Strange, Part 5

Temple of the Sacred Harlot
 (A Roleplaying Game for Consenting Adults)
Written and designed by
Virginia Dare

 (with a polite curtsy of appreciation to Annie Rush and Meguey Baker)

 

Each player takes the role of two characters: a Priestess of the Goddess and a hero who has come to win the favor of the Acolytes of the Temple.

The Priestesses have a Game. Stories told, Challenges made, Champions chosen, the defeated shamed.

You will play this game. And when the game is won, a new Priestess of the White Mask will be chosen and she will have her Champion. But so will the Priestess of the Red Mask, and as her Will demands, she will have a Champion, so is the Law.
 
Set-Up
You will need at least four players for this game, although six is good. Eight is better. Ten is best.

A number of 10-sided dice are needed, although any will do. At least ten per player. This is the Well of White Roses. Set all of them in a pool in the center of the room. They need not be white, but the Priestess of the White Mask will be displeased if they are not.

Red ten-sided dice are also needed. This is the Well of Red Roses. Many are needed although five per player will do. They need not be red, but the Priestess of the Red Mask will be displeased if they are not.

Each player needs two sheets. A Lover sheet and a Priestess sheet.

Pencils.

Wine, cheese, crackers and oysters are encouraged.

Characters
Each player takes the role of both a Lover and a Priestess. The Priestess sheet is nearly blank, needed only for notes. But your Priestess needs a name. Write her name at the top of the sheet. Remember this: she is a Priestess of Beauty, Love, Desire and Passion. Choose wisely.

The Lover sheet requires work to fill the empty spaces. Each Lover has Virtues, Inconsistencies and Beauties.

Virtues are those things the High Priestess of the White Mask looks for in a lover. She seeks those who are Honest, Faithful, Courageous, Forgiving and Temperate. Because the Moon is low, and the Priestess sits in the light of the Moon, these are Virtues.

  • An Honest Lover always tells the truth, regardless of the consequences.
  • A Faithful Lover stays true to the one he loves the most.
  • A Courageous Lover faces danger without a moment of doubt.
  • A Forgiving Lover does not allow his temper to overcome his sympathy.
  • A Temperate Lover keeps his appetites in check.

 
Inconsistencies are those things the High Priestess of the Red Mask looks for in a lover. She seeks those who are Cunning, Lustful, Crafty, Vengeful and Indulgent. If the Moon was high, and the Priestess sat in the light of the Moon, these would be Virtues, but that is not the way of the world.

  • A Cunning Lover uses subterfuge to avoid the consequences of the truth.
  • A Lustful Lover is not hindered by jealousy, partaking of many lover’s pleasures.
  • A Crafty Lover uses his intellect to defeat his opponents.
  • A Vengeful Lover does not allow sympathy to stand in the way of his honor.
  • An Indulgent Lover has the endurance to withstand multiple feasts.

Beauties are the things that make the eyes pause, for the eyes are the scouts of the heart, and they seek to bring to the heart that which it desires the most. These are Eyes, Beard, Arms, Hair, Smile and Voice.

To create her Lover, a Priestess must choose:

•    2 Virtues
•    2 Inconsistencies, and
•    2 Beauties

She must also give her lover a Name. This should be inspired by her Lover’s Virtues, Inconsistencies, and Beauties.

She does all of this in secret. No other can know.

Finally, using a small piece of paper or an index card, she writes her own name. She folds the Lover sheet around the small piece of paper and seals it tight.

When all writing is done, put all the Lovers in the center of the table and redistribute them randomly to the Priestesses. In all likelihood, you will not receive the Lover you created. You will most likely receive the Lover another Priestess created.

Open the sheet, read the Lover within, and read the Priestess’s name written on the small piece of paper. This Lover is that Priestess’s Favorite. The Priestess has chosen you. The one she hopes will win the White Rose.

Likewise, another Priestess has chosen your Lover and is to play your Favorite. Find the Lover with the proper Pseudonym. That is your Favorite.
 

