Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Thinking Outside of the (Brain) Box

Before the madness that is #RPGaDAY starts next month (questions will be revealed next post), I wanted to talk about a revelation I had during a recent game of Tales from the Loop.

Our GM - Stoo - has been running Tales from the Loop for us for the last few months, and while I own the game I haven't read the adventures. I wasn't sure if I'd get to run it, so I haven't been spoiled for the major plot revelations.

However, sometimes, when that particular section of the adventure is over I go to the rulebook and have a quick look to see what was written about it to see how it was done.

Tales from the Loop is a strange beast when it comes to RPGs. The rules are surprisingly simple. Let's look - It's 192 pages for the corebook, The first 46 pages are introducing the world (both the Swedish Loop and the US Loop). Then you have 26 pages which cover character creation and the rules of the game. 31 pages of how to run a mystery, then 68 pages of adventure split up over four seasons ("The Four Seasons of Mad Science").

See? I told you it was simple. It's kinda reassuring as WILD is very simple in its actual system too, a lot of the game is going to be how to play in dreamscapes and setting information...

Anyway, I digress.

A couple of sessions ago we were playing one of the side investigations in the Mystery Landscape, one that only takes up a couple of pages of information in the rulebook, but has been keeping us intrigued for a couple of sessions at least. If you're familiar with Tales from the Loop, there's a plot involving dreams.

[MILD SPOILERS]

The game normally assumes you find a piece of technology that involves dreamsharing, and either destroy it, or the government sends in goons to stop it. However, one of our players decided instead to use the technology just to see what it does.

[END OF SPOILERS]

In a plot right out of WILD he ended up in a dreamscape, running through his childhood home and discovering things from his past that he didn't remember - major revelations about an older sister who died from an illness while he was very young, explaining why his father was a bit distant and a drinker...

To get him out of his dreamscape, we foolishly went in - full Inception-style - to try to lead him out, where my character had to experience the car accident that killed his mother, Debs' character had to deal with the feeling of being ignored in her own home - the least noticed of her many siblings, and the villain of the piece - the creator of the technology - confronted his violent father, aided by our characters encouragement. Instead of fighting the villain, we helped him stand up to his violent father in a dreamscape, and resolve a lot of his issues. All while dealing with some emotional and heartbreaking issues of our own.

It was epic, emotional, and absolutely none of it was in the rulebook. Most of it created on the fly by our awesome GM and the cool backgrounds that had developed for our characters over time.

--



It got me thinking. Mostly because this session was all in a dreamscape, it started me thinking about WILD. And I mentioned this to Debs the following day.

I realised, I wasn't imaginative enough to run my own game. The game I've been working on for the last seven (plus) years, I honestly don't think I can run it. I can write it, and I can give players and GMs the tools they need to run the most amazing game I can think of, but I honestly don't think I could run it and do it justice.

Then again, I've seen this happen with other games I've worked on. I've heard stories of Doctor Who games that people have run that have blown me away. Amazing tales of Cybermen attacking, Sarah Jane Smith uniting a school to help defeat them. And that's before we get onto the epic feat of storytelling that was Geek and Sundry's Doctor Who RPG series hosted by Eric Campbell.

--

I remember having this discussion with Jason, a friend of ours who first got me into Conspiracy X all those many, many years ago. He has worked for years with various mental health organisations and is now launching his own hypnotherapy business. One day he popped over and we started discussing WILD and the themes that the game could cover - delving into the unconscious and subconscious of the characters, and helping them to deal with recurring nightmares, as well as the other major plot elements (dreams invading reality, espionage, etc.). He said (and I'm paraphrasing) "You know, this game could not only be a good game, but it could also actually do some good - helping players come to terms with their own issues and complexes."

While I love the idea of creating something special that transcends the level of being merely a game, it's not something I think I could run. I felt really uncomfortable at moments during that Loop game - not because of the subject matter, but I just didn't think I was capable of being that "in the moment" emotionally and dealing with the traumas of my poor character's past.

I guess a lot of that is my problem and my mental state at the moment anyway. You never know, I may feel differently in a year's time if things improve a bit.

--

"Skip to the End" as they say in Spaced.

Basically what I'm saying is that roleplaying games are amazing and can produce a level of emotional involvement that is quite unlike anything else short of reality. Maybe it's close to method acting. It's a fantastic experience, and I'm always amazed when a game gets to that level of involvement - when you're really feeling what the character feels, whether this is fear, sadness, or joy.

These games can hit home, and sometimes that emotional attachment can help us to cope with things in our real lives.

I only hope that one day I'll be able to run WILD, or any game, that has that emotional resonance, again. Until that time, thank you Stoo and my fellow players for an astounding gaming experience, and thanks to the Tales from the Loop writers for giving us that opportunity.