Playing to Find Out requires a different relationship between players. oftenfuzzyfaced beat me to this punch, read his story of negotiating uncomfortable narrative pushes here.
For my own account, I recount another of my gaming fumbles, this time from 2011: In a street level game Unknown Armies, my character was Jorge the saddest dad. One evening when visiting the home of his former spouse, he got in a stressful argument with her about how to respond to their son being bullied in school. In this game, Jorge was a physically imposing man, who had possibly been divorced by his spouse because he was abusive. The scene was framed in such a way that through our play we would be able to illuminate the implicit questions of, “Was Jorge abusive? Is Jorge still abusive?” But, my friends were watching (including Jen and likely hatalie). Up to this point, the group had never had any discussion about what subjects were appropriate play material. Even though Jorge the character had been moving towards the abuse question all along, I didn’t take full notice of until I was confronted with answering these questions (through Jorge).
The right thing to do would have been to call a halt to play and ask, “Is this going where I think it’s going? Is that okay with everyone if it is?” Hell, if we would have had a conversation before about appropriate subjects it would have been even easier, “Uh guys, any Lines or Veils need to go down on this?” But that’s not what I did. Instead, I flubbed the scene by not taking a strong stance with Jorge. I basically declined to answer the questions, declining to Play and Find Out what Jorge’s really about. I flubbed the scene for fear of what Playing to Find Out might mean for my friends. I’d like to think I fucked up the ‘good roleplaying’ part of that scene, but achieved ‘decent human’.
But the thing is, I don’t want to have to choose. I want to play stories about human fucking humans being real and sometimes awful to one another, that I am connected to emotionally. But I want it Safe, Sane, and Consensual instead of with the incomplete consent (dubcon?) that is the norm in gamer cultures.
Playing to find out requires a different type relationship between players. But I don’t know all of the elements I want to see in those relationships.
Postmodernism (and deconstructionism and
poststructuralism) called the entire notion of
communication into question. By association, the
ideas of truth and falsity, honesty and lies, were
also tainted. How can a Western Cryptomancer
tell the truth, if communication is so inherently
corrupt that honesty is impossible? How does an
Eastern Cryptomancer’s lies set him apart, if everyone
is unintentionally lying all the time?
The future of Cryptomancy is an open question.
The attrition of the school over the last few
decades has, perhaps, made it ripe for a total usurpation
that would obliterate the school’s magickal
power and establish a new, postmodern form of
Cryptomancy in its place. Until then, the remaining
Cryptomancers marshal their forces for the battle
to come, whether that battle is between the rival
schools or with the notion of truth itself.
Brothers of the Mysteries,
First, I would like to draw your attention to the sheer artistry of this author. Concealing the truth by hiding it in plain sight, where the Sleeping Tiger would only laugh at it. The rest of the work is of a piece; names changed enough not to bother the principal characters, but ultimately truth disguised as fiction.
Secondly, I present a program to preserve the strength of secrets and make our discipline as powerful as it once was: A plan for Digital Cryptomancy.
You might be aware of the term “rubber-hose cryptanalysis;” among a certain group of people, it mocks the absurdity of the paranoids who secure their digital lives with encryption that would take a billion-dollar computer years to crack when the password can be extracted in at most hours with a secure chair and a blunt instrument. Absurd or not, that paranoia could be harnessed, if the public felt even a fraction of the fear these hermits do.
What I propose is to elevate the obsession of these mageekians to the level of real magic and manipulate it to form a new style of secret-magic. To do this, we must raise the specter of intrusion and the privatised police state to a national obsession. If we can get the emerging “social networks” to attempt to gather more information about their users and the government to seek even more control over the Internet in the name of security, we can engineer a counterattack that appears to be completely organic, imploring the public to pay attention to what they are sacrificing.
A delicate balance is necessary, of course. The backlash must be powerful enough to make everyone aware, but not must succeed too far, or the fear will vanish. Likewise, if the current trend continues, there will not be enough secret left preserving for it to matter to the collective minds of the world.
Most of you learned from the English tradition, but this is not just a matter for us. The Germans have weakened as much as we have. And we have, don’t deny it. But we can harness our magic to a new horse, one that is leading the whole world forward.
If you are with me, leave messages through the usual anonymous channels.