On Objects

Ah, Thanksgiving weekend. We had some turkey. It was pretty great.

But we’re not here to talk about turkey, Turkey, or turn-keys. We want to chat about The Object, currently for sale over at DriveThruRPG. It’s an RPG of sorts that we’re actually asking money for, on the grounds that, well, money is delicious. What’s it about?

First of all, let it be noted that The Object isn’t a game, not properly speaking. We prefer to think of it as a Role Playing Thought Experiment, because all it is, is a codification of a game we’ve played many times before, and you may well have played as well: “Let’s pretend I’ve never seen this thing before and had to guess what it is.” Really, that’s it; to the extent that there is a mechanic that drives the action in The Object, the mechanic is this shared understanding that everyone at the table is looking at something they’ve never seen before.

Game or not, this is a great thought experiment to take part in. Quick, grab an object from your desk, the thing nearest your left hand! We grabbed a small jar of coins. Cool. Now we’re pretending that we’ve never seen anything like this before… this entails mentally shifting into a universe where coinage never existed, but that’s okay. Paper currency and bartering, that’s the world we live in. Join us in this universe as we pour our the jar and wonder what the heck these little metal disks are supposed to be:

“Ammunition.”

“What?”

“It’s ammunition. Obviously, this is some sort of… ah… it’s an ammo supply. Look I, uh, I can fling this one clear across the room.”

“These are for flinging at people?”

“What? No, think, man. If I put a little spin on them, they fly like gangbusters. Now put them in a proper, friggin’, a proper flechette launcher sort of thing, which puts even more spin on them, and they’ll fly ages.”

“I don’t buy it.”

“What’s not to buy? Watch!”

“… ow. And, I don’t think it’s ammunition. For one thing, why are there five different sizes?”

“Calibers, man. This one’s for short ranges, and, uh, those are for distance, and theses guys are the heavies.”

“All mixed together? Who ever heard of loose-packed ammo. Besides, look at the designs, it’s clearly some sort of writing…”

[Inherent in not knowing what this object is, of course, is not being able to read what’s on it. Carry on.]

“… and why would there be writing and designs on what are basically bullets? And the sidedness… why do they all have some sort of face on one side? No, not for bullets.”

“Well, ah, if not ammo, then what?”

“Are you familiar with the I Ching? It’s a form of divination, traditionally using yarrow stalks to obtain a pseudo-random binary output.”

“… oh?”

“Yes! But these, these would be equally effective, but ever-so much more convenient. Which, I think, would be necessary, given how many there are. I wonder… I wonder if the different sizes are another axis of information in this divination… perhaps these little brown ones represent particularly important bigrams?”

… and so on in this fashion, so long as we don’t accidentally stumble across the true meaning of the coins (a set of gauges to determine finger-thickness). You could do the same thing with whatever you grabbed, and it would be just as interesting. So much of society, of civilization, is determined by familiarity and contextual awareness, that spending a few minutes purposefully eschewing is liberating. And neat.

That’s all The Object is, really. That and some window dressing… an explaination of the mystery of the object and the call to action, to figure out what to do with it, and three decks of cards which will create roles for you to play (generating some conflict and suggesting some attitudes), help you describe the discovery of the object (giving you all a little shared background to draw from) and a repercussions of your choice (giving the whole affair an interesting outro). There’s a lovely PDF preview that gives it all to you. No, really, the entire document is there for the perusal, the only thing you gain by purchasing is the ability to print things out and not have the words “Sample File” cluttering up every page.

Well, that and our gratitude, of course.

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