For my Danish readers, you’ve probably already read most of this, but do read on anyway. I’d love some more feedback.
As the name suggest “Doors of the Silver Key” is a game set in the Dreamlands of Howard Phillips Lovecraft. It is mostly inspired by two things: A character in the boardgame “Eldritch Horror” and the scenario “The Secret Society” (original name: Det Hemmelige Selskab). More about both of them in a second, but first a short presentation of the game I’m currently writing: Doors of the Silver Key is about five people who betrayed The Other Gods they worshipped (especially Nyarlatothep) and is currently trying to escape and resist the revenge of the Other Gods on the other side of the Wall of Sleep. I hope to be able to write it for Fastaval 2017.
To begin with the previously mentioned boardgame character, she is called Diana Stanley and looks like this. What’s intriguing about her is that she’s a “redeemed cultist”.
I wasn’t that much a fan of Eldrich Horror as a game, but the idea of the “the redeemed cultist” stuck. around As for “The Secret Society”, it is about a group of old friends becoming cultists to satisfy a sleeping god underneath the area where they live so that the god doesn’t end up consuming the local area instead and the effects being in a cult has on the group and their friendship. Really great game in a lot of ways and a huge inspiration for this game in the idea that interpersonal relations can be driven forward by both an involvement in the occult/supernatural and a fear of the occult/supernatural.
What intrigued me about the original idea of the the “redeemed cultist” was that I had never encountered cultists who had gone over to “the other side” and opposed the Old Ones/The Other Gods/etc by way of the knowledge they had acquired through their cult activities. So the idea grew on me and I found a case of the investigators actually successfully “winning” over the Old Ones/The Other Gods/etc: The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath. So I went to look for resources on role-playing in the Dreamlands and found quite a few interesting sources to say the least. I’ll be reviewing some of them shortly and discuss how Lovecraft’s Dreamlands can be translated to role-playing and what approach I am going to take for my version of the Dreamlands of H.P. Lovecraft (I should let everybody know now: It is not going to be Chaosium’s approach. Or game for that matter).
First though, here is the idea for the game as it’s looking right now. I’d love to hear comments, feedback or criticism. 🙂
The Story so far
The 5 ex-cultists are on the run from their cult. They run from the cult after preventing some of their plans, along with some occult tomes describing a strange world beyond the Wall of Sleep where strange powers move against the Other Gods. The player characters isolate themselves in a mansion on the west coast of Scotland (one of the characters belongs to an old Scottish noble family and owns it) to perform occult rituals and cross over into the Lands of Dreams to perhaps find some way to escape their incoming doom as they can safely assume that the cult is looking for them.
The group consists of five people who separately attended the University of Edinburgh at various stages (they are all in their 30s now). At a cult meeting this led to chatting between them, which lead to conservation which lead to conspiring against the cult. While they don’t know everything about each other, they do like each other and have spent a couple of fun nights with a fair amount of whiskey flowing. And now they’re on the run, heading into a different, weird, scary and wondrous world.
My take on “The Dreamlands”
I have read Chaosium’s book about the Dreamlands and IMHO it is…dull. So I am looking for something along the lines of what H.P. Lovecraft actually wrote, but not quite the same. In other words, there will be references to the places and characters mentioned in Lovecraft’s stories, but it will be a different take on it. I guess that in some strange way it makes sense for the world of Dreams to change since the 1920s? I haven’t completely figured out what take to adapt to it, but I’m reading through The Sense of the Sleight-of-Hand Man and the Dream-Hounds of Paris and while none of them are what I want to do they’re both very inspiring.
I haven’t completed decided how it is going to be different from Chaosium’s take, but I’m working on that part. If you have any ideas, do share them 🙂
Outline of game mechanics so far
My idea for the style/genre of “Doors of the Silver Keys” is that is a drama with a lot of horror elements. The horror part is kinda self-explanatory (we are talking about quitting a cult to the Other Gods here) and the drama bit consists of the one thing I am certain about how the Dreamlands will work: It influences and increases your emotions, particular when it comes to your emotions for other people. So depending on what the player characters go through in the Dreamlands their feelings for each other will increase and their personalities will become more extreme. Especially if they stay there for a longer period of time. The first choice they have to take is the question of where to go to find occult knowledge/power. So they look at an old map and have to make a choice weighting the potential for knowledge and allies to be found and the dangers that await there.
Some places are not that dangerous (Ulthar for example), some a bit more dangerous (ruins of Sarnath) and some are extremely dangerous but also promises a great deal of knowledge (the Underworld, the Moon, Unknown Kadath). The plan so far is for there to be 1-3 visits to the Dreamlands during the game and personal scenes at the mansion in-between the trips to the Dreamlands. What of course also plays into it is the fact that time in the Waking World and in the Dreamlands doesn’t pass at the same rate.
Sanity and sorcery
I haven’t completely decided for the mechanics yet, but I have a couple of loose ideas both of which works around scales of extremes.
- Characters ability to resist the emotional twisting of the Dreamlands (which is kinda a sanity score) is balanced by their ability in sorcery. The more magical/occult knowledge you have the less connected you are to the Waking World/Earth.
- Bravery or the ability to handle what the Other Side throws at you. This is combined with a sense of ethics. In other words, if you are brave you will set a higher standard for yourself, you will involve yourself, do more, etc. I’m not completely sure about the second part yet.
Besides that I haven’t completely decided how things will work, but I’m thinking to make a relatively light (especially as there probably won’t be a need for say a list of skills as the scenes in the Waking Worlds are focused more on emotions and personal relationships). What essentially drives the story along is the race against time before the cult finds the player characters and if the characters have managed to find something to help save them in the Dreamlands.
Thanks in advance for your help! 🙂