Dream Askew

edited January 2014 in Story Games
Joe's new game is up and it is hecka wicked.

I was part of the playtesting and the game totally sings. It might be one my favourite games by them.

For everyone who wanted one-shot, GMless Apocalypse World, for all the queer badasses out their, this one's for you.

Comments

  • Josie's brilliant with this design. I love their mix of Apocalypse World questions, Fate point economy and GM'less distributed authority. Totally worth your while to take a look.
  • I'd like to talk about this!

    Me and various players from my extended groups got a look at this. Mcdaldno's one of the designers whose work I like to parade around because he does interesting things with rules. We've hit some issues, though, with Dream Askew.

    I'd first like to say that I'm speaking for some people, including someone who did not feel comfortable voicing their opinion because they fall outside of the queer spectrum, and did not want their voice of dissent to seem queer-phobic in any regard. Bear in mind, there's a few people being channeled through me at this moment!

    Mechanically, I don't recall anyone having issue with anything. As a GM-less Apocalypse World, I think it excels. The accessibility is also fantastic: I love how it charts out how to go through making your character, and I double-love that each character gets an explanation of how to play it. That's wonderful and something I wish there were more of.

    The issue came from the thematic content: not the queer apocalypse as an idea, but rather how the game chose to handle it. The main objections stemmed from the fact that the Queer Enclave seems to not have any negative light cast on it, the way other situations do. They want equality, growth, safety, and to show tenderness and love - whereas the other situations want some form of negative, or to display some form of selfishness or ignorance. The theme here is transparent enough, but it caused a player or two to crinkle their nose: it seems to suggest the Queer Enclave are just and innocent by default, but others can, at best, be helpful outsiders. It also went against how we played Apocalypse World, which is by creating flawed, human characters and finding their moments of quiet dignity and following through on their motivations, no matter how much they may make us cringe. It felt as if the Queer Enclave wanted to characterize us and our NPCs related as victimized innocents in a dirty world, and not as actual human characters, with flaws and issues of their own.

    The character playbooks themselves demand fallibility in your character and explore some of those issues, but the situation we fall part of - the Queer Enclave - seemed to sit over us and steer us towards a style of play and a commentary on character that some of us felt was restraining, odd, or not believable.

    I'd love to hear some commentary from others who have given it a shot, and what you've found! I love how DA does GM-less Apocalypse World, and I'm itching to try it out more.
  • The main objections stemmed from the fact that the Queer Enclave seems to not have any negative light cast on it, the way other situations do. They want equality, growth, safety, and to show tenderness and love - whereas the other situations want some form of negative, or to display some form of selfishness or ignorance.
    Here's another way to look at it: the queer enclave has the best of intentions. But intent isn't magic. The Craves list shows you that they want good things. The Principles and Moves suggest that everyone is human, everyone is subversive, the enclave's goals might doom it, and that drama and contention abound. The community is trying to be a good and egalitarian place, but they are beset by gangs and scarcity and pressure. And the people capable of affecting change are fallible individuals.

    I've not yet seen a game of Dream Askew where the queer enclave was a blissful utopia. I've seen messy, fallible, human communities trying to deal with problems. I've seen places worth caring about.

    But if someone wanted to do a blissful utopia wish fulfillment thing? I'm okay with that. In the real world, queers have higher rates of assault, murder, poverty, marginalization, discrimination, homelessness, and mental illness. If someone wants to play out some wish fulfilment where they aren't oppressed, I'm dang supportive of that.
  • I want talk about this line here:
    It felt as if the Queer Enclave wanted to characterize us and our NPCs related as victimized innocents in a dirty world, and not as actual human characters, with flaws and issues of their own.
    So, the way I'm reading this is that ya'll automatically characterized the enclave as noble others whose victimhood makes them infallible saints, which isn't present in the text of the game, then found this dehumanizing caricature repugnant. Which it is.

    Except because it's not well represented by the text, you must have brought it to the table with you.

    Maybe the issue isn't that it's a critical voice, maybe issue is that it's actually touristic dehumanizing bullshit.
  • edited February 2014
    Mcdaldno - Oh, totes - and that's reworking my view of it some. However, it seems like the Queer Enclave is the only one which has good intentions at all.
  • I want talk about this line here:
    It felt as if the Queer Enclave wanted to characterize us and our NPCs related as victimized innocents in a dirty world, and not as actual human characters, with flaws and issues of their own.
    So, the way I'm reading this is that ya'll automatically characterized the enclave as noble others whose victimhood makes them infallible saints, which isn't present in the text of the game, then found this dehumanizing caricature repugnant. Which it is.

    Except because it's not well represented by the text, you must have brought it to the table with you.

