20
Aug
10

Lifting Up

I played a session of my game The Dreaming Crucible with my friends Jake and Nick and Neil who was visiting from the UK. It was a happy and robust play session, with creative cylinders fully firing from all the participants. Not only did I enjoy playing with them, but I learned a lot about how the game works, namely:

We excel when we lift one another up.

The game was fun because we all built on each other’s contributions at each moment in play. We could easily have been four individual creators, each plotting our own brilliant artistic statement with our own story material. Each individual statement could maybe have been artful and satisfying, even brilliant. We might have even been courteous and generous in allowing each other space to build our little artistic towers, not crowding each other and jostling each other for the spotlight. We might have all created something we could look back on and say, yes, it was good.

But none of that compares to the glory that bursts forth when we lift one another other up.

The Dreaming Crucible is a game about troubled adolescents confronting their pain through a Faerie journey. Nick portrayed the Hero, Forrest, Neil and Jake were the Light Faerie, helping weave the dream of the Faerie realm and portraying Companions on the journey, and I was the Dark Faerie, portraying the Hero’s Faerie Nemesis and confronting him with dangers along the way. To create his character, Nick picked this Story Seed: “A boy looks long and hard at a bottle of pills, thinking only of the test score sitting on the dining room table.”

From there, a chain reaction of creativity took over. Nick said, “OK, it’s not a test score, its a letter from a school Forrest applied to and he doesn’t know if it’s acceptance or rejection.” When he later fled in anger from his family and I described how he was pulled into Faerie by the Junk Lady, Jake added that he met the Mayor of Junktown, a centipede whose junk-burrow home had a floor covered in old mail. I seized on that image and declared that Forrest’s school letter was sitting in the pile. Neil was inspired to add that a second school letter whooshed in from a pneumatic tube, and when Nick said that Forrest tried to open the letters, I as provider of adversity said that they wouldn’t open. Jake added, through the voice of his centipedal Mayor that he needed a Letter Opener, and only the Junk Lady possessed one. Thus began a quest to confront her, and in her creepy house high atop a tottering junk mountain, Forrest finally faced her down so that he might retrieve the letters, stolen by her, choose and open the one that was right for him, and return home to find his way in life and his place in the world.

(Things went well for Forrest; he gained wisdom and strength from his Faery companions, and his spirit flew home to reconcile with his family and discover a bright future awaiting.)

This is only a single example of the many story threads, initiated by one creator and then bolstered, elaborated, celebrated by his partners, until a treasure unfolded that no one of us could have predicted or planned. These sacred surprises are the fruit of improvised, in-the-present-moment collaboration; they do not grow from any other tree.

We excel when we lift one another up.

Even now I am amazed at the little miracle of that game and how it came together. All the best sessions of The Dreaming Crucible have had that quality, and it is a wonder each time. And it strikes me that this quality of play resonates in perfect tune with what the Crucible has to say at its heart: that by celebrating and lifting up your Companions you will overcome perils and trauma that you could never have faced alone.

Funny how that all works out.

Peace,

—Joel

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4 Responses to “Lifting Up”


  1. 1 Nick Smith
    August 23, 2010 at 4:18 pm

    yeah, good stuff Joel. Crucible is a great game, my only regret is that i hadn’t played it sooner.

  2. 2 Joel
    August 23, 2010 at 8:31 pm

    Thanks, Nick. Since I’m in the process of revising it RIGHT THIS SECOND, are there any aspects of play that you struggled with, OR that really sang for you? ‘because i’d love to tighten up the former and enhance the latter.

    Ditto with my presentation of the game, wich is definitely something that’s going into the book.

    Thanks for helping make our session wonderful!

    Peace,
    -Joel


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