Riddles in the Dark
My Personal Struggle with the Fair-Day Goose
by Stephen Wardle
I got a big game coming up this Sunday when we shoot Threshold. Way back in season 1, Casey, who plays Clarion, set up a bit of Maraish culture that has been much talked about but we’ve yet to see (the Fair-Day Goose) and I'm finally bringing it out this weekend. The event is simple: participants take turns asking and answering each other’s riddles until one party can’t. It’s very Tolkien and the way that I’m going to do it makes me very excited because of a little twist I have planned. But here’s the thing I’ve been having the trouble with: how do I make riddles that the party can answer that won’t be ridiculously easy but that won’t be so hard that I stump the players right off the bat?
Let me explain in further depth. Say I pose the riddle “Why is six afraid of seven?”. We all know the answer is “because seven ate nine,” because we’ve heard it a million times, but when you deconstruct the riddle, it actually becomes a cool little linguistical puzzle. The pun of “eight” versus “ate” is very clever in this context, but only fully appreciated if we grasp it in both pragmatic contexts. It seems so obvious and stupid to a native english speaker, but it might go over the head of someone who think of numbers as sept, huit, neuf. This joke doesn’t translate. This brings me to Threshold.
The riddles that exist in our world, may not be understood by denizens of the Strip, and the riddles told during the Marish Fair-Day Goose, that may be as trite and common in the swamps of Aeron, may not be understood by my players. Despite what Brian/Jamie tries to achieve, a perfect level of player-character knowledge cannot be achieved. By nature of not living in Threshold, we can’t know everything they know. The language we speak in the game, although english to our ears, is actually Aeron when spoken by the characters. Vel speaks a bunch of languages. Clarion speaks Maraish. If I write a riddle that hinges of a contextual usage of the Elvish word for short/dwarf it would be way to nerdy to be solved by my players. But 7 ate 9, while preferred, is meta for me to believe that Clarieon Johns from Marais will have an understanding of a similar pun in Threshold.
So that’s my conundrum, finding the balance between our meta-world and the world I’ve created. It all goes back to that verisimilitude versus pragmatism that I so like to talk about. I have to split the difference and try to find riddles that both parties will get. I’ll leave you with this one I just made up:
Q: What is the difference between a Bullywug and a dead fisherman?Continue reading