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Mirror Story

I dug out the following old text of mine from the Story Games archive and edited it for grammar and punctuation:

Not sure what writeup is the best but I had been playing & running RPGs for 20 years and then somewhere in 2012, 2013 I found an OSR group (so I was kinda late to the party, Grognardia had been up for years at that point) and I played with them once, thought “ok that was kinda fun, but kinda scripted”, went home, looked at the module and thought “huh…. that could’ve gone all kinda different ways”, and then played with them again and we find this room.

There’s an object behind a curtain. I walk up to it and put my hand under. Feels like glass. “It’s a cursed mirror?” we all think. We take it down from the wall without looking at it or removing the curtain. Attach it to our cart.

Hours later, fighting against toad monsters on our way home from dungeon. We pull away the curtain. One toad monster sees the mirror and goes “pop” like a soap bubble, just disappears from this world. And the mirror cracks.

And I’m like… holy shit. The way the mirror felt so “real” when I first put my hand up against the glass (i.e. said “I put my hand under the curtain, what do I feel?”), the entire dungeon started feeling real, cold under my feet, I just vertiginously fell into it.

I called my mom later that night. I think I woke her. I was like “I finally understood how roleplaying games work!”

Remember, I had played games for two decades but I had never read Moldvay or L4 The Lost City or any classic module. I was used to two kinds of gaming: improvised, and railroaded-events (or a mix). The idea of prepping a location, a porte-monstre-trésor (place/problem/goal array) had never ever ever occurred to me in my whole life. It was all Robin’s Laws or funnel CoC setups (I hadn’t read that haunted house intro adventure either) or Giovanni Chronicles or whatever. and above all…. improvised stuff. “Let’s play a roleplaying game? We don’t have rules. Let’s start with some neil young song lyrics etc and just improvise from that, you’re the Archer etc, we just landed on the sun in our silver seed” etc etc. I mean, we had done all kindsa weird & awesome stuff. We had done the whole 90s Scandinavian schtick with extreme immersion, candle-lit, never ever speaking OOC. We had done a bunch of LARPs. We had had Vampire LARPs in ruined castles from the 1200s etc. We had Everway, we had Fudge, we had Diaspora, we had GURPS, we had Fiasco, we had it all except this. I had read 200 games.

I mean, the “mirror story” is D&D basics but it just never occurred to me. And it was the best. Just the best. And it happens pretty much every session now, it’s been a repeatable kick. I’m like… finally. Some of the games that came closest were Rune, Three Sixteen and Dogs in the Vineyard.

I’ve been kind of a champ for a very strict take on this playstyle since that happened six or so years ago [ten, now, as I’m editing this]. Much more strict & disciplined about it than even the DM of the game where the “mirror story” happened.

I at first thought that the stocking algorithm or whatever was the secret ingredient but the DM can be much freer than that.

As long as I have the Blorb principles.