On the 24th of January, Greg and I continued our experiments in collaborative story telling.
Greg recalled the game Once Upon a Time, by Atlas Games, that we both owned that we had both enjoyed good success with some years back. It is closely related to Mythic in that you are invited to make a story from the few prompts that the system provides. Once Upon a Time is more traditional, or perhaps limited, in that it has a deck of cards representing cliched fairy tale motifs. As you play each card you weave the element into the overall narrative.
The problem that we originally encountered was that it too easily became a ‘game’ where you are interacting with the cards in order to win – that is: say any old tripe that fits the picture in order to clear it out of your hand. Unless there was a shared commitment to move to a common ending a game could go on forever as more and more random elements were dumped in.
We have also found this with Mythic. At some point you have to start pulling the threads together to make a picture rather than continue to add more.
Greg suggested combining the two approaches: using Once Upon a Time as a renewing random event generator (cards in hand) but referring to Mythic to resolve elements of confusion.
In retrospect, we again over relied on the cards to furnish our ideas, allowing the cards in hand to dictate the story direction. At the end of the session, we perhaps felt a bit flat. However, I reckon that the Myhtic game experience is rather like lucid dreaming. It is a stream of consciousness that only makes sense after the fact because it is just a random collection of stuff. It is our ordered mind that make sense of it. Having slept on the session, emphasising some aspects of the story and minimising others, I am really happy with the result.
Greg has a better write up on his Book of Jack blog. This is just the bare bones plot precis that could be used as a map were I to ever write the book.
1) Fahlia was a fairy exiled in a forest far from home and people.
2) After so long she was determined to escape, so she transformed herself into a shepherdess and started to mingle.
3) On the side of the road she found a man who had been beaten near to death. He told her his name was Nimrod and that he was a painter.
4) Nimrod had had a promising career. His work was considered insprired. The assault left him with a burning desire for revenge.
5) Fahlia accompanied Nimrod in his search for the attackers, crossing the imposing mountains into a neighbouring country.
6) This strange country seemed to be full of happy people because the king was a great patron of the arts. However, he was also suspicious of strangers and the couple were soon reported as foreigners, arrested, and thrown in prison.
7) Pleading for their lives, Nimrod revealed that he was an artist. The king demanded that he paint a portrait of him. If the work was good enough Fahlia and Nimrod would be allowed to live.
8 ) For seven days he worked on the painting, but he was hampered by the disappearance of his paints and brushes every night. Every morning he had to ask for new ones.
9) The king’s counselor came to investigate and revealed that the king and the kingdom were under a curse. A fiend had possessed the king. Now that once great man patronized artists in the hope of capturing an image of his tormentor. But at other times, when the possessing mind was upon him, he hunted down those artists whose work was too close to the mark and had them killed.
10) Nimrod worked on, every night losing his paints and brushes, while Fahlia continued to wait on him. SHe was infatuated with his self obsession. Here, she thought, she had found her bastard. 🙂
11) Eventually the king ran out of patience and demanded to see the painted even though it was unfinished. The picture revealed was of a horse like creature that captured some unmistakable and disturbing presence. The king was outraged and sentenced the pair to hanging in three days time.
12) Fahlia transformed Nimrod so that he could get the keys and they escaped to a farm where they were betrayed to the authorities. Again Fahlia transformed herself. This time into a dragon and taking Nimrod into ther mouth, flew away with him to a nearby forest.
13) The forest reminded her strongly of her original prison and as she pondered this a fairy appeared.
14) The vistor was the fairy queen, and this was the royal forest in the fairy land. Her husband, the king, had been possessed and the whole land had changed. She and a few loyal retainers fled to this forest. Fahlia was the daughter of the royal pair, sent away by her mother for her own protection.
15) Only an accurate portrait of the demon could break the spell. Nimrod was the only painter who was capable of the work. That was why the kings agents had sought him out to have him killed.
16) Nimrod fled the country to find peace so that he could paint the magical protrait. But his efforts were fruitless until soemone advised him to quit painting straight portraits and try something like still life. He tried this, but failed again. Then one night he looked into the flames of the kitchen fire and had an inspiration. He then spent the rest of the night painting fire and here, without doubt, was the image of the demon that had infected fairy land.
17) Transported back to the court of the mad king he revealed the portrait. Instantly the curse was lifted as the demon fled from its own image.
18 ) The king glared around the court to see who could have summoned the fiend and he found his adopted son who was attempting to skulk off. He had always loved Fahlia, but legally it would have been incest. For her own protection her parents had sent her away. And in revenge the son had curesed them all.
19) And so peace and harmony returned. Fahlia married Nimrod. The queen and the king were reunited.