ACT ONE SCENE ONE GRETCHEN: wow, a new town, a new college, a new chance to get away from my old life. PROMOTER: we got discounts! Pizza, club nights, dice emporium! GRETCHEN: what did you just say? PROMOTER: pizza, club nights… GRETCHEN: no, the last thing. PROMOTER: dice emporium. GRETCHEN: get the hell out of here! You hear me? Just… just go! ZIPPY: woah, what’s the ruckus? GRETCHEN: that guy was pushing dice. ZIPPY: like gambling? GRETCHEN: like gambling with your soul. ZIPPY: sounds radical.
GRETCHEN: it’s not. You wanna go to hell? ZIPPY: no. GRETCHEN: then stay away from that stuff. ZIPPY: thanks for the tip. I’m Wilma Fortinbras, but my friends call me Zippy. GRETCHEN: Why? ZIPPY: cause they’re my friends. GRETCHEN: oh. I’m Gretchen. My friends call me Buzzkill. ZIPPY: why? GRETCHEN: they’re not my friends anymore. ZIPPY: well, if you want to make some new friends, I’ve got a games society. Oh, don’t worry. Nothing dangerous. Just Monopoly, Oligarchy, other Greek names. GRETCHEN: operation? ZIPPY: not since the accident. BELL RINGS
GRETCHEN: gotta go to classes. I guess I’ll see you there! ACT ONE SCENE TWO DICE ROLLS, LAUGHTER, GOOD CHEER GRETCHEN: hey, is this… ZIPPY: Gretchen! Come on in! GRETCHEN: cool, thanks. ZIPPY: what’s your poison? GRETCHEN: oh, just a juice. ZIPPY: no, What’s Your Poison. It’s what we’re playing next. Want to join? GRETCHEN: I’ll just watch, maybe next round. ZIPPY: cool, cool. Well, make yourself at home! SCRATCH: you new here? GRETCHEN: yeah. How could you tell? GAMER: ok, three cyanide… that’s six points?
SCRATCH: I heard we were getting someone new here. Then you showed up, acted new. I was like, woah, that’s some newness. GRETCHEN: that makes sense. SCRATCH: people call me scratch. You got a name? GRETCHEN: yeah. SCRATCH: what is it? GRETCHEN: gretchen. What do you like playing? SCRATCH: oh, my kind of games, heh, they’re a little more… involved. GRETCHEN: what do you mean? SCRATCH: you ever hear of… roleplay? GRETCHEN: like dungeons and dragons? I tried that… it… did not go well. SCRATCH: no, no, nothing like that. Ogres and Oubliettes. Once you play it, you never forget it. GRETCHEN: what makes it different? SCRATCH: you’ve seen some things, haven’t you? I say that, cause I can read people.
GRETCHEN: how did you know? SCRATCH: like I said. I read people. Like a book. That guy over there? Wishes he could work down the mines, but his dad pushed him to do ballet. You can see it in the way he goes up en pointe to move his pieces. Her? Afraid of mushrooms. GRETCHEN: what about zippy? SCRATCH: oh, that book’s been well thumbed. GRETCHEN: what can you tell me about her? SCRATCH: I told you, she’s been well thumbed. GRETCHEN: oh. So, supposing you’re right. I’ve been through some things, had some bad roleplaying. What makes this different? SCRATCH: you play the ultimate character. Yourself. GRETCHEN: yourself? Why would anyone do that? SCRATCH: you’ve gotten lost, haven’t you? Not known where you end, and the character begins. GRETCHEN: I don’t want to talk about it. SCRATCH: yet you’re here, talking to me. Ergo, you’re interested.
