Tuesday 28 April 2020

Thoughts on 'Those Dark Places'

Media of Those Dark PlacesI thought I'd talk a little about my upcoming RPG 'Those Dark Places'.

It's a dark science fiction thriller game, and although it's influenced by movies such as Alien it's more in line with the character-driven psychological dramas of Outland, Blade Runner and the like. There's nothing stopping you from including alien mystery, cosmic horror or throwing in some Dead Space violence - the game alludes to that - but the game itself is centered around the very human problems surrounding the rigours of space travel and exploration.

What I've taken from movies like Alien and Outland is the design aesthetic. I love the dark corridors, the dimly lit rooms and the strange, misty atmosphere. Alien especially feels really cramped and claustrophobic, the corridors are low and the rooms apear to have ceilings you can easily smack your head on, and as for the air ducts... well, it's perfectly suited for that kind of story, being trapped in the back of beyond where there's no help coming for weeks, if at all. What made Alien terrifying was the fact that the crew were utterly alone and had to rely on their wits - which were in short supply - and what they could cobble together from what they had. In fact, it wasn't until the last twenty minutes where pure frustration, desperation and anger drove Ripley on did we see any decisive action being taken. The terror of the situation seemed to dull their senses.

Outland was a much bigger location and dealt with less cosmic horror, and it leaned more towards the uncaring corporate and profiteering company side of things. This was a much more human drama and, even though it was basically 'High Noon' in space, it dealt with the psyche, drives and ambitions of normal human beings be they corrupt business people, exploited employees or idealistic officers of the law. This is probably more in line with 'Those Dark Places' as it's a very story- and human-centric plot with a smattering of action. Again, it's the design of this movie that drives the atmosphere I'm trying to create in my game - everything is dark, dingy and very analogue with clunky CRT screens and chunky switches. It's a very hands-on world.

Those Dark Places is a rules light game and depends on a single D6 to decide actions and tasks. The system is incredibly easy and can be adjusted, modified and changed to suit most gaming groups. This is so that the focus can be on the setting and the story, trying to establish atmosphere and pushing the players along a route where a plot can unfold and the entire group can experience a very involved adventure. In my experience, some game systems can slow the story and interfere with the spirit of the game as the action stops to consult rules or tables to decide outcomes; Those Dark Places, I hope, does away with most of that and enables the adventure to unfold without the need to interrupt the mood.

More thoughts on Alien and Predator stuff

I don't like the Engineers in Prometheus/Covenant and I don't like the idea that David was somehow responsible for the creation of the Alien as we know it. The 'space jockey was a suit' idea really grates my nerves, and the whole 'they made us, too' is so far removed from the original cosmic horror and mystery that it feels like a different franchise altogether, with the Alien thrown in at the last minute.

I like the films, they look great and I appreciate the fact they tried to do something different but the mental leaps in logic and downright stamping on what came before makes it feel like the movie was created from half-remembered notes made from the original films, and it's hard for me to reconcile the two. It doesn't expand on the mystery, it utterly destroys it.

And don't get me started on Ressurection...

In my opinion, the AvP movies are a bit of joke and are more like glorified fan fiction than any attempt to bring the two franchises together. They did a really good job with the Dark Horse comic in 1990 and, even though I didn't feel the two worlds would - or should - co-exist it was an entertaining romp and would have made a far better movie than 'hidden temple in the snow and the predators were gods' rubbish. I can't even talk about Requiem, it felt like a knock-off movie that got away with using the title.

I love the first two Alien films and the appreciation of the 3rd, it was a good movie when it was cut properly. I love Aliens to bits but think it's a bad sequel, considering the lore the first movie et up, and I prefer Alien Isolation as a continuation of the first film. Resurrection can 100% do one, with it's comic book characters and ego-tripping main character. That could have been an interesting story but they decided to just throw as much dodgy imagery and exposition at the viewer in an attempt to hide a plot lacking in depth.

Prometheus? David was a great character but was ruined/let down by a weak story and a spotty character arc. His involvment in not only the history of the alien and his attack on the engineers was kind of ridiculous, and any interesting developments were tossed out of the window when he went HAL9000 'bad company robot is bad' on the story. It was a waste.

