I have found out two things this week.
One: There is no physical limit to sleeping in. That is to say there are no physical factors (hunger, restedness) that can compel me to wake up. I had always assumed that after eighteen or so hours my animated corpse would say to itself, "I daresay I fancy myself a touch of breakfast," and make the motions necessary to get me out from under the covers. I can now say categorically that this is not the case.
Two: There is some psychokinetic phenomenon, activated when you decide you don’t care whether a house is messy or not, that will turn your pad into a pigsty independent of your messy behaviour. I swear that I could take a trip to the local watering hole for a day of sun and inactivity, only to return to rooms full of overturned chairs and tablecloths dislocated at least ten feet.
That part about the overturned chairs actually happened.
Because I am stuck here in illustrious Burlington, I’ve been in a bit of a Magic drought. My enforced metaphorical (and literal) celibacy at GenCon did little to help. Now it seems that the only collectable card game I can play on a regular basis is Jyhad (manhandled into being called Vampire: The Eternal Struggle).
I made the transition from Magic to Jyhad with the unexpected naturalness of moving from principal antagonist in "Escape from the Planet of the Apes" to principal protagonist on "The Young and the Restless". A lot of things helped that along, not the least of which was a patient playgroup. The fact that it’s designed to be played multiplayer helped a lot as well. Since I was the new guy, I wasn’t a perceived (or actual) threat, and wasn’t offed too quickly.
There’s no need for me to plunge into the rules and methods of this game. The game itself isn’t that important. What IS important is the reminiscence of Magic experience I’d long forgotten. This could have been brought on by any game.
Okay, okay. NOT Boggle.
I realise I’ve been spending my time steeped in Nostalgia. I’m sure Reality is waiting just behind the next parked car to scare me silly and hoof me in the boys. Pardon me for not leaping to the opportunity.
My favorite thing about Jyhad is the air of ludicrousness that permeates the game. Part of this comes from the fact that it uses the same words to refer to things in two drastically different situations. For example, BLOOD refers not only to the vampire diet and source of strength but also to the power of the web of influence of a particular vampire. This discrepancy comes hilariously to the forefront when non-combat-themed cards meet up with combat themed cards, or when supernatural-themed cards are used in combination with more ordinary-seeming ones.
What this leads to is something that’s been absent from Magic (in my eyes at least) for quite a while: Storytelling.
I’m pretty sure that every player has done this at some point. I don’t mean breaking out the pencils and paper, suddenly going Grade Two on everyone. I just mean taking one step back from the bare mechanics of the game, and having a some fun at a game situation that may seem a little incongruous. In doing so, there is a fleshing out of the "story" that originally held all these cards together thematically, but has been lost because the game itself is so interesting.
The last time I remember hearing about storytelling in Magic was some writer describing the confrontation between two sets of token creatures, with one side being played by dinosaurs, and the other by baseball cards.
(YES, I know who this was. YES, it was remarkably well-written and funny. NO, you do not get a hyperlink.)
I’ve been doing a lot of the same thing. It’s just that in Jyhad, everything seems a little more ridiculous. For example, imagine Queen Anne calls a vote to tap all of one clan. When suddenly…
All: HECTOR SOSA!?!
Hector: Exactly right. My Italian-made Sport-Bike ensured that I would make it in time to stop your dastardly plot. There’ll be no democracy today, Your Majesty!
Queen: So it’s to be fisticuffs, then?
Hector: You’d best be ready for the BANG, ZOOM!
Queen: I should think that I’d escape into the Earth instead.
Hector: Curses! Foiled again!
It could be the combination of real-person sounding names and real-world type objects that make this seem so farcical. On another occasion…
Constanza Vinti: And now to put on my Leather Jacket.
?: NOT SO FAST!
Constanza: I know that voice! It’s Dre, Leader of the Cold Dawn!
Dre: The very same.
Constanza: So Traitor, how could you know I’d be putting on this jacket, here and now?
Dre: I read about it in The London Evening Star. I only pray I’m not too late.
Constanza: Pathetic man. I’ve seen through your scheme, and have planned appropriately. I have Rufina Soledad to Cloak the Gathering.
Rufina: I put up a tarp!
Constanza: Behind which I’ll now leave you.
Dre: Oh really? Let’s see what KRCG News Radio has to say about that!
KRCG: Reliable sources have it that Constanza Vinti will be donning a Leather Jacket behind what could be a cloth or tarp in the downtown area tonight.
Dre: Ha ha!!
Constanza: Well, if it’s a fight you’ll want, it’s a fight you’ll get.
Constanza: And now to move to long range to impale you with this Gate.
Dre: You’ve given me just the weapon I needed to defeat you in your Rolls Royce.
Constanza: That car is remarkably Well Aimed. OOF.
That kind of second-level-abstraction fun I haven’t had in a long while, and it’s by no means impossible in the game of Magic. It’s just that I enjoy the way the bits of the game work together to result in "victory" so much that I often won’t bother to take that figurative step backwards.
I don’t mean for this to sound like some half-tuned lament at the quality of the "storyline" that has infected the last two fistfuls of sets. Though I may agree that what narrative flows through the cards is deplorable, its quality has nothing to do with the quality of Storytelling that you add to your games.
Indeed, the best kind of this comes in direct contradiction to the intended fantasy of the cards. Best of all, it’s only held back by whatever YOU (that’s you) want it to be. I heartily recommend giving it a try. It’s good for a laugh, at least.
(Be warned, all the jokes about Twiddle have already been made. Please innovate.)
"I hate you all. I hate you all. Especially me."
— George Saden, in Zardoz.
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