Birth of a World: The Game of Origins

From my eventual novel-world, another potential idea to color up the culture.

“All right, how about why one can never find a pen of the appropriate thickness when one needs one?”

Some games in the World Without Yet a Name are games of chance; some of physical prowess—but then there is the Game of Origins, favored pastime of the academics and intellectuals. This Game is a game of myths, playable in pairs, but better played by at least five or six people and an impartial judge.

The rules are simple. Someone, usually the judge, chooses a fact about the world, and possibly a set of restrictions (“Use this set of generally recognized legendary figures, make up your own characters, use such-and-such a culture’s style…”). Then the participants either scatter for a little while to think or just start scrawling things down in front of them, and in the end there are stories. The writer of each Origin reads it, either the judge makes a decision or the others vote on it, and the best tale wins. People get points for poesy, for creativity, for plausibility—but also for delivery. Some games are long-running affairs spanning months at a time, and those creations are also judged by their presentation and the quality of their illuminations.

The Game of Origins has a long and rich history spanning generations and dating back to before the creation of illumination as an art form (at least, judging from the carpet pages on the earlier books). It has a rich and complex history: its invention alone is explained by no less than three hundred different stories, crediting everyone from early astrologers waiting for the sun to set to a mortal trying to find an arena in which she could best the god(s). Scholars have been known to debate which of the five most plausible origins is the actual one—sure, they could just ask someone who was involved in the proceedings, but mostly of the early Origins players have passed their allotted second lifespans, nobody’s sure how far back one would have to go to get a person who was actually there for the creation, and any account after the Second Tournament, in which the prompt was to give the origin of Origins, is expected to be somewhat skewed.

Depending on the context, reusing stories is legal unless declared otherwise. Some people insist that all stories be off-the-cuff, while others encourage and sometimes even require stories that have been with the player, if not in the player’s family, for generations, slowly improving and adapting as they go. Zohar’s Origin Tales (formerly Lakia’s Origin Tales until Lakia herself nearly ran out of second life judging the stories her assistants had brought back), a 36-volume compilation of some of the greatest Origins to come out of the game, devotes fully half its space to some of these stories, and many treatises have been written on the slow process by which the greats introduced new techniques and adapted their narratives to the times.

Now, to refine the game a little, and come up with the parts of society that wouldn’t necessarily play….


  1. Brickwall says:

    Hm. While my knowledge of the land you’re basing your world off is incredibly deplorable, this game seems very similar to the form of storytelling that is attributed to Medieval Europe. This makes me think that the game would have to have arisen from a much broader, undefined form of storytelling that was important in the culture at some time in the past. Since it sounds like nobles and scholars are the ones with access to the knowledge of ancestors, oral tradition was probably kept by the poor (and probably still is if literacy isn’t widespread). Whether the focus on creation stories came before or after the wealthy adopted and formalized the game is completely unclear from what you’ve said here or anywhere, but each says certain things about the culture. This would all probably mean that the game is most popular among whatever is closest to the ‘middle’ class, who were, at the time of the game’s creation, both willing to play peasant games and were also willing to make actual rules other than ‘whoever the other taverngoers feel like buying the most drinks wins’. I imagine as well that members of the lower class continue to have storytelling as part of their lives, and it may be among the repertoire of those who entertain and serve nobles. Only the members of the highest class would have little ability to play this game by pure dint of their position in society (as opposed to other factors that might limit one’s ability). This origin would probably make the formal form much stiffer, and there’d be a lack of grand gesticulation and boisterous embellishments (‘doing the voices’ and such).

    Or maybe the game was created by the gods, or maybe two rival kings of ancient history, or something. Then all the stuff I said above is completely invalid. But deciding on an origin, even if nobody knows it, will help you define and perfect this game’s place in your world.

  2. UZ says:

    Hm… much or little could be made of this.

    If this is the world where the Figurative becomes the Literal (which I seem to recall it is, but my fact-checking is necessarily poor here) then the constant creation of origin stories could have several effects:

    1) It could be that the origin stories (to be legal gamewise) have to end with the world as it is, a cute apologia for the status quo (or a “just so story, as they said in one of my classes). In this case only the past would be changed – I think. (Two different trajectories that lead to the same place at time t=n can still be different in the future. That’s a bit complicated.) This could also provide you with a sort of inverse QM-style account of the past as a branching-in structure, instead of the actual QM picture of the past as a branching-out structure. (Note that this will also sabotage the notion of a QM-style branching out future, making the entire notion of time very different.) Also, entropy would probably not be the same in such a universe as it is thought to be in ours.

    2) It could be that the origin stories can literally construct new current entities, a metaphysical insult to Ockham’s Razor, which (in such world) someone would probably actually be shaving with. Then the question becomes:

    2a) If the constructed entities have the same metaphysical status as everything else, the world could become a bit of a jumbled place. (See the Adventurers comic with the “Summon City Bus” spell.)

    2b) If the constructed entities have a lesser metaphysical status than the original, “real” things, then the notion of Truth would be almost inherently destructive.


  3. Ravyn says:

    Brick: I see it as an exercise in metaphysics in keeping with the overall culture, but yeah, will have to think about it. Hasn’t been bouncing about in my head that long.

    UZ: ….wow. Um. I didn’t think quite that far. How embarrassing.

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