Category Archives: Excitement

Post-PAX

Oh man, PAX. Oh daaaaaaang you guuuuuuuuys, I did a lot of PAXing in the past few days. I ran through four quiet years, each less quiet than the last. I wandered around an expo hall, frightened by all the loud noises and blinking lights. I saw a really cool Tom Servo puppet, and other cosplay that didn’t include puppets so whatever. I met some interesting folks, I ate a delicious salad, I hung out with a friend, and I Networked like a business-minded mercenary.

(On the other hand, what with all the preparations and stuff, I completely fell off track with regard to editing the novel. That’s okay, I only have like twenty manuscript pages left on this particular draft, and I will get to them tomorrow. It’s my Big Plan for tomorrow.)

Perhaps most importantly, though I wasn’t able to run through the full version of Synanthropes (due, mostly, to folks being more interested in Quiet Year, and that being a game which is playable by only two), I did get four runs of Synanthropes Lite in, teaching me a few important lessons:

  1. Synanthropes Lite works! It is fun and interesting and folks had a good time. VICTORY.
  2. Synanthropes Lite drags, just a bit. Just a bit. Maybe instead of fifteen solid minutes of argument, I make it ten minutes, which means that the entire game (including the brief introductions and wrap-up questions) becomes a fifteen-minute affair. And of course, that time is as adjustable as you want to make it. Also, I should make a note that if the conversation about the Artifact ebbs on its own, that’s as good a call as any to fade to black a minute early, just to keep us from needing to harp when we’ve discussed something to death.
  3. A fifteen-minute con game is a great idea. Like, totally. There were several situations when my game ended with an hour or so before the next sets of games began, There were lots of people who thought an idea was good but didn’t want to spend two hours when there’s so much PAX to do. There were people who I wanted to do stuff with who had other commitments but a few hangout minutes to spare. There were people waiting for games to start, or waiting for another person to sign up for a game, with a little time to kill. There were people who had never played story games before, and would balk at a two hour commitment. ALL of these were events which occurred, and ALL of them were treated with a direct application of Synanthropes Lite, and (at least from my end) all of those games went really well and ended with happy people leaving the table having enjoyed themselves. And of course, happy people leaving the table having enjoyed themselves is basically what gaming is all about for me. (Maybe you disagree. Maybe you’re all about messages and learning and feeling and growing as a person and whatever. That’s fine too. That’s not how I tend to play, though).
  4. Synanthropes Lite works! Worth mentioning again, because it was a last-second sort of project but managed to hang together into something interesting, so… yes. Super happy.
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PAX!

I’m going to be at PAX this weekend!

On Saturday from 6-10, and Sunday from 10-2 and 6-10, I’ll be hanging out in with the tabletop Games on Demand folks, in room 305, where I’ll be running such classics as The Quiet Year, Fiasco, and (If I can drum up some interest), the most recent iteration of Synanthropes.

Oh heck yes. Drop by if you get a chance.

Additionally, I’ll be passing out business cards, both because I am a ruthless self-branding machine, and because my most recent clutch of business cards is, in fact, Synanthropes Lite. That’s right, the Synanthropes experience, condensed into a single card. Or, uh, six cards, if you’re going to get technical, and why not get technical, because there’s one for every species.

Anyway. I’ll be doing other things as well, to be sure, but those are the times when I can be tracked down for sure, if you want to, I don’t know, slay me, because there’s a 1% chance I’ll drop an enchanted bow or whatever.


Synanthropes post-playtest notes!

Okay, Synanthropes playtest, time to do a little after the fact deconstruction and contemplation and all that rot. What’s WORKING, what’s NOT, and what needs to be CHANGED.

WORKING! All of the Synanthropic species. Okay, they’re not perfect yet… some Traits don’t have any real use, some are too easy to fall upon for everything. Some Mysteries and Legends are reliable at prompting fun clues and motivations, some are just a bit weird. Some species have more hooks for being appealingly alien than others. But at the capsule summary level, every one of them has worked as a character concept, and THAT makes me happy. Godspeed, you lot.

