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What We Played: The First (It's a Greek Tragedy!) (Shock)

Jess
cyndisision
Seattle, WA
Post #: 1
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Issues: Vast Social Inequality, Generational Decline (Kids these days!), Inescapable Tradition

Shock: The First are cryogenic sleepers on a generation ship who come to be seen as gods by the people who live in the biosphere. Originally, the First were the project leaders and main thinkers, who woke periodically to check on those who were not asleep, but the ship's been travelling for so long that most of the First are not part of the original crew and almost nobody, even among the First, even remembers that they're on a ship. The people in the biosphere gradually left the techie parts of the ship behind, living more and more in the idyllic agrarian landscape of the 'sphere, and have lost the memory of most technology. They form a society similar to ancient Greece, and the class of people who were once caretakers for the sleeping crew are now the priest class, claiming to be the only link between the citizens and the First. Since the First only wake sporadically (and usually not at the same time), social change seems much more marked to them than to people who live through it, and they are heavily invested in maintaining 'tradition'. Of course, what constitutes 'tradition' changes over time as knowledge is lost and values change, even among the First.

Praxes: Authority/Autonomy, and Pragmatism/Idealism (good Greek words, all!)

Carinna (Jess) is the high priestess of Lysolus in the city of Corinth. She is driven and ambitious, and resents that the First are given precedence over her. She does not believe that they are gods, but she parrots and enforces their traditions because that's the source of her power. Her antagonist is Lysolus, the First she claims to serve. Her story goal is to become a First.

Solon (Ben) is one of the First of Ithaka. He is somewhat of a free-thinker among his kind, and, knowing that the First are not truly gods, questions whether they deserve the place they are afforded in society. His antagonist is Harmodius, the other First of Ithaka and Solon's closest friend. His story goal is to make the citizens and the First equal.

Dimitri (Terry) of Sparta is a hard-working landowner who believes wholeheartedly in tradition. As an ex-athlete, he's particularly excited about the upcoming Games, and has volunteered to help organise them. He's hampered by his two layabout children, whom he wishes would follow in his footsteps and those of his father, and get involved in civic life. His antagonist is his father, Homer, who is the embodiment of authority and tradition in Dimitri's mind. Dimitri's story goal is to realise that the
First are not gods.

First round of scenes:

Carinna is entertaining a group of dignitaries and wealthy merchants from another city at her tent at the Games encampment in Olympia. She manages to broker a deal with them whereby she agrees to use the power and authority granted by her position in exchange for material gains and introductions to powerful contacts in larger cities (protagonist success). However, Lysolus hears of it and is displeased at her hypocrisy (antagonist success).

Solon goes to see the Oracle, as he does each time he awakens. The Oracle is the ship's AI and library system, which freely provides him information from its databanks in response to any question he asks, only without the context to understand it, these utterances come across as cryptic riddles. He has been coming here for years, each time feeling as if he is on the verge of some breakthrough in understanding, but each time leaving with more disturbing questions. This time, he asks the Oracle about whether the First are truly superior to the citizens, and the Oracle begins quoting, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal..." and also offers passages from the ship's Founding Charter. Solon latches onto this Charter as if it were the Ten Commandments, and has the Oracle help him memorize it so that he can bring it back to the gathering of the First. He first talks to his friend Harmodius, who is comfortable with the status quo and refuses to listen. When Solon brings his case to the council, Harmodius sways their opinion against his friend (antagonist success), but even while he is persuading them, he comes to recognise the truth of what Solon is saying (protagonist success). In this scene, the protagonist risks his link to the Oracle and loses, so the council of the First set out to find and destroy this source of dangerous heresy. However, the audience pushes the protagonist back toward success, which means that Harmodius is convinced.

Dimitri, right before the people begin gathering for the Games, is rushing about trying to set up the tents for the delegations. His children use any excuse to wriggle out of their duties, and the Theban tent is not set up before night falls. However, the Theban delegation arrives early and Dimitri must rush to organise it, and save face. As the night goes on, he sees more and more of the delegations boozing and feasting, conducting business instead of paying tribute, and generally acting in a way that he deems disrespectful to the First. He flies into a rage, trying to shame the delegations into a more humble attitude, but not only does he fail to do that (protagonist failure), but he himself looks disrespectful in front of the delegations, and a First who comes to see what's happening (antagonist success). The audience pushes the antagonist onto the fulcrum, so the stakes raise from mere shame in the eyes of the people and the First, to ostracism. Then there's another fulcrum, and the stakes raise again to Dimitri's enslavement by the First in a land far from home. Dimitri fails this roll, so he is shamed and enslaved.