Example
I have two sheets of paper. One for my Priestess and the other for my Lover.

The Priestess sheet is easy to finish. I write her name, “Ythaday” at the top of the sheet.

For the lover, I must choose two Virtues, two Inconsistencies and two Beauties. I choose the following:

Honest
√ Faithful
√ Courageous
Forgiving
Temperate

Now, I must choose two Inconsistencies. I choose the following:

Cunning
√ Lustful
√ Crafty
Vengeful
Indulgent

Finally, I must choose two Beauties. I choose the following:

Eyes
√ Beard
Arms
√ Hair
Smile
Voice

Now that I have chosen these things, I also write my Priestess’s name on an index card and fold the Lover sheet around it. I put it in the middle of the table, as do the other Priestesses with the Lovers they have created. Remember, all of our Lovers are made in secret. Then, we mix up the Lovers and choose one.

I get a random Lover created by another Priestess. Her name is written on a card, folded within the Lover sheet. This Lover is my character. The Priestess’s name indicates which Priestess has chosen me as her Favorite.

Likewise, I look around the table and find the Priestess who has chosen my Favorite. I find his Name. I will ensure he will be the one to win the White Rose, for that is my Will, and so is the Law.

All players should now have:

•    1 Priestess sheet with the Priestess’s name at the top
•    1 Lover sheet with 2 Virtues, 2 Inconsistencies, 2 Beauties and a small piece of paper with a Priestess’s name written in secret.

Play may now begin.

The Game
One by one, each Priestess begins recounting a romantic tale involving as many of the Lovers as she chooses. A tale of heroism, of tragedy, of danger and escape, of breathtaking violence… of quiet and soft caresses.

She may involve as many of the Lovers as she likes, but she may not name them. She must only use pseudonyms. After all, a woman of discretion does not reveal secrets so plainly and openly. Or so easily.

When she speaks of the Lovers, she must only speak of their pseudonyms that she has devised and of their Virtues and Inconsistencies. Of these, she must invoke them in the tale. In other words, they must move the story forward.

When she invokes a Virtue, all Lovers with that Virtue may draw a die from the white pool.  When she invokes an Inconsistency, all Lovers with that Inconsistency must draw a die from the red pool.

Example

I speak a tale of a Lover who sought to kill a dragon for the beast had captured his true love. As I tell of the smoke and the heat and the pain wracking his bones as he climbs down into the dragon’s lair, I invoke his Courage for overcoming his fear.

When I say “Courage,” all the Lovers with that Virtue may draw a white rose from the Well.

Later, when he encounters the dragon, I tell of how the beast has taken the form of a beautiful woman with wanton eyes and a hungry smile. I speak of the Lustfullness in his heart as he grabs the dragon, brings her into his arms, and feeds those hungry lips with a kiss.

When I say “Lustful,” all the Lovers with that Virtue must draw a red rose from the Well.

The Challenge
The Priestess of the Red Mask is not in favor. The light of the Moon shines elsewhere. Shining light on her Virtues should draw anger and a Lover may challenge the Priestess who does so. Bloodshed in the Temple of the Sacred Harlot. She would have it no other way.

If your Lover has more red Roses than any other, you may Challenge the Priestess who forced you to draw from the Well. You must say, “Lady, I think you charge me with wicked words,” or some other well-fashioned charge. He must make plain which Inconsistency she invoked, for it will have consequences.

At this point, the Priestess may either recant or insist. If she recants the words she spoke, she must say so in some manner of eloquence and apology. In this case, any Lover may put the Red Roses they just drew back into the Well. Any Lover may, if he wishes, keep his red rose, or he may return only one or just two. He may do as his Will pleases, as is the Law.

If a Priestess insists, with the strongest possible sincerity, the Challenge is then met.

The challenged Priestess may now choose a Champion. She may choose any Lover to be her Champion—any Lover but the one who Challenged her honor, of course. Any Lover may also make the offer to do so.

