Wisher, Theurgist, Fatalist by PleasingFungus
IntroductionOriginal SA post Wisher, Theurgist, Fatalist
WTF is probably the most obscure game in this thread. As far as I know, it was only released once: as a draft pdf on the personal website of its author, Jenna Moran, better known for Nobilis and Weapons of the Gods , as well as her work on Exalted and In Nomine .
The PDF is exactly a hundred pages long, and it's clearly pretty rough: there are no illustrations, the game logo is WordArt, and the name of the PDF is "wtf.pdf - [Microsoft Word - wtf-draft2.doc]". It's also remarkably pretentious and incredibly confusing. I'm still not 100% sure the whole thing isn't a hundred-page-long joke on the reader!
But WTF is also really interesting, in the way that Moran's work can be when she's clearly enthusiastic about what she's writing; and she clearly has a great sense of humor about the stuff she's writing. I figure we might as well follow suit!
(The joke in the name is clearly intentional.)
Reality is an illusion.
Those who seek to understand it corrode their understanding of it. In naïveté,
objects are solid, ideas are true or false, sensations are real, and
communication conveys information. To the adept, these things are as fading
There is no object that is not also emptiness.
There is no arbiter of truth.
Sensations are the lies of Maya; they are the shifting of electrical patterns in
the brain; they are signifiers without referent.
Communication is violence.
Reality is false.
It does not matter how many layers one peels back. It does not matter what
revelations one has. This is because there is no truth.
We are things that we have dreamed, and there is no sense in it, and when the
sleeper wakes we shall be washed away.
It'd be pretty easy to dismiss this game offhand. And that'd be a terrible shame!
So: in WTF, you play a set of characters adventuring in a fictional world, trying to find meaning. The fact that it's fictional is kind of a problem for that! It's one of the major issues you have to tackle as the story unfolds.
What your characters are adventuring for is a thing called the Jewel of All Desiring. It is "that sleeper that dreams inwards, that inverted oyster, that creature that we name God the Shaper, God the Maker, Lord--" and more usefully, it's "a pearl of infinite layers and subtleties and its possessor may obtain everything that they desire." It's been lost. You're trying to find it. And when you do, if you do, one of you must be the wisher, and command the Creator to make the world as you desire it.
And if you should succeed, then the world shall always have been as you
wish it, and your life a thing sprung of your own desiring; and if you should fail
then you shall be forgotten like the tides.
The rest of the point of your adventures is to make you a person who's worthy to create the world.
Initial OverviewOriginal SA post Wisher, Theurgist, Fatalist: Initial Overview
There are three classes of characters in the game.
Wishers are people worth believing in - the kind of people whom you can trust to wish up a good world. Anyone can wish, but for an unambiguous victory, the wishers are the only ones you can trust to desire true and good things for your world. They use Harmony as their primary stat, which gives them a supernatural or near-supernatural ability to win hearts and minds, share their vision of the world with others. They're the ones you go to when you have a moral quandry.
Theurgists are people who can light the hidden fires in the world - they can lift others into light or cast them down into shadow. Their goal is to forget the wishers into people who are worthy of their task - to judge them, to make them ready, and only then to ensure their success. Theurgists use Insight as their primary stat, which gives them a supernatural or near-supernatural ability to see hidden possibility in the world and make it into truth.
Fatalists are those who know the secret of the world - scholars, prophets, experts. Their purpose is cruel - they must educate, warn, & share secret truths with the wishers. But at the end, one must agree to become the firmament of the new world, and the wisher must willingly sacrifice that fatalist in the world's creation, wherein which they are undone & made into the structure of reality. Anyone can make this sacrifice - but fatalists believe only they can do it well , and if it is not done, and done wel, the world will remain flawed and a lie. Fatalists use Knowledge as their primary stat, giving them a supernatural or near-supernatural understanding of the truths of the world.
Very loosely, Fatalists are the "what", wishers are the "why", and theurgists are the "how". You probably need at least one of each to play WTF, but you can have duplicates.
Finally, there's the Weaver , essentially the GM. The Weaver is actually a character, a Wisher, Theurgist, or Fatalist, but they're unable to use the Jewel of All Desiring or sacrifice themselves to become the firmament; they're also possessed by a strange queer lassitude that holds them back from solving the problems of the world. (Which is to say, from being an obnoxious GMNPC.)
