Story Games Seattle Message Board What We Played › The Weight of Memory (Downfall)

The Weight of Memory (Downfall)

Sam Kabo A.
user 30231972
Seattle, WA
Post #: 40
Players: Sam, Dani, Evan (Caroline overseeing).

Flaw: Wisdom.
Tradition: Everything important can be objectively known.
Haven: Athaia, a valley mostly cut off from the world by mountain peaks. Most people are farmers who live in little hamlets; there are few specialists and no real government. There is, however, a caste of record-keepers charged with recording all the important events of the year in formal hieroglyphics carved on cliff-faces, and one small town built up around this. The records go back about seven hundred years, and maintaining them is a big part of the record-keepers' work. (It became clear later on that some of the records had legal implications for things like land rights.)

Wisdom symbols: cheese (which changes as it matures), the moon, a discordant chord, garden, black pearls, triangles
Tradition symbols: gecko (they run over the carved cliffs), sun, corn, the valley's central river, record-keeper wimple/mitre hats, diamond

Protagonist: Xian, an apprentice record-keeper approaching graduation age. Early thirties. Symbol: gecko.
Antagonist: Fu Xi, a retired record-keeper. Mid-fifties. Symbol: cheese.
Foil: Anxa, a traveling storyteller and traditional medicine. Early forties. Symbol: sun + moon (eclipse). (I proposed a quesadilla, but we decided to keep things a little more serious).

Minutiae
1: Defacing the records is a capital crime.
2: Harming geckos is not illegal, but taboo.
3: Record-keepers serve a 20-year apprenticeship, serve for 20 years, and then retire at the public expense. (Retired record-keepers form a distinct class.)
4: There are festival dances tied to the seasons, held in mud or sand, making patterns that mirror the carvings.
5: Art that is not hieroglyphic is forbidden.
6: Hospitality to travellers is mandated.

Most of the plot revolved around the aftermath of an earthquake which severely damaged some of the cliff records (and prevented Xian's graduation). Fu Xi had already been filling Xian's head with ideas about interpretation, inaccuracy and expressive calligraphy, and introduced him to imported paper. To quell the social panic, Xian proposed to reconstruct the lost records by making comparisons between the smaller-scale, less consistent records kept by individual families, then analysing their patterns of errors to arrive at the true record. Having just invented textual analysis, Xian rose rather sharply in influence - but the farmers who relied on the stability of the records were still not impressed, and other record-keepers proposed a different model of analysis.

The record-keepers began to be suspected of taking on the arbitrary powers of kings, rather than the very constrained power that was traditionally theirs. Revolt threatened, the head record-keeper committed suicide rather than allow best-judgement calls into the old pure record-keeping protocols. At the close of play, both Fu Xi and Xian were assassinated and the Council of Record-Keepers was stormed by a mob.

(There was a sub-thread about kinds of writing technology, and the need to find something more convenient than cliff-face carvings but less foreign and impermanent than imported paper. As crisis approached there were more and more shattered slate tablets lying around.)

The Foil here acted a bit like a sort of combination Touchstone/Perspective from Kingdom, informing the Protagonist about the way the rest of the population felt but also doing the Cassandra prophecy bit. I'm not sure if that's the intended way for the role to work; Anxa didn't seem to bring as much personal investment to the table as I expected. (Making the Foil be a close friend or relative might have been rather different.) I'm not sure whether Anxa's story-telling hook was quite successful, either.

Fu Xi, on the other hand, ended up coming across as not so much a conscious antagonist as, well, a compulsive intellectual dabbler who really didn't get how dangerous his ideas were, and who was entertained by flouting authority.

I really like the symbols. I really like the warning mechanic. I really like how the symbols furnish raw material for the warnings. I think there needs to be something that reminds the players of the Minutiae a bit more often - the Warnings keep the symbols fresh, but you have to work for minutiae a bit more. (I mean, okay, there are always things in the palette that never get used. But it was pretty easy to reach for symbols, and minutiae were more something we ran into accidentally.)
Dani L.
user 87036972
Seattle, WA
Post #: 2
I really like this concept! All of the potential Flaws are worthy of exploration. Having everyone take turns playing the Protagonist, Antagonist, and Foil is really neat, I felt more connected to each of the characters that way. I also like that there are no mechanics to undo the growth of the Flaw within the Haven or the Protagonist.

I agree with Sam, I don't think that Anxa's storytelling (or Anxa herself) played as big a role as she might have. For the story that we told, I liked not having the Foil as part of the record-keepers but it might have been easier if she'd been a particular friend or related to the Protagonist or Antagonist.

I liked our antagonist. They don't always have to be evil bastards, LOL.

It would have been nice to see some of the symbols and Minutiae used more. That had more to do with the story we ended up telling than the system.

The whole game is neat. :) Be warned though that the game lives up to its name- Downfall IS assured in one form or another. The fun is getting there. And it is a lot of fun. I hope to have a chance to try it out with some of the other Flaws!

EDIT: I should mention the conflict mechanic, it really has potential to add to the story. I think it's interesting how the Protagonist, Antagonist, and Foil each have certain things only they can do. I'd like to see it in action again and explore how it works more deeply.

- Dani
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