MANOR OF FACT – Supernatural Roleplaying with Kill Doctor Lucky

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In previous blogs, I’ve looked at plastic figures and ranked them on how well they could be adapted as characters in an RPG. In the next few blogs, I’m going to try a similar concept with a twist: I’ll be looking at board games that can be used as roleplaying playmats. More specifically, we’re looking for good ol’ haunted mansions!

This week, we’re going to focus on Cheapass Games’s Clue parody game, Kill Doctor Lucky.

Oh, he’s gonna die.

But first, a word from our sponsor!


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New Header! Pretty, no?

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The premade cards make it easy to write up NPCS, keep track of stress and turn orders, or create an aspect in a jiffy. Just a reminder, we’re launching this month! You may commence salivating.


Note: Tangent Artists did not create this image nor hold the rights to this game. We will tell you it is awesome and you should buy it.

Note: Tangent Artists did not create this image nor hold the rights to this game. We will tell you it is awesome and you should buy it.

Back to Kill Doctor Lucky! For those who’ve never heard of it, Kill Doctor Lucky is a darkly-comedic board game created by James Earnest, and first published by Cheapass Games in 1997. It is one of their most famous titles, and has been printed in numerous editions, including the original 97 version, the 2002 Directors Cut (with 2 maps), and a full-art version licensed through Titanic Games. I don’t quite know how the rights are handled, but according to their website, Cheapass Games will once again be releasing their version of the game in 2016.

What’s more, the Cheapass Games website will let you print out the 2002 version FOR FREE! (Just watch your printer settings, otherwise you might end up with a very small map.)

2002 Director’s cut Version – How Does it Rate as a Game Mat?

Objective: To have spacious haunted mansion that the characters are exploring for the first time.

I’ll be ranking the game on the following scales:

  • Structured vs. Random 
  • Mood
  • Suspense 
  • Space 
  • Extras 

Structured vs. Random?: This first criteria is more of a spectrum, as Structure and Randomness are polar opposites. The game board is already preconstructed, and there’s very little you can do to alter this (save taping over the names of the rooms and adding your own, or editing the digital file.) This would rank it a straight 10/10 on Structure, but it comes with TWO boards- which means, you can choose which version you want to play with (giving you a less rigid model.) If you wanted to be weird, if the characters are in different rooms of the house, you can flip from one map to the other- suddenly, rooms that were once on the ground floor are now on the second level! As another way to introduce randomness, should you want it, on the main map, the rooms are numbered 0-19, which means you can pick a random room with a twenty-sided die; alternatively, you can just use the shuffle the room cards and have a character mysterious walk out of one room into a random one. Structure: 6, Random 4.

Mood: This is where the Lucky board does poorly. The basic set is, well, basic, with large empty spaces of white. This does give a GM a very blank canvas, allowing them a lot of variety (is it a well-preserved manor with residents, or a ramshackle manor barely staying upright?), but it also means they have a lot of work to do. The only flavorful elements provided by the board are the names of the room, which are not very scary, but provide a wonderful throwback to classic Edwardian manors. The boardgame version, which I do not own, has art that supports the mood better. Mood: 3/10

Suspense: To clarify, by “Suspense,” I am referring to the amount of information that is hidden from the players. With the Director’s Cut Board Game I was lucky to get about ten years ago, the board is broken into 6 different sections, giving the players information about 2-3 neighboring rooms, but nothing beyond (I’d give this Suspense: 8/10. For the other boards (the Titanic game board or the free print out version), the GM would either have to cover the other parts of the board or manipulate the image file (Suspense: 2/10).

Space: “Space” measures the practicality of the space. Personally, I found that the Kill Doctor Lucky rooms were perfect, especially in their slight variations. The majority of the rooms were big enough to house half a dozen figurines or markers with a little room to spare, making up a perfect fate core “zone.” A few rooms or hallways were just small enough that a few figures couldn’t squeeze in (which keeps it interesting), while the Ballroom makes for a dynamic scene for a conflict, requiring the heroes to scale up walls and swing on chandeliers to reach the top any adversary in the Gallery. Space: 10/10

Image by Cheapass Games. Buy it already.