(Continued in the next post, because this story was too delicious to abbreviate.)
Jess
cyndisision
Seattle, WA
Post #: 2
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Second round of scenes (we only did two because we got so involved in set-up and the first round that we ran out of time):

Carinna is called by Lysolus to account for herself. He fears that if he does not act pre-emptively she will begin to undermine his power. At first, she gives all the expected answers smoothly and glibly, but he pushes. Does she not grow tired of her service to the temple? Does she not wish for more? Does she not keep secrets? She doesn't understand, believing that one of her other indiscretions has been uncovered (her secret lover, perhaps), but he lays his cards on the table: she is a hypocrite, abusing her
position for power, and he must choose a new high priestess. She reaches out to him, perhaps to plead, and he loses his balance, scraping his hand on the stone hard enough to draw blood. This is a revelation to Carinna. Her 'god' is mortal; perhaps he can be killed. Making a quick calculation in her mind, she realises that she has to act immediately, and draws her ritual blade. She stabs him repeatedly until he finally expires (protagonist success), but has to risk a link to do so. While she performs the gory deed, a growing crowd of acolytes, drawn by the screaming, gathers in the doorway (antagonist success). When she sees them watching her, she immediately moves to cement herself as the new power player by demanding that they dispose of the body. Because she risked her link, her protege sees her, but out of loyalty to Carinna remains true, thereby being corrupted (this wasn't required by the rules, but it made an interesting way to work in the risked link element). Carinna succeeds in her story goal and becomes a First--but, having proven that the First can be killed, she has in fact begun to undermine their power.

Fast forward ten years...

Solon has spent the decade following the Oracle's destruction going from village to village, preaching equality and spreading the word of the Founding Charter. His beliefs are gaining traction among the peasantry, but he is seen as a dangerous heretic by the priests and wealthy merchants whose power he is threatening. When Harmodius next wakes from his slumber, he hears of this 'prophet', and goes to seek him out. While his first resort is to try and convince his friend to stop agitating for change, he knows that he won't succeed, and has an assassin waiting in the wings. Solon dies, willingly, a martyr to his cause (antagonist success), and Harmodius walks grimly away, having killed the assassin, the only witness to the event. However, Solon's death is just what his ideas needed to spark a full-fledged movement, and over the next months and years, the oppressed classes will rise up in rebellion (protagonist success).

Dimitri has spent the intervening decade in slavery, questioning the beliefs and actions that led him to this point in his life. He sees Harmodius walking in the street, and confronts him, challenging him to prove that he is indeed a god. Harmodius is stupefied and grief-stricken by killing his best friend for preaching beliefs that he, Harmodius knows to be true. He can't make a good account of himself, and finally Dimitri wakes up to the fact that his worship of the First is misguided (protagonist success). However, upon hearing of this scene, the other First are not pleased with Dimitri. They threaten to enslave his children as well (this would be antagonist success), but Dimitri risks the link to his children to prevent this. Instead of being enslaved, the children turn their backs on their father. No longer feeling any guilt or burden from his disrespect to the First, he escapes from his captivity and joins the burgeoning rebellion.
Ben R
thatsabigrobot
Group Organizer
Seattle, WA
Post #: 230
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"You're doing the full-Jesus!"

Excellent summary, Jess! Your annotations of how the rules linked up to what happened in the fiction is dead-on. Are you sure you haven't played Shock before? ;)

That game was awesome. I think the time we spent at the beginning really kicking and twisting our setting really paid off. Once we started we play we all had exactly the same idea of what the world looked like and what was going on.

She stabs him repeatedly until he finally expires (protagonist success), but has to risk a link to do so. While she performs the gory deed, a growing crowd of acolytes, drawn by the screaming, gathers in the doorway (antagonist success).

Carinna laboriously murdering the old man while the shocked acolytes watched was *gruesome*. Loved it. Dimitri saving his children from slavery only to have them turn on him: terrible! Loved it. The links in Shock are deceptively simple but wonderfully effective. You can see what I mean now about how if you took links you didn't care about you'd just be wasting your time.

We seriously crammed that game up to the wire. Well, technically over the wire, since the store was closing around us as we were scrambling to close the awesome threads of our story. Dominic: thanks for giving us a few extra minutes. We spent them well.

Jess & Terry: nicely done. You have earned your Shock merit badge, with clusters.
Terry Franguiadaki...
user 27520232
Seattle, WA
Post #: 1
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Great write up! Thanks!

Also our second praxis was pragmatism and idealism. Something Solon used to great effect :)
Jess
cyndisision
Seattle, WA
Post #: 3
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Thanks, Ben! I was going to write a bit about how much I enjoyed the session and how well all our ideas gelled together, but I was exhausted from typing all that up ;)

Normally I'm capable of a bit more conciseness, but I wanted to do justice to our story so it ended up being rather long. Suffice to say, I was really jazzed after our session and my head was full of the story and the setting.

I did poke around a few other Shock write-ups to make sure I was doing it right.

Thanks for the correction on the praxis, Terry. Fixing it in the original post now.
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