Interrogations & Graveyards

The first block of Mystery Teens is nearing completion. Everything you can see here can be lifted up to gaze at the underbelly beneath - Trees, river pieces, houses, graves.


On top of opening envelopes, and opening up bits of the scenery, everyone will have some slots during the day when they can drag in any character in the game for full interview in person. You can ask any question you want, it's full role-play. There'll be a special interview room set up, with a big light-bulb to shine in their face.

I will play every suspect, using a variety of wigs.

The 10 big questions

I'm hoping to put tickets on sale for Mystery Teens this week or the next. Here's how signing up for this thing will work. The Eventbrite page will have 10 mysteries. Pick one:

  • The central Scooby-Doo mystery. You've just walked into school on a perfectly ordinary morning morning to find every student but you has disappeared. What happened to them?
  • A cop drama, working the other side of the same case as the Lovelyville P.D.
  • An Indiana Jones search for lost treasure in the ancient ruins below the town
  • A Heist caper where you have to figure out where the Maltese Diamond is and how to steal it without getting caught
  • A Phoenix Wright courtroom battle. One of you plays the Prosecution, one plays the Defense - you both have to uncover the facts of a murder and then twist them to get the verdict you want in a live court scene
  • A Film Noir mystery where you play the main suspect in the courtroom mystery above - a travelling salesman who gets in over their head and uncovers a web of corruption
  • An X-Files/Twin Peaks mystery about FBI Agents who fall into supernatural chaos - one believer, one skeptic
  • A kinda lovecraftian Pans Labyrinth thing where you play a child who starts falling out of reality and has to solve strange riddles to get back
  • A classic intriguing Sherlock Holmes case where you play a monkey detective who can only talk by holding up signs
  • A Tintin mystery where you play a boy reporter thwarting a gang of crooks
Each of these will have a price and a recommended number of players. I'm thinking that you just buy the mystery straight-out instead of buying individual tickets, so you can bring more or less than the recommended number of players if you'd like. That price will include everything you want to solve a mystery: Food (massive amounts of coffee and donuts for the cops, of course) interviews (more on that later), whiteboards, maps, big corkboards with photographs of suspects and bits of string showing their relationships. I want to provide everything you need to replicate the Detective chic of Rust's Shed from True Detective.

Once you sign up you'll get a package in the mail with all your secret documents. Everyone gets a dash of background info, rumors and news articles to start them off, and their own personal mystery, distinct from the group one. Bring that stuff on the day, and you're set.

Mystery Teens

In about 7 weeks I'm going to run Mystery Teens, a Megagame about solving weird mysteries in a small town. If you sign up, I'll give you a mystery, and plonk you down in the middle of town to solve it. I'm going to make an entire paper town, with an amusement park, dark woods, a graveyard, an abandoned mansion, suburbs and cars, the whole lot. You'll solve mysteries by going out into town and investigating. It's totally self-directed, and you can investigate any place that takes your fancy.

Here's how it works. You're snooping around and you find one Old Man Herring was at the crime scene on the night of the murder. You can look up his address in the directory...

...and head over there.

From here, you have a few choices. Let's say you do the basic - knock on the door, see if anyone's home, and ask him what he's up to. You do that by opening the envelope in front of the house.

Seems like a prime suspect. From here you could check his alibi by looking up the local cemetery - but if you want to go further here, you can sneak into his house and look for clues. You do this by actually opening up the house itself.

Inside every one of these houses will be physical clues and evidence.

You will be able to search almost any object in the game like this. Say you want to search the boot of his car:

The room will be full of tables, each one a block of town filled with houses and props like this. Every one of these cute little paper props will pop open to reveal filthy, horrifying secrets hidden within. The paper houses, the cardboard graves - they all hide secrets.

You'll sign up to solve a certain mystery with 1-7 of your friends, and spend the time snooping around this town while everyone else is hot on the trail of their own case, At the end, all of these mysteries will explode together in a climactic Denouement where you reveal the answer - or answer wrong, and see the villain get away laughing. 

