Lo these many years ago, on The Forge, a user called Silmenume posted extensively about a peculiarly intense Middle Earth campaign run by a guy named Cary. Here's an index of those threads. Don't read them all; they're ridiculously long-winded; the first one gives a good sense of what's going on.[Middle Earth - home brew] 1st day in July 4 week of play.
[Middle Earth - home brew] - last week - Repost
[Middle Earth - home brew] - A really bad game night.
The Creation and Birth of a Character
[Middle Earth - home brew] 1st day in July 4th '06 week of play.
[Middle Earth - home brew] 2nd day in July 4th '06 week of play.
[Middle Earth - home brew] - a "new" player's perspective
[Middle Earth - home brew] - A first, another group with the same play style!
The spicey die roll - Middel Earth (home brew) Sim
Cary the GM is this charismatic Tolkien nut who has the complete trust and respect of a tight-nit cadre of players. He runs a decades-long game set in Middle Earth, and the group values deep in-character immersion—speaking in-character, physically inhabiting your character and jumping out of your chair and gesturing like your character is gesturing in a kinda chamber larp-ish way, researching things your character would know and bringing that into the game.
They also value knowing your Tolkien cover to cover, and acting without hesitation, and displaying qualities of leadership and, like, wisdom: placing the good of the game-world, their version of Middle Earth, above even personal enjoyment of the game.
The system... looks like it started out as deeply drifted D&D in the 80s, and by this point is basically "Player rolls a d20, Cary glances at it and makes up whatever the heck he wants, and oh yeah there are seven ability scores rated 3-18 and like hit points and skills and stuff I guess". I mean, their combat system seems to have detailed weapon damage, and armor that absorbs damage, and stamina points, and Personal Body Points for several areas of the body... and yet, no round structure or TN to land a blow on your enemy or anything, it's all handled by the conversational flow in a kinda Apocalypse World-like way.
The players seem to nearly worship Cary. Silmenume clearly respects and idolizes him. Another thing this particular table values a lot is player skill: in a game where player skill comes down to knowing what to do and say to get the response you want out of Carey.
Silmenume in particular has thesis about bricolage
, how Forge-ite Simulationist play is all about building up the shared imagined space by incorporating whatever you've got on hand—Impronitfol, swerving to create story, in 2097's recent dialectic. In these threads, Ron Edwards is constantly saying stuff along the lines of "This is all illusionist nonsense, you are Cary's emotional prisoner, how can you not see that you are basically a battered spouse." And Silmenume is constantly responding with "You have a point, but we love
this game. It is hugely important to all of us. And it's not just
Ron interprets the game's mechanics as Forge-ite Drama, which IIRC is basically the same as Everway Drama: whatever is best for the story (as determined by Carey and cued by the appearances of natural 1s and 20s on the oh-so-frequent d20 rolls) is what happens. And this seems to accord with how Cary describes the game, as relayed through Silmenume: "The dice add spice!" As in, the dice tell you when to shake things up! When to pay attention and build out your world, when to bricole
It's a hot mess. It's fascinating.
And I want, really really bad, to be a Cary. To have this deep, deep exploration of one huge sprawling world and story, to have a system that really helps us all live in and build out this imaged place, encourages players to really get inside their PCs' skins. But all this shit is tangled up in this one group's cult of personality, and history together, and insecurely attached / semi-abusive social dynamic.
So, yeah. I wanna try and disentangle it all. To extract something useful, and write a game that lays out How To Be Cary, minus the insecure attachment.