In which I break Patrick Rothfuss with a story about Catherine the Great and Anubis

At NerdCon (which was fantastic and you should go), Patrick Rothfuss invited me, Hank Green, Maureen Johnson, Paul Sabourin, and Joseph Fink to play The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen. I have learned that when Pat invites me to do something, I should just say yes, because it will be fun.

Edited to add: I’ve since learned that this was based on an actual published game, by James Wallis, that is available for purchase.

So — here is the introduction and my story. If you want to skip the set-up, which is funny, I start talking around 5:30.

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18 Responses

  1. Sara

    #1 – Your hair looks amazing!
    #2 – very nice fan deployment
    #3 – ???? ???!

    (I wish I’d heard this story back when I wrote that paper on Catherine the Great for my Russian history class…)

    1. Mary Robinette Kowal Post author

      Thanks for the link, Peter. I didn’t know it was a published game. Because Baron Munchausen himself has been around since the 1700s, I sort of thought it was like a version of charades that I just hadn’t heard of before. I’ve forwarded the link to the NerdCon folks and will update the text of my post.

      1. Peter Hentges

        Exactly. It’s the sort of thing that seems a natural extension of the existence of Baron Munchausen, which is what makes the game design elements so very clever. (James is good at that. You’d probably also like his (along with Andrew Rilstone and Richard Lambert) cooperative fairy-tale storytelling game “Once Upon A Time:” http://www.atlas-games.com/ouat3/) I expected that most of the folks involved simply weren’t aware.

    2. Miriam

      Didn’t see Peter’s comment before I posted mine below… this is definitely weird and unfortunate. As an audience member, I assumed the game was a summer-camp-style activity whose origins were lost in the mists of time, like that thing where everyone writes a section of a story on a folded piece of paper and then you unfold it to reveal the results (e.g. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consequences_(game) )

      These things can get tricky, since on the one hand as far as I can tell the players in this case were making up their own prompts rather than using those written in the published game. On the other hand, the structure and point system is not a negligible component of the activity! And, for example, if you play your own “make up definitions for words in the dictionary” game, you probably shouldn’t call it “Balderdash” at a paid event even if the activity predated the trademarked/named/published game (Wikipedia knows all: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balderdash).

      Happy to learn the correct attribution here, and I hope any necessary apologies and corrections and processes for future improvement are forthcoming…

      1. Arthur

        Mary, have you reached out to Patrick about this so that he can make sure the proper attribution is used in the YouTube video description and otherwise get the word out there about the game?

        It’s mentioned in the YouTube comments, of course. But if Pat is at all sensible he ignores those.

      2. Arthur

        (It’s probably also worth noting that, to my knowledge, the hooks provided with the game are mere suggestions and improvising your own hooks is entirely in the spirit of the thing and, if I remember right, positively encouraged in the text.)

      3. V

        To my knowledge, the game _is_ a summer-camp-style activity whose origins were lost in the mists of time, and which someone just decided to codify and publish. At least, I know I used to play it years before the game’s listed publication date.

        1. James Wallis

          That is incorrect. I designed The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen in 1996, wrote and playtested it in 1997, and published the first edition in 1998. Although it was influenced by the theatresports games originated by Keith Johnstone in the late 1970s, most of the thinking behind it comes from the story-telling card-game Once Upon a Time (Atlas, 1993), which I also designed.

          I’ve spoken to many people who have told me they’ve heard I based Munchausen on a traditional improv game. I’ve never met anyone who says they played an improv game like Munchausen prior to 1998. If you have any evidence to the contrary, I would be very interested to hear it.

  2. Miriam

    This was absolutely a highlight of the con, and although the rest of the stories were charming and creative and funny, they paled in comparison to Mary’s 🙂

  3. Marie

    Wish I could have met you at Nerdcon! Hopefully will go next year! Had a beautiful baby girl instead. :). With the middle name Jane, partially because of all the great Janes in some of my favorite books, yours included!

  4. Kelley

    Your fabulous tale has brought a laugh to my lips more than once now – I’ve watched and been amazed at your skillful impromptu unfolding of the story again and again. As for the Baron Munchausen game, I’m sorry it wasn’t initially attributed correctly, but, WoW!, am I happy you publicised it. I bought 3 copies…Fabulous holiday gifts for certain people on my list. Thank you (and James Wallis)!

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