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One of the mechanics of Sleepaway that any player can use is to invite the Lindworm to act upon the group. This is usually done by an unknown player in a manner reminiscent of social-deduction games - everyone closes their eyes, the player who is secretly chosen to act for the Lindworm plays a poker card somewhere on the play surface, a knock is heard on the table, and everyone opens their eyes and tries to interpret what the Lindworm did, based on a lookup table of card events.

However, I'm worried about teaching the game and effectively abandoning a new player to act for the Lindworm without help or guidance. The Lindworm doesn't act at random - it's the player's choice of a draw of 3 from the deck, but that choice is supposed to take the demands of the plot and the cruel tendencies of the Lindworm into account. There's a "tips" section on page 73 that gives more details, talking equally about what suits of cards the Lindworm will play and what actions the Lindworm will take in what order.

Specifically, there are two things I've noticed before, about introducing a new game to people, that are combining into a stereo mega-thing.

  • When I've introduced people to other GMless games like Fiasco or Microscope, where there's no one central authority on the plot, I've seen them freeze up. Faced with the fairly open surface of freeform play, people can often be unsure what to do next. When we're all actually playing with eyes open this is easy enough to notice and address, but while we wait for the Lindworm to act we put human social interaction on pause until there's a knock on the table.
  • When I've introduced people to games with secret rules - admittedly these aren't usually RPGs but instead board games. Betrayal at the House on the Hill is a big one. When somebody has to act by secret rules for the game to work - and they don't, and the game doesn't work - I've seen the sour feelings that creates.

Acting for the Lindworm is the most "traditionally GM"-like part of Sleepaway, imposing an adverse scenario unilaterally for everyone to react to. So: I sit down to learn a game, and the person who's teaching the game tells me I'm the GM now and walks away. I think I've had that nightmare.

Ultimately the player who acts for the Lindworm still needs to decide where to place the card, but I thought I might be able to provide some guidance about which card to play, rather than leave them juggling three card lookups with the Lindworm's tendencies on top of deciding where to place the card.

I'd appreciate feedback from people who've played the game, whether they acted for the Lindworm or just heard from someone who did in the aftermath. Is something like this generally consistent with the Lindworm's priorities?

The Lindworm always acts as it will.

But when in doubt, play the lowest card you can (2 < A) from:

  • the suit that matches the current act ( ♦ / ♣ / ♠ ), or if there are none,

  • the suits in this order of preference: ♠ > ♣ > ♦ > ♥

Or am I worrying too much about something that ends up not being a concern for the player who acts for the Lindworm?

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Part of the horror in the game - and part of the reason Sleepaway works at all - is that players are responsible for the horror outcomes of the game by proxy. Someone invites the Lindworm to act, a deliberate step a player at the table takes to introduce horror, but the Lindworm, not the player, is most directly responsible for the outcome of that decision. Someone makes a deliberate choice as the Lindworm - but the outcome is ultimately "decided" by the game's outcome tables. It's a way to feel directly connected to the horror and advance the game's story, because the horror acts through the player, while at the same time not making that player personally responsible for an outcome that substantially darkens the table.

Giving the player responsible for the Lindworm an algorithm by which to "pick" a card absolves them of the feeling of choice associated with making a decision about Lindworm. The free agency offered by the deck to choose the darkness of a given outcome is a critical part of the player's (and the table's) connection with the horror of the setting.

While there are certainly other ways of reading and playing Sleepaway, this particular way of looking at it is pertinent because it answers your question.

On the one hand, this undercuts the design of the game, by disconnecting the player from the consequences of the Lindworm. If your goal is to maintain the fidelity of the game, I would not recommend providing this algorithm to your fellow player. Instead, I would encourage them to pick what feels right, and attempt to build an environment where they can feel safe on an interpersonal level making whatever choice feels most appropriate to them.

On the other hand, it can make the game safer for that player if the feeling of agency-over-horror is something they're struggling with. Player safety comes first, and fidelity to the game is far from the priority. An algorithm to fall back on can give the player more room to breathe and enjoy the game.

I can't tell you which choice befits your table, but I hope this provides context as to why this decision doesn't have as neutral an impact on the game as it may seem.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for this answer - it's made me realize what a terrible job I did detailing my actual problem. Revised. \$\endgroup\$
    – Glazius
    Commented Aug 20, 2021 at 16:53
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My advice from playing Sleepaway (or any Belonging Outside Belonging game) is to: Worry less, feel more

In that, instead of introducing too many rules, equations, and tables to the game, let the player, however, novice they may be, do what they feel is right for the story at hand.

Let the player acting as the Lindworm pour their thoughts into the cards drawn, and let the other players speculate and fear what it might mean. At the best of times, the players themselves might even provide the fuel to their own fire by guessing what might be going on, thereby manifesting that fear into the game later.

It's a noble thing to not want a new player to be stranded with a heavy decision, but the core gameplay should still be dedicated to keeping a solid flow in the story and have as few rule-technical hindrances as possible.

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