Impractical Applications (Two Subtexts)

This week, I talked about subtext in a scene, and how the amount by which it matters can affect what to do with it.

What gave me the idea were two parallel scenes I found myself involved in in my two games. In my primary game, we were wiki-running a situation in which Sky was pretending to be more powerful than he was—in conversation with someone who actually was what Sky was pretending to be, but passing for something weaker. In the secondary, Kiriko was chatting up another character who wasn’t trying to avoid talking about her connection to the primary group’s characters, but who wasn’t about to volunteer them without being prompted, either.

In both cases, at least part of the scene was about the subtext. Sky’s conversational partner knew far more than she should, and was making the group curious; meanwhile, she wanted to figure out what was going on with the group, and catch Sky out about his impersonation attempt. In Kiriko’s case, she was talking to Rukan for the first time; Rukan was high-profile enough that she figured most people either weren’t part of the system or would have been able to gather who and what she was, but didn’t want to actively start bandying about the fact that she had demonic connections and her father had been the source of a great deal of trouble.

So in the primary game, the situation rapidly turned into a circle-dance, with both Sky and his conversational partner asking incisive questions and avoiding giving each other answers. We realized this was going to be a problem pretty quickly, though, and dealt with it by having said conversational partner cut to the chase (it helps that a part was looking for an excuse to do so) and deliver an “It takes one to know one” riff. Rukan wasn’t being near so evasive; she didn’t say it straight out, just took for granted the stuff she wasn’t saying, so all it took was reading between the lines a little (the player figured it out a couple lines before the character did, let’s put it that way)–on the other hand, no amount of caution could make up for the fact that she herself was unaware of how close to the action Kiriko had been. Either way, the scene moved steadily forward, and there wasn’t any need to intervene directly.

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