Thursday, 2 May 2013

7 Days: What Is Asylum?

I am the Warden!!

On Tuesday, I shared with you the foundation and core mechanics for what I call the Wildpath System, a storytelling device where players roll Fate/Fudge dice to build actions, reactions, and difficulties. I also stipulated that I wasn't going to share anything about the game itself - Asylum - unless there was a demand in the form of at least 5 comments/shares of that post.

Well, I think it's safe to say those conditions were met and then some. I've received some great feedback from fellow gamers out there, both friends and strangers alike, and even caught the attention of the contest's head honcho on EN World. So let's start talking about Asylum, eh?

I can describe it to you in two words. Violence and survival.

In Asylum, you and the other players are convicts sent to a deserted island in the middle of nowhere by the various Kingdoms of Thrane to live out your dying days. Once home to an ancient civilization wiped out by an active volcano, this island now houses the unwanted and undesired elements of society. Combining murderers, bandits, crime bosses, and the innocently accused all in one place, Asylum is a stewing pot of anger and misplaced retribution.

But that's not the whole of it. After a time, there are far too many convicts on Asylum and the population must be thinned out. That's where the Contest comes into play. When new convicts are dropped off along the docks (known as the Jaws of Death), four pieces of a golden amulet known only as the Pass is snuck into their meagre possessions. As they integrate with the general population, it doesn't take long for one of the pieces to be discovered and for all hell break loose because of one indisputable fact: whoever holds the completed Pass is allowed to return home. To do so, there are no rules other than remaining the last convict standing when the next boat arrives.

Only one convict can win the Contest and therein lies the dilemma of this game. Each player takes on the role of a convict and must work together with the rest of their group to survive the ordeals of the Contest by exploring and interacting with various Zones provided as rough details of the island known only as Asylum. Each Zone is presented in a loose, interpretive format encouraging all groups to create their own version of the Zone and its events to suit the story as it unfolds in their game. You can pick and choose your genre (dark fantasy, science fiction, or - what the hell - musicals) and populate your island as the story naturally unfolds.

Here's an example of a Zone.

From the current draft of the Asylum RPG:  
Zone #2: The Choking Throat 
Connecting the Jaws with the Half-Ruined City, this zone is a winding series of underground tunnels running through the rocky border surrounding most of the island. It is a natural maze of confusion dipping down into blocked pits or weaving in and out of its own corridors that it sends lost convicts mad trying to find their way out. Aside from a few openings provided by earthquakes and tremors from the volcano (see Zone #11: The Spire of Fire), mapping out these tunnels are the only way to escape from this zone. 
There are an untold number of survivors struggling to make a living down here, either because they never made it out of the Throat to merge with the remaining island or retreated into this darkened caverns to escape the wrath of the Contest. While many remain scattered, resorting to ambushes and crude weapons assembled from rock and debris, there are stories of entire communities living exclusively in the Throat. These are gathering of like-minded cowards and activists who refuse to become a part of the vicious circle dominating Asylum. For them, this island is an opportunity for peace and prosperity, a chance to start a new life away from the maniacal control of Thrane. 
Long before the streets of the Half-Ruined City were mowed over my molten lava, there was an indigenous population of meat-eating creatures of darkness. Winged humanoids who sleep like bats in the giant caves dotting these tunnels, dog-like creatures reeking of sulphur stalking and hunting down every trace scent they can pick up, even hordes of bloodthirsty leeches the size of a man's hand have been heard down here. Few descriptions make it to the surface, leaving a slew of legendary and horrific tales of unspeakable evil waiting for those who cannot find their way out. 
Zone Conditions: It is pitch black dark in this zone and the only way anyone's going to be find their way around – let alone get out – is by creating their own light source. Unless a convict finds a way to create their own light source, any action attempting to navigate through these tunnels will automatically fail. The Director can spend 1 difficulty to impose a complication on any convict who automatically fails in this manner. 
Any convict defeated in this manner will become hopeless lost and the true danger of this zone comes into play: madness. Any lost convict can enter a fit of panic if the Director chooses to set it off by spending 1 difficulty. When that happens, the Director provides the player with a word to describe their panic and the player must work with this new condition as part of their storytelling until the end of the current round. If they do, their convict will have 1 complication removed at the start of the next round. 
Connections: If you can find your way through after a few hours in darkness, you'll make it to the streets of Zone #3: The Half-Ruined City. Or you can accidentally stumble back to Zone #1: The Jaws of Death and have to start over. 

It's a game of fierce determination and gritty instinct. Everyone is trying to kill you, maybe even your friends. And while the goal is to remain the last living soul on the island, you cannot do it alone. It's a game of harsh choices and morality against all odds, where violence begets violence, and the only way to make it to the end is to do the unthinkable. Currently sitting at 11 pages and working up to 15, Asylum will provide the bare essentials to play. The purpose of the game is not to provided a massive, locked-in setting where players travel from Point A to Point B acting out scenes, but to provide a simple framework for players and Directors to use a starting point and build up their own story of horrific survival.

Considering this game didn't even exist a week ago, I'm incredibly pleased with how it's turning out so far, but I'm left with one predicament. This sucker really needs playtesting before I can submit it in all good conscience. While I need another couple of days to fill in the Zones and refresh my way through the current document looking for errors (maybe even provide sample play text), I'll hopefully try and run a Roll20/Hangout game over the weekend and test it out.

Who's in? 

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