Passionate Play #1: The Unwanted Pregnancy

Here’s an example from my recent Grey Ranks game that illustrates some of the ideas I’ve been discussing. For those of you unfamiliar with the game, Grey Ranks is about the failed Warsaw uprising during World War II and the child soldiers who fought in it. My character, Roman was a very religious 16 year old and had a hero worship of his similarly faithful sister. During setup I noted that Roman’s sister had been raped by the Nazis during the initial invasion of Poland. I made it clear that this had not shaken her faith and that’s why he idolized her.

Early on I setup a scene where her fiancé was threatening to leave her because he was equally as religious and saw her as “tainted.” I asked my friend Colin to play the fiancé for the duration of the scene (the game is GMless). After some setup banter I described my young character (this was a flashback scene) running into the room crying and begging his “brother” not to leave. And that’s what I set as the goal for the conflict, “I want them to stay together.” I rolled and won.

Then Colin did something I did not anticipate. He described the fiancé embracing my sister and telling her that he would stay for the sake of the family. He made it VERY clear that while I had succeeded in keeping them together I HAD not dissipated the fiancé’s bitter and angry feelings. Additionally he noted that the source of the fiancé’s bitterness was that my character’s sister was pregnant. None of this is what I wanted at all. In my mind I was trying to heal their relationship. But I got my goal and Colin spun it (within his rights by the rules) in an unanticipated and initially unwanted (by me) direction.

That move by Colin has totally redefined how my character’s relationship with his sister and her family progressed. It has even influenced my character’s romantic relationship with Ludwika (an NPC Grey Rank with a reputation as “the patriotic slut.”). Laura choose to declare Ludwika pregnant (not by my character) in order to parallel that with my character’s sister. And none of that would have happened had I pre-roll narrated the entire outcome I wanted beyond the initial knee-jerk intent of “I want them to stay together.” At each of those two points I was forced to completely re-evaluate where I wanted my character to go.

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