Hello friends, faeries, and freaks. It is I, Gandersnitch the Goblin, Banished Barber, Brilliant Author, Head of the Naughty List, and Instigator Supreme.
This morning I was forced to sit down with fellow author and game designer, Robert Turk, and ask him some deep probing questions about his new game, Purgatory House. It is currently on Kickstarter at ph.wicked-clever.com with a week still to go in the funding campaign.
You can read my incredible questions and his adequate answers below.
Look out, Barabara Walters! Here I come!
G: So, what in the heck is Purgatory House? It sounds like a budget bed & breakfast that caters to Catholics?
RT: Heh. Not at all. It’s a role-playing game. Specifically, a pick-up & play horror RPG about being trapped inside a Haunted House.
G: Ok, so I was half right. Anyways, what is this pick-up and play nonsense? I mean, it is a game. Aren’t you already supposed to be able to do that?
RT: Well, traditionally there has been a bit of a barrier to entry with role-playing games. First off, until recently the entire hobby has been seen as something only for nerds and social outcasts...
G: Sitting in their mom’s basement with Cheetos, Mountain Dew, and wizard robes. You mean it isn’t really like that?
RT: It doesn’t have to be like that! It usually isn’t like that at all. Roleplaying is a robust hobby with people from all walks of life. My philosophy behind pick-up & play RPGs is to break past that stereotype and make games that are fun to play, easy to learn, and have as low a barrier to entry as possible.
For this game, you don’t need any experience playing a roleplaying game and you don’t need any special accessories, like dice. You only need the rulebook and two decks of normal playing cards.
G: But you do need a Dungeon Master that reigns supreme.
RT: You need a Dealer in this game. Someone who has read at least the first part of the book and manages the unfolding of the haunted house. And you do need 2 or more other players, who will pretend to be the victims of the haunted house.
G: Victims? Is this some creepy kink thing?
RT: Not at all. It is a fun exercise in imaginative storytelling. You don’t actually get trapped in a real haunted house, you just narrate from the point of view of your character, how you interact with and respond to the situation that’s thrown in front of you and the people around you.
It is a very safe, enjoyable way to explore our common fears and embrace classic scary stories.
G: Ok, you mentioned characters. I played a role-playing game once, and it took three days to make a character. I had to look up powers, and skills, and all that stuff. That is worse than doing taxes!
RT: This game does have rules for creating characters, but you can do that in about five minutes flat. You just decide on a concept, pick three traits that you possess, what you are afraid of, and one useful thing you are carrying.
So if we were making you as a character in this game we could say you are skilled with a knife, are a fast talker, and seem to always catch a lucky break. But, if you don’t want to create a character on your own, there are a whole slew of characters in the book already created for you.
G: Ok, that sounds doable. What about this Dealer fellow? He has to study for months before being ready to run a game, right?
RT: I would suggest the Dealer read through the rules section on the mechanics before playing the game, pick a scenario they like, and photocopy the characters for that section, but that really is all the prep work the Dealer has to do.
The Haunted House and the monsters that populate it are actually generated on the fly as the game is players. Each time the players go to a new room, the Dealer flips two cards to find out what the room is and what is in there that might be in the way.
G: That sounds almost like a board game. I mean, no studying, no planning, no mapmaking?
RT: It shares a lot of elements with a board game while focusing on imagination and narration instead of tiles, miniatures, and cards. That is what makes it so easy to just jump in and go. It has those elements of a board game that facilitate fast play, but the storytelling freedom of an RPG.
G: You clearly haven’t played the same boards games I have. Azog argues for hours about which end of Candy Land we are supposed to start on, and which tiles get the flaming zombies!
RT: Flaming zombies? I thought you played games like “Haha, Moustache!”
G: Moving on. Lets talk about Kickstarter for a moment. I noticed that yours is not going as well as mine did. Mine was like, Boom! Give me your money and get outta here! You have a week left and you haven’t even hit your goal.
RT: Well, every kickstarter is different. Like you said, we do have a week left and we have a hair over $2,000 left to raise. That is doable but stressful. There are a lot of great games right now competing for attention, and a lot of bad things going on in the world that rightfully dominate people’s awareness.
We are also asking for more money than most new indy RPGs do, because we want to pay for top notch artists and print a good quality hard back book right off the bat. I am still very confident that we will hit our goal and deliver an outstanding project.
G: You don’t strike me as a terribly scary gentleman yourself. You don’t have that whole dark and moody, serial killer look about you. So why are you making a horror game? Where did this idea come from?
RT: Thank you, I think. The idea for Purgatory House came from a recurring nightmare I had, in which I was trapped in a house that never ended. The house itself wasn’t scary, but the people that were stuck there as well became terrifying. I had thought I would write a book about it, so I started doing some research and realized that this idea of an infinite house was actually common through all of recorded human culture. It has recently made a resurgence in film, on the internet in the form of Creepypasta, and even a TV show.
I realized early on, that since I am not a horror writer, I didn’t feel like I could write a suspenseful novel about this concept. But I was confident that I could turn it into a sourcebook for gaming and give people the tools to use these ideas in their own campaigns. Then I stumbled upon a 200 word RPG contest and decided that this was a universal idea that I could probably get it across in under the word limit.
I needed a mechanic though, so I grabbed the easiest thing I could think of, which was blackjack. And it worked! I didn’t win the contest, but that gave me the focus and direction to really play around with this idea as a stand-alone game.
RT: I firmly believe that gamebooks need good art, and that good art should be paid for. About 1/3rd of the kickstarter budget is going straight to the artists. I don’t think you know John Donald Carlucci. He is a Portland artists who does a lot of horror work. He was recommended by a friend, and when I saw his work, I knew we had to have him onboard.
I think you know Tony Steele and Dean Bragg though, both more local (to me) artists who do great black and white work.
G: I was at Dean’s wedding! I performed the ceremony! You should have just started with that, you nut. Hey everyone, buy this book! It has my buddy’s art in it and isn’t a creepy, nerd thing! Seriously, click the link and do it now! Why are you still reading this? Get outta here! Sheesh…