Phase three turns out to be important to Intrepid Histories – both in terms of its four-act structure and in terms of the third of the four scenes that make up each of its acts.
The prior draft of Disease of the Heart unconsciously primed those playing to take the part of the invading Conquistadors by rolling forth from right-to-left, landing then the battle and alliance with Tlaxcala then the massacre at Cholula then the Siege of Tenochtitlan.
Designer John Keyworth suggests in his playtest document that one should design scenarios with a third act set in dramatic opposition or from a contrasting point of view to those of the first two acts. In John’s 1812 scenario, for instance, the first act (itself composed of four scenes) covers the march of Napoleon’s Grande Armée to Russia and the second act the army fighting its way to Moscow, but the third act consciously switches perspective to that of Tsar Alexander I and the people about to be besieged. This proves crucial to the dramatic shape of the game.
It operates too at the level of the four scenes that make up each act:-
- Scene one starts the ball rolling.
- Scene two develops events.
- Scene three follows different characters.
- Scene four wraps up the act by uniting the two narrative strands.
That this dramatic fractal is fairly subtle does not make it any the less important. I’ve changed Disease of the Heart to better reflect the dramatic progression John uses in his 1812 scenario, thus:
- Act 1: Arrival in Mexico. Cortés scuppers ships.
- Act 2: Journey inland. Battle and alliance with Tlaxcala.
- Act 3: Tenochtitlan: La Noche Triste.
- Act 4: City destroyed.
The slightest of changes can make a difference.