We played The Wizard’s Querulous Dram by Jason Morningstar and Lizzie Stark another time this week, this time with my modified descriptions of the princes and princesses who are to be married. My changes made it more difficult to determine the best pairing, since each person had serious flaws as well as virtues. So, unlike our previous times, we didn’t pair the two princesses. Instead, Gyongi representing Smallwood, Zoltin representing Black Mountain, and Volkon representing the Wizard’s Guild agree to make Prince Chadwick the monarch with Prince Winthrop as his consort. In exchange for Winthrop taking the consort role, we place the capital in Black Mountain but give Smallwood command of the combined army.
We quickly eliminate the pairing of Prince Winthrop and Princess Aster because, while they are both imminently qualified, the two together could be a little unbending, both being so certain of their own superiority. We also ruled out putting the two princesses together because Aster and Tiffany seem likely to become competitive with each other, despite being concerned with different domains.
That leaves Prince Chadwick as the royal from Smallwood, and the only question is whether he is best with Princess Tiffany or Prince Winthrop. We almost choose Tiffany, thinking that they complement each other in terms of their connection and concern for the people, but Zoltin balks at putting the two least serious people on the thrones. So, it goes to Winthrop, who can provide the brains to Chadwick’s brawn, and so they will rule together, we hope, to keep the peace and help our new united kingdom to prosper.
In this week’s session, we returned to play Truth & Daring by Kristin & Tim Devine, this time as a group of high school freshman in a club they call the Seekers. Our clubhouse is a tent pitched in someone’s yard. We are Minx, an expert Game Master whose always ready to get a game on; Daren Steele is a sneaky actor convinced he’s on his way to becoming an international super-spy; Gina, a curious explorer, who uses her binoculars for more than just watching birds; and Ben the mischievous collector of rocks, minerals, and fossils.
We begin our story with Daren walking to the clubhouse and telling Ben that he believes senior Paige seems way too old to be a teenager and that she spends a lot of time in the new principal’s office. After Gina and Minx join them in the clubhouse, we decide to spy on Paige and the principal to discover what they might be up to. Watching Paige and her boyfriend at drama club while painting scenery, Ben tells us about someone using the shop’s printing press at night and decides to investigate further. When he sneaks to the shop, he spies the principal operating the press to print sheets of money, Paige cutting the sheets into individual bills, and another senior wrapping and boxing the bills into “Art Supply” boxes.
We decide the grown-ups will never believe us unless we get some real evidence, so the next night Daren hides himself inside the room. Paige is watching with her binoculars from across the street. On her signal, Minx pulls a fire alarm elsewhere in the school to distract the criminals long enough to come out of hiding, grab some bills, and run away. Paige gets the license number of the van that the seniors were loading the boxes into. We take the evidence to the police, who surprisingly believe us. They track down the criminals and bust the counterfeit ring. Turns out the principal was wanted and we earn a reward for his capture. Minx uses the money to buy a copy of Hidden Kingdom, an Arthurian game she’s been wanting. Daren gets a fingerprinting kit, and we all get new bikes and a commendation written up in the paper from the police. One of the investigators even tells Daren that he showed a lot of promise and gives him her card so he can reach her later.
In this week’s game, we used Kaleidoscope by Jackson Tegu to create an incoherent foreign art film about ridiculously happy people trapped in a tower with plates full of pierogis. A friend of ours had recommended we see it, saying “It’s like Towering Inferno with the fire taken out and replaced with euphoria as seen through the lens of pierogism.”
Our story begins with a young man with long hair on one side and a shaven head on the other sitting on top of a building, knitting a long piece of fabric that hangs over the tower’s ledge. He seems lost in thought and his name, we think, is Javas. A waitress brings him a cup of coffee with the cosmos floating inside it. Then Javas goes downstairs to the newsstand outside the building, where we meet Luthor the newsagent. They have a very portentous conversation that seems entirely irrelevant to the rest of the film. Javas returns to the coffee shop upstairs and interacts with people there. As he does, we see knitted items everywhere: a dog collar tag, socks, keychains, a tea cozy. We spend much of the rest of the film looking for more knitted items.
Afterward, there is a long scene in which we follow a young woman, Simone, as she returns from work to the same tower. We see her taking a subway, getting on a busy walking down the street and petting a lovable stray dog. Everywhere she goes, we see the same woman playing a guitar on the street, busking with the guitar case open. When she arrives at the tower, she stops at the newsstand, where we notice that Luthor seems to charge people different amounts for the same item depending on who they are. The younger you are, the more you seem to pay. The scene ends with Simone arriving in her apartment, going into her kitchen, and making pierogis. Pierogis appear with her throughout the film.
