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Author Topic: [Breaking the Ice] The ordeals of love  (Read 8014 times)
Victor Gijsbers
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 390


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« on: October 04, 2005, 08:55:46 AM »

In my first-ever IRC game, we were planning on playing Polaris; but when one of the four prospective players didn't turn up and the other had severe connection problems, Remko suggested that he and I play a game of Breaking the Ice. Which we did, over the course of two evenings, perhaps spanning 7 or 8 hours in total. (I think IRC is at least twice as slow as face-to-face.) I had played with Remko twice before: one session of My Life with Master, the infamous My Life with Adolf game; and one session of Dogs in the Vineyard, described here. I have played quite a number of indie games. Remko has played, apart from these two sessions and as far as I know, some Sorcerer and some Dogs.

In the first session, we used the old playtest rules. In the second, we used the old playtest rules with some changes reflecting the changes in the new rules, reflecting a mail conversation between me and Emily. Now that I have the actual book, I can see we weren't playing it exactly as it is supposed to be played, but I won't dwell on the differences.

As switch, we chose education/profession. As genre, we went for 'drama'. So it was that Remko played the 35 year old ex-Yuguslavian philosopher Rhanko, whose traits included "doesn't speak about his war trauma's", "appears bossy in relationships" and "thinks that he is too good for 'normal' women". I played a 28 year old manager in a software firm, Marianne, whose traits included "climbs mountains in order to feel happy", "is afraid that intimate relationships lead to physical violence" and "longs for warmth". The conflicts were only too apparent: Rhanko thinks Marianne is too normal. Marianne finds Rhanko intimidating and is a bit afraid of him.


Play

On the first date, they went to a restaurant and a bar. Both drank too much, which caused Marianne to stumble; when Rhanko caught her, he became a little too intimate, Marianne's fears played up, and they parted in none too bright spirits.


But Rhanko nevertheless decided to ask Marianne for a second date; a boat trip on his old sailing ship. While he was talking to her on the phone, his tyrannical sister entered and began yelling at him that he should take care of his nephew instead of going out on dates all the time. * ouch * Nevertheless, he appeared at Marianne's place, and they go to the harbour. Walking along the quay, Marianne sympathises with Rhanko's problems with his sister, and tells about her own sister, who became pregnant when she was 17 and was kicked out of their parents' house. The older Marianne, who already had her own apartment, then took care of her younger sister; but later "wasn't there for me when I was going through difficult times". However, when Rhanko tries to put his arm on Marianne's shoulders, he feels her cringing, and he retracts his arm. At this moment, Rhanko's sister calls him on his mobile phone, and yells that she is driving down to the harbour to collect him. Marianne asks who it is, on the telephone, and Rhanko, distressed, reacts quite rudely. Marianne is put off by this reaction, walks to the seaside, and stands staring across the water for quite some time, with Rhanko helpless and ashamed some meters of. At last, she turns to him and says: "Let's go the boat."

On the water, they have more luck. After staring across the great expanse of water for at least half an hour, and telling Rhanko that the sea is indeed as beautiful as her beloved mountains, Marianne asks him in a fragile voice to 'put his arm on her shoulder'. 'Are you sure?', he asks, doubtfully, upon which she tells him that it is a big step for her, that she is a bit afraid, but that she would like him to do it. 'What am I to do with you? I don't understand you,' Rhanko muses. 'I don't want to explain it, not now. Please, would you hold me?' She means it. Gingerly, Rhanko holds her, and feels how she quietly sobs, until the sobbing stop and she looks at him with a big smile on her tear-stained face.

That is when the wind turns into a gale, and Marianne's inexperience on the boat causes her to fall into the water. Rhanko gets her out, but she is utterly soaked and all the dry clothes - carefully packed, of course, by Marianne - are still in the car. Rhanko takes of his coat, and tries to put in on Marianne's shoulders, but distracted and with the gale blowing erratically, he loses his balance and both fall, Rhanko on top of Marianne. 'Uhm, I, uh, the sea...' he begins, but then all he can think about is her, and he brings his lips to hers, and she opens her mouth, and there they lie, kissing, while the rain beats down upon them.

When they finally return to the land, Rhanko's sister, Marina, is there, waiting for him. But now it is time for Marianne to show some backbone, and she trades insults with Marina, easily winning. She walks with Rhanko to his car, leaving his sister on the quay. (Of course, Marina is a tragic figure too, not a cartoony bitch. She has lost her entire family in the war, and - so we might conclude, although it has not been explicitely narrated - is afraid of losing the only person who understands her to another woman.)


