Previously: Frequently Asked Questions, Vol. VI.
It’s that time again! As always, I’ll caution you against taking any of my answers as gospel truth; they’re (usually) just my best guesses based on what I know about these kinds of games and/or other research I’ve conducted. (I am by no means an expert.) I’m also highly risk averse, so I tend to err on the side of caution; you may be more of a gambler than I am, in which case you may not feel compelled to take the same precautions.
[Like what you read? Check out Dangerous Games To Play In The Dark, available from Chronicle Books now!]
I’ll add all these to the Master FAQ as soon as I can.
What do I do if I want to do a ritual that calls for an object of power protection, but I don’t have an object I think will work for it?
Don’t do the ritual. Seriously. Proceeding without a power or protection object when it’s specifically stated one is required would be like bungee jumping without a cord.
The Dark Music Ritual:
I don’t get the position of things. Are you inside the sheltered room or not? Is the flute inside or outside?
Here, I made a rough diagram that may help. The whole picture is the sheltered room (walls delineated with a thick, black border); everything else takes place within it:
Note, though, that your hiding place doesn’t necessarily have to be inside the same room as the door/instrument set-up — if you’re performing the ritual in a house, for example, you could go hide in another room in the house if you wanted.
If I wanted the spirit to play an instrument that requires both the fingers and mouth to play (i.e. a recorder or an ocarina)? Would I have to prick both my lips and a finger?
That’s an interesting question — I’m not actually sure. You might do both just to be thorough, or you could try with one or the other and see what happens. I suspect one would only be able to answer this question accurately through trial and error, although I suppose even that might not be foolproof (that is, it’s possible that what works for one person might not work for another).
Why is it necessary not to go between the instrument and the door?
A commenter put it best: “Well, it’s never a good idea to stand between an entity and its way out.”
When you say “hiding spot,” do you mean anywhere out of sight of the instrument, or an actual hiding spot, such as a closet or under a bed?
The more hidden the hiding spot, the better. There’s no point hiding if you’re just out in the open, is there?
When we play the instrument for 10 seconds, how do you NOT show off?
Play something incredibly simple, without embellishment — the kinds of things people tend to learn when they’re first starting to learn an instrument would be a good choice (“Hot Cross Buns,” “Chopsticks,” that kind of thing). This is especially important if you’re proficient in the instrument — don’t add any little flourishes or play something overly complicated.
Would drums work for the instrument of choice?
I don’t see why not.
When it says “do not play music in that location again,” does it just mean not play like an instrument, or don’t play music at all, including like music from an MP3 player?
As I mentioned earlier, I think it’s usually better to err on the side of caution, so I would recommend not playing music at all in that location again, even if it’s a recording. If you’re the sort that likes to tempt fate, you might feel differently… but don’t say I didn’t warn you.
It says that if the instrument is broken to play it. What if the instrument is too broken to be played?
Find a way to play it.
You don’t want to know what happens if you don’t.
A Small Radio:
When I get the package, can I just abort the ritual, leave the package unopened, and get free stuff from it?
You won’t really be getting free stuff — if you don’t open the package or continue with the ritual, you don’t get to reap the rewards. But yes, I would imagine that if you get the package, but don’t actually put the batteries in the radio, you’d effectively abort the ritual.
That said, though, it’s not usually a good idea to leave a ritual unfinished.
What happens if I do not turn the radio on after receiving the package?
Honestly, you may as well not have started the ritual; that’s the whole point of the thing, after all. But again, I’d be wary of starting something you don’t intend to finish.
The Dead Poet’s Game:
If I am Player B and decide to blow out a candle, what happens?
Don’t do that. That’s cheating. Player A won’t take kindly to you stealing their turn.
Are there any “loopholes” in answering each question?
I’ll quote the rules back at you here: “You must answer each question truthfully; however, you do not have to answer each question freely or completely. Guard your secrets, for giving them up could result in disaster.”
Do with that what you will. I would imagine your interpretation of that stipulation would affect the outcome of the game quite substantially.
The Hosting Game:
What do you do if none of the matches light up with the first strike?
