Downfall session: Luminaria

Game night comes, and due to sickness and such, there are 3 of us: myself, Jenny, and Sasha. We meet at Gamehaus, the local game cafe here in the Glendale area, and I am able to easily convince the crew to play Downfall (per previous blog post here).

The Haven: Luminaria

We decided on a Flaw of Confidence, and have a little discussion on this. Sasha has definitely been on a computer, and AI, and statistical kick, and part of the definition revolves around making binary decisions of Yes and No, with no middle ground or indecision. We discuss for a bit, and feel comfortable where we are at.

We decide on three Elements: Echo, Music, Light. Conversation flows...

  • Light and Echo: Communities that communicate via light houses across distances. But no oceans. Maybe expanses of uninhabited terrain between settlements.
  • Light: Our energy and food source. We are a race of creatures that sustain much of our needs through sunlight.
  • Music and Lightness: We have an abundance of energy, and overconfidence in our resources. A carefree attitude towards sustenance.
  • Music: The way we communicate emotions; variability; but not decisions. Decisions are confidently made and then followed. Music is the space in between.
  • Music: The changes in our environment are constant and fluid (rivers and streams change direction and course, great winds come and go), but don't have huge, singular impacts on our day-to-day well being.
  • Echo: Messages are repeated back to ensure correctness; confidence.
  • Echo: Although many species end up diverging greatly over time, because of our quick and often communication between settlements, culture and thoughts are echoed between our cities.

We name our Haven: Luminaria.

Six traditions

BIRTH: When a choice is made to plant a new one (of us; a baby; a seed), no others will be planted until it is born, or dies. | Symbol: Seen on the door of the nursery, a branch with a single leaf signals a being has been planted and is growing

COMMUNICATION: Performed through certainty and dualism (yes and no), and not in degrees of certainty. | Symbol: High notes signify a "yes" or "affirmative", and low notes signify a "no" or "negative". Music is for emotional communication which is fluid, and not for decisions, which are binary.

FOOD: Light/energy (that is stored in battery-type technologies) is always freed at the beginning of a new day (light cycle) as it is wrong to store nature's gift. | Symbol: Elaborate clock towers that use this stored energy run in the morning based on this excess energy, and the people celebrate this each morning.

JUSTICE: When someone has committed a crime, they are judged before night fall, and proclaimed innocent (and live) or guilty (and die). | Symbol: "The culling" policy; a sun character with a spear pointing downwards.

EMPLOYMENT: Because light provides resources in abundance, most people spend their lives making music. They "talk" with music within the cities. However city-to-city light-beam communication is simpler and more terse, and binary. | Symbol: The towers use single, simple horns, but the music of cities is lively and light, made with woodwinds and string instruments.

HOSPITALITY: It is customary to offer a musical tune in return for a night's stay in a welcoming home. | Symbol: As a guest, you are welcome, if your tune is echoed back to you by the host.

The Luminaria in more detail

At some point during character creation, and defining the appearance of characters, we had to go back to define our creatures a bit better. So I'll start with that.

We decided on plant or tree like creatures, but that are able to move, albeit slowly. The feet have root-type systems that can be used to get nutrients from the soil. At night we are generally and traditionally stationary (as there is no light energy source), however our technologies include devices that store light energy during the day, for use at night. We have limbs with branching fingers, but also a top foliage layer, which may be different colors and styles depending on local adaptations.

Although the cities are oasis like in that they are sparse and distant from each other, there are travelers that go from city to city. Generally travelers follow the streams and rivers, that change often during different seasons.

They have orifices in their upper body through which they breath various gasses, but that they don't use for consumption of food (as they photosynthesize mostly). That said, they can "breath" air out of these "mouths", and therefore play wind instruments, as well as string instruments with their hands.

Also, during character creation, we fell into the traps of calling our Hero and Fallen "he" and the Pillar, who was the Hero's lover, a "she". We had a discussion on gender, and decided that there was no male and female gender for our race... but that reproduction can only happen by sharing cuttings (as in plant / succulent cuttings) between two different individuals, so that there is a mix of genes. That said, you could mix any two individuals to create a new being. We decided to make a strong effort to use the word "it" instead of "he" and "she", and see how that goes.

HERO: Parren

  • Occupation: Energy storage overseer
  • Rebellion: Upset that energy storage is released each morning. Doesn't believe that it should be a celebration, and finds it wasteful.
  • Identity: Less foliage than the average Luminaria, and has a scar and is lopsided and asymmetric. Perhaps that reduced energy consuming ability has affected the thinking process. Is not from around here, and has yellow foliage and flowers (as opposed to the blue that is local)

FALLEN: Thrall

  • Relationship to the hero: Adopted parent of Parren, when it first came to
  • Occupation: The head judge, who is a tie breaker from the two lower judges, if they do not share the same judgement on matters of crime.
  • Identity: Bark/skin is aged, and shows depth, wisdom, and experience. Full foliage, symmetric, and shows a display of virility.


  • Relationship to the hero: Childhood friend turned lover, and life partner
  • Occupation: "The Grower"; manages the nursery and new babies (called "branches")
  • Identity: The epitomy of beauty. Long lasting, fragrant blossoms. A skilled musician which possesses the rare skill of "The Whistling Wind", making wind music without a wood wind tool.

A summary of scenes

We played out 3 scenes, so each player got a chance to play each roll at least the one time. Each time a tradition was corrupted, from the birthing restrictions, to an employment breakdown which prevents the training of new workers, and a final breakdown in the hospitality echo criteria.

Eventually the breakdown in hospitality towards visitors caused a shortage of various resources we needed, such as wall-making materials to protect our new buds from big winds, and then an army of foreign Luminaria who were coming to protest our (possibly inadvertent) aggressive positioning.

Summing it up

The role playing was in starts and spurts, and became confused at times due to our somewhat ambiguous understanding (by the players) of ourselves (the characters), especially as a species. In some scenarios this could work, as the play is exploring these characteristics, but in this case I think we went a little too abstract, and there were instances of obvious misunderstandings around things we had previously "agreed" upon. This caused some scenes to breakdown because we stopped to clarify things that maybe two of us had understood and a third might not have.

I attribute part of this to the fact that we were playing very non-human and unfamiliar creatures, but also that it was late on a weeknight, and at a certain point we became low on brain power. 

As a facilitator, I tried to help ensure shorter and more well-defined traditions, and ensuring that the corruptions of traditions indeed had to do with the flaw. That said, I could have definitely been a little more aggressive and done a better job in this regard. In retrospect, looking at the traditions we created, and the way they were corrupted, I think that also led to some confusion, and caused the role playing to spiral a bit away from the exploration of the flaw as a cornerstone for the society and as its downfall. I was worried that too much control on my part might hamstring the creative process and contributions by the other players, but perhaps better discussions and clarifications would have prevented some of this later-game confusion.

All in all though, everyone thoroughly enjoyed the world creation process, but agreed that we ended up having a rough time with some of the later game dynamics. I'm definitely interested in trying again and seeing how another session goes.

Downfall at Gamehaus

Downfall at Gamehaus