Festival of Rain

Story gamers make shit up constantly. It’s a big part of the process. We invent whole cities, cultures, and worlds at the drop of a hat and then maybe burn them down two hours later. We build and explore fast fast fast… and also slow slow slow.

And we share our toys. We create specifically so that everyone else at the table can use what we’re building. If I introduce a religion, it’s not just for me, it’s part of everyone’s story. Nothing is a greater compliment then when someones take what you made and runs with it. “That religion you described? Yeah my character is going to be the high priest…”

It goes without saying (but yeah, I’m saying it) that respecting what others create is a bedrock principle of good play. But to respect someone’s idea, you have to understand it. It is incredibly easy (and disappointing) to describe something, think everyone gets it, and then a minute later hear someone else talking about what you said and realizing they totally didn’t get what you meant.

And that’s where asking questions comes in. Asking questions isn’t disrespectful. Quite the opposite. Asking questions helps everyone. It helps the person creating something, because they get to make sure everyone else is really hearing their idea the way they intended. And it helps everyone else, because it makes sure we have a clear picture of the fiction so we can build on it confidently.

Not leading questions or hints of what you think it should be — that’s bogus play! Just sincere questions to make sure you understand what someone is thinking and how it connects to what we already know.

Because your whole game is one interlocking jigsaw puzzle. Nothing — and I mean nothing — stands alone.

Sharpen Your Swords, Watch the Skies

A concrete example, from our excellent Sunday night Kingdom campaign.

Caroline is introducing a Crossroad where our rebel knights are deciding whether to *assassinate* a dignitary who helped betray our murdered lord. Because we’re back in our dead lord’s realm, doing Robin Hood shit to overthrow the new lord sitting on her throne… and occasionally brooding over our failures at our dead’s lord’s burial mound, hidden deep in the woods. It’s hot stuff.

So the first obvious question is, why now? Why are we suddenly thinking of taking this drastic action? It’s part of the Crossroad maker’s job to explain that, so Caroline says, yes, this traitor isn’t normally here, they’re visiting the new lord. So this is our chance to strike! Awesome.

Caroline says there’s a holiday, the Festival of Rain, and that’s when we’ll have the chance to strike, so that’s our Crossroad: “Do we assassinate the traitor at the Festival of Rain?”

We would ask “hey, what’s the Festival of Rain?” but Caroline is a pro and is already telling us. It’s a celebration of the first big downpour of the rainy season. You mean a celebration after the rain happens, not a ceremony to bring the rains? We ask. Caroline says yep, exactly.

But that raises more questions. If it happens right after the first big rain, it couldn’t be a specific date planned in advance. We wouldn’t know exactly when it would happen until the weather decides? Which is a pretty big deal when it’s the fulcrum for our assassination conspiracy.

Caroline, ponders, evaluates, and says yes, that’s right: we don’t know exactly when the Festival of Rain will be. We have a rough idea based on normal seasonal weather, but that’s all.

Which is awesome and winds up totally changing the tone of the scenario. Now every scene, characters cast a glance to the heavens, looking for hints of grey or gathering mists. Mechanically it’s not changing the pacing of our Crossroad. But dramatically? Dramatically it is tasty. It holds up a mirror to the deep doubts our characters feel since we failed to protect our lord. Like the coming of the rain, our future is not something we can control.

So we sharpen our swords. And we watch the skies.

    Ben Robbins | July 12th, 2022 | , , , , | leave a comment