March 28th, 2010


Reading - Exquisite Corpse

This week I started to read Sandra Cisnero's Woman Hollering Creek. It's a book of short stories and short character studies. It has glowing reviews from the FT, NYT, LAT and the Indie but even on a second go, I'll still haven't been able to get very far. The short pieces, often less than two pages long, are just too short. I've read quite a lot of micro-fiction but these pieces aren't stories and don't really deliver enough. You just start to get interested and then they stop. It's very frustrating.

So I stopped and instead read Robert Irwin's Exquisite Corpse. This is the story of Caspar, a memeber of the 'Serapion Brotherhood', the English surrealists. It's at once an historical perspective of surrealism, a love story and a mystery. It's also very well written and funny.

Gaming - SteveCon - Time & Temp, Ocean

Attendence was a bit thin but there were six of us, enough for a couple of games. First we played Time & Temp, with three of the group reprising their characters from our Wednesday game and two players new to the game. It was a desperate story of Craxos, King of Sumeria in 17,000BC (we have very little knowledge of the period, or indeed its dates). We had a TPS on the period which specified three things:
- Those reciting the epic of Gilgamesh would be well received
- The crypt is a safe place to hide
- King Craxos has only got one ball

The mystery, as presented by Todd, was that someone had found a cruciform tablet in the middle of which was a shopping list in English. Our brave band of temps traced the originator to a description of a small woman with dark skin and black hair, wearing strange black and white garb, named "small shell". However they were soon distracted by the King's problems in conceiving an heir and became embroiled in a plot by the priests of Marduk to prevent conception. Their contribution was to provide an upbeat tempo for the King's business, much to the discontent of the Marduk priests. It ended up in them hiding in the crypt which the priests dared not enter for the presence of ghosts and then one of them covered in goat cheese to shine in the moonlight, ghostlike, or at least enough for the priests.

Of course, this had very little to do with Conchita, the Hispanic maid who was using a time slip to reduce her domestic burden, swapping modern conveniece food for authentic Sumerian cooking, but it was an entertaining game as did nothing to reduce my affection for Time & Temp.

Our second game was Ocean, the second time I've played this and the result was much as the first, so I won't go into in much detail. However, juxtaposed with previous entry about Robert Irwin's Exquisite Corpse, it struck me that this surrealist game is an excellent description for this kind of roleplaying game. If everyone is singing from the same sheet, has a good ear for the directions in which other players are going, and respect each other's creative impulses, then it is possible that such a game might produce some coherent output with a satisfying narrative. However, it is much more likely that the end result is more like this:

That is, good in parts, amusing, but ultimately grotesque. For the narrative to be more satisfying, the game requires more constraints.