Recently, I was invited by a friend to playtest a game he is working on. The game is about assassins that possess people close to their targets in order to gain access to them. The game is a work-in-progress, so I don’t want to get too deep into how it works. Instead I want to focus on a particular exchange I had with one of the other plays that I found really fascinating.
There is a type of scene in the game where one player is playing the assassin, one player is playing the target, and one player is playing the host personality of the person being possessed by the assassin. I was playing the host personality.
There’s a card playing mechanic and in order for the host player to play cards they must describe a flashback of the host’s life usually involving their relationship with the target. Each card has a keyword on it and the flashback must incorporate the keyword of the card the assassin player used. In short, the host player has backstory authority over the host and their relationship with the target.
It was very clear to me that the host is not aware they are being possessed. So this action is not the host “fighting back”. It’s just a memory bleed through into the assassin’s experience of the situation. I understood my role in the scene and was perfectly happy doing this.
The target was a high powered lawyer and the host was her lover. I had decided that the lover was a fairly submissive man. The first time I framed a flashback the word on the assassin’s card was “Commitment” and so I described a moment where a marriage proposal had turned into an argument. I then skipped the next round because the word wasn’t particularly inspiring to the point that I don’t even remember what it was. The third card read “Violence” and so I described a time when the lawyer physically abused her lover.
When the scene was over the assassin player said he really didn’t understand the host player’s motivation and asked me to explain the plays I had made. So I explained that “Commitment” and “Violence” inspired thoughts about the lawyer and host’s relationship as I was imagining it and the middle card did not. He still seemed confused and asked, “Okay, but what were you trying to accomplish, what was your goal?” To which I replied, “I didn’t have a goal. I had a creative mandate and I was fulfilling it based on the tools I was given.” He genuinely looked shocked. Apparently, the idea that I was quite content with contributing creatively without a meta-game level agenda motivating me was apparently eye-opening to him.
That little exchange was very revelatory of two different people engaging the same game from very different points of view. I thought it was worth sharing.