This was cross-posted to the Forge. You might find the discussion there of interest.
Post-game reflections, or How Meg Ryan saved our story
Quite possibly the single most exciting thing about roleplaying for me is the post-game reflection. It’s not enough to sit back and be content with having crafted an enjoyable experience. I want to consider what I’ve just experienced and figure out how I can learn more about the world or myself.
But how do I teach this to my fellow gamers?
Emily and I talked for a bit at GenCon about this very issue, and she pointed at Breaking the Ice as having some techniques and methods. So, it seems appropriate for me to lay out the post-game reflections that Crystal and I had.
This was a fairly personal story for Crystal and myself. Many aspects of this story reflected our own personalities or the formation of our own relationship. Crystal and I met in January 1997 and were married by June 1997. In that time period, at least four people very close to me suddenly died, including my maternal grandfather and my paternal grandmother. I was struggling to find and hold down a profitable job. Indeed, the job I actually found nearly destroyed our relationship. And that’s just on my side of things. Crystal was grappling with her own major issues as well. So, compatibilities like “Family is hard” or “us against the world” speak to us, as our own relationship was forged in the fire of conflict and tribulation.
In addition, my current lifestyle choices have made certain issues very precious to me. The one that worked its way into this story could probably be summed up like this: “Drug dealers are people, too.” The Forge isn’t the place to get into the deeper issues that are behind this, but the humanization of outcasts like drug dealers is a big deal to me. Thus, Lester.
So, for both of these reasons, it was emotionally important to us that this relationship work out. I know this for myself, of course, but also I could tell that Crystal was quite engaged in what was going on. This was particularly true as the dice went against us, and we cast about, looking for ways to improve our situation. It would have been quite painful for both of us, had this gone badly.
Even as I write about this, I find myself getting a little choked up. This one might go down in the annals of Important Games for me. Time will tell.
At the same time, we did actually get our Meg Ryan ending. We joked that Lester was me and Candy was Meg Ryan, and that’s about right. In the end, love actually did conquer all and, even though we refused to give them clear sailing into the future, their love was secure. That was the important bit.
It’s also not the way it normally works out. After the game, Crystal pointed out that the normal course of events is that the man says that he will change, stringing along the woman, who sticks around because he said he would change. But, instead, he remains the same loser that he was before. Increasingly, things become worse and worse for the woman, but she stays, because he keeps promising that next time will be different.
I’m glad that things worked out differently for Lester and Candy. Maybe Crystal and I can have stories with happy endings after all.
Now, to some comments and questions about the game system. I’ve already touched on the coolness of the Word Web and the character sheet. Now to discuss the dice mechanic for a moment.
The rules mention using different colored dice for Conflict dice, since they can’t be rerolled. I took this to a bit of an extreme. Here’s what I came up with:
–seven blue Attraction dice
–three green Bonus dice
–three red Conflict dice
–seven pairs of white Compatibility dice
These were grouped off to the side of where we actually rolled dice so the Guide could easily grab them. The Conflict dice were a little closer so that the Active Player could just grab them and invoke conflict.
Then, when we rolled, we’d sort the dice into three categories: successes, failed dice eligible for reroll, and failed dice not eligible for a reroll. This let us see our options very quickly.
I liked how this worked, and I’ll probably use a similar system for the next time that we play.
We also had a couple of questions. We played that you rolled your dice as you got them, thus letting you immediately see how many successes you were earning. So, when you got the Attraction dice, you rolled them so you’d know how many Bonus dice you’d need to shoot for. Then, as you gained Bonus dice, you’d roll them immediately so you’d know how you were doing. Then we would do rerolls as necessary. Conflicts and Compatibilities were invoked as needed, of course.
So, uh, is this the right way to do it?
I wasn’t expecting to have such a moving story. This was supposed to be a light-hearted romp, but it turned into an important, precious experience. So, Emily, thank you very much for designing this game.
Thank you very much.