Some rambly thoughts about Flowers for Mara

Again, this is mostly for those who understand what this is about. If you don’t, feel free to ask, but that discussion will have to be for another time.

So, I’m thinking that, while I’m being inspired by some of the discussion of Jeepform games, I shouldn’t feel bound to do it that way. This isn’t out of any disrespect or anything; rather, I’ve never played in a Jeepform game, and, honestly, the Jeepform games read like some Forge games that I’ve read (i.e. they assume a lot on the part of the audience). I don’t necessarily have all the same assumptions of the Jeepform crowd, and I’m not going to try. Instead, I’ll read up on what they have done and be inspired to create something of my own. After I’m done, then we can debate if it’s Jeepform or a Forge LARP or something else. Honestly, I could really care less. I deliberately avoided using the term “roleplaying game” to describe Dirty Secrets, because I wasn’t interested in getting mired in that debate. Same thing here.

At this point, Flowers for Mara is a working title. That means that I’ve probably accepted it in my subconscious but haven’t come around to embracing it consciously. I say this purely because of my experience with Dirty Secrets, which was supposed to be a working title, until it stuck.

I think that, as a thought experiment, I’m going to design this game in my head as something that could be played sitting around a table. That will help me get my thought processes in order and will help me work from a place of familiarity. That being said, I would want to be able to move seamlessly from the gaming table to an open larping area, so don’t expect to see any dice or any such thing.

There will be a GM for Flowers for Mara. Actually, I envision the “fourth wall” in Flowers for Mara as functionally being the GM screen. He may or may not have objective systems to help him run the game, but I want to keep them invisible to the players, so that they can concentrate on playing out their developing story.

I have this idea that there will be actual flowers involved in Flowers for Mara. Like, each player gets a (plastic) flower to hold, with a tag or something attached to it. At the beginning of the game, each player has to write down an actual incident of loss that happened in his life. The flower becomes a symbol for that loss. Only players holding flowers are allowed to see Mara. At any time in the game, a player may call for a special scene, where he goes to the designated “grave site” area and lays the flower on the grave. This must be accompanied with a monologue about pain or loss or letting go or something like that. After this point, that player can no longer see Mara (because he doesn’t have a flower anymore).

Mara doesn’t get a flower, obviously. I’m thinking that the Pastor doesn’t, either. That makes them special characters. Again, for Mara, this is obvious, but this makes the Pastor an interesting role. Is he a metaphorical role, like Mara? Or is he a human role, like the other characters? If so, then he really should get a flower. What do the rest of you think?

I’m also thinking that these flowers should have other system ramifications, as well as being symbolic props. Like, if you need to be holding a physical item, you use the flower as the item. I’m still rolling this around in my head.

Pregens are probably a must. So far, obviously, we have Mara, the Pastor, Caleb, and Zoe. I think that we probably need to broaden the circle of family and friends to allow for a couple more characters, but not too many. I’m thinking maybe two more, plus minor roles which will simply be pooled.

I’m thinking that the first and last scenes are gravesite scenes, accompanied by a reading of the burial service from the Book of Common Prayer. At the beginning, the Pastor should read it. At the end, someone else should. Not sure who.

There should also be music involved. I’ve already compiled my personal playlists, which include the following:

“Hard to Get”, Rich Mullins
“Angel”, Sarah McLachlan
“Casimir Pulaski Day”, Sufjan Stevens
“Motion Picture Soundtrack”, Radiohead
“Come Awake”, David Crowder Band
“After The Last Tear Falls”, Andrew Peterson
“It Can’t Rain All The Time”, Jane Siberry
“A Long December”, Counting Crows

I’m thinking that, while I should probably include my personal playlists as examples, the GM really ought to assemble his own playlists. These songs are meaningful to me personally, but I doubt that they will have quite the same impact to someone else.

Hmm. More coming as I think about it. I have this nagging sense that this one will come together fairly quickly.

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4 responses to “Some rambly thoughts about Flowers for Mara

  • Seth Ben-Ezra

    And already I’m changing my mind about the title. “A Flower for Mara” sounds better to me.

  • Raquel

    My random thoughts on your random thoughts–
    I would lean towards the Pastor having a flower, since before we’d settled on making him a young guy with his own story arc to complete, but it does make it a little weird if he can see Mara. Maybe you could set up a minimum number of ‘scenes’ (or comparable story chunks) before he and Mara can be in the same scene. That would give him a chance to dump his flower early in order to help everyone else, and if he doesn’t, he ends up getting sucked into the Mara confusion just as badly as everyone else. That still makes him a special character (which I personally think works fine), but very much a human character.
    I feel like the scenario loses a lot of punch if you add any more helpful/supportive characters, but you could always add in one of Caleb’s parents as a pregen. (We’ve discussed about how helpful they are…) Say, his father’s dead now, and his mother’s “nice” but expects everyone to be as she thinks they should and throws a very dignified royal hissy fit when they’re not. On the flip side, I’ve always thought the Pastor probably had a housekeeper–a nice little old lady, but who thinks a cup of tea fixes everything.
    Would you think the person to read at the end should be somehow determined by the system? Maybe something as simple as an informal vote on who had the most moving/fitting gravside scene?
    Oh, and this is a niggly little point, but plastic flowers are tacky. Silk, oragami, crocheted or leather flowers I could handle. Not plastic.
    If I have more random thoughts I’ll let you know…

  • Emily

    This is beautiful, Seth. I look forward to hearing more. I’d love to playtest it when time comes.

  • Seth Ben-Ezra

    Thanks, Emily. I’ll definitely keep you in the loop. I’m thinking that I’m fast approaching the point where I can do the initial alpha playtest. You know, the one where you try out what you have to find out what’s broke versus what’s really broke. 😉

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