Wednesday, November 21, 2007

My Brush with Talecraft

Dateline UP Bahay ng Alumni Building, 17 November 2007

How do you know a narrative is a Dex El narrative? Watch for these elements: a woman, an accident, feelings of deja vu or irony.

I wasn't supposed to be there-- It was a freak accident--
those have gotta be the Dex El quotes of the century. Remember, I'm the guy who's always looking left when he should have been looking right.

The Woman
Nevertheless, there I was, when a handsome woman waved at me and handed me and my friend Carlo a couple of flyers. That's when I found out about the game.

If it looks like perfume, mayhap you can blame the game designer. But I guarantee it's not anything you can spray on your body. Not unless you like the scent and feel of crushed cards. Talecraft is a card game, and a storytelling aid.

Some cards dictate the genre of your story. Other cards dictate the character archetypes you have to work with. The rest are key elements and plot points to help move the story along. because the cards are shuffled prior to the start of the game, you have little idea of what kind of story elements, genres, and characters you have to work with. You have very little idea of what kind of story you'll tell until you've looked at all the cards in your hand. That's when the groaning and the excitement and the cries of "what the--!?" begin.

The flyer offered a chance to win a DV cam if you managed to tell a story that would wow the mystery judges in the final round of the card-playing story-telling contest. My love life was in shambles and I wasn't earning anything while I was stuck working on my current project -- what did I have to lose? And I wanted that DV cam.

The Feeling of Deja Vu

When they started dealing out the cards (1 for genre, 2 for characters, 6 for other story elements) I started to get the creepy feeling that someone somewhere was reading my tarot. The way the cards kept being dealt, I could swear someone was showing me my own life story . Happily I also got cards that allowed me to jettison unsavory cards for cards of the same type.


Stories of romance and gothic horror partly based on my cockeyed interpretation of the universe brought me to the finals-- considering how I blunder into everything, I wasn't surprised that I kept getting more or less the same cards.

But what made my day in the long run was that the story I used for the win was in no way autobiographical, nor depressing and dripping with loss and undeserved sacrifice.

It was a fantasy adventure piece that starred Cain and his two sons Seth (the Evil Genius Albino) and Bob (the Loveable Rogue).

No pining for idealized women, no absurdist sisyphean striving against a God and Devil who love watching sitcoms starring you. No cosmic jokes or accidents involving Eros messing with your life and your friends indirectly causing self-imposed exile and hours upon hours of crying prostrate on floors of holy places.

It was just a story told for the fun of it, told somewhat half-assed because of the constraints of time and Carlo J. Caparas's promotional soundtracks being broadcast over the public address system.

I didn't finish the story, but I won. I couldn't believe it until after guest judges Marco Dimaano, Carl Vergara and Elbert Or announced the decision. I still couldn't quite believe it until the people at the Talecraft booth handed me the DV cam and my free deck.

For the first time in months I was pleasantly surprised. For the first time since August, I was truly truly happy.

It felt like coming home.

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