Making a list and checking it twice

edited November 2009 in Story Games
The recent thread on in medias res caught my attention, because I want my game, The Fifth World, to tell bioregional epics, and beginning in medias res comes up as one of the defining criteria of a classical epic. I blogged about how to accomplish this in the game, and mentioned some of the other criteria I think I've already covered. But I mentioned there, offhand, "I'll admit, I still don't have a good idea on how to bring in more enumeratio."

Wikipedia offers as good an explanation as I've seen anywhere else:
WikipediaEnumeratio: Catalogues and genealogies are given. These long lists of objects, places, and people place the finite action of the epic within a broader, universal context. Often, the poet is also paying homage to the ancestors of audience members.
Now, I feel pretty comfortable with just leaving that part out and not "really" counting as an epic, if that ends up looking like the right answer, but this project has included more than one epiphany for me that only became possible when I spent some time considering something that had seemed like "common sense" before I took the time to think about it. So, how could you make the enumeration of lists into a game? Can you make it fun?

My only thought right now goes to Ganakagok, which I've only played a few times, but all recently. It might speak more to my lack of experience with the system, but to me, it has seemed to include a good bit of listing thus far. Every turn, we try to list everything we can, to get as many shifts as possible. We've had a lot of fun with it, and it seems pretty close to enumeratio.

Does anyone else have any examples or ideas of how you might make lists fun?


  • Well, there's always the option of putting some numbers next to them and making a random-roll table as a resource for the GM and players. I assume you're looking for something deeper or more useful than that.
  • edited November 2009
    Yeah. In a classical epic, you'll get this part where somebody starts delivering this long list. In the second book of the Iliad, for instance, you have the enumeration of cities and ships contributed to the war. My eyes normally glaze over at this point, so maybe you just plain old can't make it fun to list a bunch of things—but it felt a lot like listing when we played Ganakagok, and we had fun doing that, so maybe I shouldn't jump to conclusions.
  • Jason,

    What if the Enumeratio is patterned after oracles, sort of?

    So, through prep & play you establish the initial situation and involved characters. Let's say that they are Markos the Skinner, Valance the Deep-Water Diver and Jordane the Prophet. I'm just going to assume that each player controls one PC, for now. There's some stuff going on, and that's all happenin'.

    Each player gets one Enumeratio.
    They are: Feral Families, History of this Place, History of this Struggle, Land & Sky,... and a few others.

    The Feral Families oracle lists 52 elements, stuff like:
    -the man who speaks to fish and serpents.
    -the woman who eats dogs, biting their meats while they still breathe.
    -the man who once wrestled a cougar with bare hands.
    -the parents who gave birth to a mountain.
    -the daughter of the moon.
    -the one who was nearly sacrificed to the elder gods.

    History of this Place lists things like battles, struggles, tribal meetings, passages of herds, passages of bands, etc.
    History of this Struggle lists things like turns of events, increased concern, changes in leadership, etc.
    Land & Sky lists things like forest fires, weather patterns, valuable natural resoures, etc.

    So, each player gets one Enumeratio per Epic.
    To use it, simply declare that you will do so.
    Draw 6 cards.
    Figure out how they tie into the situation at hand, and read the list out.
    It has no mechanical effect, per se, but colours the narration from that point forward and seeds potential conflict.

    I'm playing Jordane the Prophet. You're Valance the Deep-Water Diver, and you're allied with Markos the Skinner, and I'm in direct opposition to you, over the proper usage of a given area of land. I believe that the spirits have instructed me to raze the forest, divert the river, and construct a giant monolith here, in their name. That's what we have so far.

    And then there's a moment where we aren't sure what to do next, or are perhaps just interested in getting more context. I declare that I am using my Enumeratio now, and declare that it will be Feral Families. I draw six cards, and get... let's just say the six listed in my example above. I now work them into a narrative list.

    As such, "But Jordane the Prophet knew that this was not a simple contest of wills between three people, for their families fed into it as well. Valance's father was a man who spoke to fish and serpents, and that informed his view of their importance in the world. And his parents gave birth to the mountain that the river runs through, so their honour and memory was at stake. Markos the Skinner's father had wrestled a cougar with his bare hands, in this exact forest. His mother was the daughter of the moon, and shone brighter in these woods than anywhere else, especially after eating the flesh of living dogs. But Jordane was destined to destroy these woods, and he knew it. His father was nearly sacrificed to the elder gods, and was spared only on the condition of this promise, which Jordane had made."

    I don't have any obligation to integrate that narrative list so tightly as I did. I could also just say, "Markos' father wrestled a cougar with his bare hands, and his mother ate dogs while they still breathed. His mother was the daughter of the moon, making Markos the grandson of the moon. Jordane's father was nearly sacrificed to the elder gods, which skews his perception of their goals and intents. Valance's father was a man who spoke to fish and serpents, and his parents gave birth to a mountain."

    Actually, after having done that, I'd suggest only 4 or 5 cards per Enumeratio.
    Everyone gets to do this once per epic.
    There can only be one of every type of Enumeratio per epic, at most.
    You can, however, chain your Enumeratio to someone else's, in order to extend that type of Enumeratio.
    Example: After that, you want even MORE feral family history, so you chain your Enumeratio to mine, drawing another X (4 or 5) cards to my X (4 or 5) cards, from the feral family list. You can add more details to those same characters (fathers, mothers) or add new ones - grandmothers, aunts, uncles, wives, husbands, et.
  • Oh, that does sound fun!
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