Why ELS Part 4: Tell Me A Story

This month, in part 4 of our “Why ELS Game Day?” is dedicated to the S in ELS Gameday as we talk story gaming and Mary Shelley. 

The ELS Day logo; Mary Shelley on the right!

The ELS Day logo; Mary Shelley on the right!

Her Story:

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley was born in August of 1797 to her political philosopher father and feminist philosopher mother. Her mother died a month after childbirth and she was raised by her father. Most of her childhood was a happy one, but when her father remarried, Mary grew to detest her new stepmother. She did not receive any formal education, however, her father tutored her, took her on outings to museums and lectures and she had access to all of his philosopher and intellectual friends. 

It was one of these intellectuals that caught Mary’s eye. Percy Shelley was estranged from his wife when he and Mary began to meet secretly at her mother’s grave in 1814. Her father was disapproving of Shelley because Percy had agreed to help him get out of debt, but he had to renege on his deal when his family cut him off. In July of 1814, Mary and Percy eloped, but did not marry. 

They were constantly struggling for money and Mary found herself pregnant as Percy had to keep leaving to avoid creditors. He was also having affairs with other women. Mary was distressed, and gave birth two months early to a baby girl who did not survive. Their financial situation got better and Mary gave birth to a son, William, in January of 1816. 

In May of 1816, Mary and Percy went to visit Lord Byron at a house he rented in Lake Geneva. While there, they were sitting around one night discussing German ghost stories, which prompted Lord Byron to challenge everyone to write a ghost story to amuse the rest of the party. The story Mary wrote, Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, is more often known these days by the shortened title Frankenstein. With her husband’s encouragement, it was expanded into a novel and published anonymously in 1818. 

A portrait of Mary doing what she loved.

A portrait of Mary doing what she loved.

Mary and Percy were married in December of 1816, and Mary gave birth to a baby girl, Clara in 1817. Due to the financial issues they were having in England, they left for Italy in 1818.  The joy of their life in Italy was shadowed when they lost Clara in September of 1818 and William in June of 1819. Mary fell into a deep depression. She found solace in her writing until her fourth child, Percy,  was born in November of 1819. 

After her husband’s death by drowning in 1822, Mary continued to live in Italy. In her later life, she extended the practice of her mother’s feminist principles by helping women whom society had turned their back on. She focused on editing her late husband’s works. She never married again, but had several suitors, including Washington Irving. Mary died on February 1, 1851, of what doctors believed was a brain tumor. Mary’s sole surviving child, Percy, discovered the ashes of her late husband and the remains of his heart in her box desk. Even in her death, her legacy for the macabre lived on. 

Mary’s classic story is often looked at as the birth of science fiction. Her writing still inspires so many and is one of the inspirations behind many story and horror games today. 

Storytelling Games:

While all role-playing games focus on storytelling, there are many board games that are just as good (and shorter)! Here are a few of our favorites.

Wing It: The Game of Extreme Storytelling by Flying Leap Games is a party game similar in style to Apples to Apples or Cards Against Humanity. There’s a Judge, who reads a card that gives the other players a situation. Each player has 5 cards, and they must choose 3 to thread into a story of how they escape the situation. This can turn very silly very quickly. Meepline’s favorite of her answers was saving a hiking group stuck in a ravine with a talking donkey, a giant rubber band, and a box of Dunkaroos. Use your imagination to figure out how!

Gloom by Atlas Games is one of Meepline’s favorite games of all time. There are 6 different versions (Original, Space, Cthulhu, Munchkin, Gloom of Thrones, and Fairy Tale), and they are all amazing. You choose a family, and use the unique see-through cards to make them as miserable as possible before you kill them off. And you can’t JUST play the cards. Oh, no, you must tell us WHY Mordecai was Mocked by Midgets, or any one of a number of amazingly alliterated ailments.

Stuffed Fables by Plaid Hat Games is actually an RPG in a box, and can easily be played with children as young as 6 (although the box says 7 and the Board Game Geek community recommends 8). You take on the role as stuffed animals fighting bravely to protect your girl from the terrors sent her way by an evil mastermind. The art and minis are adorable, the story is intriguing, and any game you can play with young kids to introduce them to true role-playing games is a plus in our books!

Until next time, may all your hits be crits!