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About the ProjectHome

CALYPSIS: A HYPERTEXT FICTION is based on a role-playing campaign featuring nine participants (seven player-characters and two game masters) that took place in three stages: world building, character creation, and a series of six role-playing sessions, mostly conducted online but also over email and a few face-to-face gatherings. These game narratives accompany each vignette, a storytelling segment derived from the game play.

Calypsis takes place in Rivertown, a near-future metropolitan area laid to waste by the combination of a superflu, rioting, and terrorist attacks that caused global destruction in the late 2080s. Small groups of survivors were left to fight over scraps found in the rubble of the once prosperous city. An authoritarian regime known as the MPD gained the upper hand, stockpiling goods and using their militia to drive away the scavengers sifting through the city's remains. Fast forward to 2113 and the MPD is facing a major crisis with the death of their leader, Augustus Reichman. With the organization no closer to restoring the city's power, food stores are running low and scavengers streaming into the city in record numbers. The MPD is struggling to hold onto their power, fearing both attacks from outside the city as well as from the dissatisfied within their own ranks. This is the setting for our story...

Each participant created at least ten characters, ten locations, and ten items to populate this fictional world, which gave us a diverse and deep world to explore, though only a fraction of them appear in Calypsis. These entries were collected in a wiki, the Rivertown Compendium, then plotted onto a Google map of Milwaukee. Many of the items and locations found in Rivertown have real-world counterparts in Milwaukee. In the image gallery to the right, you can see one of the game masters on a photo safari taking pictures around important places in Rivertown/Milwaukee. Links to the wiki entries and map locations are embedded in each vignette, but you can also choose to browse them by going to the Rivertown Compendium or Rivertown Map at any time.

Once we built Rivertown, each player (including the game masters) created a highly customized character, complete with back stories, personalities, and motivations as well as specific traits and abilities. Dice rolls determined whether a character would be a scavenger (rolling a 1-5 on a d10, or 10-sided dice) or MPD (rolling a 6-0). Of the seven player-characters, four were assigned roles with the MPD and the remaining three characters were scavengers. The players worked with the two game masters (GMs) to develop their characters' personal histories to better embed them within the fictional world. The game masters warned the characters that Rivertown was an extremely dangerous place for MPD guards or scavengers alike, and that our characters would be shown no mercy if the dice rolls were against them.

You can read more about the player-characters and view their in-game attributes on their linked wiki pages.The scavenger player-characters are/were Jackal, Emilee Ringdorf, Otto Stokes, and Erik Torreon; the MPD player-characters are/were Ellen Johnson, Symon Meli, Rickard Posten, and Terrence Rabaneck. The game masters are/were Betsy Hermann and Frederika Reichman.

The players and GMs coordinated schedules (probably the hardest part of the entire project!) to find suitable times for gaming sessions. These were generally conducted online using the (now sadly defunct) Pele's Tears gaming system, which allowed players to create chat rooms with an integrated dice-rolling feature. Our initial plan was for characters to play in pairs but scheduling difficulties meant most players wound up going their own ways, which also reduced the burden for the GMs trying to keep multiple players attentive through online chatting. There was a concerted effort to bring together all the players for one beautiful mess of a gaming session, which happened once (and never again!)

The transcripts from the Pele's Tears gaming sessions, along with emails and other correspondence pertaining to the development and characters and plot points, are embedded along with the corresponding vignette.

After each role-playing session, each player-character was supposed to write a 1k-word (or less) vignette told from his/her character's perspective about the events that transpired. Each vignette was supposed to reflect the character's personality, history, desires, and whatever else would make it unique to that character.

Vignettes were intended to be written after role-playing sessions so the writers would not have the benefit of knowing what happened next in the story. While this tended to be the case, several players elected to write extensive backstories for their characters in the form of vignettes, while others wrote more than one vignette based on a single role-playing session. Players were also asked to search open-source and creative commons-licensed images to accompany each vignette.

After the completion of the campaign, the GMs began threading together the stories and created a comprehensive timeline that resembles a subway map. They also asked each player to write a "coda" for their characters, or some sort of conclusion about what the players learned about them. Although there are no immediate plans to start up another Rivertown campaign (need a long vacation first!) several players have shown a great deal of interest in coming back to tie up loose ends. At least for those characters who survived...

Want even more information on Calypsis? Check out the critical introduction, an academic essay that places this project in the context of traditional creative writing pedagogy and gaming theory.