Covenant looked amazing, as all Scott films do, and there's a lot to enjoy but the story is undermined by trying to force on a continuity with Prometheus, and wasting Shaw - probably the only compelling character in the first film - so they could get to the 'Hey! here's the Alien you wanted! Yeah? Yeah?' moments. The end was incredibly flat and I have to wind past the shower scene - I mean, what the fuck? Really? After everything you're having a sexy shower scene so that the alien could turn up teen slasher movie stylee? Fucking do one.

If the sequels and crossovers did everything they could to murder the cosmic mystery and unknowable horror of the original, the prequels dug up the corpse, set it on fire and then tried to sell it as nostalgia cake with sparklers.

This is Hicks, signing off.

Thursday 23 April 2020

The Farsight Podcast Episode 5 - Voicing NPCs

In this episode I talk about voicing NPCs, how it shouldn't be a requirement and how I handle it, and a quick and easy way to create an NPC who might be spending a long time in the game.

Sunday 19 April 2020

The Farsight Podcast - Episode 4

In this episode I generally ramble about my love for the Alien movie and how I'd use it in my own Alien RPG games.

Tuesday 7 April 2020

Those Dark Places - my RPG from Osprey Games

Those Dark PlacesIt's time to let you know that my TTRPG 'Those Dark Places' is in the pipeline, to be published by Osprey Games. It's a rules-lite scifi game, and I'm quite excited!

I want to explain a few things about my upcoming game 'Those Dark Places' from Osprey Games. I'm just sharing this post with friends on here, there'll be more detail when Osprey do a full press release.


Space is a hell of a thing but you need to be sure that this is what you want. Like, what you really want. The idea of space exploration to further the frontiers of mankind is noble, but let's not kid ourselves – it's really all about furthering the profit margins. There's money to be made and out there is the place to make it, but you hear all kinds of stories… equipment malfunctions, strange discoveries, crewmembers going insane... You'll be out there in the reaches, alone, for months or years, breathing recycled air and drinking recycled water, with nothing but a few feet of metal and shielding between you and certain death.

Are you sure this is what you want?

– Crew Orientation Briefing

Those Dark Places is a rules-light, story-focused roleplaying game about the darker side of space exploration and the people who travel the stars in claustrophobic, dangerous conditions. Starships, stations, and outposts aren't havens of safety with clean, brightly lit corridors – they're potential deathtraps, funded by budget-conscious corporate interests and running on stale, recycled air and water. The stars may be the future of humanity, but they are also home to horrors and terror the human mind cannot comprehend.


It's my first fully finished RPG game and it's a dark scifi setting, and while it's inspired by movies such as Alien, Dark Star and Outland it takes inspiration more from the aesthetic rather than the content; so, no aliens or monsters or cosmic entities, they only exist in the minds of those who can't handle the pressures of working in deep space.

Or perhaps they don't.

It uses a single D6 for its mechanic but its quite versatile and generates a lot of uncertainty. This is the final version of my ODDS System - One Die Determines Success - but is not referred to as such in the book. That's something I'll concentrate on depending on how well the game does.

Although the game is rules-lite the book focuses more on how to use the rules and the atmosphere of the setting. There is also no definitive setting - just a guideline - and this leaves it open for groups to use the game as they see fit. Combat is brutal and very deadly.

The game focuses on characters and stories, and the system is designed to support that. I'm hoping the game will encourage games of intense fun, as I'm trying to emulate thrillers in an industrial science fiction future.

Even though 'Those Dark Places' is inspired by movies and games like Alien and Dead Space, it's more the aesthetic and design I've taken my cues from. If anything, it's more a thriller like Outland - but you can add whatever strangeness you want.

Although 'Those Dark Places' can be used for ongoing campaigns - the aim isn't to improve, it's to simply stay alive long enough to finsih your tour - it's perfectly suited for one-shots and short adventures over several sessions.

PC creation takes around 5 minutes.

That's all for now. I'll no doubt be in full publicity mode once the game is fully announced, but in the meantime if you have any questions then feel free to ask!