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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 64 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: The Valedictorian's Death: Actual Want-to-Play  (Read 3335 times)
Tav_Behemoth
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« on: October 04, 2004, 03:26:42 PM »

I had an interesting experience at my birthday party - itself an interesting experience because it was just about the first time all year I've had a social interaction that wasn't based around roleplaying. (As the parent of a two-year-old with a limited babysitting budget, anything that convinces people to come over to your apartment & entertain you in the evenings is a Good Thing).

So some of the people there were in my regular D&D group, and others weren't, including a friend from the building who's a freak but not at all a nerd; in high school, she was the kind of extrovert who was smoking pot with budding criminals behind the bleachers after school, not the breed of introvert who was sneaking back into school to run off character sheets on the mimeograph machine. (The criminals, of course, sold lots of pot to both groups).

When she asked how some of us knew each other and the answer was "Dungeons and Dragons" she got the rabbity look of someone who is suddenly realizing they didn't plan an exit strategy for the contingency of being surrounded by potentially insane losers. I tried some of my standard explain-roleplaying-to-outsider spiels, like "playing pretend, but with dice to avoid I-shot-you-no-you-didn't" and "mutual hypnosis, except with boundaries," which interested her not at all.

Some of us also knew each other from high school, and so we wound up breaking out the yearbook to show old photos. This inspired me to describe the basic premise of The Valedictorian's Death. Everyone was inspired by the idea -- none more so than my friend who'd previously been about to chew off her leg to escape.

"Now I understand," she exclaimed. "That sounds like the kind of game I'd really like to play!"
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Masters and Minions: "Immediate, concrete, gameable" - Ken Hite.
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Michael S. Miller
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« Reply #1 on: October 04, 2004, 05:43:19 PM »

Hey, Tav. Very cool. The Valedictorian's Death seems to me to be the closest game to nailing the very popular murder mystery genre. It's something the mainstream can instantly grasp.

So play it, and post about it! We're waiting here with 'bated breath.
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Tav_Behemoth
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« Reply #2 on: October 04, 2004, 05:56:05 PM »

Quote from: Michael S. Miller
Hey, Tav. Very cool. The Valedictorian's Death seems to me to be the closest game to nailing the very popular murder mystery genre. It's something the mainstream can instantly grasp.

So play it, and post about it! We're waiting here with 'bated breath.


Well, I hope you brought something to read while you wait! One of the lame things about becoming a publisher is that gaming I want to do winds up getting subordinated to gaming I "have to do for my job". This is a happy problem to have, and I'd like it if gaming was the only job I had, so I don't know why I'm complaining.

Still, I fear I won't get to explore the death of the valedictorian until I get a hefty chunk of remorhaz playtesting out of the way. That'll give me time to hunt down eldrich Manhattan elite private school yearbooks, though!

P.S. I have a feeling that a standard murder-mystery-dinner-party game wouldn't have provoked the same reaction. And the folks at this party couldn't be said to have been mainstream -- the interesting thing was just that they were from different fringes.
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Masters and Minions: "Immediate, concrete, gameable" - Ken Hite.
Get yours from the creators or finer retail stores everywhere.
Paul Czege
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« Reply #3 on: October 12, 2004, 06:53:25 AM »

Hey Tav,

The most recent issue of http://www.darwin-project.com/site-html/backstab.html">Backstab, the French gaming magazine, has a small review of My Life with Master, at maybe two hundred words, and two ultra-small capsule reviews of The Valedictorian's Death, and Nicotine Girls, that are maybe twenty five words each. One of the three games got five stars. Would you care to guess which one?

Paul
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Victor Gijsbers
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #4 on: October 31, 2004, 01:55:46 PM »

Could anyone perhaps quickly summarise for me what kind of content is in a 'high school yearbook' and what a 'valedictorian' is? (My dictionary defines the latter as 'the student that holds the goodbye speech at the end of the school year', but that doesn't really help me.) I feel that I don't really understand this game because I'm unfamiliar with American high school culture.
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Paul Czege
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« Reply #5 on: November 01, 2004, 07:29:26 AM »

Hey Victor,

Here in the States, you finish "high school" when you're 17 or 18 years old. The student who has the best grades at the end of their last year of high school (the "senior year") is the valedictorian. "Best grades" means the highest overall average of grades from the four years of high school. And there's a lot of status associated with it. Oftentimes the valedictorian gets to speak at the school graduation ceremony, for instance.

The student with the second best grades is the salutatorian.

