Sunday, May 1, 2011

Allegria is already pregnant

I just finished the Spring Weekend, and I'll tell you more about it when I'm better recovered.  Spoiler: It went great.  Probably one of the best weekends that I remember.  But with the weekend over, and Cherry Blossom Rain revealed to the world, it's time for me to let that field lie a little fallow, lest I burn out, and to focus on my next big project: Extending Lady Blackbird for Bee, her birthday present.

Bee plays very differently than I do, and so expanding Lady Blackbird involves thinking very differently than I generally do.  What does this have to do with Allegria and why she's pregnant?  Let me explain:

Desiree ran a game about "Steampunk Gypsies."  I'll tell you more about it later, but for now, I want to tell you what I discovered after the game was over and I peeked at her "notes."  She had a few pictures of NPCs, a list of a few names, and a small list of events, including "Allegria is already pregnant."  Allegria was one of the NPCs, a beautiful dancing girl who fell for my character, and at no point was she pregnant.  So why had she written this fact down? Because, as Desiree explained, she didn't know how the story would play out until she actually began to run it.  She had listed numerous little "ideas" to draw inspiration from on the spur of the moment.  Perhaps a romance bloomed with Allegria too quickly and she needed conflict, and thus, it would occur that she was already pregnant.  Or perhaps Desiree would need some other complication to keep the game spicy, so she'd draw on something else.  Or perhaps, as was the case this time, the player would feed her a neat idea that she could run with.

In some ways, as I said to her, that's really not different from how I run things.  She notes interesting ideas as a sentence, I note them as a full paragraph, but in retrospect, I don't actually think that's true.  When I put together a game, I envision it in great deal.  I can see scenes playing out in my mind.  For example, I ran a scene in Cherry Blossom Rain where the Witch of Jukai offers to "free" Yukiko from the terrible grasp of Ren.  I could see her fox, could smell the scent of her swamp, see her j-horror features looming in Yukiko's mirror.  I write those paragraphs because I can see them, like a movie, and I need, very much, to make those scenes more likely, more probable.  I come in the game knowing, more or less, what I want.  I still need to be surprised, I still need the game to flow and change based on what the players do, but those scenes often drive my inspiration like no other source.

What she does, what Bee does, is ultimately different, I think.  I believe they simply walk into a game with no expectations.  They have a premise and little else, and what happens, happens.  They want to have a fun game, and like me, they want to drive the action, though they drive it less towards actual, concrete scenes and more towards general themes that they enjoy: Desiree drives her game towards romance and tragedy, and Bee drives her game towards action and adventure.  What they need isn't details, but inspiration that they feed into the game like one feeds tinder into a dying flame.  They guide the flame, they stoke it, but they don't truly control it.

Returning to Lady Blackbird, what I think Bee really needs amounts, essentially, to a giant book of lists containing things like "Allegria is already pregnant."  Lady Blackbird, in particular, excels at this.  The game master needs only supply the difficulty level and, if necessary, the consequences of the players' action.  It presents those difficulties in the form of story-ideas: "A sky-squid attacks! Difficulty X to defeat it, with the danger of being lost or wounded if you fail!"  It gives you a difficulty, yes, but mostly, it just suggests that Sky Squids exist, and offers the idea that, perhaps, one might attack.  Instantly, you have a potential story idea, one that's useless for many GMs, but one that's rich fodder for one like Desiree or Bee.  I need more, but they need less.  Simple, small and beautiful, little seeds that bloom into full stories.

That's what my book will be: Little seeds.
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