ALSO WORKING: Hoard points! Again, tweaking is needed, some ways to gain them are easier than others, some uses are more powerful than others. Some things didn’t come up in this last game at all, and it’s impossible to tell, offhand, the difference between an ability that wasn’t useful this one time and an ability that straight-up isn’t that useful, but the idea works, and has proven way more intuitive and functional than the fiddly dice. Mechanically, everything else is proving functional, expecially…

PROBABLY WORKING: The new method of finding Clues. Pacing-wise, we found nine Clues over the course of ten floors, which just about perfect. Narrative-wise, we found them in many ways: successfully making a daring leap, failing to hold our ground, knocking another character about, getting knocked about, all over the place. I was pretty sold on Clues being things that we stumbled across all over the place. On the other hand…

NOT QUITE WORKING: Narration privilege getting passed to whomever last found a Clue. As was pointed out last night, this meant that some people didn’t get to narrate very often, and others more than they expected (both lame). Now this bears a digression.

The Indie+ testers thought that shared narration might not have been worthwhile, that a single narrator might be more effective. I spent some time considering it, because, well, it’s an important issue, but ultimately I could not disagree more; the advantage of a single narrator in an RPG is a consistent voice. The GM has an idea of what’s going on, and can make sure that everything links up in a way that makes sense… which is not what I want. If the narrator wants this building to be military in nature, then suddenly it is, and every danger can be twisted to reflect that, every floor to somehow relate to that… even if the Artifacts can’t be directly military, their placement and other details can attempt to rectify that and produce a setting that’s internally consistent with the narrator’s vision.

That’s good, if that’s what you want. But I want the characters to be out of their depth. “What is this place?” isn’t just a question for the Synanthropes, it’s for the people at the table as well, and it should be shared self-discovery. Ideally, they will start forging toward a specific conclusion, but… it has to be forged. Not really knowing what this building is about isn’t a failure condition… knowing immediately and all-too-well what this building’s for IS, because that denies them the ability to truly explore something mysterious.

Having the narration ping-pong around semi-randomly was meant to facilitate this (and, incidentally, keep any one player from dominating the clue-finding field, since it meant nobody could find two in a row), keeping everyone off-guard with respect to who would be up next to narrate. Is that necessary, though? Just moving clockwise by scenes is more fair, perhaps, and gives folks time to prepare to narrate, while the danger oracle will still throw a wrench in the ability to craft a specific plan. Oh, incidentally:

WORKED BUT COULD STILL WORK MUCH BETTER: The Danger Oracle. Lots of ‘meh’ options to weed out, and it was suggested that some of the specificity could work against me, meaning that multiple games can get a bit same-y. Imagery over description might be a better bet, (not necessarily literal, but not necessarily not). It’s fine enough as it is, but I’m thinking of the ability to have a few smaller, imagery-oriented lists, from which elements are matched… an item from column A and an atem from column B sort of thing. It’s worth consideration, enough that I’ll give it a try on the next big test, I should think.

So, TO BE CHANGED: Passing of narration, format of the Danger Oracle, and the setup of the character sheets (in that there’s some blank real-estate that could be made more useful, which isn’t really a thing that WORKS or DOESN’T but is, you know, just a thing).

But yeah, the core game is functional and makes me feel good, so I’m smiling here. Woo, Synanthropes.


Indie+ playtest of Synanthropes

If there’s anything in the world more terrifying for a game designer than allowing his game to be played without his being there to aid in the facilitation, I don’t know what it is.

Synanthropes being playtested by the Indie+ crew.

Exciting and frightening and interesting and incredibly, incredibly informative. Thanks to Brendan Conway, Richard Rogers, Mark Diaz Truman, and Chris Tregenza for playing!


GMotW: Gunpoint and punching!