That’s actually explicitly stated: “You have uninvited guests. Do NOT look back. Do NOT turn around. Do NOT pause to close the door. Run as quickly as you can to the nearest light source and turn it on.” I advise you do as the rules say.
When do they leave? Do they ever leave?
If the ritual has been performed correctly, your guests will leave when the gathering is over. If the matches fail to light… well, I wouldn’t be so sure.
The Gambler’s Game:
Can I play UNO with him?
You can try; I’m not sure whether it will work, though, as UNO requires a specific type of deck, rather than the standard 52-card, four-suit deck. If you don’t feel a slight chill in the air after starting the game by saying the words, “Let’s play,” however, then you’ve got your answer: Do not proceed.
The Midnight Game:
What if you sleep inside the salt circle mid-game?
To be fair, it’s an interesting question; staying inside the salt circle should keep you relatively safe; however, it’s also stated in the instructions that going to sleep in the middle of the game is to be avoided. What happens when those two rules come together? It’s possible that sleeping inside the salt circle will protect you while you snooze… however, you also run the risk of being caught off your guard. What if you roll over in your sleep and disturb the circle?
Or, worse — what if the Midnight Man tampers with it while you’re not paying attention?
What if I live in an apartment complex? Will the game continue past the part of the building that I live in? I don’t want to endanger the rest of the building.
Good question — although unfortunately I’m not sure I can answer it with any sort of certainty. It’s possible that the “borders” of the playing space, so to speak, would be determined by the walls of your apartment; if you only call your specific unit “home,” then that might be what matters here. However, it’s equally possible that the Midnight Man might consider the entire building fair game as a playing space. The rules don’t specify that the game must be played in your home, after all; all it requires is a building. If you’re worried about the other residents of your building, then I’d err on the side of caution and avoid playing this one in your apartment.
The Three Kings:
What happens if the candle goes out in the middle of the entity answering your question?
That would end the game… although honestly, I’d be a little worried about what exactly blew the candle out, if it wasn’t you or the fan.
How does your partner know if something is wrong or you didn’t do something right?
That’s what the final three steps are for: If, at 4:34am, they call out your name and you don’t answer, they’re meant to call your cell phone; then, if you don’t answer your cell phone, then they’re meant to go into the room and use the mug and bucket of water. Those are their cues to pay attention to; they mean you’ve been rendered unable to close out the ritual yourself.
What happens if the mirrors on the chair fall over before or during the ritual?
That’s… probably not a good sign. If it happens before you come back at 3:30am to take your throne, then I wouldn’t proceed. If it happens while you’re on the throne? I would find a way to blow out the candle and end the ritual.
The Dark Reflection Ritual:
Could I break the mirror, then stay all night in my room reading a book or watching Netflix? Not much bad things can happen if I just stay on my bed… right?
I wouldn’t recommend doing this. If you stay in one spot all night, it’ll be really easy for bad luck to find you. Your room may not be as safe as you think.
Can the bad luck affect people you care about or other people around you?
Not unless they’ve participated directly in the game — or unless they would be negatively impacted by what happens to you as a result of your bad luck.
The Shoebox Telephone:
Does the person need to be dead? Could the person be alive?
My understanding is that the person should be dead; however, I suppose it’s always possible that you could dial the consciousness of someone living. If they reply, it might be the auditory equivalent of astral projection or something.
What if you don’t know if the person is alive or not? Does that make calling a wrong number more likely?
This is is conjecture on my part, but I’d say yes. The more you know about a person — the clearer you can hold them in your mind while making the call — the better. Think about it like dialing an actual phone number: If you think you know someone’s number, but you’re not totally sure you do, you’d expect there to be a higher chance of dialing a wrong number if you actually tried to call them, right? Same deal here.
Also, here’s your reminder NOT to dial a wrong number under ANY circumstances.
Does the person you’re calling being a blood relation increase the likelihood of dialing the right number?
For some people, maybe, but for others, perhaps not. I believe a call is more likely to be successful if you dial someone to whom you were close; not everyone is close to their blood relations. If what you mean here is “family,” then I think it depends on whether you’re the kind of person who considers your family to be only the people related to you by blood, or whether you consider your family to be the people you choose to be, regardless of whether they’re a blood relation.