There is a long sequence in which Javas leads people down the stairs and out of the building. Along the way, on one of the landings, a man in a night shirt and top hat rocks on a child’s hobby-horse, and tips his hat to the people as they pass. The evacuation is interspersed with scenes of Luthor at his newsstand. First, he’s bopping his head to the music of street guitar lady, the only time in the movie when he seemed to be enjoying himself. Then, he angrily rejects a cup of coffee brought to him by Simone, demanding she bring him another. Finally, when the people come pouring out of the building and begin their herky-jerky dancing, he becomes angry and stomps off, leaving the picture not to return. Perhaps it’s a commentary on the World Trade Center attacks.
What follows this is a short scene with street guitar lady that is shot in garish, vibrant colors rather than the more sedate palette of the rest of the picture. In this scene, she meets a child and gives him a quarter. The child runs off to the pier and drops a fishing line into the water, pulling a wind-up toy up from the ocean. Then we jump cut to one of those crane/claw games in an arcade full of similar wind-up toys.
The film ends with a shadow moving toward a door, the camera taking on the viewpoint of the person casting the shadow. The person reaches past a plate of pierogis to open the door and step into a porcelain bathroom. We see someone in a pair of rubber boots walk across the bathroom and step into the tub. We never see their face or body, just their legs and the boots. They turn on the water in the tub and the bathroom begins to rapidly fill with water but only the bathroom. The inside of the tub and the person inside stay completely dry. As the bathroom fills with water, “Fin.” appears on the screen.
The movie is sometimes known as Pierogis for Javas because that was the name the producers had selected for the anticipated major U.S. release that never materialized, but the literal translation of its Armenian title is Ecstatic Dregs. You can sometimes find it online from file-sharing sites under the title AirGodsMessenger.
Our game this week is The Magic Circle by Jason Morningstar from the Bully Pulpit Patreon in which we play supernatural neighbors living in a suburban cul-de-sac, working to better our community while keeping our true nature secret. Shelley is a mermaid who works in a day care and whose tail disappears when she’s completely dried out. Soma is a sleep demon who works at the sleep clinic. Gil is a creature from the Black Lagoon who works from home as a computer programmer and wears a rubber mask when he has to leave the house. Graves is an angel sent to Earth to help children who works as a school counselor. Ratsep is an enchanted GI Joe doll who runs his own business and who suffers from doll arthritis and digits occasionally fall off. Hudspeth is an android and dentist who can easily pass for human.
At the first meeting of our Monster Neighborhood Watch, we agreed to hold a second Halloween parade since the kids enjoyed the costumes in the first one so much. Ratsep agreed to collect the dues from the neighbors to pay for the annual snow plow fees, Hudseth secured help in getting rid of the wasp nest that had sprung up in the center of our community, and Shelley asked everyone to keep an eye out for her lost seashell keychain. The major topic of discussion was the abyss of utter blackness that had opened up in the house between Shelley and Hudseth. The hole seemed to be emanating screams and howls. Graves will reach out to a landscaper to get a quote to fill it in, while Shelley will ask her sister the witch if her magic can figure out what it is. Soma agrees to swim in the hole to determine if it’s a portal to a nether realm.
Next month, at our second meeting, we recap the success of the second Halloween parade and get an update from Ratsep on the due collections. There is a long discussion about limiting religious Christmas decorations, since they cause Soma literal pain and make it so he cannot pass the decorated house. Graves is the only one planning a nativity, and he agrees to keep it up for only a week as a compromise. Gil wants to talk about how the water taste has changed, and how rancid it has become. Some of us haven’t noticed, but we all agree to file complaints with the water company to get them to come out and test it. We fear the water may have been contaminated by the abyss. Shelley tells us that magic had no effect upon the hole, and Graves says the contractor who came to give a quote fell into the abyss and never returned. Soma entered the portal and determined that it’s the souls of the damned leaking into our reality. We argue for a bit over whether what to do. We eventually decide we must determine why they are damned to be able to release their souls and seal the breach. Hudspeth will, via an ouija board, walk them through a spiritual history health questionnaire to seek clues.
Finally, at our next meeting, Ratsep fails to materialize, apparently having absconded with the snow plow collection, and the water inspection has yet to be completed after being delayed by the holidays. As for the abyss, it seems they were all eaten by some sort of monster, a hellhound perhaps. Graves consults with his employers and determines the best way to set the karmic ledger to balance is for the teenagers who (accidentally) opened the portal through their call to demonic forces to make another appeal, this time to celestial ones. We all agree to get the kids into the right situation to have them appeal to the heavens for help, in hopes this will close the interdimensional rift.