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The Gathering Stones

I played a game of i’m sorry did you say street magic last night with Rye, Nicholas, and Joe, and it was awesome.

Quick description: it’s technically a map building game, but really it’s a game in which you build the relationships between places on a map which never actually gets drawn. Unlike The Quiet Year, there are no random elements. I’d wondered if that would result in overly still metaphorical waters, but as it turned out, the game forces interaction between the setting elements you create with just enough strength to prevent stagnation. Also, every time around the table, there’s an Event which must alter at least one element, so that keeps things moving as well.

If this sounds interesting, note that the game was in the itch.io Racial Justice bundle in the summer of 2020, so you may already have it.

Our city was boastful, vast, ageless, and magnetic: four adjectives chosen from a list at the start of play. It wound up being a place where cultures and people met and mixed and fought over the millennia. I defined an early Neighborhood as “An ancient waterfall, tamed by technologists long gone, filtering through man-made gates.” That sense of ebbing and flowing knowledge stuck throughout the game, for me. (I always wish I could see the city we created through the eyes of another player, though.)

The facilitator, Rye, added a whole new kind of people made of light as our second Compass: the theme for a round of play. After he declared the Compass, he established a new Landmark, the Painted Passageway. “Painting that was the origin of the Bright Ones. They first came unnoticed as the artists were in a frenzy. Now they are observed passing in and out of this painting.” The game almost immediately grounded itself in the way the existing residents reacted to the Bright Ones and the changes they brought. It became evident over the next two rounds that they were going to draw on the water of the city for their own purposes.

The sense of beings beyond our control taking advantage of our resources was interesting; the way the merchants of Main Street (“True Name: Political power, wealth, commerce.”) mirrored those actions was interesting. Lots of layers. As we came towards a close, I took a Resident I’d already established and asked the rest of the table if I could re-establish him 50 years in the future, making an abrupt time jump, and they said sure! So the hot-headed, conspiracy-minded Kevin Young became a chubby, relaxed bartender collecting the stories of travelers. “I’ll tell you my story,” he said, “But first I want to hear what you know of the time the Bright Ones came and left.” And he wrote it all down, in hopes that a century from now the Bright Ones would be remembered, and less feared.

I do in fact want to play this again. I also want to use it as a base for the next urban fantasy game I run; run it as the first session, and build characters from there.

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