Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Rooms, first step.

The world is the same as the one outside of the window. It is dangerous, unsettling, boring and joyous, in all familiar ways.

Leave the wilderness to the wild. What isn't touched by humanity exists at natural equilibrium and has no use.

Look instead at created places: what was built, inhabited, used and abandoned, then torn down and rebuilt into a new form. Zoom in and look: here are the cities, the streets, the buildings, the rooms. Zoom out, observe: the rooms change functions and interior, the buildings are torn down and reshaped, the streets change names, curves and connections, and the cities are roiling landscape of impermanence through time. Created places are a touch of chaos.

Look further, at places off the trotted paths, just out of everyday focus, just on the edge of awareness or of need: a condemned building, a hospital room, a police station, a service area in subway network, for-rent apartment that doesn’t attract a lot of tenants, a house with sordid history waiting to be resold, hotels, maintenance floors, boring conference halls that are inhabited only for occasion. Look at the places people don’t want to be in or cannot stay in.

Look carefully: in the condemned building for the least stable piece of floor, in ugly for-rent apartment for the most hopeless spot, in the conference hall for the most dull and suffocating room, and in sordid house for the place where bloodstains where sanded off and covered in pastel paint.

Some of such rooms experience a supernatural mitosis. When it happens, two rooms come to exist in the same time, overlapped, almost the same: the second is just slightly even more out of focus, just slightly out of touch, just slightly further away from the prime world. Wrong step, off glance, a play of shadows, a particular state of mind – people step from one room into another and back without even realizing, between thoughts, between seconds.

The second room, the doppelganger, is almost the same, after all, it isn't easy to tell the difference at the quick glance. There is a feeling of false deja vu or of occasional surprise. Something nagging on the back of the mind, some hair-raising animal instinct of "how it should be but isn't" – but the eyes refuse to focus, and the mind to process anything except the mundane. Some items are in different places, some are missing entirely, some that were destroyed, discarded or hidden, are occasionally present, and the air is somewhat stiffer to breath. There are tiny black spots in the eyesight, the self-censoring mind. There is always a self-given explanation why the knife is on the other table.

Other than discomfort, the doppelganger presents no danger aside of what initial room might have on its own. Usually a simple subconscious desire to get back to normalcy is enough to step out, back to normalcy.

It is necessary to utterly suppress this instinct. It is necessary to linger to make process.

Because there always going to be another door in the doppelganger, the one that doesn’t exist in the world. Look for it behind the wallpaper and pastel paint, behind bookshelves, behind floorboards. Just as everything else, it is slightly off focus, out of touch, out of way of the obvious.

Find it. Find a key for it. Open it.

There will be another room or a suit of rooms behind the Doppelganger Door, and there will be another door somewhere there. It is a sequence, a path.

Each of subsequent rooms is more and more off than the one before it. At first these rooms seem to go into the past, as if stepping backward through the recording – bulky radios, gramophones, gas lamps, heavy curtains, the shells of doppelgangers that no longer exist – but they quickly become distorted, then twisted, then alien. Bright green metals and azure-hued plants. The pale sunlight through black windows that cannot be open. The cold glass that flows like water.

It is a gradual change, it is a gradient, a sequence, a path, a bridge, a connecting tissue of rooms-cells between the prime world and the Otherside. One world weakens, another grows stronger, room after room after room. Interiors get bigger, sprawl into floors, multiply, start to echo, turn back into themselves, grow into labyrinth connected by illogical paths. Laws of the prime world and the influence of the Otherwise mix. There is no sense of hunger and it is impossible to fall asleep, but there is still starvation and sleep deprivation. Wounds that would be lethal leave only pain but the pain crystallizes on the skin like jewellery and then kills. There is no aging, but in sprawling labyrinths of amber light and white stone there are monsters who speak old human words and wear old human faces.

It is a long path and it is easy to get lost: rooms often open sideways, into other rooms, not getting any further away or any closer. It is important to find a right door. It is important to come prepared. Before the Oracle Threshold it is still important to mark the way back.

Not everybody is capable to come back.

The drift is:
– the metaphysical distance from the prime world;
– the measure of alienation and change;
– the intangible force that makes going forward easier but returns to the prime world more difficult;
– the degree of Otherside influence;
– the potency of and for supernatural and magic.