Been a while since I’ve talked about a game mechanic, hasn’t it? Ah, well. Game Chef kept me busy. Let’s try to get back on the horse with some gentle over-excitement.

Gunpoint! Gunpoint! Game of the year for every year ever, or, if you are less-inclined to believe hyperbole, a really freaking good 2D action/espionage/cyber-noir/hacking game.

You are a small pixellated freelance spy named Conway, who is investigating a murder through a series of missions, most of which involve charging up your bullfrog hypertrousers and jumping several stories at a go, and using the crosslink device to rewire switches and sensors throughout the buildings you’re moving through. And also, punching guards.

Oh, punching guards. Strictly optional, and to be awarded the badge for being a Gentleman at the end of a level you mustn’t do any guard any harm whatsoever (it’s okay though, because there’s a Psychopath badge as well, if not-harmful isn’t your legerdemain). Leap on a guard to knock him over and…

Click: Punch

…is what the game informs you. You click, you punch, and the guard is unconscious but the phrase hasn’t gone away. You can click again. And again. You can click ten times, at which point a pool of blood appears an the guard will not be getting up again. You can keep going. You can punch a corpse a thousand times or more, because you can click forever.

That needn’t be. There are any number of options… you could bowl someone over and they’re instantly asleep, of you could click to knock out and hold to knock out Lethally (see Deus Ex: Human Revolution’s takedown moves) or you could just stop punching when the dude is dead, or, or, or…

Lots of options. But may of them take away a little bit of player agency, and I don’t want to undersell this but clicking to punch is a very tiny bit of player agency–it’s a very minor thing. But Gunpoint, as a game, lives in tiny decisions and little freedoms it offers its players, even in a genre and medium not known for offering lots of freedom!

Tom Francis, the designer, clever bug that he is, realized that people want to punch, however. The player is given control over his character, not just to be lethal or not, but to be as lethal as they want to be. Me, I tend to punch four or five times, to make sure those guards stay down. After all, trying to sneak around in a game where one shot kills me and I have effectively no weapon is tense, so when I get an opportunity to release that tension in the form of violence, I tend to take it. This is, mechanically, idiotic… one punch does the deed, and all I do is waste time better spent jumping around the rooftops like a lunatic. But punching guards is satisfying… there’s a little animation, a purcussive noise, and a sense that, yes, Conway is acting as an extension of ME, whether I’m hitting once for good measure, in a brief flurry because I’m tense, or nine times exactly so as to not murder the operative who’s been shooting at me but make sure he’s never happy again. Or, a thousand times because this dead guy has pissed me off right hard.

And that’s great. It’s not complex, but it doesn’t need to be… it pulls me into the game and makes a little part of my brain smile based only on a very simple action with a very direct control, which is really all the Gunpoint IS. I could say the same thing about jumping and hacking: both very simple, direct, and controllable by the player. But while those are essential for the action and puzzling aspects of this action-puzzler, punching a dude out is completely unnecessary, from a mechanical level. And yet, there is is, allowing Conway to seem all the more real, and the world to be all the more exciting and worth experiencing.

Gunpoint is out now and is totally great, and even has a developer commentary which is basically worth whatever portion of the price of admission isn’t being paid by punching dudes on the snout and then leaping away to hide in a corner and rewire a motion detector to open a trapdoor to open under a guy when a third guy runs after you. YES. Get it, and punch a guy.


Exciting news!

I’m a Game Chef finalist!

… which means I can break out this badge:

game-chef-finalist-badge

 

Woo! A massive “thank you” to the folks who voted for me, and congratulations, both to the other finalists and to all the other participants! And happy Game Chef to all!


Game Chef 2013 brainstorming!

Game Chef is upon us.