The third date is shorter, set outside a small Italian restaurant. Rhanko arrives late, as he is wont to. Before they have gotten around to ordering food or drinks, Marianne's ex-boyfriend Hans appears. Hans says: 'You slut! I told you never to date with another man! You'll always be mine.' At this point, stoic Rhanko feels a hot wave of emotion overcoming him, and he rises and confronts the guy. But Hans, who also turns out to be a xenophobe, hits Rhanko squarely in the face, and Rhanko goes out and down.

But this enrages Marianne, and for the first time ever, she finds the courage to speak up to her abusive ex-boyfriend. In no uncertain terms she tells him to fuck off, and as he leaves - intimidated? ashamed? merely apathic? - she screams: 'and if you were any good, you would look after the child you made in my sister!'

As Rhanko comes to, Marianne proposes to leave the country, to go to the mountains, far away from anyone who would stand between them. 'But, your job, I mean... yes, you are right, let's go. I want to be free together with you; for you have made me free.' 'And you have made me free.' She smiles, and tenderly touches him.

The end.


After which we had some discussion, and decided that they would stay together: both had found themselves, and that would allow them to build up a real relationship. Marianne and Marina would eventually learn to accept each other. Perhaps, we thought, perhaps even Marianne's sister might benefit from seeing a happy couple, and thus learning that not all men are dicks. Rhanko eventually tells Marianne all about the war, and how his whole family except for him and his sister were killed.


Thoughts

This game is brilliant. There are no two ways about it.

It is an ode on human vulnerability. The reroll-mechanics actually make a powerful point, and turn the experience of playing Breaking the Ice into one that is categorically different from playing any other RPG I know of. In this game, you do not overcome obstacles by strength. Instead, it is about people feeling their way towards mutual understanding and appreciation, and they have to have the courage to be vulnerable, to be ashamed, to be afraid, to make mistakes, or they will never find each other; and it is not so much in spite of, but rather because of their shame and fear and vulnerability that they find each other, if they do.

This is a new kind of story. More importantly, it is a new kind of spinning a story. And it makes the characters so human, so lovable, so real - Remko and I agreed that of all the characters we had ever played, no matter for how long a time, these were the ones we knew best. After eight hours of slow IRC play. Think about that.


Don't be fooled by the art in the book, and Emily's choice to make 'romantic comedy' the default genre. Of all the games I have played, Breaking the Ice is the most capable of generating truly human drama.
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Meguey
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Meguey


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« Reply #1 on: October 04, 2005, 03:33:32 PM »

Wow. That was really cool.
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Remko
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 76


« Reply #2 on: October 04, 2005, 10:57:26 PM »

I couldn't agree less with both Megrey and Victor. I will remember this game for a long time.

I really like the fact that you have to blunder to get another reroll. This really creates a lot of 'action' (e.g. the beating down of Rhanko, the falling down of Rhanko on Marianne at the boat).

It was astounding to see how we could actually discuss deeply about our characters, knowing them for a mere eight hours vias IRC.

Overall, a really satisfying experience and I'm certain that I will play a lot more of these dates.
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Remko van der Pluijm

Working on:
1. Soviet Soviet Politics, my November Ronnie
2. Sorcerer based on Mars Volta's concept album 'Deloused in the Comatorium'
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 10459


« Reply #3 on: October 05, 2005, 05:58:24 AM »

I couldn't agree less with both Megrey and Victor.
This statement seems to contradict the rest of the post. Did you mean to say that you couldn't agree more? Or is there some disagreement in the following text that I'm not seeing?

Mike
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Victor Gijsbers
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 390


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« Reply #4 on: October 05, 2005, 06:01:15 AM »

This statement seems to contradict the rest of the post. Did you mean to say that you couldn't agree more?
I think that is what Remko means, yes. (Always tricky, those double negations.)
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Remko
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 76


« Reply #5 on: October 05, 2005, 07:23:41 AM »

I couldn't agree less with both Megrey and Victor.
This statement seems to contradict the rest of the post. Did you mean to say that you couldn't agree more? Or is there some disagreement in the following text that I'm not seeing?

Mike

Euh.. nope... you're fully correct :). I meant to say that I couldn't agree more... At the time I wrote this, it was a bit early at my place :)
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Remko van der Pluijm

Working on:
1. Soviet Soviet Politics, my November Ronnie
2. Sorcerer based on Mars Volta's concept album 'Deloused in the Comatorium'
Emily Care
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Posts: 1126


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« Reply #6 on: October 06, 2005, 08:35:11 AM »

Can I just say that "longs for warmth" is my new favorite trait?

