Any rumours you may have heard about the emergence of a Roleplaying Game based on Hopeless, Maine are…true.
So – where to start. Introductions, I suppose.
I imagine that most of you, dear readers, are reading this because you are already familiar with the dark and tentacle-ridden island of Hopeless, invention of artist Tom and writer Nimue Brown. Populating a series of graphic novels, and with other avenues now being explored, Hopeless has become something of a cult. A nice cult, one that cuddles you and gives you chocolate while encouraging you to keep one eye looking towards the shadows. The books, and their heroine, the (not a) witch Salamandra have gradually wormed (or tentacled) their way into people’s hearts and souls. Mixing steampunk, Victoriana, otherworldly horror and quirky asides (night potatoes – I’m looking at you), Hopeless is an ideal candidate for a roleplaying game -albeit a slightly odd and non-conformist one.
My involvement started very recently. I have been playing roleplaying games (or RPGs as we geeks know them) pretty much since they were invented. From what I remember my first game would have been in about 1978/9 when a school friend came in with a copy of the Dungeons and Dragons basic set. We were hooked.
Over the years things progressed, and eventually Chaosium released “Call of Cthulhu”, a game based around the horror stories of H. P. Lovecraft, and part of my brain did a little dance. My friends and I played all night, candles burning low and hearts beating faster. We played in caves on the South Coast, we played in woods, we even played for charity. I wrote and wrote and wrote, developing scenario after scenario.
I discovered Tom’s art through Facebook and fell in love (or, at least, in lust). I had got in contact with a publisher of RPGs with the idea of writing additional resources and I spoke to Tom about possibly getting him commissions when he mentioned that a game based around Hopeless was a possibility. One coffee in Stroud and a very pleasant chat later and here we are.
The main aim of the game is to re-create the atmosphere of Hopeless. Secondly is the desire to keep the game mechanics simple and really flexible. This leads to a few challenges.
Those of you who know Hopeless will also know that physical violence is very rarely employed. Most RPGs are based around combat, and a lot of time is given over to making combat resolution exciting and realistic. This would not sit well with the ethos of the novels. Combat will have to be there (there are times, after all, when a well-placed frying pan is the best way of stopping someone intent on doing you harm) but we will endeavour to make it simple. Dangerous, but simple.
Magic. Speaking with both Tom and Nimue we all came to the conclusion that magic needed to be far more than the point-and-squirt affair so often presented in RPGs. We want it to be based on folklore, giving the players the chance to tailor spells and effects based on the needs of their characters or the story.
Similarly, we want the system to allow free invention by the players. The steampunk feel of the novels lends itself to the idea that characters should be able to develop and invent their own devices.
Apart from these mechanical issues we also want it to appeal to people who have never even thought of playing an RPG. We want the design to reflect the feel of the novels, not be a dry rulebook. Atmosphere is everything. So, light some candles and listen for the sound of spoons skittering across the floor.