If a Priestess chooses a Champion and he declines, he must put a white rose back into the Well. No Lover would ever deny the opportunity to defend a Priestess’s honor.

Once the Champion has been chosen, both Lovers secretly choose a number of their own Roses. Then, at once, they reveal their Roses and roll dice. They may roll a number of dice up to the White Roses they have gathered so far. They do not have to roll any or even all. They choose secretly and reveal at once. Then, they roll.

The highest roll wins.

If the Champion wins, the Priestess’s claim was true and the defeated Lover must accept the price of challenging an Acolyte of the Goddess. He gives up all the Roses he used for the Challenge. They are placed back in the Well.

If the Challenger wins, the Priestess’s claims were false and the defeated Lover must accept the price of championing a woman both false and inconsistent. He gives up all the Roses he used for the Challenge. They are placed back in the Well.

If a Lover does not have five white Roses, he cannot make a Challenge.

Example

After referring to the anonymous Lover’s Lustfulness, one of the Lovers challenges the truth of my tale. I must now find a Champion.

A few Lovers make an offer. I look them over. I choose one who did not make the offer. If he refuses, he must put one white Rose back into the Well. He refuses and does so. I remember his voice and the eyes beneath his mask.

After rejection, I choose another Lover. He accepts.

Both my Champion and the Challenger secretly choose a number of white Roses to use in the Challenge. Then, at once, the Lovers reveal their Roses. Dice are rolled. One of them rolls higher than the other. In this case, it is my Champion.

Because my Champion won, the one who Challenged my tale must put five white Roses back in the Well.

Had my Champion lost the Challenge, he would have to put five Roses back into the Well.

Discovering Secrets
Once, and only once, a Lover may guess the identity of a Priestess’s Favorite. Once and only once.

If he is correct, the Lover may draw five White Roses from the Well. Or, five Red Roses, as is his Will, for that is the Law.

A Lover only gets one guess. Not one guess per Priestess. Just one guess.
Once All the Stories Have Been Told…
… the Lovers count up their Roses.

They subtract one White Rose for every Red Rose. But do not cast away the Red Roses so quickly…

Now, who has the most White Roses? For him, he is Most Favored. The True Lover. And he may choose who shall be the next Priestess of the White Mask. If there is a tie, they will roll dice and the highest roll wins.

Example

When all the stories are told, all the Lovers count their white Roses. Then, each Lover subtracts one white Rose for every red Rose he has. The Lover with the most white Roses is the winner.

Winning the Red Rose
When the Lover of the White Rose has been chosen, look at the Red Roses gathered. The Lover with the most Red Roses has won the favor of the Priestess of the Red Mask, and all that she Wills shall be done unto him, for that is the Law.

The Light of the Moon
Finally, both the Lover of the White Mask and the Lover of the Red Mask roll their respective dice.

If the Lover of the White Mask rolls higher, the Light of the Moon remains on his Priestess and the Virtues and Inconsistencies remain unchanged.

If the Lover of the Red Mask rolls higher, the Light of the Moon has shifted to his Priestess and the Virtues and Inconsistencies have changed.

And the Game begins again…

___

About the Author

Virginia Dare was born August 18, 1587 in the newly-founded settlement of Roanoake. She disappeared with the colony, leaving only the word “Croatoan” carved into a nearby tree.

She plans a sequel to this game. The Book of Whispered Psalms.


Strange, Part 4

There are many lies in the world, and so few hold any truth.

This lie is true.

For it is true there was a time when our world was newly born and the sun was red and rain was black and the Moon shone with a golden darkness.

And it is true that humanity fell from Paradise, but not the Paradise of any God we know.

Wary and wise are those who keep their minds ignorant of these truths, for those few who learn of how the world was, they pine for it like the kiss of a ghost lover.

Nights of golden moonlight.

And storms of black rain.

—The Book of Whispered Psalms


Look there. Listen. Watch and wait.