Hi Victor & Remko!  I'm glad that the mix of old & new rules didn't hold you back.  I'm impressed with the degree of seriousness you went for in your traits & conflicts: "is afraid physical intimacy leads to violence" and "doesn't talk about his war trauma."   Wow.

Remko, how did it feel to play Rhanko going through her transformation? And Victor, how was it to bring into play a trait that is about "not" doing something?

best to you,
Emily


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Koti ei ole koti ilman saunaa.

Black & Green Games
Victor Gijsbers
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 390


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« Reply #7 on: October 06, 2005, 08:54:38 AM »

Remko, how did it feel to play Rhanko going through her transformation? And Victor, how was it to bring into play a trait that is about "not" doing something?
You probably mean the following? (Either that, or I do not understand you. Thsi must be the thread with the highest misunderstanding/content rating on this forum ever. *smiles* )

Victor, how did it feel to play Marianne going through her transformation? And Remko, how was it to bring into play a trait that is about "not" doing something?
It felt natural. The system ensures that you keep bringing the conflict into play, and then, when the dice turn your way, it is natural to narrate this as somehow overcoming the conflict. In the case of an internal conflict, this takes the form of a transformation. And since you really want the character to change and be happy, going through this transformation feels great; it is a form of victory. I simply loved telling Hans to fuck off, thus winning Marianne's independence and opening the possibility of a new future.
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Emily Care
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Posts: 1126


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« Reply #8 on: October 06, 2005, 10:22:30 AM »

You're on the money, Victor. Your version is correct. Sorry!
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Koti ei ole koti ilman saunaa.

Black & Green Games
Remko
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 76


« Reply #9 on: October 06, 2005, 12:22:44 PM »

Dear Emily,

Playing a trait which is about 'not' doing something is a lot about strongly depending on the other player and bringing in a lot of suggestions and conflicts about this trait. Next to that, I reckon it was pretty fortunate for me that Victor took the conflict  'Being intimidated by Rhanko'. And if I'm not mistaking, Victor thought my war trauma was about a crime Rhanko committed instead being about what was done to Rhanko.

All together, the trait came in action pretty soon. When Victor suggested letting a woman in during the telephone call in the second date, it was a natural to bring in a problematic sister. And it was pretty much our combined thought that Rhanko's sister was a victim of the war and she had only Rhanko left.

So, it went pretty natural; no problems in that.
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Remko van der Pluijm

Working on:
1. Soviet Soviet Politics, my November Ronnie
2. Sorcerer based on Mars Volta's concept album 'Deloused in the Comatorium'
Emily Care
Member

Posts: 1126


WWW
« Reply #10 on: October 07, 2005, 12:35:03 PM »

I just found this thread about your game on the mandragon forum, Victor.  (Remko, babelfish translated something you wrote as saying breaking the ice is "appallingly good". I love that : )  Thanks for writing it up again here in English.  I would love to get the game translated someday. It seems like it would fit well into the scandic/finnish roll playing scenes. 

best,
Emily
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Koti ei ole koti ilman saunaa.

Black & Green Games
Remko
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 76


« Reply #11 on: October 07, 2005, 01:12:21 PM »

Remko, babelfish translated something you wrote as saying breaking the ice is "appallingly good". I love that : ) 

Heheh. I said "Een ontzettend verfrissend spel", which would be more litterally translated to:" An unbelievably refreshing game.

Reading something with so much emotions would be pretty difficult with only babelfish as translation method, I reckon. Probably for any translation :)
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Remko van der Pluijm

Working on:
1. Soviet Soviet Politics, my November Ronnie
2. Sorcerer based on Mars Volta's concept album 'Deloused in the Comatorium'
Victor Gijsbers
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 390


WWW
« Reply #12 on: October 07, 2005, 01:39:00 PM »

I would love to get the game translated someday. It seems like it would fit well into the scandic/finnish roll playing scenes.
Well, the Netherlands is hardly part of the Scandinavian scene, of course, but if there are ever plans for a Dutch translation, I'm probably available for help. I'm not a professinal translator, but my skills are none too bad either. However, I'd like to keep as far as possible from everything that has to do with publishing, marketing and sales, so I'd only do it as part of a bigger project. :)
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