A blast from the past! One of the original self-referential self-mocking indie questions (hence the shitty “art” I put together for the hashtag). Was the sad index card meme from the Andy Kitkowski days of story dash games dot com? I honestly don’t remember.
My gut reaction to the question had been “none, not my jam” but that’s so not true. Thinking through the games where I have used index cards (as opposed to, say, a big relationship map, my preferred table presentation tool), though, I realized that a) it usually means I’m playing something freeform-y and b) that means mad bleed.
So many speculations! But it’s true: If I’m playing something without meaningful random inputs or manipulable economies or a system I can leverage, I go straight to the sad.
I played Ross Cowman’s Life on Mars at RinCon last year, which involves index cards for your character notes. You move around a token to represent various settings your astronaut is in during a trip to Mars, and then halfway you shift to Mars itself, and a whole new set of prompts. And sure enough, without any external prompting beyond a name, my mission captain was a mother slowly unraveling the further she got from her child. I worked my way into an emotional state very much like I started to feel stuck in NYC during Sandy, only extrapolated.
Similar thing happened with Montsegur 1244, although there’s no need for an index card because your character is already on a card. Absent any kind of “resolution system,” went straight to the sad again. And I could totally feel the wavefront of it happening once again in Rachel E.S. Walton’s Mars 244 game at Dreamation this year.
What’s going on?
This didn’t happen with Fall of Magic, which I feel like was more about fantastical journeys than emotional journeys (ie Life on Mars). So it’s not a 100% sure thing.
Hm…Durance, my characters are almost uniformly tragic. Sometimes bleedy. Less often because there’s a veneer of brutality that’s just not in me, and lets me distance myself from the character a bit.
Anyway, interesting phenomenon. I’ll think about it some more.
In the more trad space, I did index cards instead of an r-map for our run through The One Ring. Worked better because of all the travel and the mostly outward-focused situation. I’d do up little tent cards for every PC and NPC, along with cards that say INJURED and SCARED and MISERABLE, so I could slap those in front of a player. On the backs of the NPC tent cards I’ll add little GM notes. Nothing per se sad on any of them.
Richard Rogers made a good point that online play is probably going to bring the end of this technique. Pour one out for the sad index cards.