the Fairgame Archive

2009-07-08: Archipelagos
by Emily

This game works best if you play it slow. Sometimes, the best thing to do is wait a little and see how things unfold. Ged stayed with Ogion for years, learning about the old language, the names of flower petals and bugs. There's time to let the characters evolve.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Take your time.

Can you imagine?

Islands and Dreams

Archipelago II is a game by Matthijs Holter.  He posted about it at Story Games this week. It's inspired by Ursula K. LeGuin's Earthsea series, and takes the deep magic and distant lands as a starting point for a game intended for free-floating, long term play that connects rich, detailed creation of the world with movement and motivation for the characters through Destiny points.

In the text of the game, Matthijs wrote:

I wanted not a steel framework, but a spider

web of thin threads creating subtler stories.

What a vision.

Oceans and River Deltas

This puts me in mind of another Archipelago I know of. An archipelago of rules and structures that Eppy Ravachol talks about. In this metaphor, when we role play we are taking our little skiff of the imagination out on a jaunt. It may be on the open sea, through bay and straits, or down rivers across land.

The water is free play. The land is rules, structures, procedures.

When we play many games, we are mostly out on the water. Flying free with our sails in the wind, we touch base at port from time to time. Coming in to a safe harbour for some exciting combat with orcs or bloody intrigue.  Taking time to tell a steward how he should be treating his townsfolk. Then we set off again, out into the water and see where it takes us.

In other games, we are floating along the river. Meeting bridges, locks and many a portage.  The banks is always in sight and our moments aboard the boat floating free are circumscribed by our time ashore. There may be branching paths, as at a river delta, but the lines of rules and cues are always at our side. Whether we take this time to go on three romantic dates aboard a pleasure yacht, or if our skiff is a bright orange space ship, the river is our road.

Matthijs' Archipelago weaves a web of fine lines and broad imaginative craft. The ship we embark on with it uses fate cards and collaborative building of the world and characters to help us see the ocean once more, while retaining the direction of the river. I've charted some of these waters, taking Ars Magica as a starting point, and I'm excited to see where this new map of the land and sea takes us.

2009-07-12 01:45:45 Meguey

Cool metaphor, and neat idea.

2009-07-29 04:47:35 Scott

Thanks for linking—anything LeGuin, particularly Earthsea, prompts a read. I like the system—it reminds me, a bit, of many others. I'm debating printing out the Yes, and..., No, and... (etc.) page—I remember three of these elements from discussions of Octane, but I like the others, particularly Help.

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