System optimization trap: it seems like it'd be natural for the Weaver to be a Fatalist (since he isn't prevented from serving that class's function), but it's actually highly advantageous for them to be a Theurgist. You'll see why in a few updates.
The game notes that 'planets and stars help you play', and "you'll find more details on these planets in the first supplement to WTF". There's a fairly comprehensive if extremely confusing discussion of stars in the book, later, but the handful of planets that appear in passing make pretty much no sense. (I'll be skipping them.)
It's not clear to me whether the idea of WTF supplement(s!) was a joke. (An intentional joke, that is.)
Attributes and Skills
WTF characters have two types of core Traits*: Attributes and Powers. There are three Attributes, which we've already encountered in the characters sections: Harmony , Insight , and Knowledge . There are six standard Powers (also known as Skills): Creatures , Law , People , Self , Substance , and Shadow , which is kind of a special case. Characters can also have "specialty" custom Powers. All core Traits range between 0 and 5.
We've already summarized the attributes when they appeared in the Cast section, but it's worth noting that each has another form for characters overcome by Shadow. Deceptive Harmony appears when characters lie about what is valuable and right and good; Corrupt Insight appears when characters shape the world in ways inconsistent with their own beliefs; Destructive Knowledge appears when characters preach a lore they do not believe is true. The group must decide if someone has Deceptive Harmony; the Wisher declares if somone has Corrupt Insight; and only each person themselves must decide if they have Destructive Knowledge. There are unpleasant consequences associated with each action, as you'd expect from associating with Shadow.
Stepping back from the brink of destruction, WTF also has an interesting section on use of Knowledge, from which the key excerpt is:
Knowledge and the Truth posted:
...it's completely up to your group and how you play
whether trying to find out the "right answer" is obligatory--- the other option is
that the player who uses Knowledge successfully simply decides what they're
going to say the truth is.
The rest of the book more or less implicitly assumes you take the latter option. (With over/mis-use risking Destructive Knowledge, per above.)
Powers measure your ability to use your Attributes in their relevant domains. Using powers with Harmony changes how people ought to act/think about something that domain; using powers with Insight makes something in that domain more like you feel it should be; using powers with Knowledge tells you about something in that domain. We'll learn about mechanics for this (such as they are) over the next few updates.
Briefly: Creatures governs monsters, animals, and angels. Law governs physics, magic, and order. People governs civilized & barbarian peoples. Self governs yourself. Substance governs earth and sky, jewels and magic swords. Finally, Shadow governs the shadows that threaten the world, not least of which are corrupted characters.
Specialty powers are unique areas in which your character is strong - e.g. geneology, fire, or the sea. Not all characters will have them.
This is by far the coolest mechanic of the game, it's the main reason I fell in love with WTF, and it's almost completely, tragically, unsupported by the rest of the game. Gifts are described here, there are rules for them in character creation (later), and other parts of the game have rules on how to strengthen (or weaken) Gifts. But, as far as I can tell, there are no rules anywhere in WTF for actually using Gifts. Even the Example of Play, which is more than 10% of the pagecount, doesn't reference them at all!
Presumably this is the sort of thing that would be fixed if the game had ever gotten beyond "draft2".
Gifts basically start off as Fate Aspects. They're a sentence or two, describing a feature of your character. (The example the game uses is "Susan is extraordinary with the blade, but does not like to kill.") The interesting thing about them, though, is that each Gift has three associated Qualities : Truth , Mechanical Support , and Valence .
Truth measures how real a Gift is. Gifts that are weak in their Truth may be true, and may not. Who knows? Gifts with ordinary Truth are true, but no more true than anything else. And Gifts with strong Truth are all but written in the book of the world -- axioms of creation. There is nothing more true or indisputable than them. "Susan is extraordinary with the blade; she does not like to kill. A, as John Galt might say, is A."
Mechanical Support measures how well the rules of the game support its use. Gifts with weak mechanical support have no clear and specific meaning in play; Susan may be extraordinary with the blade, but that doesn't mean she'll automatically win fights or anything. As the game puts it, "weak mechanical support makes it possible for Susan to be a 'faux action girl', whose immense skill only comes up now and again to make it all the more amazing how often she loses or needs someone else's help to fight." Gifts with ordinary mechanical support will come up some of the time, and be useful or at least meaningful in most of those cases. And Gifts with strong mechanical support are "practically an 'I win' button in play"; not only do circumstances generally come up that favor their use, but you can use them freely in contexts where they wouldn't normally apply.
