[Reading Group] The Revenge of Vincenzo di Monforte

Wow. Can it really be done this briefly?

So it would seem. The Revenge of Vincenzo di Monforte takes up a total of five pages A5 – and one of them, the front page, is spent on a largely superfluous (yet handy and mood-provoking) list of of the cast. The rest contain a list of 10½ scenes in two acts, descriptions of the characters and the extremely brief rules for the game – the game doesn’t use a GM, and each player should be familiar with the entire text of the game.

The game is a pastiche of an operatic tragedy, with a love triangle between two lovers and her old, unattractive betrothed and a pair of servants for the two lovers. Five characters, two of them optional. The descriptions of scenes give a comprehensive list of what’s to happen in each, leaving the details to the players. It’s an excercise in “creativity through constriction” – giving very firm guidelines with the goal of making the players do even more with the little space they’re given. I think I would have preferred a less comprehensive outline, with some leeway within each scene – this seems like it could get a little constrictive. It may be a matter of taste, though, and who knows – maybe this hits the balance between freedom and guidance perfectly.

In any case this game is a refreshing change from scenarios like Being Max Møller (150 pages). It constitutes a remarkable achievement – in particular considering the fact that it was written in 1993. The closest comparisons I can think of are the two Bækgaard-scenarios I’ve tried (Evening Stars and Murder of Kings [Kongemord]), which share the strong dramatic structure, but are both considerably freer in structure – and considerably longer.

The Revenge of Vincenzo di Monforte deserves to be remembered – it should be required reading for new scenariowrights. Hmm… maybe we should ask scenariowrights to justify themselves if they want to turn in scenarios longer than five pages?

What can we learn?

  • Brevity does not equal lack of substance.
  • Please, oh please, remember to proof-read (the game has a couple of glaring typos, all the more noticable in such a short text).

Who should play this?

  • People who can take part in a shared authority over, and responsibility for, the game, and who do not mind acting retarded in an exaggerated, dramatic fashion.

A question for the “oldies”

When did the GM-less scenario have its breakthrough? I honestly wouldn’t have thought that it was in style as early as this.


4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Kristoffer Apollo on June 6, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    In response to your last question, you’re right, GM-less scenarios didn’t experience a boom until after the turn of the century. I think many toyed with the idea but had trouble getting a grip on it – especially if you wanted to make something that was not a comedy that’s extremely accessible because everyone seems to share a common notion of operatic cliché. 🙂

    As I recall it, Jacob Schmidt-Madsen was the next to move into that area with success, in his early storytelling constructions Drømme Ved Bålet and Vågenat. Around ’97-’98.


  2. Posted by eliashelfer on June 6, 2010 at 6:11 pm

    Thank you for clarifying. I feel so history-less. It’s quite ironic that the turn of the century feels like olden days to me. I really need a roleplaying history lesson.

    So, what was the first GM-less scenario? And do you know how the idea arose?


  3. Posted by Kristoffer Apollo on June 6, 2010 at 9:40 pm

    I would that say that Vincenzo is it. The earliest Fastaval scenario I can think of is Schmidt-Madsen’s Drømme Ved Bålet from ’97. But the years before ’92 are not very well documented, so I’m not totally sure.


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