The Game: curse the darkness
The Publisher: Play Attention
Degree of Familiarity: I've read al the preview material, but haven't yet been able to run a playtest game.
Books Required: Just the playtest packet so far.
curse the darkness is, at it's heart, a character-focused post-apocalyptic game. A being referred to only as "He" or "Him" has opened the shadows and come from the Between. He stated that the concept of "ideology" is fundamentally toxic, and decreed that it is over. Everyone must take care of everyone. To make His point, He removed politicians, CEOs, world leaders, and people in power. He destroyed holy sites, banks, and halls of power all over the world. The entire city of Jerusalem vanished in one demonstration of His power, razed to flat, stony ground.
It's ten years later. Are you going to light a candle or curse the darkness?
Before playing curse the darkness, the group needs to answer a few questions that provide a setup for the story. I don't have a group with me, since I'm at work, so I'll answer them myself.
Where are you?
Edinburgh, the Bruntsfield end of Viewforth. Four- and five-storey tenement blocks with thick stone walls, mostly a couple of hundred years old. For all that one building can house ten families, most of the area's deserted: people panicked, during the ten years after He appeared. People who panic tend to die. Some of the other flats are occupied by the dead—the sick and the old who wasted away with nobody knowing them. It's a student-y area, rife with people who have ideologies, and They have struck repeatedly—it's rare to find a single block without at least two burned-out windows. A couple of guys have got a diesel genny running for electricity, and half the time they can get electricity from the station out at Torness. No gas, mind, and water's not coming out the taps any more.
It's also snowing. Climate change, motherfuckers. For the past week, snow has shat from the sky and piled up to about 50cm on the ground. People huddle inside under blankets because the mercury's showing -20°C. The power's on and off more frequently. Many people have started breaking furniture apart to burn to get some damn warmth. One family's already choked on the smoke from a house-fire.
What just happened?
The stores of food are running dangerously low. The community has a few days of diesel left, but dry fuel for fires has run out. People will die tonight without fire. People need fuel. And one of the survivors knows where to find it.
How are you following the rules?
Providing shelter, clothing, blankets, and electricity (when possible) to anyone who can make it through. The genny puts off enough waste heat that it'll melt snow pretty effectively, and insulated bags taken from a local supermarket mean it's liquid and portable for a while.
How are you breaking the rules?
One of the flats has a collection of books from before He came, describing religions, philosophies, theories of government, and other ideas now anathema. People who bring a new book or printout for the collection usually end up with more than a strictly fair share of resources.
What is the goal?
Find a new source of fuel that doesn't involve burning the Library.
Time to make my first character. Characters die in curse the darkness, certainly more than in many other games, so he's not going to be my last.
Step One: Assign Attributes
Four Attributes, Focus, Stability, Stamina, and Humanity. In order, they roughly cover smarts, will, physical stuff, and social stuff. Ten points to split between them, minimum 1, maximum 5.
I want to play someone smart but practical, an engineer or similar who can keep things running or even make them better when he's got the chance. Quiet and reserved, not necessarily gruff but not the kind of man who smiles much.
Four points in Focus to start, then. Three more in Stability: he's survived a lot and is damned if he's going to let anything get in his way. Two points in Stamina: he's on the other side of fifty-five, smokes and drinks, but he keeps himself too busy to feel his age. Finally, one point in Humanity. He lost his wife shortly after He revealed Himself, and he's never come out of his shell since.
Step Two: Scopes
Characters end up with five Scopes, a broad descriptor that explains where the character gets his expertise. The playtest packet does advise leaving some to define in play, which makes a lot of sense. He's an engineer, but making him faculty at the university would be going too far, I think. He's a technician, originally in the mechanical workshops: building cars from scratch for students and faculty both. "Engineer" covers that easily enough. He also played poker semi-professionally, winning in to a number of tournaments, which gets me "Poker Player".
Step Three: Write the Character Into Memory
Mark Richardson was forty-seven when He arrived and laid down the rules. His wife Jenny, a paramedic, was at the Scottish Parliament, helping people who got caught in the initial collapse. When the whole building fell in on itself, she was crushed in the rubble. Mark locked part of himself away that day, and he's not let it out since.
Despite (or perhaps because of) his habit of keeping people at a distance, he's able to focus on what needs done. When the electricity failed, he's the one who lead a small group to retrieve a diesel generator. When the tap water stopped flowing, he was the one who designed and built a filter for the water in the canal. When the canal froze, he built a framework to use the generator's waste heat to melt ice and snow. The people in Viewforth know him, but they all keep their distance a bit: he can be aggressive, and doesn't suffer fools at all gladly. He prefers his own company to that of others, but he knows that he can't let himself get closed off to the outside world: much as it annoys him, he needs other people around to give his life purpose.
He's average height, maybe five-ten, with hair just past his ears and a full beard that've been varying kinds of salt-and-pepper for the past ten years. He wears sensible clothes: jeans, worn boots, a thick sweater, and a barbour jacket. Beyond his wife, he misses books: he was a voracious reader, and he's vehemently against the idea of using books as fuel.
Scopes: Engineer, Poker Player
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