23 April 2011

A Story from the 2011 IF Summit...

I've found a break and the ADRIFT Forum is down. I thought of the ol' blog and thought maybe I'd post something. I'm glad to see I still have two followers, so here's a story for them.

The IF Summit went awesomely this year. I met a lot of cool people, and got to spend time with some old friends I don't get to see nearly as often as I'd like. It was with one such old friend, Sam Kabo Ashwell, and another new friend, Victor Gijsbers, that I decided to play a card game instead of attending the group playthrough of Everybody Dies (an excellent game, but as I'd already played through it, I didn't want to risk spoiling it for anyone who hadn't already).

The three of us hung out in the suite, which was a little cramped this year until someone put the mattresses up against the walls. We attended a small, square table, where Sam had begun to lay out his cards. These were not your Hoyle playing cards or a Magic deck, but a deck for a narrative game called Gloom. Neither Victor nor I had played it, so Sam explained that the basic point was to choose a family, then make them as miserable as possible and kill them all.

I genuinely enjoyed our play of it. At its most dramatic, the little cousin in my family was driven out of a picnic by a terrible storm. Inside a storm shelter, he starved, got attacked by diseased rats, and went mad. In his madness, he was invited to a magical land where he danced with rat princesses... only to recover and find himself once more in the shelter. Believing he'd heard the storm stop, he opened the shelter door, but the water from the storm flooded into the shelter, drowning him. For what it's worth, mine were some of the dullest stories made up there. I felt very nervous telling them and tended to understate and rely heavily on the information in the cards without straying or inventing too much, but it was my first time. I wanted to play the game fairly straight for a first playthrough... but we never got to a second.

Victor and Sam, though, are natural storytellers. Victor's style is dramatic and bold, full of emotion and invention. He had a family of mad geniuses who went through their fair share of dismemberments and ghastly horrors, including a brain in a vat that ended up being shipped to Siberia. Sam's style is dry and sharp, a practiced and measured means (he had played before, after all). His family's life quickly filled with scandal, dark deeds, and occult horror. Their decline would have been utterly unforgiving, had I not kept making the matron of his household the toast of the town and a darling of the press (such positive things are bad for winning the game where the goal is misery and death). Ultimately, I ended the game by killing off my final family member (Cousin Mort was his name, maybe?). Victor had the most points, and won, but we'd really all won. The stories and company were fantastic fun.

One curious thing did happen while we were playing, though. We weren't far into our game when a man entered the room. My first thought upon seeing him was, "Hey, that looks like Brian Moriarity." I was pretty sure Victor and Sam had similar thoughts-- I would have been shocked if they'd told me they didn't know who Brian Moriarity was. Anyway, this guy came up to us, made to shake our hands, and I swear I heard him say:

"My name is Ryan."

I was a little befuddled and even disappointed, but shook his hand. I managed to convince myself that my expectations of him being Brian Moriarity had been misleading and overturned them. There were no other Infocom people there. That was last year, when they were all around to watch Get Lamp. This was, in my mind, a guy named Ryan who happened to look like Brian Moriarity.

What's even funnier, I think, is that we invited him to join in our game of Gloom-- which is one letter away from his masterpiece Loom, in the same way Brian is a letter away from Ryan (as far as sound is concerned). He declined and sat down. So there we were, 3 interactive fiction authors just playing cards, while Brian Moriarity just sort of sat there. I feel pretty bad about that part of the misunderstanding, but it's just how things happened. I figured if it really *was* Brian and not Ryan as I'd convinced myself, one of the other IF authors would have said something. None of us did.

A few minutes later, Brian asked if the event was going on soon. He was referring to the group playthrough of Everybody Dies, of course. We told him it was down on the Mezzanine level. The Alcott room. He left, and we all shared a collective, "Okay... was that who I think it was?" moment.

I think I saw Brian at the Demo Fair later playing Pirate's Plunder!++. He sat down with it for 5 seconds at most and then walked away. There were better things there for him to check out.


  1. I loved Loom. I have no idea what Gloom is though. I also loved your contest entry! Hilarious. What the heck is up with the forum?
    Also, I would have walked away from Zork if I'd only given it 5 seconds.

  2. I've never played Gloom but have heard of it. I play a lot of board and card games. You might want to head over to boardgamegeek.com and check out Aye Dark Overlord, which is a similar type of game.

  3. Funny you should mention that, James... actually, we did play Aye Dark Overlord before that! Unfortunately, we didn't get to finish it, but it was incredibly fun. Being forced to think on your feet can lead to some really dramatic situations, I think. I'll give boardgamegeek.com a look, sounds like just the sort of thing I'd dig.

    Mike, thanks for your compliments. I have a feeling you'd enjoy a game of Gloom. I admit I haven't yet gotten to your piece for The Challenge, but we'll see if I can't sit down to it tomorrow night (tonight is a friend's birthday celebration). Once the Forum is back up, I can provide some proper feedback... until then, maybe 'DRIFTers should just use my blog? Hmm...