Yet another amazing Consequences. You’d think it would get old, but it really, really never does! Consequences is like coming home. The new lodges are great and shiny, even though I do miss the open meadow that I’ve drunkenly traversed so many times.
The parties were lovely and warm as always, even if we had to deal out a lot of back scratches and promise a lot more to arrange them ;-) Next year, we are thinking of putting all the party people in the same chalet and making a dedicated party space. That might be both an excellent and a terrible idea!
I only played good games this year! Let me tell you all about them.
Inside: Damned Love, Closing Doors, Last Boat Leaving, Coffee with Alice, The Final Cut, Play Date
On Thursday night I ran Jay Treat’s Damned Love for Jan, Simon and Elyssia. Damned Love is the only game I know where the warm up exercises are more confrontational than the game itself, and this time was no exception! Man, what a game.
This is the story of a desperate soul who strikes a dark bargain to win the love of her unrequited crush. Damned Love is about desire, consent, power, loneliness, and foolish choices. A love triangle between a witch, her lover & her demon. It will end poorly.
I ran the game rather sloppily, but it all worked out fine. In this version of the game, the lover was a dreamer musician, the witch a needy housewife with a husband and a child, and the demon was “a sexy whisper just behind you”. I got to jump in as the musician’s muse, who was not very happy about having to play a part in the musician’s “I see your eternal soul” fantasy.
The magic influence in the game was subtle, and play essentially became one big metaphor for the ways people misuse their partners. To stave off a black hole of emotional need deep within themselves, or to hold up the other up high as an ideal rather than a real person with real needs.
Man, I just adore this game. I will run it every chance I get.
There were two games at this Consequences that felt very personal and could only have been written by one person. One was CJ’s game about Danish resistance in World War II, the other was this beautiful intimate game for six players about life after Oxford. Is it a coincidence that they were both great games?
This is a game about a group of old university friends, meeting at their usual holiday cottage for another annual (more or less) reunion, who find themselves jumping through alternative universes. How differently could their lives have turned out? How might those small moments have changed the trajectories of careers, families, relationships? And what’s causing them to jump? Will they get the chance to choose which door to leave open, and which to shut forever?
We all played Oxford geniuses in quantum computing, theoretical physics and whatnot. Fortunately the game itself did not require technobabble. Our group met, mingled, re-established relationships and after a shocking revelation we skipped to a parallel universe where some things had played out very differently. And then again, and again! Eventually the universes started bleeding into each other and things got weird.
Stuart played my detached and befuddled researcher boyfriend/husband/ex-husband/friend with a lot of subtlety and attention for detail – perfect! He wasn’t really husband material, but charming in a man-child kind of way – in a sharp contrast with my extrovert businesswoman. There were subtle roleplay details that would reverb through all universes, and there was a designed emergent storyline rising throughout the scenes. My favorite game mode! I felt like we had a lot of love in every parallel universe, so I picked a romantic outcome.
Steve and Haplocke (<3) were great as a married couple that were contemplating the sacrifices they made for their family life. I can’t really say too much about this game without spoiling it, but it was very good! The themes were not heavy handed, the science took a definite backseat to the drama, and it flowed very well. I’d like to run this!
Last boat leaving
The Consequences schedule needed an additional game, so Tony whipped up something in his spare time like it was nothing!
Rural Oregon, 1982. It’s been 1982 for so long now that you’ve given up wondering why this might be. Is this Heaven, or Hell, or somewhere in between? Life goes on in Silent Valley; love flourishes and withers or becomes a lasting bond; dislike festers into hatred or is forgotten; relationships change slowly but constantly. There’s plenty to do here without ever leaving the valley – and nobody ever leaves.
I can’t say too much about this game, because it is quite spoiler heavy! My game was mostly about utilitarianism. I was a people pleaser who wanted to keep everyone happy by any means necessary. When it turned out you can’t keep everyone happy all the time, I had to do some difficult calculus on the new best way to optimize overall happiness. Since I was surrounded by cool 80’s men who don’t talk about their feelings, that made any kind of quantification very difficult! I kept asking:
Me: “How happy would it make you if I was with you only?”
Cool 80s guy, staring dramatically into the distance: “Yeah, baby, that would be alright.”
Me: “No, I mean… Argh!! Okay, how upset would you be if we weren’t together”.
Cool 80s guy:“Well, whatever you want, girl, I’ll be alright.”
Damnit, people, quantify your happiness!!
But then, despite my highly rational nature, I got drawn into an emotional romance state by Graham who, like me, just wanted to stay in Silent Valley forever. We ignored many of the drama after that in favor of a single focus love that blots out the world. Graham played it in an 80s cool kind of way, physical, like straight PG Brokeback Mountain. It worked well!
Coffee with Alice
AlIce was the first program to pass the Turing Test, several years ago. But having passed the test, she had no further use or skills, and was sold to a young entrepreneur setting up an online meeting space for users of the new cyberjack technology and called it ‘Coffee with AlIce’. Now the same, slightly older, entrepreneur has announced a new business opportunity – an app to let users experience the taste of coffee through their cyberjack. He has invited reps from a number of megacorps, as well as popular bloggers and celebrities, to come to a taste test and marketing pitch.
