Apprenticing to the Dead

December 18, 2008

If a new player wishes to apprentice to the dead, the dead storyteller takes that player aside. “Who are you, apprentice,” the storyteller says, “and where do you come from?” The apprentice is most probably a local from the place where the chronicle is being told, but could also be a traveler from somewhere else. “That will not do,” replies the storyteller, “because you are to play one of the dead and so you must ‘be’ dead. Take me, I am [the storyteller explains their own background as one of the dead, indicating that their identity may, in fact, be fictional].” Together, the apprentice and the storyteller construct an identity for the apprentice. If the apprentice already claims to be one of the dead, the storyteller may tell them that their origin “is not sufficiently convincing [again, implying that it may be a lie]” and help them “improve” it.

At the stage in play where apprentices are introduced, the dead storyteller says something like, “Masters, I would like to draw your attention to this youth to my left. While his appearance is very similar to the page who serves food in the local inn [or whatever the character did before], I would have you know that he is not actually of the living. Indeed, he is in fact [summarizes dead backstory of the apprentice].”

Afterwards, throughout play, it is customary for the other storytellers to remark, during lulls in the game, how the apprentice does not appear at all like one of the dead and, in fact, reminds them very much of [whoever the apprentice was before]. The apprentice, of course, must deny this strongly, insisting on being one of the dead and is defended in this by their master, though only after the apprentice has spoken for themselves.

Interestingly, this facade allows the dead to actually participate in reciting the chronicle, even though the dead and the living normally have nothing to do with each other. However, most storytellers of the dead tradition are not actually dead, but impostors from among the living who claim to be members of the dead, having either apprenticed to one of the dead or another impostor (and, most likely, they may not be quite sure which one their master was).

I also think that apprentices should have some role in actually reciting the chronicle, like cooperative play in a board or video game, to help them more quickly learn how to recite the chronicle and allow some interactivity.

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