GRETCHEN: enough about me. Why does anyone want to play themselves? SCRATCH: you’re not just you. You’re the best version of yourself. The strongest, the fastest, the most skilled… you in? GRETCHEN: I’ll… I’ll think about it. I have to go. DOOR SLAM. EXIT GRETCHEN ZIPPY: what did you say to her? SCRATCH: the truth. ZIPPY: have you been reading people again? SCRATCH: …no. ZIPPY: good. Freaks everyone out. SCRATCH: we just talked. About games. ZIPPY: but what kind of games are you playing? SCRATCH: the only game I know how to play. ZIPPY: you’re not… SCRATCH: so what if I am? She’ll be fine.
ZIPPY: you know what happened to the last girl. SCRATCH: what? She’s fine. ZIPPY: she’s in the Innsmouth Hospital for the Criminally Insane! THUNDER SCRATCH: you can get decent money in admin. ZIPPY: she was going to be a lawyer! GAMER: ARSENIC! Hey, Steve won with arsenic! ZIPPY: go Steve! This isn’t over… SCRATCH: you can count on that. ACT ONE SCENE THREE COUNSELOR: you’ve made some new friends? GRETCHEN: I think so, yeah. COUNSELOR: and you haven’t been back to the problem behaviours? GRETCHEN: no.
COUNSELOR: good. You shouldn’t go back to… the problem behaviours. GRETCHEN: do you know what they are? COUNSELOR: I was trying not to name them. GRETCHEN: really? COUNSELOR: …yes. GRETCHEN: cause I’ve been playing Dungeons and Dragons a lot COUNSELOR: it’s good to have an outlet. GRETCHEN: that WAS the problem behaviour! COUNSELOR: huh. GRETCHEN: huh?? I pour my heart and soul out to you, and I get a huh. COUNSELOR: hey, I’ve got a hundred students to see after you, okay? Some of them with real problems! GRETCHEN: forget this. DOOR SLAM, PAUSE THEN A KNOCK COUNSELOR: come in!
DOOR OPENS, FOOTSTEPS, SITTING. COUNSELOR: so… how long has it been since you last played Operation?
ACT TWO SCENE ONE GRETCHEN: hey there, Gretch fans. Been 89 days since the Event. Here’s what I’ve been up to this week: it’s been fresher’s week. Got my SWAG on, which of course means study, work, admire god. It’s been a bit of a hard time on campus. Somebody invited me to a movie screening. It was Ghostbusters. I thought great, I’ll see some good, honest exorcisms. But it turns out it was about people taking the supernatural into their own hands. The only real ghostbuster is jesus. But maybe tomorrow will be better. Got my books through for the course, loads to read, so I’m going to be swamped. Met someone nice at a gaming group, and then someone a bit weird. But maybe nice weird? I don’t know. It’s like that guy I dated at my old school, wanted to form a theocracy on the Isle of White, but then it turned out he liked the reefer. dealbreaker. People are complicated. I guess I’ll wait and see. Gretch out. ACT TWO SCENE TWO LECTURER: while it started as a dispute over political influence on the papacy, the Investiture Controversy evolved into a larger struggle over the limits of secular and state power… that’s all I have time for. Sorry for arriving 58 minutes late. PEOPLE MOVING ABOUT, CROWD NOISE.
GRETCHEN: evolved, huh? LECTURER: yes, I believe so. If you’d like to read further, I can recommend some entries in Fordham’s Medieval Sourcebook, or… GRETCHEN: so it’s not just in science, huh? Got evolution on the brain. LECTURER: it’s a turn of phrase. GRETCHEN: turning away from the light. LECTURER: you know I’m Catholic, right? GRETCHEN: yeah, catho-licking satan’s boots. Next you’ll tell me you play Dungeons and Dragons. LECTURER: no. World of darkness. GRETCHEN RUNS SCREAMING FROM THE ROOM ACT TWO SCENE THREE DOOR KNOCK, OPEN SCRATCH: hey.
