Tuesday, November 20, 2018

De Profundis

De Profundis 2nd EditionDe Profundis 2nd Edition by MichaƂ Oracz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As I pointed out in a recent blog post, I was introduced, indirectly, to this game via a newsletter (yes, a physical newsletter sent via post) that a fellow gamer created. I was so intrigued that I bought this book and immediately set about reading it.

De Profundis is written in the form of letters, an intriguing conceit given that the game itself is played by writing letters to one another and riffing off of each other's comments, pulling questions forth from your correspondents, and tweaking your responses a bit to construct a shared universe on the fly. It seems theoretically simple, but I'm intrigued to see how it plays out in real-time.

The trick, of course, is managing expectations. To do this, the person proposing the "campaign" constructs, either alone or with other potential correspondents, a "Society," complete with goals, members (i.e., characters), an agreed "convention" (e.g., "X-files" or "High Victorian Society" or whatever), the expected literary "level" of the game, and, for games specific to the Cthulhu mythos (which was the original intent of the game), what level of weirdness or eeriness should be permitted/aimed for during play. And, of course, one needs a starting plot to get things going, a premise, an opening riff.

There are several examples of such Societies given in the book, and this is a good thing, as the high-level description would be too vague without some concrete examples. The authors are very self-aware that there is a tendency to unravel if clear expectations aren't set from the beginning. That said, there is no arbiter, no game "master". All should participate with an equal level of agency and, potentially, input. Dice may be rolled, and random tables are provided with each example, but instructions on when they are to be used are either not there or I lost them in the rest of the text (both possible).

After reading De Profundis, I have dedicated myself to figuring out a way to carry out a campaign with a very select group of my favorite gamer friends. But rather than be subject to the rules vagaries regarding the use of tables, I think I will tweak another great RPG find of late, English Eerie: Rural Horror Storytelling Game, which is a solo game that can optionally be played with others. I don't think it will take much to integrate the two, and English Eerie has more clear guidelines on how to randomize events (using face cards instead of dice - a good excuse to pick up a cool set of playing cards). Combining the strengths of the two could provide a thoroughly engaging game of correspondence. I am excited to experiment with this!

Just the other day, a letter arrived in the mail in response to my blog post. It was from an individual who has become even more disenchanted with social media than I have; a person whom I have gamed with both in person and online, a great roleplayer! Last night, I bought a bunch of decorative (read: dark, gothic) paper and some fancy pens and wrote him a response, folding the paper into an envelope that I'm hoping will survive the rigors of the US Postal Service. He will be one I will definitely invite. I'm take another step back toward analog, toward more personal interaction than what I normally get on social media. Goodreads is, of course, the exception. But it's more than just a social media, isn't it? So much more.

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