Paintings appeared in our game of The Society of Dreamers that granted access to dimensions of creativity deeper and more dangerous than anyone involved might ever have imagined.
I’m more convinced than ever that people possess a natural inclination toward storytelling and that they simply need permission and encouragement to do so effectively. The various delineations of roleplaying games – mainstream, story game, OSR, what-have-you – are more a matter of stress than of difference and directed toward assuaging anxieties about how the game-experience might play out. Games from the Nørwegian Surreal – Itras By, The Society of Dreamers, the new version of Draug that is forthcoming – are particularly great at granting each person playing full creative reign without impeding the overall creative agenda of the game.
Already, during the first episode of The OA, one of the integral tethering points of Fantastika to a logic of sense – that events inside the fictive space should be read as literally happening – is disrupted. Transgression and Equipoise are put to fantastika’s traditional purpose of subjecting the fixity of the world to “fruitful instability” but there is little ontological framework by which to direct The OA’s system of Metaphysics: everything is diegesis and doubt. The fact the viewer does not know The OA’s true origin story means that we cannot properly invest in The OA‘s narrative arc; unless perhaps it is to question the very basis of consensual narrative. A film like Guillermo Del Toro‘s El laberinto del fauno [“Pan’s Labyrinth”] (2006) by contrast begins and ends its tale of a fallen princess oppressed by all-too-real forces in a Secondary World [see TheEncyclopedia of Fantasy under links below], making itself all the more concrete by turning its narrative full-circle. The OA‘s refusal to let its audience know where it stands complicates any attempt at interpretation, a decision accentuated by placing credit sequences at unusual junctures in episodes of unequal lengths, disjunctive pacing and switching between points-of-view and, most tellingly, by alternately supporting The OA’s version of events and throwing them into doubt. We are not showing you the literal truth, the makers of The OA are saying, because a human being literally does not know where she comes from or why she is here.
A science fiction story – even one written by a fabulist – would not play the game in quite the same way. Russell Hoban‘s Fremder (1996) uses a fictionalized version of quantum Physics to assert a subjective understanding of reality:
Centricity of event as perceived by a participant in the event is reciprocal with the observed universe: the universe configures the event and the event configures the universe. Each life is a sequence of event-universes, each sequence having equal reality subjectively and no reality objectively. Objective reality is not possible within the sequence, therefore subjective reality, regardless of consensus, is the only reality.
A religious conspiracy, wine-dark portals of water and colour and a painting of a girl with a half-eaten apple for a head designed to capture the soul of a child.
Our game of The Society of Dreamers was all kinds of great – and all the more so now we’ve moved on to Act 3 of the game, the “weaving” together of the established facts of the story. We’ll conclude our narrative next week.
Matrilineal ancestors of the mother you’ve just shot in the head silently mouthing words you can no longer understand because you’ve given up all memory of your mother-tongue of Lakȟóta to the ritual to dismiss Quachil Uttaus…
Another Pillar of Sanity shattered when you realise you’ve travelled ten years into the future to witness the London blitz of 1941 and your only option is to turn back into the dread path of the Treader in the Dust…
Chanting the Hyperborean phrases gleaned from the handwritten copy of the Testament of Carnamagos bound in shagreen you retrieved from the broken-but-still-living husk of Lt Col Percival Fawcett, mapping the gestures of the dubious insignia he’d written into the endpapers of The Mummies of Mt. Ampato and East Peru (1912), gesticulating in accordance to the most secret moves of The First Temple of Umbanda Branca (1921), as you tear each never-to-be-regained memory from your colleagues to give to the approaching Outer God: It reaches out one huge hand to deliver the most despairing and meaningless gift of Immortality ever an Ape might receive…
The denouement of The Last Catalogue of Ramon Dégas did not disappoint: everyone ended in the Sanatorium. There was some discussion afterward about whether or not any of the player-characters would be in a fit state to return for our forthcoming Dreamhounds of Paris campaign.
Edward Cody will return, having lost all memory of his ancestry and the attendant meaning it gave to his existence, now engaged in a desperate bid to retrieve fragments of his preconscious memory by automatic writing; he’s been given a letter of introduction to the dream medium Robert Desnos.
“Crooked Bob” Nottingham, now bound to a wheelchair and long evenings spent alone in dusty libraries, will accompany Cody to Paris. He intends to decipher a document written in an invented language he discovered at Miskatonic University called The Society of Dreamers.
It all proved too much for dear old James William Barnes. The former rationalist and believer in scientific inquiry has founded the West Country Church of Christ Almighty and travels the by-ways and backwaters of America in a sandwich-board of corrugated iron.
Space Monkey took away the bound folder of Dreamhounds at the end of the session and was eyeing up Kiki de Montparnasse as his next player-character, remarking only that he had “lots of photos to use for inspiration.” Best not to ask.