It’s Saturday afternoon and I’m standing aimlessly in the grocery store with nothing but a package of Andes mint chocolates in my basket. Tommy and Emily are coming over for dinner and I have total chef’s block. My inspiration for the day has been spent creating a backstory for my fictional character for our new game of Untold: Adventures Await.
Jon has set the premise for our “book”: We’ll be four first-years just starting at Hogwarts in the early ‘80s, shortly after Voldemort has taken out James and Lily Potter. The lost decade. My character will be Hyacinth, the younger cousin of fourth-year student Serj Tankian. They’re the first kids of Armenian descent ever to attend Hogwarts and, boy, they won’t let you forget it. Hyacinth’s special skills are divination through coffee cup readings and an evil eye curse that inflicts a random malady with just the flick of her wand. She’s compelled to go on adventures and live the uninhibited magical life her parents never got to live, after their family fled from the Muggles-only Armenian church all the way to Los Angeles, by way of Beirut. Her mother eventually became famous in the realm of the follicular arts, specializing in hairdressing and magically painless hair removal. Her father is a jeweler, and may his Muggle competitors never learn the secret to how his wares always shine so impossibly bright.
Am I crazy? Maybe. Untold is a storytelling game where you work together to create stories prompted by cards and StoryCubes. You start with establishing your characters, their special abilities, and your setting, then start asking questions, taking actions, and revealing symbols that help guide your plot twists and turns. The choice of playing with the Harry Potter universe is entirely our choice, because we’re a group of basic nerds.
But before we can dive into our story and rip open some chocolate frogs and Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans, we’ll need to eat some real food. And unfortunately, no thematically on point multi-course English feast is coming to my mind on this day.
Tommy wants mezze and Jon has a craving for stir-fry, so we end up going international…Pan-Asian, I guess? After some appetizers of olives, feta, sujuk, sulguni, and cured salmon, we move into a main course of Panko-battered and fried Kabocha squash, stir-fried vegetables, pepper steak, and black rice. Over dinner, we introduce ourselves, sharing our backstories as though our characters are meeting for the first time aboard the Hogwarts Express.
Later, stomachs full and wands at the ready, we get comfortable around the couch and get sorted into our Hogwarts houses. Jon’s Roland Mulligatawny from India and Emily’s Chloe Talon of Scotland are both fated for Slytherin, while I end up in Gryffindor with Tommy’s young British lad Jackson Applefrost.
On our first day of class, we immediately get ourselves into the bad graces of the goblin librarian Madam Pudgeful and our drama professor, Professor Merryheather. We coax some top secret information out of a couple of library mice and a talkative owl, thanks to Jackson’s ability to converse with animals, revealing our big bad for the story to be Vyken, a dark spectre we’ve just seen floating out of the library and muttering the name Prudence. Our sleuthing helps us learn Vyken is an evil being held captive within the walls of Hogwarts, but even more dangerous than You Know Who if released. What’s worse, a dark book has been stolen from the library’s Restricted section, a book that, in the wrong hands, might unlock the secrets to Vyken’s restoration to power. When we later find out from our animal informants that Prudence is the name of Madam Pudgeful’s mysterious sister who lives in a cottage past the Dark Forest, we set off on a midnight caper to go find her, only to get cornered at the locked front gate with the dark spectre himself and the goblin librarian closing in on us. Hyacinth’s evil eye curse gives Pudgeful a startling case of the hiccups, just distracting enough for Chloe’s toad Tobias to whip out his tongue and snatch a shining key from her belt. Roland’s pigeon Hob flies the key off to safekeeping just in time for us to conclude our night with a scolding from a stern-faced Professor McGonagall.
10 points docked from Gryffindor and Slytherin. One million points for these four nerds sitting on the floor in the living room passing around Andes mint chocolates and making up badass stories.