You are about to enter another dimension,
A dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind.
You're moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas.
A journey into a wondrous land of imagination.
Obviously I don't have enough on my gaming plate right now with Traveller, Pendragon, my NaGaDeMon project and finishing The StoryTeller. I need to suddenly get obsessed with another game concept. If I've said it once, I've say it a thousand times; My brain doesn't know how to stop coming up with ideas for RPGs. Sometimes they're even good. Like (I hope) this one.
Like the Muppets, Star Trek, the Smurfs, Futurama* and of course, Sid and Marty Krofft**, The Twilight Zone is one of my long time IP obsessions. I have seen all the episodes a few times over, largely thanks to the annual Twilight Zone marathons that show on the we-can't-spell-Sci-Fi channel. Long before there was such a channel, there were local stations that did the same thing, usually around Independence Day, New Years Day or Thanksgiving.
Nothing says "I love America", "Happy New Year" or "I am thankful for this food" quite like a society of monsters thinking a pretty girl is horrific.
As with anything I like that is not already an RPG, the first question that springs to my mind is, "How do I make this into an RPG?"
I can think of two ways:
The more traditional approach would be to create a series of PCs in a modern or period setting (the 1950's or 60's perhaps) and have them investigate strange, surreal happenings in a manner not too different from Call of Cthulhu characters or PCs in a game of Chill or Stalking The Night Fantastic.
While that would certainly be the easy way to go, it might not be the best way. It certainly doesn't take into account all the myriad story, character and setting possibilities a game based on this particular show could cover.
My second and preferred approach therefore is to have each player control one or more 'Actors'. An 'Actor' would be a PC with some set stats and abilities perhaps but with a skill set that could be swapped out and changed for different knacks and knowledges appropriate to the 'Episode' or adventure session.
Thinking a bit further, maybe 'Actor' isn't the right name for it. I imagine character types or templates like 'Average Joe', 'Girl Next Door', 'Reporter', 'Hobbyist' or 'Soldier'.
If the session involves a Reporter on the front lines in World War II investigating strange lights in the sky, than the Reporter would gain some skills for surviving combat and the Soldier would be tailored for trench fighting, for example. In a small town haunted by an old wives tale about not playing near the reservoir or 'Missy Green will get you', the Soldier becomes a cop or a fellow back from the war. The Reporter becomes a local man working for the town newspaper and the Girl Next Door a School Teacher or, a Girl Next Door I suppose.
Any and all of these can be modernized but I think if I ran The Twilight Zone as an RPG I would want that period feel and would never set any scenario too close to the invention of digital cameras and smart phones. Once you have present day computers you open up a can of worms. Still, the themes and concepts in The Twilight Zone are essentially timeless. Perhaps I would go modern once in a while after all.
Mechanics wise, well that's when things get a little harder. I have thought about going back to the one RPG already in existence that's as close as you can get to a Twilight Zone game...Over The Edge. Not sure. Need to reread my copy and see if it really captures the tone and style I am looking for.
Risus, InSpectres and other similar games would also work I believe but I would have to test them out first. They would probably require some detail to be added.
One idea for a mechanic that came to me just today was a 'Twilight Point'.
I want the players to have access to the opposite of a Hero or Drama Point. Basically, doing...something, I am not sure what...during the game gets you points that you can spend to make the situation worse. That's right, you spend Twilight Points to shift blame to another PC or cause things to become more complicated for everyone. Perhaps, if the situation has a time limit you spend a point and shorten the amount of time you all have.
You would want to do it to stay on the theme and reinforce the atmosphere but there needs to be some other in-game incentive for it as well. Still thinking on that.
I had another idea while responding to a comment on this game concept in the NaGaDeMon Facebook Group. There is a free RPG created by the sublime genius of Andrew Peregrine called Doom & Cookies. I may have mentioned it before. I may not have.
Not only is this game written by a guy named after a falcon, but it also may hold the key to how I want the Twilight Points to work.
In Doom & Cookies, the objective is to finish the game with at least 1 Cookie (a good thing) and no Dooms (a Doom being a bad thing). Regardless of what these mean in the context of that game, you get the idea that if you have a Doom and No Cookies or a Cookie and a Doom you do not get to win or succeed at the game's finale. My ghost RPG Unfinished Business has a very similar mechanic and I didn't really even think of it until now.
So what if, to be spared the Twilight Zone twist ending, to succeed or at the very least escape, you need to be rid of your Twilight Points and have at least one point of...of...Insight. Yes. A touch of Insight and no Twilight.
I can already see some of the episodes of the original show explained in this fashion.
OMG. I think this is something I can really make work.
Anyway, I am going to revisit this idea periodically or at some point at least, later this month. I hope I can finish at least one of my insane ideas before month's end.
*Yes, I have actually created a homebrew Futurama RPG. I hope to post it here one of these days.
**No, I have not created a Sid and Marty Krofft RPG. This is something of a reoccurring joke or running gag here at Barking Alien. I've done the Smurfs and the Muppets so I wouldn't put it past me to stat up the Far Out Space Nuts or H. R. Pufnstuf.