Frequently Asked Questions about Tabula Rasa

Q: What is "Live-Action Role-Playing"?

A: Tabula Rasa is a game of a class generally known as "Interactive Literature", or "IL" for short. While IL games vary enormously, there are a couple of points that are common to most such games:

For more information about IL in general, take a look at the Interactive Literature Foundation Home Page, which gives more information about the form in general, and about many different IL games.

Q: What is Tabula Rasa about?

A: The game takes place on Delta Station, an archaeological site jointly occupied by three different planets. Relations between the worlds are, to say the least, rather tense at the moment, and over the course of the weekend things are going to get worse before they have any chance of getting better. The politics are intentionally quite complex; we are attempting to make this situation a bit more realistic than most (despite the science-fiction setting). More details on the planets will be available in coming months, and players will get substantial background information in advance.

What exactly is going on? Well, that would spoil the surprise. Besides, truth is in the mind of the beholder...

Q: What's with this amnesia business?

A: The hook of the game. The game begins at a crucial moment, as all of the characters lose their memory. Unfortunately, the world outside doesn't stop -- events are unfolding rapidly, and Delta Station is in the middle of it all. The players have to reconstruct the circumstances, even while they're dealing with them. And yes, there is far more going on than meets the eye...

Q: It seems kind of difficult to role-play, if I don't have a character sheet.

A: That just makes the game a little more challenging for us to write. While you won't be given a character sheet per se, you will have a "personality sheet", and extensive bluesheets. Despite the name, you aren't really a blank slate -- all of your basic personality is intact, as are racial biases and the like. In fact, it promises to be an exceptionally pure role-playing experience, since you will be getting a description of who your character really is, deep down, rather than the usual laundry list of memories and contacts.

Also, there will be extensive information everywhere in the game, in the form of objects, notes, and suchlike. Your task is to use that information in order to function effectively.

All the GMs are hard-core role-players, who believe that the role-play itself is the best part of the gaming experience. We will be working quite hard to make this an exceptionally involving experience.

Q: So is my game goal to get my memory back?

A: In general, no. The amnesia is just one plot among many, and you aren't going to be able to devote all your time to solving it. While there may be some mechanisms to restore memory in the game, we make no promises that everyone (or even anyone) will succeed in doing so. Consider the memory loss a handicap, but only one aspect of the game.

Q: So how "scripted" is this game?

A: Not very. Some game events will be injected by the GMs, as parts of plots that are already in motion when the game opens. But most of the course of the game, and the ending, are entirely up to the players. Peace could break out all over, or the planets could end up at open war. Everyone could finish up a succesful meeting, or the station could be destroyed and take everyone with it. All of this is possible, and we're basically going to let it go where the players take it. So remember -- actions have consequences.

Q: How big is the game going to be?

A: We are planning for 60 players, and will cut it off after that; we don't want the game getting unmanageably large. So get your applications in early.

Q: Where is the game being held?

A: Tabula Rasa will be held at NotJustAnotherCon (NJAC) 13, on September 26-28, 1997. NJAC is an annual science-fiction convention run by SCUM, the SF club at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. The game will be played in the Campus Hotel, on site. All players in Tabula Rasa must be members of NJAC. For more information about NJAC, see the SCUM Homepage.

More details on the convention and hotel will be forthcoming as we work them out with the con. We hope to be able to arrange a slightly reduced price for the convention for members of TR who preregister for the con. Check back here periodically for updates.

Q: Exactly what is the relationship between this game, and the Tabula Rasa that ran in July 1996?

A: The first version of TR was a great hit, and quite a lot of fun to run, but there were many ideas that we weren't able to squeeze into it. Also, due to poor timing, it wound up conflicting with another large LARP (Paddlewheel), so many LARPers weren't able to make it to the first one. So, we decided that Tabula Rasa II would be in order.

However, by the nature of the game, surprise is very important; players start out knowing very little about what's going on. If we simply reran the first game, that would have problems: player "war stories" could give away critical plot elements. And, frankly, we like war stories, and don't want to suppress them -- we want to people to be able to tell about what happened in the game.

So, given the amount of metaknowledge out there, plus the number of ideas we had, plus a desire to let players play the game again, we decided to go for a rewrite instead of a rerun. The game sounds the same. The names of the planets are the same, as is the basic game concept of amnesia. But the closer you look at the game, the less it looks like the first version. The plots are all different; the secrets are all different; the politics are verydifferent. The result is a game where, the more you know about the first run, the more trouble you're likely to get into. That way, both players and GMs get to enjoy the game anew.

Q: Who are you?

A: We're Emerald City Productions, a group of live-action gamers who have been active in the form from the earliest IL games. We've run one other full-sized game: The Future of Oz, which ran at Arisia a few years back. This game was popular and well-received, and although it had a few mistakes, we think we've learned from them. Suffice it to say, this game is partly in reaction to The Future of Oz. We've done a sweet, happy game where the good guys (pretty much by definition) had to win. This time, we're writing an intense, paranoid role-playing experience, that deliberately avoids simple labels of "good" and "bad".

Version 1 of Tabula Rasa was written by the three core members of Emerald City: Alexx Kay, Charles Sumner, and Mark ("Justin") Waks. For version 2, Alexx will be dropping out of the game-writing duties, but Charles and Justin have it well in hand, and are using many ideas from Alexx.