I'll keep updating this blog and the facebook group with more details and snapshots of more of the buildings. I'm planning to put tickets on sale this week or the next. 

The Megagame

Watch The Skies 2 just happened in the UK, and I realized I never posted about the aftermath of our own Megagame event in Brisbane. It was amazing! Click any of these images to make them bigger.

The Russian team, and the aliens shouting "Worms! Worms! Worms!"

Alien Documents

The News and the game map

The war room

The Aliens successfully steal the world's supply of coffee. Later, they gifted it to France.

Ace Reporter Gordy Higgins personally challenges the aliens to single combat, and is abducted.

You can see more on our facebook page. This game went so well that I'm going to run another megagame of my own design in about a month and a half. It's inspired by Scooby Doo, Twin Peaks, and the Megagame "At Right Angles to Reality". Here's a sneak preview of one of the locations:

 More details soon! 

Merry Christmas! Have a one-room dungeon!

This is a one-room dungeon made in Twine. That picture hovers on top of the page. You click on stuff in the picture to get a description of what it is, and what happens when your players fuck with it. The idea is that it serves the same purpose as an "Opener" does for board and card games - it's a short, simple little thing that doesn't need any prep time and slots in as a filler wherever you want. I meant to submit this to Zak Smith's twine contest, but I was too late. 

I'd love to make a whole collection of these dungeons, so that you could rifle through them whenever you need some filler. I want to use original images, though. If you're interested, draw an image of a cool room and send it to me. I'll hook it up in twine so you can write out entries for all the items - or we could collaborate on writing entries, or something like that. If you want to go crazy, draw pictures of the room in different states (eg, submerged after the party's pulled a particular lever; Close-up images of some of the items they could find in there; sky's the limit). I'd love to see a bunch of these things pop up. 

It's a boring process, but if you want to do it yourself instead, here's a quick tutorial on how I did it. You can download the source file here for extra help. 

First, I used this website to create clickable zones in the image. You upload your image, then draw everything you want to click in it. Say I want you to open an entry by clicking the alligator: I right click, go "create poly", then draw around the alligator. When you're finished, right click and go "Get code". Click "Html Code". Copy and paste everything under "HTML Image Map Code" into a passage in your story.

You'll have a lot of lines of code that look like this:

<area  alt="" title="" href="" shape="rect" coords="392,476,514,581" style="outline:none;" target="_self"     />

Each of these lines is for a single clickable zone. Replace the bit that says "" with a link to the passage that you want to pop up when you click that zone. The syntax for a link in twine is: "javascript:state.display('******', this);" Replace ****** with the name of your passage.

Final Boss

I read The Laughing Vampire and it didn't measure up to what I imagined after reading this post. Now I desperately want to make the comic I imagined. The final boss crew, waiting for death at the top of the tower as the heroes slaughter towards them.

The pacing and style would be inspired by Absurd Theatre. You know, Waiting for Godot. More specifically this play:

It starts with 2 whole minutes of silence, which of course in this quick-flash internet age means it forfeits all right to your attention immediately. Try to stay awake if you can, though: The silence and trivial banter serves to totally immerse you in a claustrophobic box of growing tension and hysteria.

I want to put that waiting into a hyper-dense world of exploding ideas in the style of Kill Six Billion Demons, following the maxim of "Maximum Good Ideas per Page". The first step would be to sit down with an artist and create a bizarre world and characters in intense detail.

I think this could add to the Theatre of the Absurd in the same way that Cowboy Bebop added to the Western. 

I love long slow shots of a desolate environment, instilling the sense that the characters are small and insignificant flickers of life in a dead land that cares nothing for them - in theory. In practice there's only so long I can look at still shots of the desert without losing my mind. The pacing and style of Westerns doesn't work for me in this dry environment.

When those slow shots show fantastic inventive sci-fi art, though, I'm all in. Cowboy Bebop keeps the spirit of a western, but saturating everything with imagination elevates it for me. This is the way I am, I guess - I need a dose of pulp and wild ideas to make the medicine go down.

