Experimental text-based horror RPG

Okay.  So my friend Andrew and I were discussing the possibility of some sort of online role-playing gaming.  We toyed around with the idea of skype, then Andrew suggested text-based.  So we had the following impromptu gaming session.  There’s a strong emphasis on horror.  As Andrew points out in line 14, it’s hard to achieve that in a role-playing game.  But I did my best by keeping him in the dark both literally (lines 15-34) and figuratively, by concealing the monster as long as possible (even at the moment of attack, see “a terrible something” at line 103).  In the post-game debrief (lines 140-162) Andrew commented on having felt genuine fear and suspense.
 
I did my best to convey an immersive world in text, using scent (line 3), sound (line 21), and physical sensations (94, 127).  With the absence of a visual medium (assuming it’s purely text-based, which needn’t be the case, but certainly there are limits on props) these things are important.  The limitations of the medium became especially apparent around lines 68-80.  While my opening description of the cellar at line 2 was quite precise, by that stage Andrew was obviously spatially disoriented.  Apart from the logistical problems posed, this interrupts the immersion of the experience, so it’s something to think about.  And of course there are the technological problems (line 102… you have no idea).  Finally, we were playing diceless, leading to the inevitable player-GM power-struggles, though in this case I like to think they worked out as negotiations.  See Andrew taking the initiative at lines 96 and 113.
 
Anyway, hope this is of interest to somebody out there in internetland.
 