If I can’t turn the lights on, then how will I know if the paper cup is knocked over or the shoebox is open? If I have to try to feel it with my hands, won’t touching the open shoebox result in something bad?
Unless your room is absolutely pitch black, with literally no light p0llution coming in from anywhere (unlikely — a total blackout is extraordinarily difficult to engineer), you’ll probably be able to see enough to tell if something is off. If your room really is that dark, then feel with your hands… carefully.
The Candles Game:
I know I can’t ask my partner to tell me where the candles are, but can I ask them to place them in extremely easy hiding places (i.e just leave them in the middle of the floor)?
I kind of think that classifies as cheating. They’re not exactly hidden if they’re all just sitting out in the middle of the floor, are they? Plus, I suspect that your having told them what to do with the candles betrays the fact that you have prior knowledge about the candles’ locations.
The Elevator Game:
What do I do if the elevator stops at a different floor in the middle of the steps — say, floor three — and people get on? Is the game finished then? Do I need to do anything special?
I think that just means that the ritual didn’t work. You’ll have to abandon ship, so to speak, and try again later.
What if you don’t cancel the ascension on the way back?
Then you won’t get home. You might, in fact, get stuck in the Other World. Do yourself a favor and cancel the ascension in time.
What if the thing I wish for is a person? Does that count as a non-material desire?
I’m assuming that wishing for a person means that you hope to have some kind of relationship with that person, not that you want to physically possess them (because that would be really, really not okay; people are not for owning) — in which case, yes, that counts as a non-material desire. You won’t find the person literally in the trunk of your car; instead, return to your life back home and wait. The relationship will manifest eventually, in whatever form you wished for it to be.
Is using salt appropriate for this ritual?
Hypothetically, I suppose you could (quietly!) draw a circle of salt around yourself when you hide; although I’ve never seen salt included in any versions of the instructions, it might add some extra protection. I wouldn’t rely on it to keep you totally safe, though.
Would a wish for someone else’s well-being be considered “steep?” Say, wishing for a partner to stop drinking or for a close relative to be as happy as possible?
The only kinds of wishes you’ll want to stay away from are those that wish harm on another person. These examples both seem to be about helping others (how lovely!), so I think they’ll probably be fine.
Does he search for you while you’re hiding?
If you have to leave your house, will you be able to? Will he try to chase or follow you?
I’m taking “will you be able to” to mean something like, “will he try to stop you?” — to which I believe the answer is, he might try to impede your escape, so seriously, get out of there as quickly as possible. He shouldn’t be able to follow you once you’ve gotten out the door.
When returning to the room at 3 a.m., can you do so normally, or do you have to avoid getting caught until you recite the phrase?
You’re not safe until you complete The Farewell. Tread carefully until the ritual has been closed.
Japanese New Year Ritual:
Can you start a friendly conversation with the Wise One while he’s eating?
Nope. The rules stipulate not to break eye contact, not to scream, not to run away, and not to speak. Let him eat in peace, or suffer the consequences.
What happens if you ask him a question and he doesn’t give you an answer? Do you abort the ritual, or does he just kill you?
I actually don’t think this is likely to happen. Look at the summoning as a contract of sorts: If you’ve held up your end of the bargain, he’s bound by the contract you’ve forged to answer your question.
Of course, if you break eye contact while you’re asking him, then you’ve broken the contract yourself — which means that he no longer has to hold up his end, either.
The Stranger Ritual:
What do you do if the door doesn’t have a lock?
Don’t perform the ritual. The rules stipulate that the door must have a lock, so if your door doesn’t have one, at best, it won’t work, and at worst… well, let’s just say the lock is there for a reason.
When should you burn the picture? Do you have to wait until morning, or can you burn it right after blowing out the candles and wiping the name?
I think you have to wait until sunrise; I’ve always found the burning of the photograph to be the very last step, after locking the door, blowing out the candles, wiping the name, and waiting until the sun is up to unlock the door again.
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[Photos via Tim Pierce/Flickr; Lucia Peters/The Ghost In My Machine]