Let’s brainstorm.
We’re doing this in pictures this year, which is keen. The theme:

lift

A person in an arrow that goes up and down. The arrow is interesting enough, as it can be a lot of things… physical movement, as in an elevator, metaphorical movement as in hierarchies, some combination of the two. It might not even be movement, simply an awareness or focus on verticality, or feeling somehow in the middle. The figure within it is, in my mind, ominous; the square, white eyes call to mind the blank glasses of an anime villain, lurking in the shadows but for the glare. The shape also sells me on the idea of glasses, rather than eyes… that said, the closest thing to a defined feature on this fellow is his/her/its eyes, which could be something to focus on. Sight, looking, seeing, searching… visual metaphors in general.

What I most get from this is a certain sort of person… I can see a scientist or academic here, with the glasses suggesting (fairly or not) intelligence and interest but distance and dispassion as well. He’s looking at me, but not because he likes to see me, just because he wants to know what happens next. Factoring in the double-sided arrow emphasizes the “distance” element… he doesn’t necessarily consider himself to be above humanity, but he DOES consider himself to be somehow apart from it. Doctor Manhattan from Watchmen would be a good example… interested, distant and, yes, forboding.

That’s a rich bit of theme to mine. The elements to include:

brain-freeze

A… snowflake in someone’s head. Huh. So, this is the strangest of the four elements, and the one I’m most likely to ignore at first blush, but I’m still going to think about what it can contribute. Offhand, the face has a certain skull-like smile to it… it’s an omen of death, one which has been touched by frost. Or at least, a mental conception thereof. The snowflake is a bit of a paradox, like winter itself… both ordered, still, predictable (winter is a time of stasis and all snowflakes take a recognizable form) while chaotic, changing, and unknowable (winter is a massive change, snowflakes are fractal and unique). It could represent a more generalized “Death stemming from knowledge” for which the snowflake is just an example… but that’s a bit lame to me.

apple-maggot

A bug bursting from an apple. Easy mode: the game features an insect. Alternate thoughts include corruption and decay, the presence of something alien (that doesn’t look like an earth worm to me), and impossible physics (that worm is way bigger than its apple). ALL of those send my internal Lovecraft sensor buzzing. Cosmic horror meshes very well with my interpretation of the theme… it suggests that the observers are alien, posing as human while being distant both in their outlook and their actual, factual nature. Of course, mundane corruption also flies high in scientific and academic arenas.

It also makes me realize that at this point I could pretty much reverse-engineer The Shab-al-Hiri Roach… academics and hiererchies, knowledge and things in your head, corruption and insects. Huh.

mail-shirt

A shirt (robe? blouse? jerkin?) decorated with random diamonds. It can be considered to be mail or some other armor if you so desire, or with the diamonds indicating the shine of a cloth-of-gold or actual jewel-encrusted outfit of great value, or something else entirely. Motley, such as a fool should wear. Diamonds also bring to mind the suit in cards (and indeed, one could call this a part of a suit of diamonds). The garment is not modern, and makes me think wizard first and jester second, though one could make an argument for cultist, taking us back into Lovecraftian territory. Whomever wears this outfit is somehow marked as Other, distanced from those wearing normal clothes. More tangentially, it can indicate the pursuit of riches, or an identity which is somehow dependent on one’s outfit.

paper-lantern

Finally, a figure barely illuminated by a lantern. Ah, stealth. Well, other options… shining a light to ward off the darkness, the lantern of truth, a lantern indicating discovery, all of these meshing really quite well with scientists in general. But I’m seeing stealth here, or at least a sharp distinction between what is seen and what must not be seen. The nature of the illustrations means there is no shadow… there is LIGHT and there is DARK and there is no room to maneuver in between them, and that tickles the amoral scientist center of my brain.

Initial conclusions: amoral scientists is golden and worth sticking to. Cosmic horror I’m a bit iffier on at the moment… but I do like the idea of corruption, secrets, and death, which all combines to suggest that if the players are indeed portraying folk of science, then they are conspiring to kill one of their own.

