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Author Topic: [Under the Bed-GenCon demo]Fantasy, Fears & fun  (Read 4004 times)
Emily Care

Posts: 1126

« on: September 16, 2005, 08:43:44 AM »

Hey there,

I been meaning to write this up for a while, but have even more incentive to do so now that J's started his contest.  I got to play Under the Bed with Joshua, it's creator, at GenCon & thought it brought up interesting issues about the game.  So here goes:

Playing Under the Bed
Four of us played Under the Bed: Joshua, Howard, Mike Holmes & myself. Under the Bed is a collaborative game so there is no GM, but since most of us were learning the game, Joshua walked us through it a bit. 

In UtB, you play the toys of a child, like a little G.I. Joe figure, or a beloved stuffed dog, or one of those sparky guns.  The toys represent the aspects of the child's personality that help the child cope with the tough stuff that happens to it: dealing with the bully on the way to school, being dared to explore that spooky house up on the hill, or dealing with the proverbial monster under the bed. 

Each player is dealt three cards to start, each of which has a character trait on it: strong, shy, smart, stubborn, etc. In the course of the game, each one player makes up a sticky situation for the child, and then another player (randomly chosen) gets to try to face up to the situation using their character traits.  If they win, they can get another trait from a central pool, or gain a Favorite token that puts them closer to becoming the child's most beloved toy, and also, would make their traits dominant, determining the personality of the child.

A real home?
At the start of the game, you choose what is at stake for the child, overall. This gives you a direction for play.  When we played at GenCon, we decided that the child was a foster kid, and what was at stake was: did the child find a good home. Pretty big stuff for a little kid.  This could easily have been a pretty dark and serious game like the one Vincent described, but we steered clear of this using the fantastic, which is a fascinating aspect of the game. 

The first several conflicts revolved around a social worker who the child was afraid of.  At first the child tried to escape from an appointment with the social worker, but Joshua had the chair she was sitting in leap up and grab her feet.  One toy helped the child elude it by moving very slowly away, sneaking away from it, then she used my toy sparky gun to fend off the chair as it grew giant and loomed over her.  But to no avail! The social worker entered with the next conflict, and the kid had to face the music.

Under the Bed has this neat switching narration thing that happens: after you take your turn facing the danger, you then get to say what the next person will face.  This hand-off narration keeps you on your toes thinking of things for the kid to face, but also gives everyone an opportunity to make up cool stuff for the story.  When we played, we suggested ideas to one another--at one point, I or somebody was kind of stuck trying to figure out how the child was going to get out of being sent to a very bad home, and I think Mike suggested that a failing roll meant that the social worker (who'd been given the temporary trait "stupid") fell for the child putting her current family's file in the pile the social worker was looking through.

In the hall of the social worker witch
It was at this point that the game hit a turning point.  Was the next thing that happened going to be the "good family" turning out to be bad? Or not wanting her? (shudder) Or would something else rise up to threaten the child?  We took the "other"option, and decided that the spooky stuff with the chair at the start pointed towards the social worker being a witch (--no offense meant to any actual witches, of course, she was a bad witch...) who decided to eat her instead of sending her to any family at all!  Any tension we'd been feeling was relieved by that decision, and we went on to co-narrate a dramatic chase scene down the (suddenly endless) hallway, which had a family waiting for a child at the end. Not just any family, but the perfect family (since we wanted to wind it down for a short demo), that if the child could elude the vacuum-riding sorcerous social worker, then she would fall into the arms of this waiting safe haven.  Which she did!

All in all, a very fun game.  And clearly, the more we brought in of fantasy, the easier it was to deal with the harsh life issues that were brought up.  It puts very clearly in focus for me the reason for fantasy in fairy tales:  the witch stands in for the family members who might threaten a child.  The monster in the woods stands for all the real dangers that we may have no control over: disease, accident, other people.  So, just like fairy tales, Under the Bed helps us all take a look at the darkness we all face, that our children face that we wish we could spare them.  But we can find a level at which we can allow ourselves to play with those fears & dangers within our comfort level, and take it beyond if we want to travel there together.

Great game, Joshua!  All the best with it. I look forward to playing more.

Emily Care

Koti ei ole koti ilman saunaa.

Black & Green Games
Joshua A.C. Newman

Posts: 1144

the glyphpress

« Reply #1 on: September 17, 2005, 08:55:27 AM »

You're in the lead for the Signed Weird Totem!

the glyphpress's games are Shock: Social Science Fiction and Under the Bed.

I design books like Dogs in the Vineyard and The Mountain Witch.
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