GRETCHEN: roll me up. GRETCHEN WALKING IN, DOOR CLOSES. SCRATCH: come right in. ZIPPY: gretchen? GRETCHEN: what are you doing here? ZIPPY: I uh… we… GRETCHEN: oh, you were studying. Sorry. ZIPPY: yeah. Studying. SCRATCH: you wanted a game of something? GRETCHEN: yeah. Ogres and Oubliettes. ZIPPY: you think you’re ready? GRETCHEN: I can’t seem to get away from it. Everywhere I look, there’s gaming. But this way… I’m still me. ZIPPY: you’re always you. GRETCHEN: Not when I was Gravid. Ranger. I talked to animals.
ZIPPY: ok, so not ranger. Mage? GRETCHEN: bit pagan. ZIPPY: warrior? SCRATCH: bard. GRETCHEN: yeah. I’m Gretchen. Bard. SCRATCH: are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin. GRETCHEN: no, wait, give me a second. Got to put my bag… there. Ok. SCRATCH: …then I’ll begin.
ACT THREE SCRATCH: you are zippy, mage of the elements, and gretchen, bard of… sounds. You are walking on a open road to a white castle. You see a stranger approach. ZIPPY: hail and well met! SCRATCH: is that really how you talk? ZIPPY: it is when I do reconstructions. SCRATCH: so you’re in armour now? ZIPPY: yep. Going to the renfaire. SCRATCH: I wasn’t thinking you would- ok, fine. GRETCHEN: um… I’m also going to the renfaire? Hail and hello, good sirrah? SCRATCH: Help me! My village is being attacked by goblins! GRETCHEN: then we must help! ZIPPY: does your village have a history of conflict with the goblins?
GRETCHEN: what? ZIPPY: what happened before the attack? SCRATCH: my people were out in the woods, hunting. ZIPPY: hunting what? SCRATCH: insight check please. DICE ROLL ZIPPY: Unnatural 20. SCRATCH: alright, he’s hiding something. ZIPPY: I pressure him. SCRATCH: intimidation or persuasion? ZIPPY: I’m gonna be bad cop. Gretchen, you be good cop. SCRATCH: ok, you take intimidate, you take persuade. TWO ROLLS ZIPPY: 16. You’d better level with me, and fast. GRETCHEN: 18. Just tell me, it’s better than making her angry.
SCRATCH: goblins. We were hunting goblins. GRETCHEN: wow. I didn’t see that coming. What now? ZIPPY: simple. we burn the village to the ground. GRETCHEN: I don’t know about this. ZIPPY: why not? They attacked first. GRETCHEN: I can’t start another fire. Not again. I’ll have to- SCRATCH: ooo-kay, this is clearly something you’re not comfortable with, so Zip? ZIPPY: we’ll… go and defend the goblins, try to keep the peace. Gretchen? GRETCHEN: sure. ACT THREE SCENE TWO COUNSELOR: I take it things are going well? GRETCHEN: I just told you things were going well, so yeah. COUNSELOR: good. Things going well is good.
GRETCHEN: what are your qualifications, exactly? COUNSELOR: that’s straying off topic. GRETCHEN: I don’t know why I was worried about Scratch. The game’s been real fun, and I know who I am. COUNSELOR: and who is that? GRETCHEN: I thought you had everybody’s names on file. COUNSELOR: I do. It was a figure of speech. So’s this – I’m going to go see a man about a horse. Just a moment. DOOR OPENS, CLOSES. GRETCHEN: let’s see what files you’ve got on me… PAPERS SHUFFLE GRETCHEN: hey, that looks like scratch… whose real name is… oh god. FLUSH, DOORS OPENING AND CLOSING COUNSELOR: alright, we’ve got a couple minutes so if you want to- hello? ACT THREE SCENE THREE OUTSIDE, BIRDSONG.
ZIPPY: It’s beautiful out here. You’re right, it is perfect picnic weather. SCRATCH: just avoid the geese. They get nasty this time of year. ZIPPY: mating season? SCRATCH: angry season. It starts in January. ZIPPY: when’s it stop? SCRATCH: I’ll let you know. FOOTFALLS ON GRASS. GRETCHEN: YOU! ZIPPY: me? GRETCHEN: no, you! SCRATCH: me. GRETCHEN: yeah. You. SCRATCH: what? GRETCHEN: it’s not just a game, is it?
