Bit of a random update today. While I’ve been stuck at home with this chest infection, I’ve been listening to a podcast that I stumbled across while browsing the Paizo message boards.
Welcome to Night Vale is a twice-monthly podcast produced by Commonplace Books. It’s done in the style of community radio broadcasts for a small desert town. The only way I can think of to describe it is as public service announcements in the Twilight Zone. It’s incredibly surreal, and I fell in love with it instantly. In another couple of days or so I should be caught up on it (there are 26 episodes so far).
To give you an idea of what it’s like, here are a few excerpts from the first episode:
“A friendly desert community where the sun is hot, the moon is beautiful, and mysterious lights pass overhead while we all pretend to sleep. Welcome, to Night Vale.”
“Hello listeners. To start things off, I’ve been asked to read this brief notice. The city council announces the opening of a new dog park at the corner of Earl and Somerset, near the Ralph’s. They would like to remind everyone that dogs are not allowed in the dog park. People are not allowed in the dog park. It is possible you will see hooded figures in the dog park. Do not approach them. Do not approach the dog park. The fence is electrified and highly dangerous. Try not to look at the dog park, and especially do not look for any period of time at the hooded figures. The dog park will not harm you.”
“Just a reminder to all the parents out there. Let’s talk about safety when taking your children out to play in the scrublands and the sand wastes. You need to give them plenty of water, make sure there’s a shade tree in the area, and keep an eye on the helicopter colours. Are the unmarked helicopters circling the area black? Probably world government, not a good area for play that day. Are they blue? That’s the sheriff’s secret police, they’ll keep a good eye on your kids and hardly ever take one. Are they painted with complex murals depicting birds of prey diving? No one knows what those helicopters are, or what they want. Do not play in the area. Return to your homes and lock the doors until a sheriff’s secret policeman leaves a carnation on your porch to indicate the danger has passed. Cover your ears to blot out the screams. Also remember, Gatorade is basically soda, so give your kids plain old water and maybe some orange slices when they play.”
Although those are some of my favourite moments so far, the whole show has been excellent. The production is really well done. The show is narrated by Cecil Baldwin, who manages to strike the perfect tone for it. Combine Cecil’s narration with the atmospheric music layered in the background, and the complete effect is by turns amusing, and darkly disturbing. Often it’s both at once, and it’s always, always surreal. Another aspect of it that I really enjoy is the “Weather Report” segments. A little after the halfway point in each episode the narrator announces that it is time for the weather, at which point a song is played that has been chosen by the creators to be featured for that episode. While not all of them have been to my liking, it’s an interesting way to find new indie music.
Of course, I wouldn’t be posting this unless I could tie it back into gaming somehow. Thankfully, in this case, it’s easy. While listening to the show, I started to realise that the town of Night Vale would make a perfect setting for a game. Ideally I’d want to run it as a mix of subtle horror/sci-fi and humour, with a focus on investigation. The system needs to be one that focuses more on story than mechanics. My first thought was to use World of Darkness, keeping the player characters as mortals. While this would work well, WoD does have a lot of combat involved, though it is far more cinematic and far less complicated than Pathfinder or D&D combat. Given that I want to have a strong focus on investigation and role playing, and very little combat (or dice rolling in general), another option could be to use the FATE or FUDGE systems. These systems have a very strong focus on role playing over rules, and allow for a minimum of rolling. They are extremely flexible systems, almost completely customisable to allow for any level of complexity you want. I’d probably use FATE, because I’m a little more familiar with it, but it’s still very similar to FUDGE, which is to be expected given that it is a system that was derived from FUDGE in the first place. \
If I was to run this game, I’d probably try and work parts of the actual podcast into the game, queuing up the appropriate parts to play for the group. It could be used to set scenes, or provide little bits of background information for the players. Sadly getting this up and running is probably a bit of a pipedream at the moment, given that I’m still trying to get my homebrew Pathfinder written, and am also trying to get involved in some games that I can actually play in at the moment rather than running. I’d really rather avoid burning out on GMing again, which has happened to me before. Still, one day.
Anyway, I highly recommend giving Welcome to Night Vale a listen. If you like quirky, funny and somewhat disturbing tales, you might just like it.
That’s it from me for now. Take it easy, and keep the dice rolling.
Written while listening to Welcome to Night Vale (come on, surely it can’t be that surprising). Seriously, go and check it out right now. The link’s up in the second paragraph of this update, but in case you’re feeling to lazy to scroll up, here it is again: Welcome to Night Vale
If you enjoy it, and can afford to, please support the creators by making a donation so that they can keep producing it. I’ll be making a donation next pay day.