Valence measures how much a Gift matters . A Gift with weak Valence can't really bring success; you can win battles with them, but not wars. Gifts with ordinary valence sometimes produce good outcomes, but sometimes produce bad outcomes, or solve the immediate problem without putting a dent in the larger conflict. With strong valence, you can pretty much always expect good to come out of the use of gifts - if Susan duels a terrible enemy and spares its life, she can reasonably anticipate that something good will come of it.
The Gifts system actually reminds me a bit of Rock of Tahmaat ; in the same way that the latter breaks down the elements of action-intentionality, Gifts break down character trait meaningfulness.
Characters start with one superior Gift - strong in one quality, ordinary in the others - and some number of typical Gifts - weak in one quality, and ordinary in the others. Sort of. Character creation doesn't come for a while.
See, WTF is split into essentially five parts. The introduction & game overview, which we've just finished, and then a book for each character and a play example. The Wishers' Book covers character creation, gameplay structure, and Harmony, the Theurgists' Book covers corruption, rules, and Insight, and the Fatalists' Book covers the philosophy of the game, setting, and Knowledge. The thing is - in the rules as-written, they're arranged backwards. You get setting, then mechanics, then character creation & play overview. The Fatalists' Book is probably the most confusing section of the book, and having it appear before everything else doesn't help!
(Also, FTW is just an annoying internet meme, not an amusing exclamation.)
For this writeup, I'll be flipping the order back to WTF - hopefully Ms. Moran can forgive me the impudence!
The Wishers' BookOriginal SA post Wisher, Theurgist, Fatalist: The Wishers' Book
Core Rules: Resolving Disputes
If players disagree about how to play WTF and can't reach consensus, then players can roll Harmony (if they have a strong opinion on the matter); the text endorses the opinion of the player with the highest Harmony roll.
Disputes on how to roll (and other rules questions) are referred to the Theurgists' book.
Natya and Rasa
This is part of the game's philosophy, but it's tragically fallen victim to my rearrangement of the book: it refers to the Theurgists' and Fatalists' books! We'll get back to it once we've covered those.
You and WTF
All three Books (Wishers', Theurgists', Fatalists') have a similar structure. Specifically, each begins with 'how to resolve disputes', follows it with some philosophy, and then follows that with Microsoft Word Illustrations flowcharts.
One of the sets of flowcharts is confusing, but is pretty core to the way the game is meant to be played. The other two I suspect to have been made afterward to match, and are essentially page-long, elaborate jokes.
(They're also pretty confusing!)
This is one of the latter. Its ostensible purpose is to explain: why are you (you, the person reading the text) fated to play WTF? The end result looks something like this:
(Summarized: "You try to play WTF, and other people think you're playing WTF, and through repetition and a moment of enlightenment, you eventually find your way to actually playing WTF".)
It is very very silly, and we will spend no more time on it.
Structure of Play
WTF suggests you create characters together, but it's not mandatory. There are four stages to creating a character.
First, come up with a brief character history/concept.
Second, choose your abilities. Start with four points in one attribute (Harmony, Insight, Knowledge) and zero in the other two; then distribute two bonus points as you please. (Though probably to a maximum of 5? The book is consistent about that elsewhere, but doesn't specify here.)
For Powers, put 3 points in one non-Shadow power (that is, Creatures, Law, People, Self, or Substance), 1 point in another, and 0 in the rest.
Then you get 3 customization points. You can burn them 1:1 to increase non-Shadow powers, including custom 'specialty' powers (which you should specify now, if you take any), or 2:1 to add a point to an attribute (explicitly max 5) or add 1 to Shadow.
Third, decide if you are the Weaver. If you are, say so. If others say so too, disabuse them of their misunderstanding.
Fourth, write down 0-4 gifts. Per "Gifts" earlier, one of your Gifts should be superior (has one strong quality and all others ordinary), and the others should be 'typical' (one weak quality, others ordinary). For customization, you can add another typical gift (so an actual maximum of 5 overall), or increase one quality of one gift. (Though the writing in the Gifts section suggests you can't improve your superior gift, in character creation, at least.)
