The game is set at a campsite in Saratoga Springs, NY. In-game time was from 5pm until 11am on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Each day of play represents a 4th of July party in 1982, 1983, and 1984. (The game timeline is skewed to represent actual events that happened throughout the whole of the 80s.) There are two separate events happening: Mr T’s Big Gay 4th of July Party, and a gathering of the Saratoga Pact, a group of cancer survivors who meet there every year to renew their vows to remain friends. Up until now the groups have remained separate, but in the past few years the two groups have gotten used to each other’s presence and have begun to mingle.
The campground itself consisted of 10 cabins. There was one regular-sized cabin at the entrance to the campsite, which served as a staff cabin and was the location of one of the Black Box rooms. There was the large main cabin/mess hall with lots of tables and chairs where we had both OOC meetings and in-character meals prepped by the staff of the fictional Pepper’s Diner. The main lodge is also where a huge metal rig was set up from which we hung silver sequined curtains, a disco ball, strobe lights, and other colored lights for the drag shows and the disco.
A little further into the campground were four regular-sized cabins (each of which held 8 bunk beds) on each side of a grassy field with some twisty paths in between. (And of course, there was a large cabin full of shower stalls and toilets.) Six of the regular-sized cabins were used as sleeping cabins. One of the remaining two cabins was called The Darkroom, which was a men-only BDSM space. It had all sorts of BDSM paraphernalia strewn about, and had a constant stream of gay porn playing on a laptop (or projected onto a wall in the fiction, I think?). And the last cabin was called the Pillow Room, in which the bunk beds were all pushed up against the walls and the mattresses removed and strewn all over the floor, covered with blankets and pillows. The light bulbs were replaced with soft red bulbs, and there were lava lamps in the windows.
So… meet Katherine. She’s a lesbian who is currently in her thirties. Both of her parents died when she was a child, so she and her little brother Artie were raised by their grandmother in an apartment on the Upper West Side overlooking Central Park… though in actuality, they were raised by a string of nannies. Grandma Georgina was the widow of a wealthy banker, and they never wanted for anything financially. Growing up, Katherine and Artie were constantly meeting people who were considered important and powerful. After high school, Katherine went to NYU for journalism and quickly rose to became the editor for The City section of the New York Times, while Artie went to Harvard and eventually became the host of his own radio show.
One of the things that stood out to me from my character sheet was, “A girl like you can’t be at a party like this without deciding on someone to flirt with and maybe hit on for the night. Who will it be? Somebody you know well or some interesting woman you have yet to get to know?” I decided that Katherine was very promiscuous and sort of a “huntress” of lovers. She’s very femme and oozes confidence and sex. But she is only femme in the way that she looks – her personality is at times quite butch, which both startles and thrills people.
Katherine’s inner circle consists of three other lesbians: Charlotte, Santiago, and Kimberly. In the workshops, we established that Katherine and Santiago have an on-again, off-again kind of relationship. They’re close friends regardless of whether or not they’re having sex, which they currently are not since Santiago is in a relationship with Pen, Mr T’s secretary. Charlotte is Mr T’s lawyer and Katherine’s best friend. The two have known each other for a long time, and they tell each other everything. They love each other, but there is no romantic energy here whatsoever. Kimberly is Charlotte’s newest girlfriend. They’ve been together for a while now, and have recently recently announced their plans to have a baby. Katherine suspects that Kimberly is keeping some secrets, but keeps quiet about her suspicions out of respect for Charlotte (and lack of proof). She hopes that she’s wrong; she wants Charlotte to be happy. We jokingly – okay, not really joking – refer to ourselves as the “lesbian nucleus.” We all have the kind of close friendships with each other that almost resemble siblings: rife with drama on the inside, but will protect each other fiercely if an outsider threatens any of us.
Katherine’s social circle is called Pink Dollars, a group of six wealthy and influential queer folk in NYC who invite each other to social gatherings and discreetly help each other out when necessary. Other members of Pink Dollars include Sinclair Everett, a married and closeted politician; Ruben McHallow, the owner of a successful communications company; Ike, Ruben’s boyfriend who also works for him as a designer; Bruce, a stock broker; and Mr Terrence Thurlow, the owner of an advertising agency, and who is known to the public only as Mr T.
The game begins with everyone frozen in place while the song Just A Little Lovin’ by Dusty Springfield plays. Then, we raise the American flag while we listen to Dolly Parton singing the Star Spangled Banner. Many people sang along. (Honestly, it wasn’t until the second day that I realized everyone else had saluted the flag by placing their right hands over their hearts. I haven’t saluted the flag since about third grade or so, so it didn’t even dawn on me that I should. Thus is my dedication to the game that I did so!) Once the song was over, Mr T welcomed everyone to the party, and the game began.
In some ways, my heart hasn’t quite left that campground in MN. There are some scenes that will be burned into my memory forever. In other ways, pieces of the game have already faded from my mind. I will try to piece together what I do remember, hopefully in the right order.