Soon, seven horsemen will crest the hill, riding as if the doom of the world was on their heels, smelling the sweat on their backs.

See there? Hear them?

Hear the horses’ breath as they make heat of the cold night air. Black horses with eyes like the sun. One of them holds a banner as they ride, bearing the crest of a blue dragon on a field of silver.

For three nights they have ridden through the furious downfall under that azure banner: the banner of a noble lord from the south whose borders lie too close to another, like a quail’s nest that lies close to an adder’s den.

They ride for the Temple of Many Rooms, the Temple of Secrets, the Temple of Whispers. The Temple where prayers are gasped through sweaty lips. The Temple of Sacred Taboos.

The Temple where two High Priestesses sit and wait for champions worthy of their caresses. One kind, the other, cruel.

All the Priestesses of Talia wear masks, but only two are permitted to wear masks of white and masks of red. The High Priestesses, bathed in the Moon’s Light and the Moon’s Shadow. For the Goddess has two faces and She never shows them both.

One face is silken and white as milk. Honey sweet and hearth. Her breath in your ear, promises that draw tears. The Priestess with white roses.

The other is red as the beating of the heart. Teeth and pain. Her breath in your ear, promises that draw tears. The Priestess with red roses.

Many hours now into the night and before them is the Soul Tree of Cynwych Dyn, the place where four kingdoms meet men call Four Roads Crossing. As twisted as the souls buried there, the Soul Tree looms over the road, its fingers falling just low enough to scrape at the earth when the winds are strong, as if trying to dig up what is buried there.

The winds are very strong tonight, and the branches scramble with mad abandon, leaving deep scars in the soft earth.

Seven riders stop there, and on the other side of the Soul Tree, the Temple.

And a woman in a mask waits for them at the gate. Ready to take them to the baths, to scent their skin, to comb their hair.

Ready to take them to the Great Hall where the Priestesses will choose their favorites.

Seven stories. Stories of courage and conviction. Stories of cowardice. Men are such inconstant fools.

Fires. Smoked meat and spiced wine.

Ready to hear their stories.

Ready to play the Goddess’s Game.

Strange, Part 3

I have a Mac Mini. It makes an adorable little sound when you feed it CDs. I can translate Mac to English.

“Feed me more CDs,” it says to me. (Stolen from Tom Waits.)

The CD she gave me goes into the Mac Mini. I’m half-expecting the thing to explode. It whirs. It says hello to the mysterious CD. Then, in my menu, my Mac Mini tells me I can read it.

There’s a .txt file and a .doc file there. The .txt file says, “Read me first.” I double click.

The document has four words and an e-mail address. That’s it. It’s a code. I know it. I decipher it in a heartbeat.

I close that and look at the .doc file. I know why she thought she needed my permission. But, she doesn’t. Not really. I stole it from Alex.

Double-click on the .doc. I read through it. When I’m done, I find myself smiling.

I open my e-mail and type in the address. I include only one word.

Yes.

Strange, Part 2

She was seated next to the “New Age” section, her shoes beside her bare feet.

“I got this for you,” she said, showing me what she was reading, using the receipt as a bookmark. The Magus of Freemasonry. “I thought it was appropriate.”

“What are you listening to?” I asked her.

She looked down at her iPod. “Swordfishtrombone,” she said. She sang along.

and he holed up in a room above a  hardware store
cryin' nothing there but Hollywood tears
and he put a spell on some
poor little Crutchfield girl
and stayed like that for 27 years

I sat down. She took a sip. “You want anything?” she asked. I shook my head.

She put the book down, slid it across the little table to me. I picked it up. It felt heavy. I looked inside, found a CD.

“I’d like you to look at this,” she said, a wink ready at any moment.

“What is it?” I asked.

“Something that requires your permission,” she told me. Then, she stood, gathered her drink and her iPod. “Let me know,” she said.

I watched her leave. The long, black skirt that I like. Then, she turned, came back. “Forgot my shoes,” she said. Picking them up, watching me watch her.