I have no idea why you'd add another 'typical' (i.e. fundamentally flawed) Gift when you could improve an existing Gift to not suck, but maybe that would make sense if the Gift system was actually finished?
WTF suggests the best way to have fun while playing is to tell a story: probably about truth, in some form. Also, about fairies, ur-toads (WTF's iconic monster/mascot, which I've been remiss in not mentioning up to this point), and palaces on the sun. There's flexibility.
The fundamental building block of the game is Scenes . Each Scene defines and resolves a problem/situation faced by the characters. Also, each scene introduces, escalates, or resolves 1+ Crises.
Crises are problems threatening the characters' ability to find the Jewel of All Desiring and win. The Weaver is responsible for providing these if they don't naturally emerge, and also not stifling the 'natural processes' by which crises & situations emerge.
The goal of the players in each scene is to generate favorable outcomes (and 'meanings') for themselves while avoiding corruption. It's possible to do crazy stuff with your powers, but that risks corruption - think big, but start small, WTF suggests.
In terms of higher-level organization: Chapters are storylines that progress over consecutive scenes, focusing on a single crisis or linked/sequential crises. They're supposed to map 1:1 to play sessions, but it's not a strict thing. Chapters are organized into Books , of which WTF has five; these comprise a campaign. ("Universe of play".)
There are also Character Arcs and Story Arcs , which function similarly to chapters, except in that they progress over many non-contiguous scenes.
WTF takes a few pages here to talk about the ways you (as a player) can communicate in/about WTF. (Or about RPGs generally, actually.)
Examples of different types of statements are given and criticized. E.g.: Statements about the World ('I sneak into the fortress!') possess the flaw of hubris (what if the Weaver tells you the fortress fell off the world two days ago?); procedural statements ("Wait, time out!") possess the flaw of player-character ambiguity (Is that you saying that, or your character?); etc, etc. It's interesting, and not the sort of thing you often see in RPG books..
The Story of the Game
As loosely structured as WTF is mechanically (intentionally and otherwise), it's tightly structured narratively. Play is comprised of five Books, each of which presents certain challenges and threats. Play proceeds forward linearly - though the book notes it's possible, if risky, to skip ahead - and at the end awaits the Jewel of All Desiring, assuming your party hasn't gotten itself killed or its quest invalidated en route.
First up is the Prologue , in which players discuss what it means to find the Jewel of All Desiring. The conversation is supposed to naturally shift from talking about the world to talking about/as your characters - and then you're playing the game!
Two methods are suggested for starting things off - the Weaver can use a plot hook to pull the characters toward adventure, or the players can come up with their own individual Kickers (player-chosen crises) to drive them immediately into action.
WTF also asks if you're making up new identities for the game or playing yourself, which is kind of an odd suggestion.
So: in the Introduction , characters catch up to the present and meet each-other. It's suggested that they not die yet.
Then we move on to Book 1: the Civilized Lands .
First up is Raif , former owner of the Jewel of All Desiring, ruled by vampire nobility. The vampires will offer to help - and seeking the Jewel without their blessing would be unimaginably improper! - but they may eat you, or worse, judge you unworthy. It's a tough deal.
There may or may not be a travelogue at some point (which WTF advises you allow, but 'brutally murder' if it goes on too long), and then it's on to Tin 'An, the city at the center of the world. It's a beautiful city, and it's dying. Also, the Axeman hunts Wishers by order of the Duke. The players may be unable to figure out where to go next; they may also be unable to justify destroying the city by making a new world. If they can't, there's no point in going on! If they can, Book 1 ends.
Book 2: The Savage People and the Fairies starts off by suggesting you might want to advance character arcs a bit, if you have them. It's also possible to introduce new Kickers here. ("There's always time to start over from the beginning!") Later books offer neither suggestion, but the former, at least, seems generally applicable.
Much of Book 2 is taken up by travel through the lands of the savage peoples. Being killed, assimilated, or otherwise physically threatened are the primary threats for this section; moral crises are possible but optional. As with Book 1, Travelogues (in which there's no immediate threat/crisis) may appear; they should be handled the same way as in Book 1.
