Tuesday, March 22, 2011

How to Teach Role-playing Games by Stealth

Bob: Nice apartment, Alice. Very secure, too.
Alice: Plus, I have a stun gun. No worries.
Bob: Note to self.…
Alice: Pardon?
Bob: Huh?
Alice: Nə—
Bob: Let me ask you something—just for the fun of it. What would you do if, while home alone one night, you heard a sound at your front door? A muffled thump.
Alice: I'd hit the mute and listen. Why?
Bob: Think of it as a type of thought experiment.
Alice: Cogito ergo ludicrum: I think, therefore I’m game.
Bob: I might have to steal that line. Okay, back to the scenario. Your hypothetical self suddenly remembers hearing a sharp click a few minutes earlier. It came from the front door, but you dismissed it as unimportant.
Bob: Let's say you hear it again. A single thump on the door, like the soft rap of a hand.
Alice: Is this your modest way of relating an anecdote, Bob?
Bob: Not really, but I know you like mystery stories.
Alice: True, dat. Well, I surmise that someone would have to be out there.
Bob: Or something. (Sorry.)
Alice: Nah. I'd probably think it was a kid playing a prank.
Bob: After midnight?
Alice: That is late, but you know kids these days. I think I'd note the time, in case I'm ever needed as a witness. Such are the benefits of reading crime fiction.
Bob: Okay, but then what?
Alice: Just to be sure, I'd take a pencil and a scrap of paper from the coffee table and write down the date, time, and heard thump on door—it could become my alter ego’s epitaph. I'd slide the note under my Leonard Malton’s Movie Guide—also on the coffee table. Then I’d stand up and tip-toe to the door.
Bob: It'd be absolutely quiet, so every little noise you make would seem loud. You wouldn't be sure nothing heard you.
Alice: You're starting to scare me, Bob. But as you know, I do enjoy a good chilling of the spine now and then.
Bob: Let's say you reach the door. What now?
Alice: Look through the peephole. What's there?
Bob: At first you think it’s a person. At eye level a few feet in front of you is a bowler-style hat. It appears to be perched atop an upright broom handle or maybe a cane.
Alice: Freaky. Have you read "Thurnley Abbey"? Never mind. Wouldn't I see or hear the perpetrators?
Bob: The peephole gives you a wide-angled view down the passage leading from your apartment door. No one's there and it's deathly still. Until the weird scarecrow thing suddenly jerks towards you! As you jump back, there's another muffled thump on the door.
Alice: Run away! No—wait. Wouldn't Occam's Razor say that the broomstick simply fell over? Talking shaving paraphernalia have yet to let me down.
Bob: As you're mulling this over, irked that your wit may forever lack an audience, you notice that the front door is being pushed open from the other side.
Alice: Ah! What to do? My stun gun's in the bedroom. The bathroom door is lockable but flimsy. My phone is in the living room. Is there time to leap forward and slam and deadbolt the door?
Bob: Well, coming through the gap of the partially-opened door is the end of a thin stick a-tapping. Oh, and speaking of time, I must be on my way. It's late and I have a blog post to write.
Alice: But what was that about? What was at the door? What happens to the other me?
Bob: Important questions all, but the answers will have to wait.
Alice: Call me.

Next: "Evolution of an RPGer".