    Maybe the issue isn't that it's a critical voice, maybe issue is that it's actually touristic dehumanizing bullshit.
    I'm just going by our group's reading of the Situation. I didn't mean to offend anyone, certainly. I like the game. We characterized the QE not as noble others: when we do Apocalypse World, and according to the principles of the characters as set forth in their playbooks for Dream Askew, we play fun, engaging, dramatic characters.

    It was simply the comparison between the Queer Enclave as listed by its wants and craves, versus the rest of the situations' wants and craves.

    Sorry if I upset you.

  • @Orlando_Wilson: I hope this is obvious why, but I would calm the rhetoric.

    Dream Askew both presents a lot and leaves a lot between the lines. It exposes a bunch of queer politics of today, and also envisions a lot that hasn't happened. If you want to have a discussion about a well-meaning attempt to interpret the game, and maybe try to express that there's a better way of interpreting, by all means, have at it.

    If you're coming into this thread to deliver fire and judgment, please keep that to yourself.
  • @amazingrobots The Digital Realm seems pretty positive to the same extent. It's forward-looking, it's about depending on each other and knowledge, most of its moves and instincts and craves are pretty good. It's the hope that you can make connections outside the community, or that you can take some artifacts and help fight off the scarcities and other threats. It's not without price or complication.
  • Mcdaldno - Oh, totes - and that's reworking my view of it some. However, it seems like the Queer Enclave is the only one which has good intentions at all.
    So, the queer enclave has good intentions. No other communities are really presented by the text.

    The Varied Scarcities are entirely negative forces in the world.

    The Psychic Maelstrom is a dangerous and perhaps malevolent force in the world, but it isn't evil. It craves intimacy, and that's probably a good thing. It craves the erasure of meaning, and for a queer enclave that's often going to be a good thing (ask me about that if you need it explained).

    The outlying gangs are presented as a threat, but I tried to present the fact that they are human and worth empathizing with. They Crave home-cooked meals, and one of their Principles is to "Give people a reason to care about and sympathize with the members of these gangs." They're people who want to take from you, yes, but I've tried to place the emphasis on "they're people."

    The Digital Realm is in my mind presented as a force for good, albeit one that is very needy and dependent and disarrayed. It's the scrapheap that could be re-purposed.

    And society intact? Society intact is a thing that oppressed you and then exiled you. As resources get more scarce, it gets more cruel. It's portrayed negatively, both deservedly and intentionally - the solution to your current problems will not be to return to an abusive master.

    ***

    Each of the six situations is portrayed in a specific light, based on how they would be seen and experienced by the enclave. It's not about making absolute statements about The Value of Society, but about exploring how a specific cross-section of people is affected by society. It's not about making absolute statements about The Value of Anti-Assimilationist Queer Politics, but about exploring how a particular enactment of those politics might fare. The situations are written to explore the biases of the protagonists.
  • I gotta say, in my play of Dream Askew tonight I found the dynamic (for us) between the Queer Enclave, Varied Scarcity, and the Outlying Gangs to be really cool. I mean, the Enclave wants nothing but the best, but it's got shite for tools to accomplish it. It expresses that want well, and leaves opportunities for the players' characters to fill that want, but they've got to actually do that "filling". Meanwhile, the Gangs are just other folk that also want the best, but know that there's only so much to make the best with. Hence the "make them sympathetic" jazz. The other players were occasionally approaching tears over what they knew they were ending when they put down The Freegan Frenemies and their Greenhouse, or when the Arrival left one minor character, Jay, weeping bloody over his dead friend Nameless over a pack of seeds.

    Just based on a read I thought Gangs was going to be a much more aggressive Situation to play, and Enclave was going to be more... fearful and dramatic? I guess? But in play they were very much the opposite. Once post-game introspection hit, I became very curious over what that said about the game as designed, and what contrariwise that said about us, the players. amazingrobots, I'd really suggest you and your friends giving it a solid shot and seeing how much different it ends up being for you in play compared to your preconceptions (or heck, similar even!). It's really hard for me to call anything in there "innocent victims". Except maybe poor Janey. Black-bagged by the Society for the crime of loving an Iris that forgot her. Oof. I need to lie down.
  • This is helpful! Thanks, guys. I very much hope to give this another try.

    Some of this that I've seen here, I found, wasn't very explicit to us in the text, but it gave us what we were looking for.