Then there's the Fairies . They don't exist; they threaten the characters with the possibility that they are not the four heroes of destiny, or, alternately, that the world they live in does not exist. (More details on this in the Fatalists' Book.) If the characters surpass this, it's on to Book 3.
Book 3: The Dragons of the Deep is 'skippable', if players are pressed for time. (Though this may cause confusion later. Alas!)
The body of the book is A Series of Discoveries ; a set of tasks, journeys, and interactions that leads the characters closer to the Jewel of All Desiring. There will probably be more adventures in savage & civilized lands, and it's not too bad a time to visit the sun, if you're going to. The key part, however, is paying a visit to the Dragons of the Deep.
This is very difficult. The dragons "are not typical inhabitants of WTF and are not bound by its rules." They're defended by swarms of undines, trying to keep characters from reaching the dragons; paths can't take you to them; you really shouldn't visit them. If you can't, skip to Book 4. If you can , though, the dragons can redeem characters lost to shadow, free Weavers immured in the world; or they may drive you into the next book, or eat you.
Book 4: The Ur-Toads is my favorite book.
If you skipped all or part of Book 3, you may want to have A Series of Discoveries here; you may also want to visit the sun, if you haven't already. Eventually, though, you're going to want to visit the underground meadows on the other side of the world - which characters will find suspiciously easy! - wherein which lurk, majestically, the ur-toads.
The ur-toads are enormous, and have jewels in their foreheads. They are mysterious and sagacious, immune to most mortal types of force, expel dreadful poison when provoked, and will eat all of the characters, immediately ending the game.
Also beneath the earth is the Oracle, "the ghost of Tiresias or some other Tiresian spirit." The characters may visit it if they don't know yet where the Jewel is. The Oracle may tell them; or it may tell them that the Jewel does not exist, or deliver an apocalyptic prophecy. This ends the book!
Book 5: Conclusion is what it sounds like.
The first threat is that the Weaver may stage a climactic fight with a recurring antagonist, who kills everyone. Oops!
The larger threats resolve around: you find the Jewel of All Desiring. Someone's going to have to die to become the firmament of the new world: are they willing? And, after all this, are you worthy?
Postscript: Using Harmony
To declare what something means, first say you're going to. Other players set a target, 0-7. You (and others who feel strongly on the matter) make a Harmony roll. The highest roller, if they equaled or beat the target, explains what the relevant thing means. "Everyone should now play WTF in such a fashion as to make believing that explanation both appropriate and valuable."
To roll Harmony, roll (your Harmony + your most relevant Power)d6. Your result is the highest roll. Multiple 6s add 1 to the roll apiece. (So 5, 3, 6, 2, 6 is a roll of 7.) If you'd otherwise roll 0d6, roll d6-1 instead. On ties for highest, eliminate everyone who didn't tie and re-roll.
Rolling all other Attributes works exactly the same way.
You can also modify the Valence (meaningfulness) of someone's Gift with Harmony. Roll Harmony against a target of 5; if you get the highest result of everyone rolling, you can set the Valence of the Gift to whatever you please.
The Theurgists' BookOriginal SA post Wisher, Theurgist, Fatalist: The Theurgists' Book
Core Rules: Resolving Disputes
If players disagree about the rules of WTF and can't reach consensus, then players can roll Insight (if they have a strong opinion on the matter); the person with the highest Insight roll is correct. There are also a set of solutions for escalating meta-disputes.
Pramana and Mimasa
As with the section in the Wishers' book, this depends on concepts in the Fatalists' book; we'll return to it then.
The Power of the Shadow
If WTF is a game about finding meaning, hope, and truth, the Shadow is that entity which opposes all those things. Wherever reality disintegrates and heroism is rendered meaningless, the Shadow is there. This is most notable when the players themselves are at fault; in which case, if the error is great or repeated enough, they may fall into Shadow.
For Theurgists, the Weaver must declare that they have Corrupt Insight . This initiates a conflict, in which the Accused and the Weaver (who gets +2) roll Insight against each other. (The rolls may occur over time, rather than all at once.) Each success reduces the sense of the world in some way - "the devastated region appears in theory to retain its attributes but practice contradicts it." For example, fire might now burn cold, or the characters might simply never again notice fire burning or heating anything.