No, they’re conspiring to experiment upon one of their own. One of them is a madman, one of them is a victim, and the players might not know who is who at first… as time goes on, one player will grow madder than the rest as he/she/it gazes too far into the abyss, until it’s time to pull a Re-Animator and invest in a human test subject.

OH. Oh, I have a half an idea. Scenes played out in brief hands of cards, with the winner growing steadily madder… perhaps it’s a trick-taking game like hearts, each trick is a scene. When all hands have been taken, the tricks become narrative tokens, giving the maddest player the most power over the remaining scenes.

I think there’s a start here.


Escape Velocity

I’ve been quiet for a while, in part because I’ve had a distraction on my mind which I’d like to chat about for a while.

This. Level 99 Games is looking for small card-based games to go in their next Minigames Library. And me, I’ve never designed a small, card-based game, but thought it might be a kick to give it a try. Oh, sure, it might not be accepted… the deadline is the end of June for something that does not yet exist, which means that even if I can get it together the level of playtesting and refinement I will have put in will be… less than ideal, to be sure. But, I am a dude who firmly believes that attempting to do stuff is fun, even… nay, especially if it’s the sort of thing which I have no expertise or familiarity with.

And who knows, if I can get a rough draft in the next two weeks, that gives me all of May and some of June to play and polish, and that… that’s possible. Certainly, a deadline over my head is the sort of thing that helps me ACTUALLY do stuff instead of fluttering about, thinking about working while mostly just interfacing with the Internet.

So, for the past couple weeks I’ve been toying with ideas, laying out the very, very broad strokes of what sounds like it might be fun. And I’m prepared to share it, in a little bit of Game Design Blogging. Let’s do this.

The Game:

Escape Velocity.

The Back-of-the-Box Story:

It’s a momentous occasion: the National Space Program is finally going to launch its first rockets to the stars. The launchpad is built, the astronauts are trained, the media is invited; they’ve assembled everything necessary for a successful launch… except for the rockets, which, due to a scheduling mishap have been penciled in for construction tomorrow at noon. That’s not gonna look good when it comes time to justify the budget.

It’s T-minus ten minutes and the newspapers are here, so you better put something together, anything, and hope that it’s spaceworthy. Let’s not beat around the bush here, some folks are gonna lose their jobs over this one, but if you can put together something that works, it might not be you.

The Conceit:

Escape Velocity is a game for… some number of people (two to five would be a nice aiming point, although I think it’s possible to do solo games as well with a little tweaking), in which the players portray scientists, desperately trying to assemble a rocket ship. Assembling one is easy… assembling one which won’t explode, fall over, idle on the launchpad or crush its occupants into a paste? That’s hard.

Ideally, it’s a game where actual victory (making it to space) is rare enough to be celebrated, failures are fun enough to make folks laugh, and actually playing is reasonably fast. It is, by and large, a “light” game, whatever that means to you, but if you keep things like Fluxx in mind you’re probably off to a good start.

The Gameplay:

…is in development, of course. The specific mechanics? Still being worked on. The broad strokes, however, are like this.

There are two phases: the build and the launch.

During the build, players draw cards from the central deck, most of which have rocket components on them, some of which are special events, and some of which are markers to alert you how little time is remaining (the latter may be combined, depending on playtesting). There should be a measure of trading, selling, and stealing components, and some mild capacity to sabotage other ships, but mostly they’ll be assembling ships in front of them. linking one card at a time to one another as they build it. Components have markings to dictate where they attach to one another, so your rocket is visible on the table, very physical in front of you.

Some components are very good, many are very bad, but most are a big trade-off; there are a number of factors that each one affects: velocity, g-force, drag, risk of catastrophe and budget are all there on every card, PLUS some have special effects, some of which require OTHER cards to be played, or not to be played. The plan is for there to be too much to really factor in during the given time, especially when you also have to make them fit together physically without installing jet engines upside-down or whatever.

Near, but not at, the bottom of the deck is “Blast off!” which signifies the IMMEDIATE end of the building phase when it is revealed. That’s when we check the ships for legality, and see if there’s any one which can’t blast off at all, due to, say, lack of engines of any sort.

