We often say that roleplaying games are basically improvised, interactive storytelling, not that distant from other storytelling art forms. However, it is somewhat rare to see the literary pretensions taken to their logical conclusion, with a game that prioritizes the writing process and celebrates the created text as something others aside from the players themselves might be interested in.
We’re going to try out what it’s like to play a roleplaying game in the literary format – similar to traditional postal games, forum games and chat games that are also played in writing, but also different in that the play will occur relatively strictly in the form of authored fiction, with an effort towards presenting the ideas and events of play in an entertaining way. This’ll be informal, so no drafting or editors, just players making their moves. Authentic as well: each player will post their moves as they happen, and no behind-the-scenes storyboarding will occur, so you’ll get to witness the glorious trainwreck uncensored when we write ourselves thoroughly into a hole (and hopefully back out again).
Who is playing
Petteri Hannila is a story gamer, author and indie literature activist with a healthy admiration for pulp literature. What he lacks in English he tries to make up with overwhelming enthusiasm and desire for the dramatic.
Eero Tuovinen is a gamer, game designer, culture industry handyman and something of a fantasy literature fiend. His writing style is baroque and dense, his politics frustrated and intellectual, his beliefs agnostic and amorphic.
What we are playing
S/lay w/ Me is a proge storytelling roleplaying game for two people, created by the erstwhile rpg guru and Eero’s spirit animal, Ron Edwards. The game is somewhat off the beaten path for a roleplaying game in several ways:
- It’s hardcore eldritch underground (“fucking metal” as the kids these days would say), not at all bowdlerized and safe in the way we expect of modern corporate fantasy. Ron’s written an interesting essay on the culture politics of the matter, it might help explain what the game is about.
- It’s pretty much for two players, both participating in crafting the story equally. Two-player roleplaying games are somewhat rare, but for our purposes that suits well, as getting together a larger crew for this sort of bullshit project wouldn’t be easy, exactly.
- The game’s structures and rules are actually pretty supportive of playing the game as a literary back-and-forth; you’ll see what that means as we put it into practice, but simply put the game mostly works fine when demarcated into reasonable chunks of written word instead of the usual dialogue over a gaming table. We will obviously have to adapt the play style a bit, but all told this should be much more realistic than something like D&D or whatever would be.