If the Weaver wins three contests, the target is proven corrupt. They must mark "Corrupt" next to their Insight, which gets -2 henceforth, and they may now freely declare whatever they want about how things should be with Insight; they are no longer bound to honesty. Furthermore, should the party reach the Jewel of All Desiring, and should the wisher fail to explicitly forsake any and all corrupt theurges and cast them into darkness, they have lost the game.
If the Theurge wins three of these contests, the Weaver is cast down and imprisoned within the world; the accused now becomes the Weaver. (It's unclear whether this punishment refers to actually being trapped deep within the earth, or just losing the detachment characterizing the Weaver; the evidence suggests the latter.)
If another player declares that a Wisher has Deceptive Harmony , the party splits into two groups: one supporting the accusation, the other opposing. Each rolls a number of dice corresponding to the size of the group; the rolls work as with the theurgist's case, above. Each success reduces the moral weight of some part of the world - "Dilemmas become meaningless games; horrors become tricks of prose; and pillars of hope and truth become tinny pablum."
If the accuser wins three times, the defender has deceptive harmony. They are now an adversary, and may advocate the Shadow's perspective; if they wish upon the Jewel, the players have lost the game.
If the Wisher wins three times, the accuser is no longer playing WTF.
Additional Rules Information: Rules Toys
This is the second flowchart section, but it's actually somewhat useful. (If perplexing.) Essentially, this section attempts to model the flow of play mechanically, including non-mechanical elements such as GM decisions and roleplaying. It does so with "rules toys", which are composed of two components: event donuts , which are linked by connectors . Each rules toy begins with a "Player Interjection" donut, which represents a player saying "I want to do X/I want X to happen", and ends with a "Weaver" donut, which represents "the Weaver decides what happens". In between, you travel from donut to donut as indicated by the connectors; each transit requires a roll, depending on the type of donut you're travelling to.
It may sound complex, but it's... not necessarily. For example, let's say you have a player confronted with a simple obstacle: a wall that needs climbing, or a guard that needs sweet-talking. How do you model that? With this:
The model begins with a Player Interjection: they want to accomplish the task before them! The connection is to a Weaver Donut, which corresponds to a Mechanics roll; so the player says, "I use my Insight into Substance to notice that the wall was covered with handholds all along, nearly too small to see!" Or perhaps "I use my Harmony with People to persuade the guard that if he allows us to reach the Jewel of All Desiring, he'll have much more time to eat the jammy treats he so loves!" The connector in the rules toy is a solid line, so regardless of whether the player succeeds or fails, the Weaver decides what consequences ensue. (Dashed lines are only taken on success.)
There are also donuts for roleplaying and other players' involvement... it's an interesting system!
On the other hand...
Half the things here (Meaning rolls, Confidence rolls) are completely unexplained. There's even a joke about the latter in the example of play - it seems to be an intentional absence. Which is great, except... how do you follow this flowchart? What is its use?
While we're on the subject of "incomplete rules", there's also a sidebar in this section that mentions "fixed factors, such as the Truth of a certain Gift", modifying rolls. How and when does this occur? Never mentioned anywhere in the book.
If I was going to try to patch WTF together, I'd probably end up merging together the two biggest holes in the rules: Gifts and Meaning rolls. The flowcharts indicate that Meaning rolls are required to go to Roleplaying, which seems reasonable. Possibly you'd have a roll for each Quality of the Gift you're applying, modified by its strength: Mechanical Support to see if it works, Valence to see if it works out, Truth to see if... I'm not sure how you'd use Truth, actually. But that seems like a reasonable starting point.
The last things in this section are a post-script on rolling Insight (similar to Harmony, except your goal is to state something about the rules, setting or situation that you believe should be true - on success, you are correct), and modifying Mechanical Support for Gifts with Insight (it's almost exactly the same as modifying Valence with Harmony).
The Theurges' Book is the most rules-heavy and the most incomplete and confusing of the three books. (No coincidence, that!) Next up: the Fatalist.
The Fatalists' BookOriginal SA post Wisher, Theurgist, Fatalist: The Fatalists' Book
Core Rules: Resolving Disputes
If players disagree about the setting of WTF and can't reach consensus, then players can roll Knowledge (if they have a strong opinion on the matter); the person with the highest Knowledge roll is correct. If no one rolls, everyone considers themselves correct & moves on. Rules disputes are addressed to the Theurgists' Book, as we've already seen.
