Monday, February 17, 2014

The Mountain Monastery Murder Mystery

Christine de Pisan
My bet is that any gamemaster who has read Umberto Eco's Name of the Rose has considered running a scenario featuring a murder mystery in a monastery. Rachel Kronick, the author of the gritty medieval RPG, Blade & Crown, did just that this weekend at Con of the North. Her session was the high point of the con for me, so I thought I'd blog about her game before I proceed with accounts of the scenarios I ran (which will post to FATE SF starting on Wednesday).

Rachel chose to set the game in an all-female monastery: one dedicated to the Earth goddess on the island of Morensia (a land about the same size as Wisconsin) set in her world of Calteir. One interesting aspect of the Sisters of Faenwitha is that all the women in the order had been assigned a male gender at birth. Each member of the order seeks in her own way to complete a Great Work in service of the order and the Earth goddess, a Great Work which will result in the goddess conferring on them the gift of a complete physical transition to having a female body.

It's worth noting that Calteir is very low-magic world in which you cannot just ask the local sorcerer, witch, or mage to affect a permanent change in your gender. In that sense, life for trans folk has similarities to our world - a transition entails a process of discernment, as well as self-commitment and significant resources.

Now you don't ordinarily expect to see murders happening in a monastery dedicated to a peaceful Earth goddess, but by the session's end, there were two. It was the PCs job to investigate them. We were all members of the order (that is, we were all playing female trans characters ranging from a lowly cellarer to an archbishop), a delegation that had arrived after significant time on the road to be part of a convocation to determine the future political direction of the order.

The convention book had called-out this event as involving LGBT themes, so the players all knew to expect this to come up in the game. Except for Rachel, the GM, all the players were males. The players really immersed themselves in their roles and characters they were playing. (This was easy to do as Rachel had created brief but memorable bios for each of the characters.) I have no idea if any of the other guys at the table identifies as LGBT, but I can say as the gamer who for years was the only queer person at the gaming table that the GM and players worked together to create a space where everyone took the story seriously and had fun together.

The only disconcerting thing about the game was the very LOUD GM running a B5 game at the next table. Trying to solve a medieval murder mystery while hearing Londo imitations at a million decibels was a bit disconcerting, to say the least!

"The Mountain Monastery Mystery" was a VERY satisfying event, and once again showed off Rachel's eye for detail and preparation.