…To Craft an Enthralling Short Story

There is an experiment going on over at the ActualPlay Twitch channel. An experiment that you can participate in. We have challenged ourselves to speed runs of Swords Without Master.

Witness the experiment!

Swords Without Master speed runs are attempts to play a full game of Swords—from first overtone to last reincorporation—and tell an enthralling short story as swiftly as possible. Our first recording is a little over two hours long, but the actual game, less introductions, Rogue creation, and a brief overview of the rules, is just over 50 minutes. An admirable start and we hope to beat it.

It is my belief that we will eventually break the 30 minute barrier. A lean game of Swords that runs about as long as one of those episodes of Thundarr the Barbarian from the halcyon Sunday mornings of my youth. To do so, we will have to hone our craft. It will not just be a matter of panther-like reactions—truly only a handful of minutes can be shaved off of our time this way. The key to our success lies in how we choose our Motif elements and pace those choices. We don't want to burn through the Motifs too fast, hurtling toward the end of the session dragging the barest skeleton of a story behind us. But we don't want to stroll in our tale, luxuriating in the scenery when we could be sprinting. It will be interesting finding that balance.

Ah, but while we rogues slip and struggle with our Motifs, you seers who watch us from afar need not sit idle. Behold, the Ritual of Scrying!

The Ritual of Scrying

See the simulacrum of my scrying seer's soul shimmering in the astral sea!

See the simulacrum of my scrying seer's soul shimmering in the astral sea!

A thousand sorcerous eyes watch the rogues with keen and unfathomable interest—for rogues are disruptors of the delicate plots of destiny and wizards alike. If your eyes are among the thousand, you may invoke the Ritual of Scrying to peer across the astral plane and scrutinize the rogues while protecting your own eldritch machinations.

While watching a game of Swords Without Master unfold—but not participating as an Overplayer or Rogue Player—you may record Scrying threads as a Seer Player. Scrying threads are apocryphal versions of the Motif, Moral, and Mystery threads that you record based on your personal inclinations and observations of the game.

To prepare your Scrying threads, you will need a sheet of paper and a simulacrum. The paper must have room enough to scribe and sketch the visions as they come to you. Here you will record your observations and map the patterns they weave into fate's skeins. The simulacrum is an object of our world that reminds you of your seer's souls. It will anchor you to this world as you journey into that of the rogues.

Cast now your soul across the astral sea to the realm of the rogues. Place yourself in their situation. Listen with care to the words of the players. Your sorcerous senses will bridge the worlds and present to you a rich vista. Heed the words and when you hear something worthy of a Motif, record it on your Scrying thread. The Scrying thread is yours and yours alone. So it matters not if the players also record the Motif. All that matters is what you have witnessed and recorded.

Likewise, when a Moral is rolled, you shall write your own lesson to be learned upon your Scrying thread and when a Mystery appears, you shall write your own question worthy of investigation. Undoubtedly these will not match those recorded by the Rogue Players, for a seer's sensibilities are not a rogue's and vice versa.

Write your elements wherever and in whichever manner serves your arcane purpose. Leave room to add to it as the game progresses. For, unlike the Motif of the Rogue Players, the Scrying thread is not limited to a mere three elements.

When you hear the players narrate something that echoes an element on your own Scrying thread, record that echo and draw a silver cord connecting it to the original element. As the game progresses, the patterns in your web will begin to reveal themselves. But will you behold the truth before the game ends?

Once the game ends, recall your simulacrum and let it draw you back to your world. Now the contemplative work of the seer begins. Study your thread. What meaning lies among your scrawl? What has been woven and how will it affect your own plans?

Compare your notes with fellow Seer Players so that you may glimpse theirs. What secrets have they uncovered that you may have overlooked? What can you discern of their plans from their Scrying thread? If you have the time and inclination, copy over any element they found that echoes one of yours and connect it with a silver cord.

Should you find yourself at the table as an Overplayer or a Rogue Player, you may take any three elements from a Scrying thread that are connected through silver cords and present them as part of a Destiny trick.

The Where & When of Scrying

This coming Sunday morning (June 3rd, 2018) we will be making another attempt at a speed run on the ActualPlay Twitch channel. Join us, share your simulacrum and scrying with the chat. But if you cannot make it, fret not. As a seer, you are unmoored in time, able to reach back as easily as you reach across the gulf of dimensions that separate you from the rogues. The speed runs will be recorded and available as VOD on ActualPlay's Twitch and YouTube.

If you crave more, the One Shot Podcast has you covered with 1, 2, and 3 episodes of high (and low) adventure.

And Gauntlet Hangouts has four 2 to 2½ hour sessions of their own experiment, where they tell tales with different rogues and Rogue Players tied together through the Echoes of the Past trick.

Go forth, seers, and scry! Share your work and seek out the sorcerous secrets of others!