    @mcdaldno - I'd very much like to hear how the erasure of meaning is a good thing for the enclave, yes!
  • edited February 2014

    I'd very much like to hear how the erasure of meaning is a good thing for the enclave, yes!
    My impression:
    Labels applied to queer folk by others & by themselves, labels that have been used by others to hurt, by queers to hurt eachother, labels reclaimed to the point where they sting a little less; giant cultural constructs tied to being a particular gender, genetic sex, orientation, and the difficulty moving between a few set points on any of those spectrums.
    Obliterating the meanings bound to words and statuses would allow people (within and outside enclaves like that) to exist in whatever their natural state would be, or allow them to define themselves from scratch without referencing it against an assumed-normal.
  • I have now played Dream Askew three times, and this last time yesterday it was pretty much everything I had hoped it would be!

    The first time sort of got out-of-hand with the maelstrom, like some of our Apocalypse World games have before. With an Iris, a TV-worshipping Torch and a Stitcher, the Digital Realm ended up being sort of a second psychic malestrom, and the session sort of jumped the shark early on. There was drama, but it was very hard to relate to the characters - everyone was either raving about prophecies and dark powers (which is cool when the Torch does it) or stuck in "I don't get what everyone else is on about and the maelstrom scares me" mode. Again, this is cool, but not when it overtakes the entire session.

    The second time could have been great, but it was played late at night and everyone was tired, so it sort of trailed off because of that. However, we took one step toward the Society Intact physically. The first session had been in the icy wastes near a highway where tank-escorted convoys sometimes passed. The second one, in contrast, was played on the concrete desert below the pylon-supported megacity. We got their waste and rainwater, and at night you could see the coloured lights from the city filter down.

    The third game, however, hit just the right notes for me. We sort of moved it even closer to the sociey and the apocalypse: in a nation ravaged by tactical nuclear strikes, our enclave was situated in a run-down block on the outskirts of a city which had sort-of walled off the inner city. People arriving were sometimes thrown off the train at the outer station because they weren't clean enough. People who couldn't find jobs in town sometimes ended up with us, outside the "firewall", a one block wide circle of completely razed buildings.

    In the enclave, we had the Torch and her lovers, who protected the enclave from the wolves of the maelstrom by painting a special warding sign on the buildings every so often. We had the Stitcher, who was intent on transcending humanity, having already stopped caring about gender labels and, as far as we could see during the game, all lusts of the flesh. We had the Iris, who offered counselling to tortured souls, but secretly disagreed with the Torch about the maelstrom being the source of evil. The Arrival had fled the inner city, hunted by armed men, and hid in a cellar in our territory.

    We ended up playing mostly against the Society Intact and the Psychic Maelstrom situations. We almost never saw anything of the enclave apart from the Torch's lovers and the Iris' patients. We didn't mind - the main conflict of the Arrival's uncle, then her father's friend, then her father himself coming looking for her was pretty much the right level of outer pressure. We had a looter show up by the Stitcher, introduced by the Scarcities, but e offered her a place there as his assistant. She ended up taking care of em, grounding em when e shut emself in after the enclave soured after the fallout between the Torch and the Iris.

    I seem to recall someone writing that the theme of utopia is present in the enclave. It very clearly was for us. It was the Torch's utopia, first and foremost, and she wanted so bad to please everyone, and almost managed to make the Arrival feel at home. I (playing the Torch) for a moment thought it was going to last, or at least prove us right when the Society Intact wuld inevitably come for us. However, it was the dissent between Torch and Iris that proved our ruin. The maelstrom, aided by a Dream Machine built by the Stitcher, showed us different visions, and the Torch answered by settling into a hardened position, excluding more and more people as bad influences. The lines around the enclave, protected by the street wards, were re-drawn several times. Early in the game, the Torch was upset when the Stitcher called her community a cult, but at the end we all agreed it fit.

    The Arrival ended up returning to the Society Intact, taking up the Stitcher's offer to modify her face and body to start anew, escaping her impending arrest. We don't know if the few inner members of the cult who were allowed to stay actually kept living in their utopia, but for us players it was definitely soured by seeing people die and being driven off to protect it. The Iris, who set up the incident where one of the followers was killed, got away with it and moved away to another part of the outskirts. To me as a player of the Torch, he was definitely the bad guy. At the same time, I let him push me over the edge; a better person should have been able to handle it better than I did.


    I will definitely play this again in the future, and I'm going to push for this kind of setting again: having the Society Intact being less than a day's travel from the enclave. Maybe we could have even made the Digital Realm work with this setting without stealing too much focus. With most people I play with, I'd have to talk about it beforehand to ensure it doesn't end up as a second maelstrom (which isn't wrong per se, just not my preference).

  • That sounds great. I have only played the game once but it definitely seems like the premise works best when the Society Intact is very present, as both a foil and a source of pressure; making it geographically proximate is the easiest (and probably most open-ended) way to accomplish that, though just having an Arrival at all tends to increase its presence (similarly to an Iris & the Maelstrom.)
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