 
  1. James:
  2. By the flickering light of your torch, you appear to be in a wine cellar. Casks line the east and west walls of the narrow corridor. Behind you, to the south, are the stairs leading up. To the north the corridor disappears in darkness.
  3. Your nostrils fill with the scent of old wine, wood, soil, and something else which might be mould.
  4. What do you do?
  5. Dm makes all spot and listen checks in secret too.
  6. Andrew:
  7. I brace myself, take a small sip of holy bourbon from the thask in my overcoat, and plunge sword first into the darkness ahead.
  8. I think txt based is the win
  9. James:
  10. Maybe, yeah.
  11. Torch aloft, you march down the corridor. After taking a few steps you’re startled by the sound of high-pitched laughter.
  12. Andrew:
  13. I scream, half in terror, half because i stub…
  14. ok this already turning into a standard game; the standard of nothing being taken seriously
  15. James:
  16. Oh yeah? You drop your torch. It goes out.
  17. Andrew:
  18. haha
  19. I reach for my flint and oil
  20. James:
  21. You are in utter darkness. You hear a scratching noise behind you.
  22. Andrew:
  23. I swing my blade back towards the noise with the fury that only fear can muster
  24. James:
  25. Your fingers fumble with the flint and steel. You hear something grunting and getting closer…
  26. Your blade touches nothing.
  27. Andrew:
  28. fuck
  29. James:
  30. The sound stops. Silence.
  31. Andrew:
  32. I soak a rag in oil, wrap it around the end of my blade and light it
  33. James:
  34. The flame licks eagerly to life!
  35. You appear to be in a wine cellar.
  36. Andrew:
  37. how big?
  38. James:
  39. The ceiling’s about ten feet tall. There are about ten feet between the rows of casks. The rows disappear in darkness.
  40. Andrew:
  41. I walk, in any direction, looking for an exit
  42. James:
  43. You can see your footprints in the earth floor, so you retrace them.
  44. You reach the base of the stone staircase and start hurrying upward.
  45. You reach the heavy oak door which leads back to the main hall of the castle. Thank goodness!
  46. You lean against the door… But it doesn’t budge.
  47. Andrew:
  48. open
  49. I coat the door in oil and set it alight
  50. James:
  51. After your hurried improvisation below, you have little oil left, but you manage to ignite a small flame.
  52. Andrew:
  53. I wait
  54. I scratch my itchy nose and try to pull my underwear out of my asscrackJames:
  55. The door is thick and the wood is dense and damp. The flame is slow to spread, climbing excruciatingly slowly up the heavy timbers.
  56. You hear a high-pitched cackle resounding up the stairway.
  57. Andrew:
  58. I kick the door
  59. James:
  60. The door is incredible thick, your foot screams in pain.
  61. Andrew:
  62. I tell it to shutup
  63. James:
  64. …but it seems to budge a fraction of an inch.
  65. Andrew:
  66. hrmph
  67. I look for a heavy thing to bash into the door
  68. James:
  69. The laughter seems to be drawing nearer.
  70. Andrew:
  71. wait, where is it coming from?
  72. James:
  73. You’re in a bare stone corridor.
  74. Below.
  75. Staircase, rather.
  76. Andrew:
  77. through the door?
  78. or behind me?
  79. James:
  80. No. Door at the top of the staircase you just climbed. It’s coming from behind, down in the dark.
  81. Andrew:
  82. I call out, who goes there?
  83. (dumbest adventurer ever)
  84. James:
  85. It seems to be picking up speed as it draws closer…
  86. Andrew:
  87. I draw my sword back ready to strike
  88. James:
  89. HEE HEE HEE HEE
  90. HEE HEE HEE HEE HEE HEE
  91. Andrew:
  92. “come at me, beast!”
  93. James:
  94. The flames have spread over roughly half the door. You feel the heat on your back.
  95. Andrew:
  96. I turn and kick the structurally weakened door
  97. James:
  98. OKAAAAY HEE HEE!
  99. Andrew:
  100. …and leap through the embers as it shatters under my mighty boot
  101. James:
  102. Ugh, losing so many messages. Fucking phone.
  103. As you tumble into the great hall of the castle, a terrible something leaps out of the darkness and latches onto your back.
  104. Andrew:
  105. I grab the dagger off my belt and stab repeatedly over my shoulder
  106. James:
  107. It’s suprisingly light, but the force is like a shot from a crossbow, and it catches you off balance. You roll onto the cold stone floor, the thing riding you down with claws it sinks into your shoulders.
  108. You fumble to gain an angle of attack, slashing wildly.
  109. You roll about on the floor, taking flailing attacks, when suddenly you meet it face-to-face. It’s huge bat-like face grins comically at you. It’s huge eyes seem to bore into your brain…
  110. Your limbs grow weak, relaxed… The dagger slides from your grasp…
  111. Andrew:
  112. “when i bury you, im coming back once a year to piss on your grave!”
  113. i sink my dagger into its eyeball
  114.  James:
  115. My phone… [eds yes, my phone was dropping many messages, but the ellipses also indicate my annoyance and Andrew’s pre-emption of my GM right to conflict resolution.  Whatever.  I get my revenge.]
  116. With a sudden blaze of anger, you seize your blade and thrust. The thing rears back, your dagger protruding from its eye socket, great gouts of blood splashing over you.
  117. Then its maw stretches incredibly wide, and engulfs your face!
  118. Andrew:
  119. I reach up and grab the dagger, stabbing again and again into its face
  120. James:
  121. Fangs pierce your cheek, your chin… The pain shoots through your face.
  122. You fumble for the dagger as the blood pours from multiple puncture wounds…
  123. The thing bites you repeatedly. You see red.
  124. Time seems to stop.
  125. You are lying on a cold stone floor. It’s freezing. You can’t see.
  126. Your face is a throbbing mass of pain, not shooting like before.
  127. Andrew:
  128. I take out the milk of poppy from my coat and take a generous swig
  129. James:
  130. The pain numbs somewhat.
  131. Andrew:
  132. I curse feebly
  133. James:
  134. Some of the liquid spills down your face. Your lips sting, and aren’t apparently fully functional.
  135. The sound is garbled. It hurts to talk.
  136. Andrew:
  137. I take a moment to remember why im in this dungeon…
  138. James:
  139. Suddenly you realise this is all merely a hypothetical example. Your face is intact, though no more attractive, and your sight is restored!
  140. Andrew:
  141. hahahaha
  142. James:
  143. It could work?
  144. Andrew:
  145. I really liked that
  146. I felt genuine suspense waiting for the beast to attack
  147. James:
  148. How about when the light went out?
  149. Andrew:
  150. Fear!
  151. James:
  152. Yeah. I was like “fuck you not taking my dungeon seriously.”
  153. Andrew:
  154. haha
  155. James:
  156. Smell and sound and feel seemed quite handy.
  157. Andrew:
  158. yah
  159. James:
  160. So text-based maybe.
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