Reality by Agreement

A short excerpt doesn’t do it justice. Have a look at I’m not Toto, and this isn’t Kansas, a funny and also thought-provoking entry to an otherwise not-that-interesting Slashdot thread about taboo subjects:

…One of the base rules of the game was “If you’re out of your tent, you’re in character”.

…a couple of wedding party members wandered into the game space….it took less than 2 hours to convince two sane, intelligent, and reasonably successful (possibly mildly inebriated) people that they had been magically transported into another world. All it took was a few score people with absolutely no willingness to admit that any other truth was possible or to act like there was anything wrong with this world.

Read the full original, or see the duplicated version in the extended.

I’m not Toto, and this isn’t Kansas.

(Score:5, Interesting)

by darkonc (47285) >
on 07:40 PM January 4th, 2004 (

( | Last Journal: 12:36 PM January 18th, 2003)

If you take the Landmark Forum [] and then take their follow up course — the ubiquitously named “Advanced Course”, they have a section when they talk about types of reality. One is “reality by agreement”. It reminded me about one rather extreme case of reality by agreement. (which links solidly into this whole heresy thing).

Back in the ’80s, there was a company known as “Sir Unicorn Enterprises”. They created a game called “Dreamquest” (which later morphed into the LRPS [] Live Role-Playing System). It was based on a D&D type scenario, where you had different character classes with different abilities etc. However it was done live-action and on a commercial scale… For my first game there were about 75 ‘players’ (paying customers) and a dozen, or two, actors (game creatures).

One of the base rules of the game was “If you’re out of your tent, you’re in character”.

Other than the limitations and powers of your character class, there
was very little limitation to your character. You got to make up their
personality, their costume, their history — Even the history of how they got to
Samiltan (the country in which the game was played). As an extreme, there was one
guy on my first quest who was dressed in a (civilian) paratrooper’s outfit. His story
was that he was on a jump, went through this weird glowing portal thing, and next thing
he knew he was fighting dragons…. Character class: Fighter (of course — completely

The venue of my first quest was a country club.. We had one small section of the
country club building (basically a large room) and the edges of the property leading down into the river valley.
On the Friday night, we were given very explicit instructions to not go beyond the end of
the one room, because there was a wedding going on, and we were NOT to go beyond there.
Disturbing the ‘mundanes’ (non-players) could get us booted out.

In game parlance, The world ends there.

Of course the country club didn’t warn the wedding party about our
presence (why should they? They knew that we wouldn’t go past the
“end of the world”).

And of course, a couple of wedding party members wandered into the game space.

I’m thinking that the first thing that they learned was not to go past “the
end of the world”.

But they wanted to go home, so they started talking to people, and hearing
stories — stories from past dreamquests and the present one… stories of
magic, demons dragons and an impending doom if “the unnamed one” could not
be stopped.

At first, they were highly skeptical (of course), but they didn’t really care,
they just wanted to get home — unfortunately, nobody could tell them about
how to get home — of course, nobody could, since it made sense that anybody
who got home probably {w,c}ouldn’t come (willingly) back from a mundane (non-magical) world.
Nonetheless, it was possible (but not guaranteed) that a powerful enough
wizard might be able to get them home. One thing that they had going
for them, though, was that recent events in this corner of Samiltan had
resulted in the gathering of some of the most powerful wizards known (and
probably the cause of their own troubles). Thus, if anyplace had hope of
getting them home, it was likely to be here.
About the only thing that they learned for sure, however, was that they should not go
past the end of the world… People were adamant about that — beyond there lay death.

From what I can tell, they were in the game area for at least an hour… maybe two.
Word was going around the players that a couple of characters (possibly actors)
were playing guests from the wedding, and trying to get people to break character.

but we knew better, right?

Nobody would break character for them.
The guy in the parachute outfit probably clinched it for them… If they
could expect a straight answer out of anybody, it would be him, since
he was dressed “normal”
but he seemed to have much the same questions as they did — and no answers.
In fact, he seemed pretty resigned to his fate — happy even.

“Dressed strange? We’re not dressed strange.
You’re dressed strange.”

“Those are the strangest
suits of armor I’ve ever seen!”

“Doesn’t look like they’d stop
a dagger, much less a sword…. unless they’re magical.”

“Are they magical?”

“Could I test them?”

“Do they stop magic?”

By the time they got to me, these two unfortunates were down to two possibilities:

  1. They were insane
  2. They really were in a different world.

Between the two of them, they were able to bounce things off
of each other and determine that weren’t both insane, so this
really only left (2). And if 2 were true, then — with no magic
they had absolutely no way to get home.

They were starting to get scared, and very desperate

How do I know this? They got me to break character.
They started their conversation by telling me that they knew
that people ended up here by going through portals, and that they
guessed that they had probably gone thru a portal of some sort,
but they really didn’t remember it — everybody else who had
been portaled into the world semed to remember a glowing portal, and they were sure

that they would have remembered something like that (they weren’t
anywhere near that drunk

In the
middle of our conversation, one of them suddenly broke into
something of a monologue along the lines of:

I don’t know if this is of value to you in this world, but it’s the only
thing I have on me that’s of any value. If you can get any value out of
it please do. If we can do anything else for you, just ask, but we just
want to get home… Please. Just get us home. That’s all I ask.

Then he handed me his wallet.

I looked through his wallet… Not new, but a very good
quality wallet. Gold cards (unexpired), cash,
driver’s license. Yep.. It was a real wallet and he wouldn’t take it back.
He just wanted me to get them home.
That is when I realized that they were for real.

Even so, I wasn’t willing to commit the heresy of completely breaking
character. I dropped partly out of character for a moment at a time ..
long enough to drop a clear hint about the dual nature of “the world”.
I got their story from them, and told them that if they went
beyond “the end of the world” over there, there were rumors of a
wedding of some sort, but not for our kind… For us to go there was
death — but if they were truly of another world their passage might
be safe.

The guy that had offered me his wallet, wanted me to keep it, but
I managed to convince him to accept it back it by taking a $2 bill out of it (yes,
there were bigger bills in there).

I never heard from them again. I took that as a sign that they
made safely it back to their universe.

My point is that it took less than 2 hours to convince two
sane, intelligent, and reasonably successful (possibly mildly inebriated)
people that they had been magically transported into another world.
All it took was a few score people with absolutely no willingness
to admit that any other truth was possible or to act like there was anything
wrong with this world.
It helped that there was a reasonably consistent (if vague) explanations about how
they had probably been transported from ‘home’.

There were two key heresies which doomed them to their fate:
One was going beyond ‘the end of the world’ (toward the wedding).

The other was admitting that we were anywhere but Samiltan.

It turns out that it doesn’t take much heresy to lock ourselves into a fantasy world.

This entry was posted in Readings. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Reality by Agreement

  1. That reminds me somewhat of the crazy people I meet all the time which try to convince me that the earth is ball-shaped or as some of them claim a rotational-ellepsoid. What a silly Idea! Everybody would fall of! But these people (they must be playing a game of some kind) state that one could see it”s a ball ant that they can proof it – based on observing the planets and their stars. But when I ask them to do so they start murmuring because they don’t have a proof for their phantasm.

    So If you show them that the earth obviously is flat by observation and they can’t back their crazy claims by any observation besides that they don’t manage to look as far out to the see as they like to, they usually get very angry and call *you* a lunatic.

Comments are closed.