After six months of deciding what I wanted to do with a sequel, a year testing and writing it and a few months of tweaking and polishing, 'Pressure' is finally released on PDF worldwide, with the hardback in the UK on Nov 30th and in the US Jan 6th.
In 2009 I wrote a first draft of the game using a completely different system and I write it as a straight-forward horror sci-fi RPG (mainly inspired by 'Dead Space' on the PS3, which had just come out) with lots of nasty creatures and weird stuff. I put it out for playtest and got a luke-warm reaction to it; the system wasn't great and the game lacked focus.
I then started to write for fun, giving away my free SKETCH system and focusing on RPG essays, reviews and interviews. About six years ago I wrote 'To The Stars, Space Cadets!', a tongue-in-cheek pulp sci-fi action game using a single D6, a system I called ODDS (One Die Determines Success) and the genesis of what would become the CASE System of Those Dark Places.
The response to 'To The Stars, Space Cadets!' was pretty good and I decided to try and make something of it. I revisited 'Those Dark Places' and realised that while the premise was solid, the game needed a bit of trimming down and the players needed something to actually *do*.
So I defaulted to what I love about science fiction movies and the kind of things I like to see. 'Alien', 'Outland', 'Silent Running', all these movies about being stuck out in the middle of nowhere with the odds against you, just surviving. That's what I wanted and, after deciding on the seven roles for players as crew members of a starship (yes, I did that to reflect the seven crewmembers of the 'Nostromo', sans cat) I had my setup. I then started writing, and twenty thousand words later I felt I had a game.
It was then that I discovered that Osprey Games were looking to break out into the tabletop roleplaying market so I figured I'd try my luck. At this point I'd already dipped into the TTRPG designer pool with work for the Advanced Fighting Fantasy RPG - with some success - so I took the plunge. Osprey Games read my pitch, met up with me at the UK Games Expo for a coffee, and after a few days of back and forth, 'Those Dark Places' was given the green light.
It was released November 2020 and it was well recieved - it was turning up a lot on game streams, players were enjoying both the premise and the simple rules which were perfect for online play, and the amazing artwork by Nathan J Anderson really sold the idea and the game. The response to the quirky interview-style of the writing was really good and I felt I'd really managed to capture the kind of game I wanted to play and, thankfully, other people wanted to play it, too.
Over the next two years I'd write four adventures which I published myself through my Farsight Games label, and I'd take part in a few online games myself. The game didn't just fade away after a few months but stuck around, so quite soon after I started to wonder what else I could do with the game, how I could expand on it. I had kept the setting vague so that groups could interpret it how they wanted, and the system design was designed for short campaigns or one-shots. So, of course, I wanted to expand on both the setting and rules.
'Pressure' was conceived as a full rulebook and campaign setting, and I took a bit of everything that I love about dark 1970s/1980s science fiction everything in between, even a bit of cyberpunk. I wanted the game to have a different focus, something that put the players a little more in control of the situations they found themselves in so there's a little more of an adventure feel to it with a military theme, but I also wanted to retain the dark, grim feel of the original game so kept that in for groups who wanted more options but also wanted to hang on to the darkness. In short, I opened the game up to be played however people wanted to play it, across a huge setting covering Earth, the Solar System and the explored stars.
So, there's no longer seven crew positions to choose from; a skill system enables PCs to be more focused and gives them a chance to improve over time so the game can be played as a campaign, players can create literally any kind of character they wish, and the universe is open to explore as the players see fit.
But the darkness is still there. The danger and the shadows and the unexpected is still prevalent. 'Pressure' has taken it's predecessor and opened it up to allow gaming groups to go nuts.
Osprey Games had a hand in the focus of the game as we had to come up with a sequel that shone on it's own and was more than just an expanded version of the original book, but I knew I wanted to do something familiar yet different. I also knew that I wanted Nathan J Anderson back on board as artist, as his work had given life to my universe, so when it was confirmed he was in then I threw myself into the book.
And now, after a few months of editing, adjusting and pressure of my own, the book is here. It's out. It's landing in the hands of players and gamers without who I would never have got this far and to who I owe a huge debt of gratitude for playing, enjoying, and talking about the game, keeping it alive these last three years to enable me to write a sequel. For that I can't thank you enough, and I hope beyond hope that I've written a satisfactory follow-up.
And that's the story as to how I got here. This is why 'Pressure' exists, and this is how long I've had this vision in my head for this TTRPG. It's been 14 years since I first visualised the game and now here we are.
I hope you enjoy it. I hope you get years of fun out of it. But, mainly, I hope you realise how grateful I am to you for supporting the game and the setting all this time. I can never, ever thank you enough.