Prameya and Danda
Jenna Moran has something of a Thing for incorporating Indian-subcontinent mysticism into her work. A lot of the time, this manifests in the form of, as far as I can tell, Buddhist jargon. Which is exactly what we have here!
Prameya is "the narrative substance from which stories are built". If you're describing something in "the dreaming kingdoms" (a fiction, a game of WTF), it's not made of mass (it's not real!) - it's made of Prameya. Danda is the "corroborative evidence" that creates Prameya.
First, Prameya does not exist. Then Danda accumulates, as players talk about the game world. When enough detail, Danda, has accumulated, the world (Prameya) is 'kindled' and becomes 'visible' to the mind. (That is to say, once a fictional world is described, you can imagine it.)
It's basically recasting creative work (writing, storytelling) from creation to... discovery? Description? Alteration? The accumulation of Danda .
The Theurgists' Book describes Pramana and Mimasa . Pramana is "the quality of Prameya that causes it to move and change." It's the answer to the question: "how do Theurgists and Weavers interact with the game world?" "Prameya". Theurgists change Prameya (the world) into what should be ; Weavers merely make manifest to others the world that they already know. This may or may not be the same thing.
WTF glosses Mimasa as "interpretation"; it's the combination of existing Danda (what's already known about the world) with the change created by Pramana (the theurgists/weavers' changes), which together form new Prameya . This is not really a term or idea that needed to exist in context!
WTF also speculates on whether Pramana is essential to (fictional?) world, or whether it only exists in the transition between them. It reaches no conclusion on the matter.
One of the things about WTF is that it is very, very meta. (Over the course of writing this review, I have come to increasingly suspect that the intended endgame of WTF is an outbreak of mass psychosis.)
The Wishers' Book finishes up by talking about Natya and Rasa . Natya is the technique by which the players fill the game with boundless universal love; this in turn creates Rasa, the enjoyment felt in the presence of things that are loved. "The players' efforts to incarnate and instantiate a transcendent spirit of infinite universal love in the fabric of the game are the source of the meaning of the game. It is the contention of the author that players cannot help but catch fire with this burning spirit as soon as they attempt to play WTF, preventing any inappropriate uses of the mechanics below."
So, uh, (1) in retrospect, I guess I could've included that in the Wishers' Book (though that section was long enough as it stood!), and (2), that's an unorthodox mechanism to prevent rules abuses.
Whatever works, I guess.
How to Contemplate WTF
The third and final flowchart section covers "Dreaming the Dreaming Kingdoms"; that is, how to imagine the game world in WTF.
It's possible to understand it if you take the effort (similarly to the Wishers' flowcharts), especially if you've gotten your head wrapped around the prameya/danda jargon from earlier, but there's nothing particularly insightful to be gained from the exercise. I strongly suspect the existence of this section is another joke on the reader.
Kindled and Unkindled People
This is incredibly meta. So: necessarily, when describing a fictional world, you aren't going to describe every part of it, every last hair and dust mote. There's parts of the world that are established in detail - the main characters and their immediate surrounds, generally - and other parts which exist by mere implication.
WTF refers to the former as "kindled", and the latter as "unkindled". This also links back to the Prameya/Danda concepts earlier; kindling requires both prameya and danda, whereas unkindled things are composed of pure prameya. They can be assumed to exist within the game world, there's just no direct [narrative] evidence for it.
The dreaming kingdoms are in good part empty. There are the marks of life and
the signs of habitation. There are tilled fields and cleaned or dirtied streets.
There is smoke in the air and trees that have fallen. But somewhere between
one third and two thirds of the population is effectively absent. They do not
exist. They evade the census: even the estimate of their numbers could be
wildly imprecise. The studies of the sages falter in their presence, become
bogged down with uncertainty and confusion. They are lacking the details and
sensory evidence that would cement their existence in the mind.
Many people are born in the pains of their mother's or their maker's labor. Many
They were not.
Then they flared into existence.
Now, they are .
I love this game.