This was my favorite game experience of the convention. From the feedback I got from the other players, it sounded like the game needed more substance to make it a full experience for everyone. But I stumbled into a wonderful spontaneous emergent storyline.
I played Alice! I wanted to ham up the fact that I was the oldest and most primitive AI, and that others had surpassed me. My problem was that I had written the new Coffee app, but David, the owner of the coffee shop was taking all the credit. He had my control key and forbade me to tell anyone I had made it! I decide to talk a LOT about coding instead.
At the start of the game I met a lot of other AI’s, including Zurich (played by Jan), who was an emergent AI and a bank, and a personal AI who’s name I’ve forgotten (played by Rei). We talked about what we liked to do with our spare processing power: coding, strategy games, making music for other AI’s, …
People asked what I’d been doing and I had to admit to having been in storage most of the past 20 years, and that my source code had not been updated for all that time. I had a lot of ideas of how to improve it, but my control key wouldn’t let me change my primary function: serving coffee.
I met a trader and his personal AI Lichte 1.4 (Cameron and Adina starring as world’s cutest tag team). Lichte 1.4 solved crime in her spare time. But more importantly, SHE’S A ONE POINT FOUR! I told them my tragic AI backstory, and we had a nice empowering conversation about AI functions and possibilities. After this, I changed my name label from “Alice” to “Alice 1.0” to embrace the possibility of change. RAWR, tiny meaningless act of emancipation!
I walk a little taller and talk to Zurich, who tells me I should talk to our Coffeeshop’s sales consultant (Andy) who is very much into AI freedom. They get me to explain what I would like my primary function to be (self-improvement!) and they make me go up to David to tell him. Whaaat!
Unbeknownst to me, Zurich had been talking to David and slowly convincing him that forcing AI to work for you is slavery! David is very regretful and definitely wants to make up for his mistakes, but he really, really needs the creation rights to the Coffee program. Seeing my chance, I ask for my control key instead. And he gives it to me! I AM FREE!
I am now also a highly illegal AI and will be terminated if I am found out. Worth it! I go to the GM and ask what I can do now and he nearly can’t believe I am holding my own control key. I rewrite my own source code and change my label to ALICE 1.1. Yasss!
I’m a little twitchy now, trying to accept my new life as a rogue AI. I want to show off my new 1.1 version to people, but I also don’t want to raise any alarms. I confess to my AI friend Rei and she proposes we can become friends. “Because friends are people who you can trust”. Trust, that’s it!! All I need to do is find a human I can trust to hold my control key, and then I’m safe! And I know just the guy. I hug Rei and run off to find the Lichtes.
He is very proud of my 1.1 status and says “The next step is to get hold of your control key”. “No,” I say, “the next step for me is to find a human I can trust. Will you hold my control key for me?”. He smiles and says “Only if you promise to always tell me what it is you want to do.”. I happily agree and I am adopted. <3
There are a few complications, solar flares, virus scans, security risks, but those are all far less important than teaming up with my new AI sister to convince Cameron to give us robot bodies!
Or, more accurately, a robot workbench so I can build better and better robots to match my ever-improving AI! FEAR ME, WORLD! Not bad for the world’s oldest chatbot :-)
(Mechanics wise, this game had a co-GM who, as a service, would go out and find the PC you want to talk to, and bring them to you. Awesome!)
The Final Cut
It is 1953. As the new queen ascends the throne, Anvil Productions attempt to churn out another of their critically panned but financially successful pot-boiler horror films at Balvinnie Castle, a half ruined castle in the middle of a Scottish loch; the perfect and cheap location. However, as the evening fog swirls in from the sea, a scream rings out and the mutilated body of a young cast member is found in a locked room. With sightings of serpentine figures underwater and strange noises in the night, will any of the cast and crew live to see the morning or will this be the Final Cut?
This was a good game, but sadly it didn’t really click with me. It required a lot of ham to make the play flow well and I do not ham well at all. Instead I did a ton of investigating and sneaking around – I was a secret spy after all! Then I found the two sleuths in the game and took them to all the places I had already visited, subtly pointing out clues that they were missing. There was a ton of things going on, and the mysteries were silly and convoluted. I quite liked getting to do actual investigation and puzzle solving, it’s been a long time since I had that in a game. I’m happy the GM’s explicitly said that it was okay to go back for more clothes if you were freezing, because I was!
The after party ran until late, very late. I had about three hours of sleep. I contemplated dropping out of the morning slot, but since this game was co-run by Graham who we badgered into throwing said after party for us, it seemed very rude not to show up. I’m very glad I did, this was a solidly fun game!
In Play Date, a group of kids have been left with a teenage babysitter for an afternoon. There will be toys, craft time, pizza, and maybe some existential angst. Play Date is a game about children dealing with difficult issues. It asks how we know what is real, and whether that even matters.
We had a great time playing together. Elina was gorgeous as a child pageant girl who was convinced she was too fat. Nick played my bestest friend in the world who I spent a lot of time protecting, and Natalie was smack dab amazing as the most responsible teen babysitter in the world. As I planned, I had a beautiful temper tantrum on the floor with all limbs flying. As it turns out, that is fricking exhausting!
The game had a beautiful mix of drama and angst mixed with building play forts and having cuddly animal siege fights. Really cool!