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  • Writer's pictureleodoulton

Power And Play In Come Bargain With Uncanny Things

Updated: Aug 7, 2023

I’ve always had a slightly over-strong instinct of people ‘playing wrong’. Generally, I find myself liking play that lies comfortably in a consistent tone, prioritising an aesthetic over direct ‘fun’.

I appreciate that’s not for everyone. But to give an example: while I play Dungeons & Dragons, I find I often struggle if my group wildly decides to do something that is fun for us as players, but disrupts the tone or style of the world of the characters.

Depends on the right group, of course.

In Come Bargain With Uncanny Things, I’ve made lore that’s not directly visible. It might be unearthed or hinted at, but it’s not designed to be the focus of the show unless someone decides they want it to be.

I hadn’t really expected - unwisely, given my own experience and enjoyment in shows that do encourage such things - how much some people would come in seeking to a) uncover all the ‘Easter eggs’ they could and b) try to ‘win’.

I might need to refine that if Come Bargain ever returns. Because it’s right that people find that fun; it’s a nice form of play that’s in keeping with a currently common form of media analysis.

But it’s not right for the heart of Come Bargain. Striving for forbidden knowledge means not trying to aid a community that might need help.

And my over-strong sense of ‘playing wrong’ might not be great in some contexts, but does help me when trying to feel a sense of a show’s heart.

My ideal audiences have been those where I’ve seen them strive first to work together in small ways (such as by making offerings together), and then strive for small things together, but find them substantial (such as trying to find a tidy way to help two young people talk to one another at the unhappy end of their relationship).

I’m not trying to make a world of individual power gaming, much though I see the delightful fun. Why? Because that kind of fun is fundamentally easy - it’s the default narrative of mastery, victory, and delight in such things.

While it might be exciting, it does so by creating a distraction from the heart of the show that’s much easier to fall into, while the underlying goal requires quiet, gentle work in another direction.

It’s already quite hard to steer people to the undeniable beauty of trying to care and help together; by sliding into the well-established groove of mastery gaming, I fear we might lose sight of quite a gentle tone in the pursuit of the heady delights of victory.

In my head, I’d describe it as an often-‘loud’ style of play, while I’d like a quiet fun.

I do sincerely think that the quiet fun is also a kind of fun, as well as beauty. But it’s the fun of craft, rather than delight.

By striving towards that we cannot win, we might find higher bonds.

It requires a style and effort by the team to guide people towards that.

I suspect that, if I revise Come Bargain, I might make the cost of diving into the lore in terms of time not spent aiding others, and the price of finding secrets, slightly higher. It’s still a nice option to have, but I’d like it to not become the default option, allowing a nice, vibrant evening dancing away from the substance.

For I’d much rather I find each night that beauty of quiet, uneventful, and significant lives being touched by trying to strike the right balance between help, hope, and unfortunate mortal loss.

By building imagined communities in my world, we might find an actual community in thine.

A person in a beige coat stands and talks to some seated people at a table filled with papers.
The Wyrd Gazers' room, where much of the lore diving happens.


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