So I received a test copy of Emma Larkins’ game Confabula Rasa today. From her page, it is an ” a cooperative word construction and storytelling game” where players take the role of kids who found scraps of paper in a creepy house in the woods. The way you win is that you have to figure out the story on the paper or the ghosts will get ya.
Now, I can’t give a review of the actual game, as it is a minimum of two players and I’m missing one. When we spoke earlier she also wanted to know if it’d also work as an idea-generating/solo storytelling tool. I kept that in mind when she asked if I would test the game.
Picking Apart The Scraps – First Try
I’m working on a personal poem side-project I’m keeping under wraps for now. I’m working on it at a strict rule of three and three lines per day. I wanted to see what the card “scraps” could do in generating ideas for lines. For the sake of my sanity and simplicity, I tossed the rulebook aside (sorry Emma!) and kept it to five cards:
I’d written one line earlier after noticing something from the design of tiled walls:
unique is a blue diamond –
and worked from there. The first word that came to me was the first I saw staring at me – sed, or thirst in Spanish. I jotted it down and went on my way as I scanned for what else came from this tangle of mangled letters.
This is where I made my first break using Confabula Rasa in Idea Mode. I found the word “crack”, which became pivotal to the line. From there I found other words – “dives”, “disarm”, “match”, “altar”, and “bed” -which eventually became the three lines I needed:
unique is a blue diamond –
cracked tiles forming entry
to an altar that matches a bed
Picking Apart The Scraps – Second Try
I used the Confabula Rasa rules this time to work on on a complete six-line poem this time around. I set up the deck as the rulebook said and dealt card. I started with the first word I formed, “one”, and went on from there. out came a logorrhea mess.
I was stumped for a while, so I actually had to use one of the mechanics of the game, the Power Card and played it so I could discard the card in my hand so I could play another. I found the product more creative but slightly rough and in need of an edit, so I won’t post it. It was interesting that I had to resort to the Power Card in order to keep going.
Confabula Rasa as a creative engine shows these peculiar signs of promise if you aren’t inclined to play, or just don’t have a buddy on deck and feel like making a game of your own. Work along the rules still produces a playing experience of its own, and there’s enough there to make homebrew stuff.
I wish I could check out the entirety of Emma’s design right now, but from what I could do with it, I would recommend it as a novel way of thinking up new ideas. Writers looking for more unorthodox writing prompts can really cook up something with the scraps hidden in Emma’s cards.
I found an old tarot card deck that I might mix with this and make a Confabula Tarot mashup and see what I can do with it. But I do recommend this for an atmospheric experience with friends and family.