Image by Cheapass Games. Buy it already.

Extras: The basic set doesn’t include too many extras (that was part of the point behind a Cheapass Game!) but it does include the cards. If you’re using the haunted mansion as the scene or a treasure hunt or a crime, you could use the various items as clues and red herrings; for example, a character digging around the nursery might find a Runcible Spoon. This would require taking out the room cards and all of the failure cards (although, you could leave in a few of the “distraction” themed failures to indicate that a character failed to find anything.) Extras: 7/10

TOTAL 38/50


What Kind of Story Can You Run with Kill Doctor Lucky?

Here’s an idea: Who Killed Old Man Miserkeister?

The city’s richest and meanest old man, Dr. L. E. “Old Man” Miserkeister, is finally dead. Despite being over 100 years old, he didn’t die of natural causes (likely too stubborn). Money would seem an obvious motive, but it not clear who would be the beneficiary; his wife passed away decades ago, and his daughter hasn’t been heard of in decades… some claim she eloped with a sailor, but loose tongues whisper about other, darker possibilities…

Old Man Miserkeister’s body he was found by his housekeeper (who only comes by once a month) in his dusty foyer, his head bashed in with a blunt object. The city forensics team have only started their investigation, but they suspect that the body was dragged, or quite possibly levitated, from another room. However, they have yet to find the murder weapon. Any officers that have attempted to investigate the many rooms of the moldy manor find themselves strangely distracted, disoriented, and driven slightly mad… almost as if something in the house, or the house itself, doesn’t want the truth to come to light. The police have turned to your team, which has experience with the paranormal, to find what they cannot. Find the murder weapon, and maybe a few other secrets along the way, and get out before you find yourself sharing Miserkeister’s fate.


That’s all for now. Join us next time for more thrills and chills!

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STANDING ON THE SHOULDERS OF CYCLOPEAN HORRORS: THE WHITE PEOPLE

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I love Lovecraft. I have yet to read all of his works, but I have read enough to understand why his stories are a steady source for many an adventure game; what he lacked in plot, he more than made up for in world-building and ambience. His fictional world is a perfect sandbox for other authors and roleplayers to romp, play, and run screaming through.

However, even Lovecraft borrowed from those that came before him. My goal, for the next year or so, is to study some of Lovecraft’s influences. One of the first authors I’ve encountered at was Lord Dunsany (note: his full name, in all of its splendor, is Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, 18th Baron of Dunsany… yeah, you can’t make this stuff off). Dunsany is amazing, but his influence on Lovecraft is more subtle; if anything, his work more closely resembles the work of Neil Gaiman. (I might do an entry inspired by him at some point, but not today.)

I stumbled on the next influential author when I started researching fictional languages: in Lovecraft’s “Dunwich Horror,” the villainous Wilbur Whately learned “the Aklo” for certain rituals. He used these rituals to seek knowledge and predictions, seeking questions from beings “from the hill” and “they from the air.” A little digging revealed that “Aklo” was invented by one of Lovecraft’s favorite authors, Arthur Machen. Chronologically, Machen is a late Gothic writer, although some have called him one of the fathers of modern horror. His story, “The Great God Pan,” has been described by Stephen King as “Maybe the best [horror story] in the English language.” Machen invented the rituals and gestures of Aklo in the 1899 story, “The White People.” The story takes the form of a journal, written by a young girl, as she travels to hidden worlds. I found reading the stream-of-consciousness narrative is a little frustrating (it reminded me of the horror I felt reading “The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” is high school), but the concepts are beautiful. In honor of Machen, I’ve adapted his White People into this blog’s monster of the week.