While building is an active process, blasting off is more about seeing what happens. You lay out a tracker for the various things which can go right or wrong (mostly wrong), shuffle all the cards in your ship, and start dealing them out and noting the effects until you run out of cards. You want to play cards that increase your velocity, but not by increasing your G-Force so high that your astronauts die (so you can’t just pile engine upon engine), or your risk of catastrophe so high that your ship explodes (so no relying entirely on strange and untested technologies) or send your drag so far off to one side that you fall over (so watch out for wings and other atmospheric lifters). Everyone blasts off in succession, sharing one another’s joy and pain and delight and whatever, leaving their little pawns on the velocity tracker to show how far they got (standing if they survived, and on their side if not so much). The winner is whomever makes it to the top of the velocity tracker, which is, of course, Escape Velocity. Or, whatever surviving ship makes it the closest (in the event of a tie, all components have a dollar value, so it’s to whomever gets there spending the least money).

If the game is well-designed, by my standards, most launches will end up with the ship exploding, falling, crushing its occupants or at most only making it partway to the top of the velocity tracker. That’s great. This isn’t a game of success, it’s a game of almosts, what-ifs, and if-onlys. Mitigated by being rapid, low-key, and silly (in conceit and, hopefully, design.)

The Plan:

Finalize some rules, make some cards, see what happens. I’ll try and keep you posted here, perhaps with some illustrations of the Blast Off procedure to clarify it a bit. But for right now, just know that this is where my head has been.


The Æther Sea

So, I haven’t been RPGing in a while. Last game I played for any length of time was a Steamfitters playtest, and while I want to get back into that game again, I want to do something else for a while. I want to play around in a world which has been in my head for, oh, ages now, inspired in part by the old classic Spelljammer D&D setting, but made for Fate Core (as I played around with earlier). It’d be great to get a live game going, and I know a few local players who might be interested, but hell, even an online Google+ Hangout-equipped game would be keen, if there’s a smattering of interest.

The Æther Sea. It’s Firefly by way of Tolkien, built in Fate Core, which allows for no end of exciting big damn heroes moments. Or maybe it’s Star Trek, where interstellar politics is just another sort of firefight, and the Vulcans really are elves instead of just acting like it. Either way, it’s something I want to play with. Anyone else interested?

Oh, I wrote a bit of an introduction for it here, because I’m the sort of dude who likes introducing worlds in sweeping narratives.

Three hundred years ago, at the tail end of the Red Century, the general consensus was that the planet was too small for all the peoples on it. The great elven woods which once spanned from ocean to ocean had been penned in and chopped down to build and fuel thousands of huge human cities. The cities themselves were home to refugee elves, and soon dwarves who were forced to abandon their old tunnels, dying mines, and mad kings. And of course, the gnomes were ever underfoot.

With the forests dying, orcish hunting tribes grew ever more desperate, and raiding–always a problem–became an epidemic. Weak, cowardly goblins found unlikely allies in bulky, slow trolls, both weary of being subservient to the other species, and together forged an empire that rivaled the largest human kingdoms and dwarven clans, neither of whom appreciated the competition for dwindling resources. And of course, the gnomes were ever underfoot here, too.

The Red Century was so-called because it was a time of anger and bloodshed; humans stole land from each other and the elves, the dwarves would undermine and collapse constructions which they thought threatened their dominance, and elves would use their mastery of magic to lay siege to entire cities. No emperor was safe from goblin spies, no wall was immune to trollish attacks, and no traveler could breathe easy when orcish raiders were around every corner. Great empires were created and collapsed in less than a decade, and some cities changed hands more than a dozen times in a century. Ancient alliances were ground to dust in favor of pragmatic understandings… elf would turn on elf to side with orc and gnome and dwarf, all in exchange for a little space and a little safety, even though that safety would never last. The thrust of expansion pushed civilization into the coldest, darkest corners of the world, home to creatures, constructs, and dark enchantments best forgotten. And still, it wasn’t enough!

The æther hadn’t been a secret… it was common knowledge that the planet was surrounded by a great sea of luminiferous æther, the stuff of starlight. There were other suns and other planets, impossibly far and utterly unreachable. But desperation has a way of rendering the impossible inevitable, and in the search for resources, safety and elbow room it was the elves of the Silverleaf Preserve who developed the first æthership to take them free of the planet’s bounds. Once they had secured a new life in an untouched wilderness, they began leasing out ships at prices high enough to beggar all but the largest planetary governments. Almost overnight, a century of bloodshed gave way to a largely mutual decision to pick a direction and fly far, far away from one another into the far reaches of infinity, and the Red Century gave way to the Æther Age.

That was three hundred years ago. Now, humans are trying to put settlements on planets that elves have declared sacred, and dwarves are illicitly mining in restricted space, and orcish pirates lurk around every asteroid, and the goblins have allied with the trolls in a secret empire, expansion has pushed civilization into the darkest corners of the universe, home to creatures and creations best left undiscovered, and everywhere, everywhere, everywhere there are gnomes underfoot.

The general consensus is that the universe is too small for the peoples in it.


Found Footage

I’ve been working on a pair of projects of late. One I’ve mentioned here: the Guild of Steamfitters (among other potential names), my stuff-oriented steampunk traditional RPG. That’s going alright; I’ve had a handful of useful playtests, but it’s a big affair with a number of systems and won’t be anything like Done for a while.

The OTHER has been a secret project, less because I like an air of mystery and more because I’m super-lazy with regards to self-documentation. Ha-hah, yes. But it’s reached an impressive point of near-finish so I figure I should mention it!

It’s called Found Footage, and the currently-finished portions of it are available here, for the main rules document, and here, for the oracles/playsets/whatever you want to call them. Note, if you decide to pursue those links, that the rules document isn’t particularly well-organized at the moment, though it is complete (there’s a summary outline at the end which should make things a little more clear); it’s a horror-themed story-game, so I thought it best to have it available to the world prior to Halloween because, you know… spoooooooky!

As the title implies, it’s a game about recreating the particular narrative format of found-footage horror movies; see the Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity, Grave Encounters, and a whole mess of others. You use a deck of cards to determine character relationships, and more importantly, determine what horrors are going to get caught on tape, and more importantly still, determine which characters are going to be killed horribly before the credits roll. That, uh, that’s going to be most of the characters, to be honest; you go in with like a 10% chance of survival if I’m mathing right. Slim, but not entirely without hope!

Of course, right now there aren’t as many options as there will be down the line; you’ll note in that second link that there’s but one location (the Woods), one monster (the Stalker) and one crew (the Documentary crew). Unacceptable in the long term, but fine right now. Adding another pair of locations (the suburbs and the abandoned hospital come to mind) and pair of crew-types (student filmmakers and TV pilot crew, maybe) will help, but really I need more monsters.

I’m keeping them vague, because the players should be creating the monster as they go, but monster types definitely lend the monster a bit of character. The Stalker has a lot of options for directly interacting with people, comparatively less for sending minions at them and having them go mad, and even less for letting the environment take them out (stalkers are too up close and personal for that jazz). In the near future I’d also like to assemble a Hoard archetype which is weak on direct action but strong on environmental damage from starvation and infection and whatnot, a Mastermind archetype which runs minions first, and a Cosmic Force archetype which, needless to say, brings madness in its wake.

And that’s just the beginning, because oracles/playsets/whatever are the gift that keeps on giving. Beast-type, alien-type, demon-type, other more specific monsters.

It’s untested as of right now, but I’m feeling confident. I’m hoping to get a game together sometime soon, but if not, I’ll still keep it here in case you want to try it as a stranger on the Internet. If so, let me know how it works!