SCRATCH: Ogres and Oubliettes? No, it’s also a cartoon series. Ran for 20 episodes in the 80s. GRETCHEN: and… it’s your way to claim another soul, isn’t it? ZIPPY: Gretchen, Jesus. GRETCHEN: I was having fun, I liked being a bard. But what happens next? We get together, do spells? Curse somebody? You gonna hex me, huh? ZIPPY: calm down, no-one’s getting hexed. GRETCHEN: right. Right. Cause no-one here is the spawn of satan. SCRATCH: entirely correct, yes. GRETCHEN: or is it, GREG SATAN? SHE THROWS A FILE DOWN. SCRATCH: where did you get that? GRETCHEN: doesn’t matter where I got it. SCRATCH: hey, this is my counseling report. This is confidential. GRETCHEN: like I said, doesn’t matter.
SCRATCH: it does, it’s a serious breach of trust. GRETCHEN: why should you care about trust, Son of the Father of Lies? SCRATCH: it’s just a name. My dad’s called Will. GRETCHEN: you two were trying to tempt me back to roleplaying, so I’d lose myself again, and have to burn down another Dice Emporium! ZIPPY: woah, what? I thought you just had a really bad games group or something. GRETCHEN: oh it was bad, alright. A mage, a paladin, a warrior. We all thought it would be fun to play a game in the basement of the biology building. ZIPPY: was it? GRETCHEN: at first, but then the games turned strange. I lost track of reality. I lost who I was. For a while, I WAS Gravid. My mission? To burn down the enemy stronghold. ZIPPY: look, you don’t have to play with us if it’s that much of a problem for you. Can stick to card games, or whatever, and you get some therapy or something? GRETCHEN: I’ve heard it all before. Oh, let’s play something else, Gretchen, maybe talk honestly about your family problems in
Gretchen, maybe talk honestly about your family problems in a safe clinical environment, Gretchen, don’t do three tabs of acid then go into a dark basement, Gretchen. ZIPPY: acid? SCRATCH: three tabs? GRETCHEN: what? ZIPPY: you don’t think the thing that made you go all… arson-happy was having stuff going on at home and then taking loads of drugs? GRETCHEN: my pastor said it was the game. SCRATCH: really? Not the acid. GRETCHEN: he should know, he sells D&Detox kits online. That’s literally his second job. SCRATCH: funny how that works. GRETCHEN: shut up, Old Scratch. SCRATCH: I’m not old. ZIPPY: eh. GRETCHEN: old scratch – the devil – satan.
ZIPPY: no, scratch is cause he used to get hives a lot. SCRATCH: yeah, turns out I have a hops allergy. GRETCHEN: huh. It’s all pretty convenient. You run an innocent games group. Psychedelics can cause problems. My pastor’s a grifter. He’s got a hops allergy. All so neat and tidy. ZIPPY: this is just like Operation all over again. SCRATCH: it’s nothing like operation! Nobody’s naked. This is way worse. ZIPPY: I really liked playing with you, Gretchen. SCRATCH: me too. ZIPPY: so… now you know what your problems actually are, you get some help, we maybe just hang out for a while, take things slow? SCRATCH: yeah. No harm done, right? DISTANT FIRE ZIPPY: was that… GRETCHEN: I should go.
ACT THREE SCENE FOUR GRETCHEN: it’s been… one day since the last incident. Gonna make a change on my blog, Gretch fans. Turns out I was maybe not in the best place mentally. Or in the best church. Turns out ‘Reading Terry Pratchett is a sin’ was NOT in fact in Corinthians. I apologised to my history tutor, who gave me some good advice, and now I’m gaming again. Thinking about getting an undercut. Got given something called a ‘dental dam’ by somebody running a stall outside the gym. I asked Zip what one was, and she offered to show me how they worked. She’s a good friend. Gretch out.