a freeform game of limited communication, invented meaning, & the revelation of secrets
for two to four players
In Zeitgeist, 2 to 4 players will assemble to conduct a séance, with one of those gathered serving as spirit-medium (the others being referred to as “patrons” collectively). Choose the medium in any manner that seems fitting to the participants. The last to have visited a cemetery might have a stronger link to the departed, for example.
During the game, the chosen psychic medium will contact a restless spirit that desires to make something known to one or more of the assembled participants, and become possessed by that spirit. Communication through the veil of death is difficult, and thus the answers the spirit is able to provide through the medium-as-mouthpiece will be severely limited.
To begin play, a quiet place can aid in contacting and listening to the spirits, but is not strictly necessary. Each of the patrons (but not the medium) must provide one item in their possession for use in the séance. Nearly anything will do — a pair of spectacles; a banknote; a key; a fountain pen. Each item should be distinct from the others, and able to be easily picked up and held.
Additionally, either of the following mystical tools will be needed:
ASTRAL FOCUS: A smartphone or similar device capable of accessing the internet and/or Twitter.
GRIMOIRE: A book of text, fiction or nonfiction, running at least 50 pages.
Any of the participants may provide the astral focus or grimoire; they needn’t belong to the medium. Depending on the tools available, the selected spirit-medium will open themselves as a channeler using either the astral focus to establish a connection through the aether, or allow the spirits to communicate via the esoteric secrets of the grimoire.
Arrange the participants in a circle, including the medium. Sitting is traditional (and is close to the literal meaning of the French word “séance”), but not required. If available, a round table where all assembled can see one another is ideal. Place the personal items from the patrons in the center of the group.
The assembled must next join hands, close their eyes, bow their heads, and repeat after the medium, who will lead with the the following line by line (reading the text if necessary):
We enjoin thee,
Share your secrets,
Find us worthy.
After this, the patrons will remain with their heads bowed and eyes closed. The spirit-medium will begin to contact the departed, using their selected instrument.
ASTRAL FOCUS: Visit this page using your smartphone or similar device: http://twitter.com/ZeitgeistOracle
(If using a Twitter app, feel free to search for “ZeitgeistOracle” directly.) Record the 10 most recent postings from that account in a way that referring to them will be easy. Copying and pasting them into a note app is fine, as is transcribing them to a sheet of paper.
GRIMOIRE: Turn to 10 random pages in the selected book, and transcribe a short sentence or fragment from the bottom line of text on each. The sentence or fragment need not be complete, but should most times not begin or end too abruptly.
With either method, take note of any themes that seem to immediately present themselves. Once all 10 passages have been recorded using either of the above methods, the medium should instruct the patrons to raise their heads, and open their eyes. Make it plain that these are the last words the spirit-medium will speak of their own accord for the remainder of the séance — henceforth, when the patrons speak to the medium, it will be the spirit that answers.
Medium, as your last action under your own power, set a timer for one hour exactly, and set it into motion where all may see. Contact with the spirit realm is taxing, and any connection beyond that span is both dangerous and fragile.
INSTRUCTIONS TO THE MEDIUM:
Stand up from your chair at this point, if you are seated. You will move about the space for the remainder of the séance. When asked questions, you must reply using one of the 10 excerpts you have recorded. The relevance of your answer may be crystal clear, opaque, half-relevant, repetitive — respond as makes sense to you and as the spirit moves you. Try to respond to questions in the moment, using the response that first leaps out to you. The questions the patrons ask will guide what comes next, and in combination with your answers, all assembled will discover what the spirit wishes to make known.
If you wish to have your response be associated with a specific patron directly, reach into the center of the group and disturb the personal item that they have provided.
Certain phrases, when repeated, may come to take on meanings beyond the literal — embrace this, and use it to come nearer to making the spirit’s secret known.
Should the patrons become sufficiently lost, confused, or otherwise unable to proceed in a productive way in their communication with the spirit, do this: return to your spot, resume your place there, and announce to the patrons that the spirit has left your body and thus the séance has ended. If the hour timer goes off, the séance ends then as well.
Otherwise, do the above when the secret the spirit wishes to share becomes apparent for those assembled.
INSTRUCTIONS TO THE PATRONS:
Address your questions to the medium’s empty chair, for their body is still present there, and the spirit will answer from that body’s mouth.
You may ask any question of the spirit that you like, though you ought not to presume too much. Elsewise, the spirit may become defiant or vengeful, and depart from the medium before making its secret known to you. Presuming to ask “Who killed you?” straight away is probably too much, if nothing the spirit has shared suggests that so far. “How did you die?” however, presumes nothing at all beyond what the spirit’s condition makes plain anyway.
The spirit will answer you to the best of its ability, but its answers may not always be clear. Do know that the spirit is trying to communicate, and is not interested in preserving its secrets, or the secrets of anyone else present that it may know — quite the opposite. The spirit is eager to pass on its secret to the living so that it may experience peace in death at last.
Even in a séance, however, the veil of death stands dark and heavy, and so the restless spirit will often repeat itself, or answer with what may sound like nonsense. Interpret this as you will, but know that the spirit will always speak truth above all to any who ask.
When the séance has ended, the patrons should share with the medium what the spirit made known — due to the psychic demands of acting as vessel for the dead, the medium will have no recollection past the setting of the hour timer into motion. Whether the patrons choose to be truthful with the medium about what the spirit revealed is for them to decide alone.
Written in October 2015 for the second annual Golden Cobra freeform challenge. @ZeitgeistOracle Twitter bot created using instructions here: