Monday, April 24, 2017

My Appendix SF (Stay Frosty)

In the back of the rulebook for the cool new space marine-themed RPG Stay Frosty, author Casey Garske lists some excellent inspirational material for the game, like a particularly, uh, trooperiffic take on Gary Gygax's classic Appendix N. I thought I might suggests a few more series that I think might serve as decent inspiration.


Aliens have invaded the Earth. Hey gun-toting body-builders, what should we do?
BILL: It's time for revenge.
LANCE: Let's attack aggressively!
ME: Up, up, down, down...

Earth Defense Force
Let's take Starship Troopers and set it on Earth. Oh, and let's make the bugs bigger. Maybe give the bugs some giant robots as allies.

Fade to Black
Shape-shifting, biotech-wielding lizard aliens controlled by psychic brains took over the solar system. You and a handful of others operate the Resistance out of a secret space station. The soundtrack is really creepy. "This is our struggle."

High-tech urban warfare against an army of psychic clones. Also, spooky ghosts.

The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman
I haven't read this one in a long time, but I loved this novel as a kid. I actually met Joe Haldeman at the only SF/Fantasy convention I've ever been to, and he was super cool. As far as gameable material for Stay Frosty goes, this book has cool power armor (complete with finger lasers), weird aliens (who are just as confused about why they're at war as the humans are), horrific violence, and most notably, an in-depth look at the perils of relativistic space travel and time dilation, and the difficulty of maintaining any kind of social or love life when you're constantly jumping forward in time at a different rate than almost everyone else.

Gantz, by Hiroya Oku
You're dead, except you're not. A big black ball has drafted you in a war/reality TV show against bizarre aliens. Kill aliens to earn enough points to leave (or bring someone back to life, or get bigger guns). That's the theory, anyway.

The Guardian Legend
I'll just quote the back of the box: "Long ago, in a distant galaxy, an alien race sent a huge world - called Naju - hurtling toward Earth, loaded with a cargo of mysterious lifeforms. During the long journey, these creatures have multiplied and become increasingly evil - and now Naju teems with evil. However, deep within this complex globe are self-destruct mechanisms that can be activated to destroy it before it reaches Earth. Now, you must battle your way deep within Naju's labyrinths to destroy it. You are the guardian of Earth and your saga will become The Guardian Legend."

Now is that a great premise or what? This premise raises some interesting questions, too, like "Why was Naju sent to Earth?" and "Why did the lifeforms on Naju turn evil, and what exactly does that mean?" and "How about we make up rules for playing a squad of 'highly sophisticated aerobot transformers?'" and "How many Enemy Erasers does it take to get to the center of an Optomon?"

The first game has all those soldiers trying to cover up the Black Mesa incident as loudly as possible, and the second game has that whole Combine vs. Resistance thing going on, so there's probably plenty of material to work with here. Wake up and smell the ashes. Half-Life 3 confirmed.

The spiritual (and perhaps literal) sequel series to Pathways Into Darkness, and the spiritual (but not literal) predecessor to Halo, the Marathon trilogy is a series of first-person shooters which were ahead of their time gameplay-wise, and which had a surprisingly intricate and mysterious story told primarily through text displayed on computer terminals spread throughout the levels. The games are freeware and have been ported to various modern systems, but if you don't want to play them yourself you can read the terminal text and some fascinating fan-made notes on the story HERE.

As for the premise of the first game:
<Message to All Marathon Terminals>

Marathon Emergency Systems BroadcastToday at 0820 hours, the Marathon came under surprise attack
from unknown hostile forces.  The Marathon has sustained
serious damage.
At 0830 hours, alien forces boarded the Marathon.  The currentsituation is dire.  All personnel are required to arm
themselves and fight for their lives.
<Posted 2794.>
***INCOMING MESSAGE FROM LEELA***Welcome to the Marathon.  I am Leela, one of the two surviving
Artificial Intelligences aboard the Marathon.  I have been
severely damaged, and am working to understand the current
Find the teleport terminal located in the Hangar's controlroom.  By that time, I should have a better idea of what is
going on.



Sorry to give you the bad news, but you've been kidnapped.
You aren't where Leela wanted you to go, and you surely won't
get there any time soon.

I was watching what Leela was having you do: 'save the ship,
save humanity!' And just what or who are you saving them
from? And to what end?

How clich�.  You'll find this little visit much more exciting.

I have dev@``~~C#mon#`~ Tyc~~B``ou to play: If you win, you
go free, and we continue our relationship on friendlier terms.
If you lose, you die.

Good luck in our little game.  Unlike Leela, I give no hints.
Do it on your own, or die trying...

Insanely yours,


P.S. If things around here aren't working, it's because I'm laughing so hard.

Pathways Into Darkness
On behalf of President Bill Clinton, your squad has been ordered to descend to the bottom of a mysterious pyramid in the Yucatán Peninsula and plant a nuclear bomb so that we can blast the dreaming Great Old One down there into a deeper sleep. The labyrinth is filled with the hostile living nightmares of the alien god, so stay frosty and use short, controlled bursts. Also, keep your eyes peeled for a magic crystal that basically lets you cast "Speak with Dead." Sure, the Nazi corpses left over from a failed investigation during WWII don't make for great conversation, but you might learn some valuable intel by interrogating them. (This game has a story page, too, although it unfortunately hasn't been ported to modern computers as far as I know.)

Quake (the first one)
Instead of fighting monsters in space, maybe we could fight monsters in another dimension? Like Quantum Leap Marines. What kind of monsters? Cthulhu-style eldritch abominations, demons, ogres sporting chainsaws and grenade launchers...the whole kit and caboodle. Don't worry about how coherent the universe is, we've got Trent Reznor on the soundtrack and Sandy Petersen on the level design team. Just make sure everything is gothic/industrial/eldritch as hell, and you're fine. Let's hope that rocket-jumping is covered in basic training.

To quote myself from a conversation on G+ with Beloch Shrike: "I've actually been thinking about repurposing a fiction series I was working on (sort of half parody of Quake and some other old FPS games and half bizarre slice-of-life abandoned-on-an-alien-world SF/Fantasy comedy-horror thing) as a setting for Stay Frosty. But I need to actually PLAY Stay Frosty first to get familiar with it, and that's probably on the backburner because [of] some stuff I want to do with The Hateful Place, plus I have my regular game to run and another I've been trying to start with some friends online...There aren't enough hours in the day, you know?"

Anyway, Beloch Shrike writes awesome OSR gun rules.

Quake II (and IV)
These games are basically Space Marines vs. (a particularly gruesome take on) the Borg.

The SCP Foundation
My clearance level only allows me to share the following words with you: Mobile Task Force.

The Shadow Over Innsmouth, by H. P. Lovecraft (and Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth, perhaps even more so)
You know that whole "F.B.I. raid on Innsmouth" thing? That might be interesting to play out. A mashup of Stay Frosty and Delta Green could be cool, too.

Siren series, especially Siren 2 (a.k.a. Forbidden Siren 2)
Okay, so your squad is trapped in a Silent Hill-style Otherworld based on a mash-up of Japanese folklore and the Cthulhu Mythos, and it's filled with zombies, and the zombies are smart enough to use tools and follow patrol routs and try to flank you, and they absolutely will not stay dead so the best you can do is to either avoid them or temporarily put them out of action, and they are SUPER HAPPY about being zombies and just want to share their happiness with you by making you a zombie, too. Oh, and if you concentrate really hard, you can see through the zombies' eyes, which is as useful as it is troubling.

I don't think I need to elaborate on this one.

I haven't seen the movie or the TV show in a long time, but from what I remember the movie is basically the U.S. Military vs. Space Egypt, and SG-1 is kind of like that plus Star Trek-style "exploring the universe" shenanigans plus X-Files-style government cover-ups but with the secret government organization being the good guys. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong. Anyway, any of that sounds like a good backdrop for some Space Marines vs. Aliens Disguised as Egyptian Gods action.

Star Wars
"Wars" is right there in the title. It can't be all jedi, all the time, you know? Sometimes the best way to overcome the Dark Side of the Force is to show up with overwhelming firepower and Star War the hell out of it.

Because what your Stay Frosty game really needs is strict adherence to proper civilian rules of engagement and careful evidence collection. SWAT teams occupy a weird place somewhere between police and soldiers (at least in fiction - I can't really speak for real SWAT teams), and you could probably get some interesting gaming out of exploring that. Plus, hostage situations and no-knock warrants and organized crime and the blurry line between protecting yourself and protecting/serving the public could all make for tense and interesting situations.

EDIT: Of course, this kind of subject matter might hit a little too close to home for some people, so please make sure your whole group is comfortable with this kind of game before running it, and if anyone isn't comfortable with it, please do something else instead.

When you're a super-soldier employed by a megacorp to conquer the world, cyberpunk means never having to say you're sorry.

On a shitty, barren planet, there's a single outpost where The Most Unethical Megacorp (TM) conducts every type of mad science in the book - and thanks to a teleporter malfunction, all the crimes against nature are loose in the building while reality itself is out to lunch. In terms of its influences, this is basically a bunch of cool/creepy bits from Aliens, Dead Space, Doom, Marathon, Quake, Quake II, and System Shock rolled into a big ball of lo-fi rogue-like techno-terror. A sci-fi/horror/action kitchen sink done totally right. On top of that, Teleglitch has what feels like a fairly original take on the horrors of teleportation technology gone awry - the vast, deadly walls of electric nothing seem suitably Lovecraftian to me while remaining pretty unique in their own right, and they really take advantage of the game's retro art style - there's a less is more thing going on here that's effective and unnerving. Oh, and this game has a genuine in-universe justification for the weird, unrealistic, maze-like layouts you tend to find in games: it's in the title. If nothing else, that should serve as a useful idea for tabletop gaming. What's that? The dungeon doesn't make sense? Of course it does! A wizard teleporter did it!

Warhammer 40,000; especially the Space Hulk sub-series
As with Starcraft, this one probably needs no explanation.

X-COM (a.k.a. UFO: Enemy Unknown)
Save the world from aliens, but on a budget. Learn to stop worrying and love friendly fire. You have a 95% percent chance to hit these memes, so you're definitely going to miss.

Full disclosure: When it comes to the video games on this list, some of these I haven't played myself, but only watched other people play or otherwise experienced second-hand through "let's plays," online analyses, etc. I've only played one Earth Defense Force game - I think it was Insect Armageddon. I haven't played Pathways Into Darkness or SWAT 4 myself. I think I played the first computer version of Space Hulk once and the first X-COM game once or twice, but otherwise I haven't personally played these series. I haven't played every single game in the Contra, F.E.A.R., Starcraft, and Syndicate series, and that goes at least double when it comes to Star Wars games just because there are so darn many of them. Still, I'm pretty confident that the games I've listed have decent potential as fuel for at least a session of Stay Frosty.

Here are a few more series I was on the fence about including:
Dead Space
Dune, by Frank Herbert (and maybe some of the related video games)
Resident Evil
System Shock and its sequel
The Thing
Universal Soldier

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Guest Post: Which Dice Do You Trust?

Justin's Note: In my post about Gen Con, I mentioned that Jess wanted to write a guest article for my blog about Louis Zocchi. I mean, I greatly enjoyed Mr. Zocchi's panel at Gen Con, but Jess? Considering how obsessed she is with dice, she was absolutely blown away. I swear to God that Mr. Zocchi didn't pay her to write this or anything. She just loves GameScience that much.

As an aside, Jess makes these awesome pieces of jewelry out of dice with a little electric drill. She does earrings, necklaces, bracelets, and keychains, and they must be pretty fashionable, because people keep asking her to make them some. She says the d4 is the hardest to drill, in case you were wondering.

Anyway, I'm glad she's here to share her enthusiasm with us. Without further ado, here's some cool stuff written by my best friend and favorite person.

Which Dice Do You Trust?

Before I go answering that question for you, let me tell you a little bit about myself. Growing up I never knew much of what I was into. I knew that I loved math in school and I always looked up to my brother. He is 7 years older than me and was a kind of cool guy, to me anyway. He loved video games and loved playing D&D. He had friends over from time to time and I got to sit in and watch them all throw those nifty little dice around and tell awesome stories. With my math skills I could add, subtract, and keep track of things fairly easily. I ended up being a mini human calculator for certain situations, so I became useful from time to time. It was fun and sometimes challenging to me. However, I didn’t have many friends of my own who knew about D&D, let alone how to DM. Heck, I didn’t even know what a “DM” was or have any books or knowledge myself. So, when my brother moved out, that part of my life disappeared.

But a few years later, I met my friend (now husband), Justin. We have been together for almost 12 years and married for 2. During the beginning of those years we learned a lot about each other. We hung out for hours, sometimes days. And when you do that, you need stuff to do. We were always at his house so his belongings were the things we had on hand to use. After hours of video games, some time for lunch and dinner, out came the D&D supplies. I was so excited when he showed me he had the supplies AND knowledge to bring back the awesome story time that, my brother and his friends used to be able to entertain me with! And its moments like these that let you know, you have the right guy. (Mental note- NEVER LET HIM GO!) Anyway, after years of playing and bringing in a variety of friends and stories, I started to gain an interest in those little colorful things that we threw around, dice.

Dice are beautiful things. They roll around and give you that tiny bit of excitement while you wait, hoping that they land on the numbers that work in your benefit. It adds some extra thrill to that story being told while you try to figure out your next move. But let’s be honest, you have to wait for that result before you know for sure what to do next. Even for those who don’t play D&D or any other RPG (role playing game), they come in handy for other games and even decoration! Adults will gamble and little kids will play even the simplest board games with them. So, I highly doubt that dice are going to “go out of style” anytime soon. Which make them a good collector’s item. But which ones should you collect and which ones should you actually play with?

I have been collecting dice for roughly 5 years but, I bought my first set to play with about 10 years ago. I have a large variety of “sets” of dice and a ton of individual dice. I make jewelry, magnets, key chains, picture frames, you name it. And of course, I play with dice too. After playing D&D for a long time I would notice that some numbers come up more often than others on certain dice. I loved messing around with numbers and I was good at noticing patterns. I didn’t think much of it and figured it was just an interesting coincidence. I kept playing and using different sets of dice just to see how they roll and learned that I liked certain sets over other ones. Then Gen Con happened and I learned that my pattern noticing wasn’t just a coincidence, it was a very important piece of information that I needed to pay more attention to!

Gen Con is a very large convention that is full of outstanding events and amazing works of art. And I mean a VERY large variety of art! It takes hours to get around and is full of fun and information. There was an event that stuck out to me, so my husband and I decided to go. It was an informative speech about dice. Louis Zocchi was the man speaking and before this, I knew nothing about him. I walked in and sat wondering what exactly he was going to talk about, except maybe how they were made. And that’s what he did. He certainly fascinated me!

Louis Zocchi is a very intelligent man and was able to give me enough information to know that the smallest difference can make the largest change. He invented the 100 sided die, the zocchihedron! Louis Zocchi is a gaming hobbyist, former game distributor and publisher, and maker and seller of polyhedral game dice. He has made dice since 1974 and personally hand inks every die you will ever purchase from him. He also files down every die by hand to help keep them precise. He has run countless tests and experiments to make sure that the dice he creates and invents will roll with precision and chance. He, and other people running experiments (myself included), have shown that his dice roll the best with the closest to even chances of any particular side coming up. He showed how stacking other companies' dice, one on top of the other, will not always come out the same height with the same amount of dice. And with that bit of a difference, you can get one number coming up more than another.

When dice are made, plastic is placed in a mold to create the shape of the dice. When this is done, they are then cleaned and painted. Once that is complete, they are put through a “tumbling” process to polish the dice, round the edges, and take off any spare pieces the mold may have left. (If you want more details on how dice are made, check out this site- The problem with doing it this way and “tumbling” them through a machine is that they don’t get tumbled evenly. One edge or side may get more "sanding" than another. This causes one side to weigh more and be a different size than another. Therefore, the dice are not even. This is why Louis Zocchi will take the time and file down each and every die he makes, by hand, instead of letting a machine do it.

Now, some people have had an issue with a small piece that shows where the dice mold had once held onto the dice. He does file this down as well and as crazy as it might sound, that has less of an effect on changing the amount of chance of a roll than, the amount of the die missing from tumbling in a machine.

This can be proven in another experiment that has been done. This experiment is called the “salt water experiment”. It is done by placing a different amount of salt (depending on the weight of the die) in a cup of water and flicking the die around a bit. If the die comes up on different numbers and doesn’t come up in a pattern every time, it is a good and faithful die. A large variety of people have tried this experiment with different sets of dice, and it seems the only trustworthy company is GameScience, the company owned by Louis Zocchi. There are other companies that will sell GameScience dice as well, but you can buy them directly from Every dice set or individual die he sells is filed and inked by hand and made with care. Even some of the ones that seem like they wouldn't be fair, like the D5, are made to give fair results.

So, when it comes to which dice I trust, I trust Louis Zocchi’s GameScience dice! They are handmade with care, precision, and plenty of math put right into the dice themselves.

If you would like more information, or would like to listen to Louis Zocchi himself, check out the links below. (jump to about 5min)

I would like to thank all of my friends who play D&D with us, my brother James Densmore for introducing me to D&D years ago, and Louis Zocchi for showing me the truth in dice. I especially need to put a HUGE thank you out there to my Honeybee, Justin Stewart. I love you, forever and always.

-Jessica Stewart, April 2017

Monday, April 10, 2017

I Definitely Married the Right Person

ME: Hey, if I run a campaign of Stay Frosty, would you rather play Aliens or Doom?
JESS: Oh, that's a hard one!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

A to Z VG RPG Inspiration - B is for Blood


B is for Blood


In the film Sin City, Marv utters the line "I love hitmen. No matter what you do to them, you don't feel bad." Replace "hitmen" with "cultists," especially of the Cthulhu-worshiping variety, and suddenly you're speaking MY LANGUAGE. Want to give your Call of Cthulhu players something they can actually maybe kinda-sorta kick the ass of in actual head-to-head combat, but without making the monsters less dangerous, and with fun legal complications if they get caught? Cultists! Need some individually weak but numerous and highly-motivated minions for your party of brave adventurers to slash to ribbons, but you're tired of the old standbys like goblins and orcs? Cultists! Run out of hamburger patties for the BBQ? Cultists! It's not unjustified religious oppression if they're actually pure evil, right? Okay, not a realistic trope, but it doesn't have to be.

The great thing about Blood is that it's gleeful. Just because the subject matter is morbid, macabre, or Gothic doesn't mean you can't be cheerful about it. Not everything has to be about serious drama or realism or weighty themes. Sometimes you just want to kick a zombie's head around like a soccer ball. It's okay to play that kind of game if you want. If the DM and the players are all on board, sometimes (I would even say often) it's okay to play that kind of game even in an otherwise serious campaign. Tabletop games are often episodic in nature, so you can explore different tones and themes and styles within the same "story" over the course of different episodes if you want to, right? Episodes can be like miniature, self-contained stories within a larger framework. Variation is an advantage of episodic storytelling.

And hey, would you look at that, Blood is divided into different episodes, like a lot of shareware-era games, and those episodes are divided into levels, of course. Blood will have you shooting up a funeral home full of zombies and cultists one level, then a train full of 'em in another level, and then a twisted carnival featuring Jojo the Idiot Circus Boy in another. (WE WANT JOJO! JOJO! JOJO!) Blood has got an Overlook Hotel replica, a Camp Crystal Lake replica, and demonic mountaintop monasteries above the clouds. Blood has the entire extended family of Ash's killer hand from Evil Dead II, zombies with kickable heads (as mentioned previously), cultists that scream real nice when they're on fire, legions of gargoyles, and some kind of screaming ghost or something. Blood has awesome improvised weapons like a pitchfork, a flare gun, and the ol' hairspray-and-lighter combo. Blood has a Tesla cannon, napalm, sonic electronic ball breakers. It's got voodoo dolls, dark magic, sharp sticks. My point is, Blood has two things that go a LONG way when trying to run a good game, video or tabletop, two things that should at least help ensure that a game is memorable: variety and enthusiasm.

Blood has plenty of individually gameable ideas too, of course. A demon-god who suddenly betrays its loyal lieutenants, prompting one of them to seek revenge on the former object of his worship. An undead cowboy with a charming voice and a matching personality. A setting that is basically the real world, except haunted by monsters and set in a vaguely early-20th Century time period, carelessly anachronistic in an endearing way. A special language just for cultists. Fun with improvised weapons. Fun with weaponized voodoo. Fun with fire. Show tunes. "Real world" architecture with illogical, maze-like layouts and secret areas galore. Cerberus, but with a head missing for some reason, with puppies. An obscure and intriguing (though sadly unexplored) reference to Slavic mythology.

But perhaps most importantly, Blood has a mixture of all of the above. It wears its references and inspirations on its sleeve. It's the remix as its own art form. It's greater than the sum of its warm, gore-soaked, still-twitching parts. If you're getting stressed over trying to come up with a complex, original campaign, maybe consider taking a break from that and unwinding for a little while with the Blood approach. Take some shit that sounds fun, scramble it all together, and serve it with a smile. "Let's boogie, Boogeyman."

Monday, April 3, 2017

A to Z VG RPG Inspiration - A is for Amnesia: The Dark Descent


A is for Amnesia: The Dark Descent

SPOILER ALERT for all of the games I'm discussing in this series, by the way.

In terms of aesthetics and tone and plot devices and setting and all that, Amnesia is a pretty obvious choice in terms of dark/weird fantasy inspirational material. I probably don't need to go on at length about the look of the castle, the game's horrifying torture-based alchemy, the Lovecraftian elements, the monster design, etc. If you dig that kind of stuff, Amnesia will probably give you some obvious inspiration on the "fluff" front.* But how about the mechanics, the "crunch?" Anything under the surface we might want to consider including in our tabletop games?

Well, one major lesson in Amnesia (and from what I hear, in its spiritual predecessor, the Penumbra series) is that the monsters or enemies in your game don't have to be conventionally "beatable," at least not in straight-up combat. Speed, stealth, and cunning are Daniel's only real defenses - I think the implication is more than just "Daniel is kind of wimpy and these monsters are big and strong, so Daniel doesn't stand a chance in combat, thus there's no attack button." Considering the line in the beginning of the game about Daniel being young and fit and more than a match for the old man he needs to kill, as well as all the heavy stuff he lifts throughout the game, I don't think this comes down to a simple matter of strength (or even martial prowess - the monsters aren't exactly kung-fu masters). The monsters are supernaturally invincible, unkillable. They're not cannon fodder, existing to MAYBE drain some resources and then be mowed down heroically. They're there to put pressure on the player in a different way - you have to know your hiding spots and your exits, or else be able to find them quickly, and you have to exercise caution and self-control with your light and noise levels. Besides, even if Daniel could take out some random shuffling horror with a lucky barrel toss or something, the Shadow is coming for him. Fighting that would be like trying to fight a tornado.

This kind of thing isn't unheard of in tabletop games. This is old hat in stuff like Call of Cthulhu, in which straight-up combat against monsters is almost always a bad idea unless you want to die hilariously horribly, and players are better off looking for a creature's specific weakness, or else running from it or otherwise dealing with it indirectly. But in D&D-style games, I think the idea of using "invincible" or combat-resistant monsters could maybe be utilized a bit more. Granted, if your game has fighters in it, you probably don't want to design an entire campaign centered around "unfightable" enemies without warning your players first, but not every problem needs to be solved with a sword or a fireball, either.

And the monsters don't have to be completely immune to damage or whatever - I don't think you should railroad the players into only being able to deal with a monster in one highly specific way, but you should be able to limit their options to make things more tense and interesting. Narrow the range of options while still allowing flexibility. The classic werewolf is a good example. Let's say it can ONLY be killed by silver, and there's no silver for miles. The low-level party of PCs isn't going to be able to stand toe-to-toe with this thing, but that leaves many options. They could try to avoid it in a million ways, with stealth or distraction or just by beating feet. They could try to come up with an alternate way of taking it out instead of "killing" it - drop it down a big pit and bury it, or trick it into stowing away on a ship and then sinking it, so even if it's not dead it's at least busy for a while. They could try to bargain with it or charm it somehow. They could travel to a different region and get some silver to even the odds. And once they get that silver, there are so many choices in how to USE it. Bullets? Blades? Molten metal?

But you know what? Why not throw something actually unkillable at the players at some point? Not as a cheap "gotcha!" to rack up an easy TPK, hopefully - even the killer bunny in Monty Python and the Holy Grail had plenty of warning signs for the knights to fail to heed - but as an interesting challenge, and as something SCARY. Make your players feel harried, hounded, preyed upon. A monster like this can add even more time pressure than a limited supply of torches and rations if you make it pursue the party slowly but implacably. Go all Terminator on their asses. Their ingenuity in survival tactics might surprise you.

And that whole unstoppable-force-of-doom-coming-for-your-ass thing reminds me of another aspect of Amnesia that could work wonderfully in D&D: The only way out of the dungeon is THROUGH the dungeon. The old D&D video game Eye of the Beholder did this, too, by having the dungeon entrance collapse behind the party once they enter. You can have multiple ways out, of course, and I think you should certainly make the dungeon itself non-linear in design so the players can make meaningful choices about what obstacles are worth contending with and how they should be defeated, but preventing any kind of easy backtracking out of the dungeon can be a great way to build a sense of claustrophobic terror, I bet. Especially if your route back isn't just cut off by a passive obstacle like a cave-in, but by some kind of crawling god or something.

In one of our D&D 3.5 games in college, my friends and I were playing through Rappan Athuk, and you know what kept on working its way into our conversations? A supposedly invincible monster made of dung, of all things, on one of the upper levels. It wasn't particularly dangerous, since it was easy to avoid, but due to a curse we couldn't leave the area unless we purged the dungeon of all evil, and guess what? "Dungy" lit up when Detect Evil was cast (or at least that's how I think its alignment was discovered, since I wasn't there for that particular moment). It because this major puzzle in the back of our minds throughout the whole dungeon: how do we kill this invincible piece of shit? Unfortunately, we never got to finish that campaign, but I bet we would have come up with something cool if we had enough time. "How do we deal with Dungy?" was our great mystery. It was our great brown whale.

Amnesia is also interesting because of the moral compromises Daniel has to make (or thinks he has to make) in order to survive the onslaught of the Shadow that pursues him. Maybe there's a second, much easier way to kill that werewolf, but it involves a child, a stone altar, a big bowl, and a knife. Maybe the PCs have more to worry about than just immediate survival, like their reputation in the community, or their immortal souls...

If any of this stuff sounds appealing, I would definitely recommend checking out The God That Crawls, Broodmother Skyfortress, and Deep Carbon Observatory for some fantastic and frightful material in this vein.

*Brennenburg Castle WOULD make for an awesome megadungeon. When I first played the game, it felt like it just kept going down, and down, and DOOOOOOOWN...

A to Z VG RPG Inspiration - Intro

I'm late to the A to Z Blogging Challenge party, but I figure "Better late (and half-assed) than never."

I'm not following the rules of the official challenge because I dance to the beat of a special snowflake or whatever. I'll probably post more than once per day and/or post on one or more Sundays in order to either catch up or work around my meatspace schedule. I might finish up in early May. (Heck, since I'll be out of town in early May, I might finish in late May. Who knows?) I picked my own category instead of anything off of the website because I think my own idea might prove fruitful. I'm not tagging anything or applying for any official lists because I don't want to, although I am thankful for the inspiration provided by the official A to Z website linked above. If any of this makes me an asshole, I apologize in advance.

Anyway, I decided to talk about video games that I think would serve as good sources of ideas for dark fantasy RPGs. I specifically have Lamentations of the Flame Princess and other dark or horror-oriented D&D-type games in mind (including regular old D&D, if your group likes to explore that kind of subject matter). However, some of the things I discuss might be useful for games that aren't part of the D&D family, like Call of Cthulhu, Chill, Dread, Kult, World of Darkness, etc. If it's a scary or dark RPG and it involves supernatural elements, hopefully you can find something useful for it here.

The List (Updated as I post and subject to change)
Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Chakan: The Forever Man
Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem
I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream
King's Field
Legacy of Kain
Ninja Gaiden
Pathways Into Darkness
Realms of the Haunting
Town of Salem
Vagrant Story
X-Men 2: Clone Wars
Yume Nikki
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link