Every item in the Setting Information section has two details: Practical Matters , which covers less meta concerns (generally threats to life, limb, and the motivation to continue forward in adventure), and Moral Implications , which are generally threats to truth, meaning, and the structural integrity of the game-world as a narrative. As a rule, anything that implies the characters exist in a fictional world, or that their quest (to create a new world) is less than perfectly heroic, is a significant moral threat.
In this case, Unkindled things are a moral threat, because obviously they don't exist in the real world; "an implication of certain and provable failure on the part of the wisher to construct a solid firmament." (WTF sometimes seems to conflates the world in which the characters exist to the one which they plan to create; I'm not sure why.) Practically, "even weak Truth has a profound impact on the unkindled; strong Truth can destroy or kindle them." Gifts
Other interesting things:
Creatures are generally monsters; they were usually originally human, but were transformed by their own "false conceptions, wrong ideas, and ethical crimes". (This can happen to you too!) Treasures are objects (and animals?) moved by mankind to become sentient allies, powerful artifacts, or cursed demon-treasures, depending on how impressed (or not) they were by mankind. They tend to amplify the Valence of Gifts. The Shadow exists outside the world and seeks to devour it; it is everything and anything that will prove the falsehood of the wisher's path. Civilized Peoples present a dichotomy between supporting the law (which causes suffering) or supporting the people (which causes chaos). Also, they might imprison or kill the characters. The peoples of the Savage Lands might do that, or they might force the Wisher to justify the existence of the terrible choices the Savage Lands forces them to make just to survive. Also, they can teach valuable life lessons.
The Fairies have kindled bodies but unkindled minds and souls. (Shades of Exalted here, maybe? Which of course Moran worked on.) They are "creatures affecting life because they can think of nothing better to do". They'll try to force the characters to match the fairies' heroic narrative script; this has two possible outcomes. If the characters don't follow the script, then they obviously aren't the heroes of destiny, and their quest is doomed. If the characters do , they implicitly concede that they live in a storybook world, where there's no point in seeking truth or meaning; so they're doomed.
The Fatalists' Book likes to talk about the characters being doomed. The Wishers' Book actually sheds some light on this, in a note I skipped over at the time: the characters start out doomed in their quest, and it's only through invocation of the supernatural (Harmony, Insight, and Knowledge) that they have even a hope of success.
The Map of the World describes key features of the six regions of the world. Highlights in brief: ziggurats to the north, Raif in the south, Tin 'An in the center, the seven-headed dragon on whose body boats sail to the east, the Citadel at the End of the World to the west, and the Garden of All Regrets to the beith.
WTF takes the time to note that beith is the only direction which is morally fraught. (Also, it may or may not be "up".)
Wrapping up: Ur-Toads live in meadows under the earth (as we saw in Book 4); the meadows are flooded with golden light and are peaceful places, if one is not eaten. WTF recommends against being eaten by ur-toads. The Shadows on the Sun are vast, continent-sized fortresses in which live brigands and blackguards too notorious for the dreaming kingdoms; visiting them presents a number of threats, not least being burning up in the sun. (As well as the considerable moral threat of falling in with thieves and bad company.)
As with the Wishers' and Theurgists' Books, a post-script describes how to use the relevant stat (Knowledge). Ask a question about the setting; those with an interest in the matter roll Knowledge; the highest roller declares the truth. Others may also declare their opinion on the matter, if they wish.
Like Insight and Harmony, Knowledge can modify Gifts' Qualities (Truth) - this actually works a little differently, though. In addition to setting their Truth to Strong, Normal, or Weak, Knowledge can also remove Gifts' Truth entirely; it can also you to create new Gifts for yourself or, with Destructive (shadow-touched) Knowledge, destroy them.
This concludes our backwards trip through the book - the remaining 15 pages are the example of play. It's a fantastic read, and I highly recommend reading it (starts page 86) even if you don't ever plan to play - Moran is an extremely entertaining writer, and she's in top form here.
Theresa : I want to play my fighter.
Tomas : No.
Theresa : I could be a stripper ninja, with katanas.
Tomas : No. You are going to be Gandalf.
Theresa : Once I was a vital spirit of the world, an angel of prameya, an impulse born at the birth of creation; but now I have lived so long in an ordinary kind of flesh that I have forgotten my nature?
Tomas : Yes.
Theresa : All right.