Roll or chose your drift (1d6):

(0) – bystander shouldn't be there but here anyway by chance, by accident, by joke, as a herded pawn or by a blind friendship. Fish out of water, most of them are here for the first and the last time.

(1) – misfit is unwanted in the prime world. Odd or desperate, they have nowhere else to go. It is quiet in the rooms nearby and almost homely.

(2) – skimmer is here for profit, or thrills, or both. Many useful things lie unclaimed in the rooms, and there are no restrictions on any kind of hunt.

(3) – occultist tasted mysteries, and mundane world can no longer satisfy this hunger.

(4) – the driven has a goal that cannot be fulfilled by usual means. Be it a vengeance against untouchably powerful, a burning ambition, an impossible cure – every other way to achieve it in mundane world had failed, so the only path remaining is supernatural.

(5) – the haunted is a meat puppet, a battlefield of a struggling human mind against a howling specter of the past. Few of the haunted achieve some measure of co-existence with their riders, and these don’t come close to the rooms. The rest are pushed, dragged, shoved and mentally whipped into going deeper to pursue goals that aren't their own.

(6) – the entombed in their own mind and body, they long for the final apotheosis.

Why to go there? 

– To take refuge from the world.
– It is somewhat alike to urban exploration.
– The doppelganger room and adjacent rooms have a lot of items that can be sold for profit – from duplicates of mundane valuables, to vintage things that aren't too twisted.
– There is a market for oddities and occult materials from the farther rooms as well.
– It is possible to move through nearby rooms from one doppelganger room to another doppelganger room far away. Such 'shortcuts' are dangerous but usually are faster than regular travel and under radar of border services.
– What can be called spells can be brought back to the prime world and used there.
– Influence of the Otherside makes many impossible things possible within the rooms and those changes stick.
I was always wondering why when I see Veil, Membrane and other such things that separates This World from Things Beyond is almost always on/off barrier like a wall (monsters come through it, it has to be enforced, can be breached, etc) and it is never explored on its own, as a bridge between realms. At best there is some vague in-between realm, such as Gauntlet or Fade or Weave of Phase Spiders, that mixes both sides, but there is almost no sense of gradual movement toward one or another side.

Rooms suppose to use (modified) Depth mechanic from Emmy Allen's The Gardens of Ynn and The Stygian Library. I think that Depth (and its spiritual predecessor, Chaos Index) is one of the most elegant and adaptable mechanics made in recent years. I hope I can somewhat expand on it.
Peter Webb gave me idea about mitosis of world; this idea dragged many interesting things with it.

Aesthetically Rooms are somewhat inspired by puzzle game The Room (1, 2 and 3) and some hidden object games. If to speak about 'shadow settings', HOGs on one hand are utterly trite, saccharine and predictable, and on another, have some strikingly good small ideas or visual elements, like a tower that holds the world from collapsing and builds its floors from the psyche of people sacrificed to it.
Also Rooms are from memories of traveling forty floors of technical levels, seeing all those bricked off doors, and weird graffiti, and somebody's footprints on a ceiling. On one hand it is clearly a prank, but on another, it is a narrow grey stairwell with metal railing, naked lamps, the wind that can audibly be heard through the thickness of the building and nobody else around. 

I like strange labyrinthine places, among other things. Godbox (of Gheste) is a good way but Rooms has more grounded approach. I hope I can finish it one day. If I do the next post will be less intro and more about drifts (classes).


  1. Good stuff. Looking forward to more about drifts. But like Emmy Allen's work, this already feels like it could be applicable to many different extant games. Modular, I guess I'm saying!

  2. Handy Haversack, yes, it is supposed to be 'bolt on, drop in' kind of place.

  3. I've become increasingly fond of Depth mechanics as of late - I think this was spurred on by Gardens of Ynn. It's a lot easier to manage than a traditional map and there's a certain chaos about it that I love. Deeper/Not Deeper has this emotional appeal that going north by northwest and slightly down doesn't quite have.

    I look forward to expansions on this mechanic!

    1. I think Depth is ideal for not-entirely-real places. The other experiment I wish to do is to combine it with Ben L's Zyan with glue-in-pieces-maps and Depth and see what happens.

  4. I cannot explain to you how much I love this. :O I honestly have to go rethink what I've been writing about because this is so beautiful!!. 0_0 <3 <3 <3 ~Vulnavia