Can you see how the valedictorian would be positioned central to stress within the game? There's the potential parental pressure on any student who's in the running for valedictorian to perform academically. There's academic competition among those students. There's fear of lost future prospects. There's the negative stigma of being overly academically focused, and the potential relationship consequences of that, as well as the struggle to be liked by others and perceived normal. Part of the fun of the game, I think, is that most of us can easily imagine the dramatic circumstances of how a valedictorian in our past may have ended up dead before the end of the senior year.

Paul
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My Life with Master knows codependence.
And if you're doing anything with your Acts of Evil ashcan license, of course I'm curious and would love to hear about your plans
Victor Gijsbers
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #6 on: November 01, 2004, 08:37:43 AM »

Thanks Paul,

The part about how the position of Valedictorian functions in terms of pressure, competition and other social matters is especially helpful for me in understanding what the game is about and what it will feel like to play it. Combined with what Chris Goodwin told me in PM about yearbooks and valedictorians, your explanation allows me to make sense of 'The Valedictorian's Death' (which is a good thing, I'd say).

It's funny, how a genre as fantastic as the modern gothic horror on which MLWM is based easily bridges the Atlantic, whereas the much more down to earth situation of an American high school disappears in a cultural gap.
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Valamir
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« Reply #7 on: November 01, 2004, 08:45:20 AM »

Interestingly at my high school, the Valedictorian was also captain of the football team, Homecoming King, and Prom King, and all around Big Man on Campus.  He was pretty much a popular guy in every clique the school had from the jocks, to the stoners, to the preppies, to the chess club.

...I did beat him on the SATs though...ha...small victories :-)
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Tav_Behemoth
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« Reply #8 on: November 01, 2004, 09:00:27 AM »

Quote from: Valamir
He was pretty much a popular guy in every clique the school had from the jocks, to the stoners, to the preppies, to the chess club...


And then he died! :)

Still can't wait to play. The cross-cultural aspect of the game is very interesting. The same things that make most RPGs appeal only to a small minority in the US -- the fact that they draw their drama from an otherworldy source -- might ironically mean that they're better able to appeal to people in other cultures, so long as those other people are part of the same minority!

The interesting question, which we can only begin to explore by having a bunch of RPGs with different subjects & sources of drama, is: are the people who have the imagination, ego-integrity, and desire to roleplay about anything in the global minority, or is this just one of our tribe's myths?
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Masters and Minions: "Immediate, concrete, gameable" - Ken Hite.
Get yours from the creators or finer retail stores everywhere.
Sean
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« Reply #9 on: November 01, 2004, 09:22:04 AM »

This is just barely OT, though possibly moreso than Ralph's post, since there's an obvious premise for murdering a valedictorian here...


My mother was salutatorian of her high school class. At the end of first semester senior year, she and a few other people, including the one other person with straight A's so far and a math genius who got B's in English, had gotten A's in first semester calculus.

Second semester was supposed to be even harder, so the other guy with straight A's took study hall instead of a second semester of calculus.

My mother took second semester calculus and got the only B - the teacher gave one A, one B, and everyone else got C's. The guy who got the A, the erratic math genius, is today a full professor of mathematics at UCLA.

So because my mother stuck it out in calculus and couldn't quite keep up with a future math professor instead of dropping to take study hall, she came in second to the guy who took study hall, kept his 4.0, and became Valedictorian.
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olleolleolle
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« Reply #10 on: November 23, 2004, 04:12:56 AM »

Hi, I follow the discussion from Denmark, with a Swedish perspective. Could anyone explain the "study hall" alternative for us Euros.

The WordNet  explanation is meager in detail and context:
[list=1]
[*]study hall -- (a period of time during the school day that is set aside for study)
[*]study hall -- (a classroom reserved for study)
[/list:o]
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ivan23
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« Reply #11 on: November 23, 2004, 06:43:27 AM »

Quote from: olleolleolle
Could anyone explain the "study hall" alternative for us Euros.


WordNet's got it right, if a bit stark.

High School is divided into a number of "periods," or class-times. You have certain required classes every year - science, math, physical education, etc. In my school there were seven periods in the day, each one 50 minutes long, with one reserved for the lunch hour.

However, you can also opt to take a certain number of periods in a "study hall" if you don't have enough required classes or elective courses to make up a full nine-period day.

In theory, the study hall is a quiet classroom where nothing is being taught. The teacher on duty is essentially babysitting while the students sit quietly and do their homework for other classes, thus cutting down on the amount of time they have to spend doing it after school.

In practice, of course, the students are generally passing notes, carving their names into desks, or reading bad fantasy novels with an eye toward the weekend's Dungeons and Dragons game ; )
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