Monday, January 04, 2010

Ken Hite Inspired by Carnacki


Game designers and game masters are always looking for new inspirations for games and interactions.

I cannot tell you how many times I find myself reading through a book just to see if it contains elements that I can use in adventures that I am running for my regular gaming group. The end of one of our campaigns was based on the James Barclay novel Elfsorrow -- loosely based -- which ended up being one of the most successful campaign finales I have run in years. That novel's grand heroic tension made for a perfect campaign goal.

I also find myself, when reading comic book back issues, reading them through the lens of how to structure my comic book rpg sessions. Not that old comic books were great reading, but they sure make for action packed 4 hour game sessions -- something that seems to deeply satisfy my Necessary Evil group.

Kenneth Hite has recently read a story featuring William Hope Hodgson's Carnacki thestories. Carnacki is the classic ghost hunting detective, the supernatural counter to Holmes' material metaphysics.

As is typical of a gamer, Hite has expressed how reading Carnacki stories always makes him want to design a Carnacki roleplaying game. Hite offers a couple of possible mechanical and narrative frameworks that he might use to adapt such a game, including the Gumshoe and Savage Worlds systems. Both of these game systems are near and dear to my heart, but I think there is a game that could be used to simultaneously capture the style of the Carnacki stories while maintaining the importance -- and roleplaying excitement -- of Carnacki's obligatory supernatural opposing rituals.

I think that Ken should adapt the system used in Eric J. Boyd's The Committee for the Exploration of Mysteries. Given that Carnacki stories are usually tales where a group gathers and is told a tale, Boyd's game structure is a perfect starting point for design. The systems may not create the levels of suspense necessary in a horror tale, but mechanics could be created that would allow for the level of tension that Hite desires.

Imagine if you will a society of Edwardian Ladies and Gentlemen gathered in Dodgson's study awaiting the next examination of their adventures against the supernatural. One could have the players as comrades of Carnacki, or have them be the interlocutors questioning and extrapolating on Carnacki's tale. No player would have to be the Carnacki character...potentially all could be. One advantage to the shared storyteller aspect could be the potential of having a Carnacki-esque character who has a genuine chance of failure or death.

One could make it so the setting is such that the discussion takes place, with Dodgson leading the discussion, before Carnacki arrives. Thus if Carnacki perishes, it could be his friends sharing his "final" adventure. Or if death is unnecessary, but you still want failure to be an option you can still use the Carnacki sharing a tale with the group. What would happen in the discussion/roleplay could be used to determine the consequences of Carnacki's failure to dispel the sinister spirits.
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