[Beloved] [Solo RPG] In a dream ...

Started by Ben Lehman, March 02, 2011, 12:24:31 AM

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Ben Lehman

I have been putting off playing Beloved because, honestly, the game scares me a bit. Plus, it's very hard for me to follow the first directions of the game: I needed a good long time to imagine and envision my perfect beloved, which I suppose isn't surprising.

But last night I had a dream about her, and it was very clear that there she was and, just like in the game, she was kidnapped by a gang of monsters. That was when I knew, at some level, that I was playing the game. So I set out to rescue her.

The first monster that I fought was a shape-changer, particularly one that could mimic particular people and animals. Furthermore, any injury that it took while in a particular form also occurred to whoever it was imitating at the moment. So it fought me by taking on my own form, or the forms of my friends and family, basically holding them hostage against me, all the while turning its hands into daggers and cutting me. It took me a while to realize it, but whenever it transformed there was a brief moment where I could hurt it without hurting anyone else, and so I took those chances to cut off its legs, hands, and finally to stab it through its heart.

But just as I did, it took on the form of my beloved. As soon as I realized what I had done, I was overwhelmed with sadness, but still I went into the prison to find her body. When I did, and it was cut up with every wound I had given the shapeshifter, I realized that it wasn't her! It was some other girl that the monsters had kidnapped. And I felt relieved, that my beloved was still alive. And then I felt this enormous sense of guilt and shame at my own relief: here was this other girl, this totally uninvolved victim that I had killed, and yet I felt relief and happiness at her death. Maybe it would have been better if I had killed my beloved: then I would be punished for my own errors, then I would stop my quest and no one else would have to be hurt.

Then, still feeling that shame, I woke up.

I imagine that I will keep playing this game often, mostly in my sleep, because it is that sort of game. Next time I will have to fight two monsters. I am slightly afraid of what will happen.

I like this game. I wrote it, so of course I am biased, but it is already teaching me new things about itself and myself as I play.

Questions? Thoughts?




I tried to click on the link to your games.  It didn't work.

So just because I am also a game designer.....  What has been the response to your game?  How many people/groups do you think have played it?  Is a game on a particular system, is it using your system.  Sorry but I am just curious as I haven't heard about this game and the link didn't work

"In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes", Benjamin Franklin

Ben Lehman

Thank you for pointing out the issue with the link! Let me copy-paste the text at the link. This is the contest entry: the rules have been changed slightly since this time (every monster is now undefeatable for one reason and one reason only, there is also an alternate text with a male beloved.)


A solo game by Ben Lehman

For Pen and Paper

Imagine your beloved. She is, to you, perfect in every way. Think on it. Know her.

Your beloved has been kidnapped by a pack of horrible monsters. You, the hero, are the only one who can rescue her.

On the center of a piece of paper, of a size that you can carry folded in your pocket, draw a small picture of your beloved. Draw the walls of a prison around her. Outside, draw a horrible monster. Now, right down one reason why that horrible monster is undefeatable.

Think about the monster. Think about how it is undefeatable, exactly. Fold up the piece of paper and carry it in your pocket, but continue to think about it. Play out your battles in your mind, over and over, trying new devices and strategies.

At some point, you will discover a way that the monster can be defeated. Don't cheat and think of this ahead of time! Make the monster as unbeatable as you can.

The best way is that you find a way to circumvent or invert the monster's invincibility. This has to do with the exact nature of it, and when you do it you will realize it was there all along.

The other way to do it is that you discover that the monster has a secret weakness, and come up with a plan to exploit it. Don't just make it up! Discover it in your battles and battles with the monster.

Once you have defeated the monster, cross it out. You have rescued your beloved!

But it isn't really her. It's some other girl that the monsters kidnapped. She is like your beloved in one way, and that confused you.

Is she good enough? Do you give up and live and love with her?

If so, you live ever after together.

If not, get a new piece of paper. Draw a picture -- a better picture! -- of your beloved. Draw the prison walls around her. Draw two monsters. For the innermost monster, write down two reasons why it is undefeatable, for the outermost monster, draw one.

You must defeat both monsters to reach your beloved.

But it isn't really her. It's some other girl that the monsters kidnapped. She is like your beloved in two ways, and that confused you.

Is she good enough? Do you give up and live and love with her?

If so you live ever after together.

If not, get a new piece of paper. Draw a picture of your beloved in the center, then the walls, then three monsters, the innermost with three reasons that it is undefeatable, the next with two, the last with one. When you have defeated all these monsters, you reach your beloved. But it isn't her! She is just alike to your beloved in three ways.

Continue in this manner until she is good enough.

Ben Lehman

Thus far, it's been played by Emily Care Boss and myself (and, last I heard, is still being played by both of us: it's kind of a slow-playing game.) That's all that I know of. The game has also had some positive response from my creative-but-not-gaming friends, who really see it (rightly) as an exercise in learning how to enter and maintain a long-term relationship. I'm not sure how many of them (if any) are actively playing it, however.



I think I started playing it last night, just from having a skim through the rules. It's an elegant way to channel the normal imagining I do before I drift off to sleep, and I find the question at the heart of the game provocative.