THEY FROM THE AIR / THE WHITE PEOPLE / NYMPHS

Lecturers at Miskatonic University are often plagued by questions about beings of olden times, of sunken cities and old gods of the ice and sea. Some of their colleagues in England and Wales, however, have been tracking an equally old but divergent thread of inquiry. These archeologists, looking into the ritual sites of gods of the Prehistoric Britons, discovered markings unlike any subsequent language in the area. They bear a cursory resemblance to Aklo, but as this language is mostly documented in the Fertile Crescent, making any crossover undoubtedly a coincidence. Accounts from Roman scholars stationed in the British Isles speak of altars erected to gods of the sky and roaming nighttime ceremonies. The Glendower area is also rich with local folklore, with countless stories about travelers being lead astray by fairies, will-o’-the-wisps, or the devil himself. Dr. Ravensbourgh, a renowned biochemist, believes that the local phosphorescent fungi may be the inspiration for both folk tales of the last few centuries and the gods of ancient times.

However, for the sake of completeness, it would be amiss to not include one final theory: Dr. Llewellyn, a longtime colleague of mine, had recently gone missing during one of his archeological digs. He was found several days later in a terrible state of mind; he claimed that a tunnel in one of the burials mounds lead to a valley henceforth not notated on any modern map. He described creeping vines that have yet to be classified, standing stones that seemed to sing wicked songs, and many more impossible sights. He claimed that at the end of the valley was the Woods, which he said, “must not be described.” Hidden within was a pool filled with fire, attended by nymphs that whispered secrets… the closer he came, the more he understood. He said that they glowed with an otherworldly beauty… a grace so perfect that it overbore his mind and nearly burst his heart. The doctor’s condition has stabilized, but I don’t believe he shall ever be the same. If it can be believed that there are old gods that are so hideous that they can drive men mad, it must therefore be surmised that the opposite is also true: that there could be beings out there of such splendor that the human mind cannot encounter it and remain unscarred.

High Concept: Otherwordly Spawn of the Air

Aspects: Radiant White; Hypnotizing Beauty; Here and Gone Again; The Old Ways Have Power

Skills:
+3 Evoke
+2 Athletics, Empathy
+1 Notice, Burglary, Will

For rules on Evoke, see last entry: FATE HACK – EVOKE – KILLING WITH KINDNESS

Stunts:

Untouchable: If a Nymph uses Athletics to overcome a physical obstacle and ties, treat it as a success; if you roll a natural success, the nymph may move an additional zone or take an additional action this exchange (may only gain one free action each exchange).

Like the Wind: During their exchange, before taking any action, a Nymph may place the aspect “Phased Out” on itself; this is a free action. While that aspect is on it, the nymph is invisible and intangible; similarly, it cannot Attack, nor can it suffer any kind of stress, but may use or be targeted by other actions as normal. The nymph may discard the aspect at any time, and other characters can overcome the aspect with Notice.

THE WHITE LADY

The White Lady is a prominent figure in local folklore; all of her stories end in eternal bliss or in tragic deaths, with nothing in between. Her tales often pair her with a mysterious Man in Black; depending on the story, he is either her servant, her lover, her nemesis, or all three.

Aspects: Radiant White; Hypnotizing Beauty; The Man in Black Will Be Here Soon

Skills:
+5 Evoke
+4 Athletics, Empathy
+3 Notice, Burglary, Will

+2 Stealth, Deceive, Lore,

+1 Investigate, Shoot, Craft, Resources

Stunts:

Untouchable: See “Nymph”

Like the Wind: See “Nymph”

Lock On: If the White Lady uses Evoke to attack a target and succeeds or ties, place a “Drawn In” aspect on the target. The next time the White Lady attacks that same target with that aspect, the White Lady gains +2 on the attack. This is cumulative, so the attack gains +2 for every previous attack (i.e. +2 on the second attack, +4 on the third, etc.) A character may overcome a Drawn In aspect on themselves with Will, or may overcome a Drawn In aspect on an ally with Provoke; likewise, if the Drawn In character succeeds with style on a Defense roll against the White Lady, they may remove the Drawn In Aspect instead of taking a boost


AND NOW, A WORD FROM OUR SPONSOR:

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Here’s two snapshots of our kickstarter video.

The normal cards, they are le fail.

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More updates coming soon!