A sad lonely man

(cross-posted to the Forge)

Last night we playtested Dirty Secrets some more. Came across some more rules bumps, as expected, and lots of areas that need more clarity. I still think that I’m on the right track. I know how I want most of the things to work; it’s mostly a matter of expressing it in words.

But that’s not what I want to talk about. Instead, I want to discuss the last scene that we played through.

Robert George is our investigator character. He’s a DEA agent doing a little moonlighting for some extra cash. Even though he is in his mid-40s, he has not advanced in the ranks. Indeed, he is essentially a desk jockey, who is unconsciously living out some of his power fantasies through pursuing this investigation. In our previous session, we had established that he once was married, but his wife divorced him about 10 years ago.

Actually, it was worse than that. Robert came home one day and caught his wife in bed with another man. Robert chased the man off and got into a screaming fight with his wife. During this fight, she told him that she had set things up so that he would find them. He had abandoned and neglected her, and so she wanted to hurt him as badly as he had hurt her. Enraged, he slapped her across the face.

Their five-year old daughter saw it all.

For the last ten years, Mollie hasn’t said a word to her father.

Until this night, when she called her father, because she was in trouble. Robert found her in the apartment of her boyfriend, who was lying on the floor, shot through the head. That’s where we picked up our story last night.

We didn’t get very far last night. We started too late (mostly because of a last-minute beer run), and we ran into some rules snags. But finally, we found Robert back at his apartment with his daughter Mollie. It’s 3 a.m. Mollie’s boyfriend and father of her unborn child is dead. Mollie and Robert haven’t spoken in 10 years.

Now what?

It was heart-wrenching to me. Crystal (narrating for Robert) described his pathetic efforts to fix some food for Mollie. He put together a bologna sandwich, made from cheap bologna, white bread, and squeeze mayonnaise, sprinkled with crushed potato chips, served on a styrofoam place. He tried to make some chamomile tea from some old loose tea that a co-worker had once given him. Of course, he fumbled the tea ball, so there are tea leaves floating in the tea, which he served in an old, chipped mug.

He wasn’t trying to be cruel, you understand. What made this all so heart-wrenching was that this was the best that he had to offer.

Even the tea was significant. The co-worker who had given him the tea was an “attractive woman”, who had been hoping that she could maybe start a relationship with Robert. But he was oblivious to what was going on. Now, at least for the audience, the tea is just one more reminder of the failure of this man as a human being.

So, Robert serves this meal to his daughter. And then he proceeded to pump her for information. Because, even now, the case still has a priority. He wants to try to reconnect with his daughter, but he can’t quite get out of “work mode” to really do the job.

When we got into conflict, both Crystal and I dialed our own Violence dice to 1, where they couldn’t hurt anyone. The third Violence die rolled a 1, which put it out of play, for which we were all happy. Afterwards, Crystal admitted that she had prayed that the public Violence die would roll a 1, because none of us could bear the thought of Violence in this very fragile scene.

Still, it hurt to watch.

I’m not sure what my point is, really. But this was such a deeply meaningful scene to me, I had to share it.

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