So before we start, short introduction. Before I become blogger and before I become boardgames designer I was – to say the least – quite famous Role Playing author and Game Master in Poland.
The short story I will recall today takes place some about 2004 in Gliwice. I am few months after publishing Neuroshima RPG and we are testing our new game called Monastery RPG. This is dark fantasy game, to explain it in two words – it is some kind of crossover between Aleksandr Dumas novels and H.P. Lovecraft legacy. World of the game looks more or less like France 1660 with huge amount of dark magic, occults etc.
Players take roles of noble heroes.
So we play. Players play nobles, so they role play all etiquette forms, and use all good manners in dialogues and honorifics…
Minute after minute I put more tension into game, I reveal first plot signals, I put on the table first problems. Emotions of players slowly get higher and higher. And I am putting new elements to the picture of the problem that players will have to face during this game. They talk. ‘My dear sister, I am so glad that we meet here in our ancestors palace’, ‘My beloved brother, your invitation was most kind letter I read for weeks.’
Crap. Boring. Etiquette and honorifics.
So I put new details of story. I put new elements. I raise the temperature.
‘Dear sister, I am sad to say that we need to bla bla bla’
‘My beloved brother, you know you can ask me for any favor. I’d be glad if I can help you, bla bla bla…’
Yeah, role playing this nobles is quite boring. Again I raise the temperature by giving leak of upcoming events to ‘brother player’.
He finally gets what’s going to happen soon. He says:
‘My dear sister, I will have to ask you to do me a favor. It will be very difficult for you and you will not like it.’
‘My beloved brother, you know you can ask me for anything” she says.
Yhm, yeah, listen him now, darling, I think and I wait for ‘brother player’ to say what he has to say…
‘My dear sister, I need to ask you to leave military school tomorrow, before you take your final exam.’
‘You must be fucking kidding me. No fucking way!’ she replays.
Yeah, she may forgot about role playing etiquette at this very moment. No doubt that now the temperature is just right.
She doesn’t give a shit about roleplaying her character anymore. She is so pissed off now, that she doesn’t care about such a crap like honorifics. Emotions took control over the player.
That was my job as a Game Master when running Role Playing games. Provide emotions. And I think I was kind a good at this.
I mention this little story because providing emotions is part of my job these days too and when I was in Modena I had a few amazing moments with players and their emotions.
[and yes, this is true, Italians are most emotion showing people I have ever seen and this is awesome]
For most demos of Robinson Crusoe I did during convention in Modena players were very kind for me. I was assisting them for most part of the game and they talked in English with each other even if it was hard for them. They could talk Italian between themselves – it would be much easier for them – but they felt it may be rude and tried to talk in English.
That was very kind, that I was able to listen to their plans and discussion and their doubts what to do next.
But during every single game of Robinson, at some point of the game amount of important decisions they had to make, level of pressure the game build, number of doubts and questions about future got to the point where they ceased to pay attention to me. They didn’t give a shit about me not understanding a single word. They didn’t care about being rude or not and about speaking in front of me in a language I don’t understand.
They just tried to survive. They were living the board. They were arguing. They were waving their hands. They were moving action pawns from one space to another back and forth. And they didn’t notice me anymore.
At one game situation got just ridiculous level. At some point they had this adventure and suddenly one of players turns to me and speaks to me in Italian.
‘Man, I don’t speak Italian’, I say.
‘Oh, sorry’ he says and raises his hand in apology ‘I was asking if we really have to discard food’
‘I have no idea what adventure card you have. You read this card in Italian! You took the card and read it translating it in real time. I have no idea what adventure you had’ I say to him.
‘Oh, yeah, sorry.’ he passes me card.
I read it.
‘Yes, you have to. I am sorry.’
He shouts something in Italian to the rest of players, then he turns back to me, says something to me – in Italian! – and then again shouts something to other players. He is there, back again. Back on the Island. Trying to survive. Not realizing I am sitting next to him, not realizing we are in Modena, not realizing we are on convention. He is there, on the Island.
Playing with Italian players was an amazing adventure for me. I was there sitting with them not understanding a single word, and watching pure emotions. Seeing them waving hands, speaking very quickly, looking to ceiling with expression on face shouting: ‘God, why?!’
With every turn the temperature was higher, they were struggling harder and harder. I didn’t understand what were they saying, I felt what was going on. I felt this pure adventure they had. I was there sitting at the table, watching people having a great time with my game. I didn’t understand words, but I saw pure emotions.
And I have to say, for all those hours I was sitting there, I was the happiest men on the planet.