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Mirror Room Review - Why me?

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June 22nd, 2011

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10:38 am - Mirror Room Review
This post contains major spoilers for The Mirror Room. You've been warned.

On the Friday of WyrdCon, myself and 7 other players were locked in a room in a scenario which seemed vaguely reminiscent of the second worst game I’ve ever played.

My character was a very unpleasant man and I had some misgivings about playing him, which I wrote about here.

Well, I played the event. First the good news: The game was significantly better than The Cell. It was even better than I feared it would be.

I really didn’t think it would be as bad as The Cell, but I was worried about what I am terming “lazy writing.” I think I prefer larps in which the characters have detailed intertwined histories and several different motivations with a lot going on. Before the event, I suspected that I could have written the whole thing in an hour. I had an opportunity to read it after my character died and I think it might have taken me two hours. (I type fast).

I had hoped there was more going on to the game than just dealing with a rapist in their midst and there was. The players had to decide if they were going to do something depraved and wrong or if they were going to all die there in the mirror room. Unsurprisingly, depraved and wrong won out. There were a couple of dissenters, but they merely objected verbally and didn’t actually try to stop the depraved people.

The writer of Mirror Room had a whole backstory of why things were happening to us, but the players had no way of learning it. In fact, the writer freely admits that in the scenario. The players will learn what they have to do, but they won’t ever have a chance of understanding why. I’m not sure that was important to the scenario.

The main issue I have with the game is not the scenario itself, but of setting player expectations. The main thrust of the game is the arguments the player characters have with each other. The blurb for the game and the pre-game briefing really need to highlight it. I mean explicitly say it: this is a game of confrontations. Do not sit back and be idle; have strong convictions and be prepared to argue with the other players about them. Without that briefing, players will focus on trying to escape or figuring out what is going on, which really isn’t the point of the event and will lead to player frustration.

Now, on to my character’s personal story. Again the good news: the players were all ok with the rape, including the victim who had been forewarned. I am not too happy with my portrayal of the character, but I recognize that we are all our own worst critics.

I was supposed to be the focus of action for the first half of the game, before the players really started to learn of the dark deed they needed to do. (I’m being deliberately vague for no good reason. They had to cut out a human heart and eat it. This was easy to do since there were already two dead bodies in the room by the time they got to that point).

I tried to spur the players to action, but I was too subtle. I was afraid that if I overdid it, they would shun me, or just kill me out of hand, or constantly knock me out. (We did that once in an early adventure game. An NPC came in who was in no way a threat, just really really annoying, so we just knocked him out and kept him unconscious until Shane had to leave to go play someone else).

So I played it subtle. I tried to force issues and confrontations, but I didn’t do anything overt. Oh, my character killed a dying boy while the lights were out, but his crime was never discovered. I did try to break it up any time people started sitting around looking bored, but it wasn’t easy.

So, the rape. It was kinda anticlimactic. I got the other character in the imaginary bathroom and locked the imaginary door. Then, as players, we linked pinkies (meaning our characters were having sex). Did I mention that her character was 13? Whatever. The player was an adult. Once we had linked pinkies, the rest of the game burst in through the imaginary door and saw use with pinkies linked and another character drew his gun, so I unlinked pinkies, dropped my character’s knife and drew my own gun. (The guns were neat props, by the way. They were stiff cardboard with a photocopied illustration of a gun on both sides.)

Our characters shot at the same time, but were both standing. But as I was monologuing about how they needed a doctor there, the other character shot and killed me and that ended my game. I was warned my character would be killed and he was.

With nothing to do for the two hours of the event, I took a break and got an overpriced hotel soda and then came back and read the whole document. Like I said, I could have written it in maybe two hours.

I understand why they put my character in the game, to give the players something to do and bond over for the first two hours of the event, and to give one of them a traumatic in-game event to roleplay over. I dunno.

Mirror Room is available for free download by Sifting Forest Storyworks and is available here: http://www.shiftingforest.com/gamefiles/MirrorRoom.pdf

(3 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:June 22nd, 2011 07:11 pm (UTC)
We did that once in an early adventure game. An NPC came in who was in no way a threat, just really really annoying, so we just knocked him out and kept him unconscious until Shane had to leave to go play someone else

"Do you wanna join the Corinian Army?"
[User Picture]
Date:June 22nd, 2011 07:12 pm (UTC)
:) A question that shall live in infamy.
[User Picture]
Date:June 25th, 2011 12:52 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the review, glad it wasn't a debacle.

Many Shifting Forest games are that simple, but they're designed to be run in one room in about four hours or less. To me, over-complicating things would saturate the scenario and dilute the drama.

When I played (and died, but late in the game), I was actually OK with not knowing the why of everything. The drama was good enough (and it was good in my run, led by J Li herself at GenCon SoCal). But then, I play Call of Cthulhu, so random bad shit happening because of unknowable omnipotent demons are to be expected.

But different strokes for different folks. Glad you tried something outside your comfort zone.

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