice of being involved in their sheningans (only to be catched in a new sheningans, but hey).

      You’re right that the situation changes a lot once the Minotaur gets a name. It constrains the GM to shift the perception of the fictional entities he controls by taking this in account – incorporating the social status upheaval in their actions and dialogues. It’s an interesting process, mirroring the frequent process of ascending a NPC (giving him a name and thus some importance to think about) – except here, it’s the PC who just ascended. And contrary to what I thought before we experience this in play, it has nothing to do with life circumstances.

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