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I don't like horror

painting by Jozzi

but the moment Ron mentioned he had started a game of Lacuna with a couple of new people that showed up after Augustifesten and Kulturnatten (both weekend long cultural festivals that give the opportunity for all clubs at Spelens Hus to reach out to new people) I got itchy. He had introduced the game to Henna and me in the spring (Chasing Edwards) and I remembered it fondly. Also, that was a one shot kind of thing and there definitely was some unfinished business as far as the character I played was concerned.

Ron has a sheet with premade characters that he had used both in spring and now, but fortunately none of the new players had picked Provost (the character I played before). I spend some time figuring out how she had been influenced by the previous mission and it's aftermath and showed up at the table with some rudimentary idea of who she was now.

When I joined the game everybody else had already played one session and the others characters, Fuller and Inman, had experienced enough in Blue City to have some doubts about the mission they were sent on.

I'm rather shy in general and meeting new people still puts me under some stress, but it is getting better. Also, I had met one of the players during Augustifesten and had enjoyed talking to her. After we introduced ourselves and our characters I basically hit the ground running. No more thoughts of “what kind of first impression do I leave here”.

Provost got her mission briefing from Snyder and man was that fishy. “Single room” in some new, still pretty unused looking part of the premises, I had flashbacks to a certain session of Khaotic! and Provost had just mistrust for the man and the mission alike. Then I “missed” (joking, those so called misses are the best rolls you can get if you ask me) the deployment roll, It wasn't even a mediocre success – it was just perfect. Resulting in Provost dropping out of the blue sky in front of the very people (her fellow agents) she was supposed to observe from afar. So … cold, hard, I own the place wherever I may find myself … I'm playing a character I'm afraid of with people I barely know.

Sorry everybody, that's about all you'll get from me about the content of play. The others had choosen Fuller and Inman (look them up in the attachment of the post linked above if you're curious), the Hostile Personality to be apprehended in this mission was named Sorensen.

>What happened already during the first session was magical, no kidding, the way everybody picked up on what and how things were said by the others, how it got incorporated into play, it was like we had played together for a long time – or known each other since childhood. It didn't matter that I missed the first session or that one ot the other players had to skip one of the lessons. For me, there was a very high level of trust involved, both in the game to deliver, in the other players (for me everybody around the table is a player, even the person who runs the game) to sense where boundaries may be and watch out for anybody displaying signs of discomfort. I felt safe to dance along all the lines criss crossing my brain, violence, firearms, horror, let's see how much I can take. Still, I was exhausted in body and mind after every session but it was the kind of exhaustion you experience after a good work out. There is no recipe for a game experience like this, but for me there are a couple of things that I think may be a part of it happening.

Trust, the feeling of everybody looking out for the others. Whether you want to establish boundaries before play, just talk about what makes you uncomfortable or feel you can start playing and will be able to signal when something starts going south doesn't really matter.

Listen, let yourself be influenced by what you hear and sense, even if your character is not in the scene, How players describe what their characters do or feel, dialogs, descriptions of the environmentDont, let it become part of the mood, part of the backdrop, part of the thread you will be weaving into the picture.

Don't plan or decide where things should go, just play, make your character a person, not a tool. There was a scene in our third session where I knew what Provost was intending to do and … I don't know if I would have been able to describe it. Fortunately play is like life, things rarely go exactly after plan and even if I'm not able to describe the outcome of a roll somebody will help me out.
Last but not least, play this game, not just for one session, things develop really nicely if you give them a chance.

Department: 
Actual Play
Games: 
Lacuna

Comments

JC's picture

Don't plan or decide where things should go, just play, make your character a person, not a tool.

I love this - make your character a person, not a tool. I struggle with this at times, and linking that concept to not planning or deciding where things go is so good. When I feel stuck in my head during a game, focusing on the "person" rather than the "function" has always been helpful.

I have never had the chance to play Lacuna for more than a single session, and these posts are making me regret not playing in a longer game.

Jesse Burneko's picture

JC latched on to the same phrase I did. I've really become keenly aware of how many games define a scenario as "a sequence of escalating obstacles leading to a climatic confrontation with the main bad guy"  And players are pretty much expected to be colorful collection of tools for overcoming those obstacles who happen to say amusing things along the way.  Like, that's it.  That's "role-playing" to a great many people.

And there are some days when I think, "Maybe I'm expecting too much?"  But then here it is, put so plainly, "make your character a person, not a tool."

Ron Edwards's picture

Lacuna isn't different from any RPG with a significant asymmetry of information which includes the players, who quickly learn X and Y and Z within a session or two of play. But those moments are so enjoyable that I am reluctant to talk about the content here. Let's see if I can make any sense while leaving it out.

In playing this time, beginning with Daniel and Kiara, I did not include content from the single session played by myself, Henna, and Helma a while ago. By coincidence, however, none of their rolled content overlapped with that session and I didn't recycle anything from it either (different characters, different mentors, different mission content). Therefore, when Helma joined us for session 2 and pulled in her character from the prior game, Provost, she effectively forced that prior session to become backstory for the current game without causing any continuity trouble.

It did necessitate more preparatory effort as "things" were now more complicated, and I had to consider the whole textual hierarchy of the Company - who was up to what, who knew what about whom - more than I'd anticipated having to do. But it also permitted me to develop more range of content in Blue City itself, which I roughly mapped based on my home region of the Monterey Peninsula in California, and to apply myself to what "people" (or whatever) were doing there at this moment.

For example, Sorensen was indeed a Hostile Personality who was permitted to stay "un-cured" by certain people in the Company as their agent in Blue City, so the agents' mission to "cure" him was now a matter of contention at quite-classified levels.

I also found myself inspired by the contrast between the Blue regions, in which the dream content was bizarre but essentially whimsical, and the Deep Blue in which it became suggestive of rawer, scarier aspects of the general human emotional landscape. Both Provost and Inman received glimpses of their pre-Agent origins, the latter in a region just over the Black border, and neither liked it a bit: Provost grimly accepted it what little she could, and Inman succeeded in averting his eyes (and mind!) from it.

So the whole thing became much more dramatic than a quick surreal romp. All three characters ended with different psychic relationships to what had happened, to their own self-understanding, and to the Company. Fuller remained generally unaware of the details and chose not to "ask quetions" (ever), Inman responded to "therapy" to keep him docile but is still a bit disturbed, and Provost chose to retain what she learned in order to become one of the higher-up's special helpers ... and thus, rather close in concept to what Sorensen had been.

This was a strikingly rich, emotional role-playing experience that brought out my best skills and effort, only in response to all three players completely investing in how their own characters felt, thought, and chose to do things, at multiple points. It was also true horror at multiple points, at times leaving me in actual fear of (i) what I might have to say or show which would reveal I was capable of such things, (ii) whether and when content would step past any Lines including mine, and (iii) what someone else might say or do, fictionally, given where play had taken us.

Helma provided this song and video for Provost: https://youtu.be/qzr9MOGfth0

Daniel, this one for Fuller: Yann Tiersen - Les Jours Tristes - YouTube

And I chose this one for Blue City: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yD0_sX1qiqY (the caption misleading; it's a Warren Zevon song with Jerry Garcia sitting in)

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