None of these ideas will be explained through exposition. One of the principles of Absurdism: We never talk about the important things on our mind, just orbit around them with trivialities. The characters take everything interesting as trivial and are obsessed with meaningless details. The comic dips you straight into the situation like a cold bath. You have to piece the background together. It echoes with hollow spaces and half-said things.

While I'm at it let's mix in some Lolita, let's make these people warped and despicable and seductive, and then submerge you so completely into their evil little world-view that you end up nodding along.

I think it would work something like this. I'm not sure about it, and I've never written a comic before.

A woman picks the wings off a struggling dragonfly with tweezers, then places them on an intricate sculpture of inter-weaved insect parts. 

Man: "Have you seen my shoes?"

Woman: "Hmm?"

Holding the sculpture in place with one hand, she searches through her things with the other and picks up a small bottle of liqueur.

Man: "Shoes. The black ones, let me walk into people. Seen them?"

She tips the liqueur over the sculpture, then reaches out for a match.

Woman: "What do you want them for?"

Man: "Well, I want to look presentable, don't I? I'm not going out to meet them in my bloody pajamas."

The woman sets the sculpture on fire. It twitches, then moves to join a small parade of insect-things. She smiles.

Doomed Obsessions

Death Frost Doom (PDF)

Before I started Death Frost Doom, I took each player into another room and gave them a secret objective.

  1. Last year, you/your wife suffered a miscarriage. Of late you have been haunted by dreams of your child, crying out, tortured in the pits below Death Frost Mountain.
    Your child's soul is held prisoner by Eizethrat Nexx in area 24. If attacked, she will send your child against you.
  2. Your parents told you that you trace your heritage back to the ancient kings, but an ancient death cult stole the Noble Seal that proves your right to rule. Rumours and legends suggest the seal was offered as sacrement to one of the black altars on Death Frost Mountain.
    Your seal is on the altar in area 22. The back is engraved with the symbol of the Duvan'Ku. It's clear to anyone who sees it that your ancestors were a willing part of the death cult itself.
  3. Your ancestor was a great saint of Vorn who went crusading against the evil in Death Frost Mountain and never returned. His body could be used to make holy reliquaries of great power.
    Your ancestor was transformed into the Sacred Parasite in area 22. He was corrupt to the core. He no longer has a body.
  4. Your god has commanded you to root out and destroy the evil at the center of Death Frost Mountain. It whispers to you even now, reassuring you that you're on the right path.
    Your god is silent. You are being spoken to by the thing chained under the mountain in area 22. It wants you to awaken it.
  5. You had some bad habits, but you're shaking them off and getting your life in order. You quit your addictions, stopped the rampages - now you just need to repay your old debts using the acres of gold hidden under Death Frost Mountain.
    You were addicted to Purple Lotus Powder. There's some in Room J.
  6. You live in the village under Death Frost Mountain, a descendent of escaped slaves from the cult. You're tired of being sick and poor and afraid. You want to take the power of the mountain and use it to protect and help your village. Your ancestor's diary speaks of the Grimoire of New Flesh - that'd be a good start.
    The Grimoire of New Flesh is in room 12. The thing you create will destroy you.

There's nothing wrong with the simple greed that's meant to tempt players into Death Frost Doom, but I like my negadungeons to be a little personal, y'know? My all time favourite adventure hook is "You get a letter from your dead wife." In retrospect, I think giving one of the players an objective that worked against the others would have worked out well, but I wimped out and decided to just make them believe there was a traitor.

The adventure went great! I had 8 players, including three women totally new to D&D, and they all walked away indoctrinated into roleplaying. The highlights were a conversation with a dead child, FINALLY getting to use my hireling table (which lead to a duel with a glovemaker in the middle of a fight with the Sacred Parasite which was flooding the room with ice - a PC trapped underneath a frozen corpse as the glovemaker rose above her with a knife), and the climax where one PC sacrificed another on a black altar as the dead closed in.