Find out more about Left Coast (a game about writers, inspired by the life of Philip K. Dick) on Twitter: @leftcoastrpg

C. Edwards

I've been playing a version of this game, minus your explicit procedures, since I was about five. Also mostly in my dreams.

There are consequences to reaching into the human psyche and expose the throbbing bittersweet organs to the light. ;)


"In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes", Benjamin Franklin

Ron Edwards

This thread needs some discussion focus, please.

Best, Ron (moderator version)

Ben Lehman

Yes, it does. I have a number of goals: give me some time to sort through them and pick one or two.


Ben Lehman

OK. Three points.

1) All pithy one liners are definitely off topic. Let's have a conversation.

2) I would like to talk about the place of dreams and "sleeping on it" in the design process, which is part of why I emphasized that point in my initial post, but in hindsight I think that this thread probably can't bear the weight of that discussion. If anyone wants to talk about that with me, can you start a new thread (or, if it's not appropriate to the Forge, Ron, let me know and I'll make a place for it offsite.) For continuing discussion here, let's just pretend that I edited that point from my initial post.

3) Let's keep this thread to discussion / development of Beloved. Hix, I would love to hear about your experience in some more detail, for instance. Furthermore, as this is basically the first intersection of text and audience (at least, this particular audience), I'll find reactions to the text to be pretty useful.



I realize this is #1, but I would genuinely like to offer it in the spirit of #3 - I'm kind of at a loss to approach the text, and this is the wall standing in my way:

"I'm married.  I'm not sure I could stand to play this game again."

Which, I don't know ... even saying that much seems vastly unfair to two women I deeply love.  Intellectually I know they would both be mature enough to deal with me playing this game, but I'm hitting my own wall here.  And the fact I can state my objection that way is making me uncomfortable about myself in a way that I hope the game intended.

Questions, I guess.
1) Is this a game you envision being playable only once?
2) Is it specifically envisioned for single gamers?  That's the vibe I'm getting, but there's no actual implications in the text.  Are you looking for feedback from the taken?

Ron Edwards

Wow - that was my reaction too. Some slightly different details - other people's reactions to whether I or do not play any game are no concern of mine, for instance. Also, I haven't taken seriously the idea of a particular set of desired characteristics for a potential partner since ... um, 1985-ish, I think. But yeah, "I'm married, what do I need this addle-headed effort for?"

I'm skeptical enough about anyone's "I would never play that" reaction to be suspicious of my own. I've seen it so often in response to my own work - fuck, now that I think of it, every single one of my books - to know that this may well be about buttons. And I'm quite curious about the Solitaire challenges, and want to give some of the designs a try.

Best, Ron

Nathan P.

Even though I'm in a committed long-term relationship (as married as I'm likely to get, really), I immediately knew who my Beloved would be, um, modeled after. Maybe it's cuz I'm super-emo, but if you've ever has a Ms (or Mr.) Might-Have-Been, you may know what I'm talking about?

That said, I also decided not to play this game (conciously), because I'm not a place right now where I can spend energy pining.

Ben, I don't know if that's helpful at all to you, but there's a response to my once-and-only reading of the text.
Nathan P.
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How strange! Having read the text, I don't know if I can possibly NOT play it. It's in my head now. How do you un-ask the question?

And I'm married like crazy.

I also don't expect my experience of it to be pining. I'm very curious to know when and whether someone will be close enough, and how I'll feel about it when it happens.


Ben Lehman

Thanks, all. Helpful.

Baxil, to address your questions, I'm not targeting single guys (or even, necessarily, guys) specifically, and I see the game as replayable.

I had a conversation with Joe Mcdaldno about this recently that ran along very similar lines, which I'm going to summarize below. Clearly this seems to push a button with particular married guys.

Ron, it's particularly interesting to me that you see the beloved as a set of characteristics, because Emily did, too. That's not the intention. The intention is that the beloved, and the rescued girls, are, you know, people, with a certain degree of commonality. The rescued girls might be desirable or worthy for reasons that are not about their similarity to your beloved, it's just that all the game system cares about is their similarity to your beloved. What gave you the "list of traits" idea?


Joe: I'm not sure I can play this, as I'm in a long term relationship.

Me: Huh.

Joe: It just seems like one of the quickest things to emerge from such play would be an outlining of how (Joe's girlfriend) was or wasn't good enough. Rather than being a self-assessment, it seems like it's rather focused on some one else. A critique of them.

Me: But I think "saving your beloved from monsters" still applies, yeah? And how the answers to those questions (about settling) change, over time and effort. Any improvement in "your beloved" is pursuant on you changing yourself. Overcoming things which were previously impossible for you.

Joe: AH, yes.  I kind of see Beloved as consisting of two lessons or parts. (1.) If something seems impossible, it means you haven't tried hard enough yet. (2.) If you don't learn to settle, eventually, you'll be chasing ghosts forever. And #1 seems universally accessible. #2 is the part that I feel is fundamentally different and weird if you're already in a relationship you're committed to.

Me: See, it's not quite like that to me. The different rescued girls could be incarnations of the same person. Like, my experience of a long term relationship is that, when people improve, the relationship thrives. And when they stop improving, things get worse. But my understanding of the game is still evolving.