For Judd

February 27, 2009

I imagine it as really black Cthulhu horror meets Brotherhood of the Wolf in English-occupied medieval France, at the court of the Black Prince in Bordeaux, Aquitaine.

In my mind, the board for the game looks like a tree. Not just any tree, either, but the Tree of Knowledge, the tree that brought us all these troubles and joys.

The player(s) representing the mortal forces (Edward the Black Prince, John of Gaunt, Princess Joan of Kent, Pedro the Cruel of Castile, James IV of Majorca) begin with their pieces (chess pieces, I think) amidst the roots of the tree, on a space that represents their most personal inner selves, their souls.

The player(s) representing the Great Evil (all manner of supernatural bad stuff) begin with their pieces at the top of the tree, on a space representing the throne of this evil, its source and wellspring.

Mortal pieces proceed up the tree, towards the branches, while evil forces proceed down it, towards the roots. Each movement or set of movements represents a scene, with different choices being offered as the pieces proceed along branches or roots and encounter forks. Effectively, you “unlock” different scenes by working your way to them across the proceeding forks that lead to them.

Pieces can also come into conflict with each other when they meet on the tree, with either the mortal or evil forces triumphing. Mortal triumphs destroy or drive back the evil, while evil victories consume the mortals and add those souls to their foul ranks.

As in chess, if pawns can cross the entire board and reach the other side, crazy things happen. Either the darkness has penetrated all the way into the mortal’s souls or the mortals have arrived at the wellspring of the Great Evil and can possibly put an end to it, once and for all. At this point, a final confrontation occurs (an endgame). Otherwise play continues until one side or the other is wiped out or forfeits, after which there is concluding narration.

My sense is that progression along roots and branches uncovers new information about either the mortals or the Great Evil. For example, perhaps there is a branch labeled “The Brood,” and proceeding along that branch means that the Great Evil has birthed dozens of demonic creatures, while proceeding along another branch reveals that the Great Evil secretly has a mortal origin. In this manner, playing the game multiple times would render very different results, since the different moves made would lead to a different Great Evil and different kinds of characterization for the mortal characters.

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