FATE CORE: “No Exit” As Fate Psychological Horror

Posted on December 7, 2012

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Hey all of you out there in gamer land. You might have heard that this week has been HUGE on Kickstarter for a game called Fate Core. You may have heard of it before, but if you haven’t here’s the skinny. Fate Core is the awesome new version of the Fate System, which is the engine behind such games as Spirit of the Century, Dresden Files RPG, and Bulldogs. The folks over at Evil Hat Productions put together a fantastic new Fate Core and the book went up on Kickstarter this week. And, wouldn’t you know, it’s doing pretty well.

Yeah, okay, that’s the understatement of a lifetime. It kind of exploded in a glory of Fudge Dice and amazing stretch goals. The book was funded in the first fifteen minutes and as of this writing is somewhere around $93,o00. The response has been unbelievable and as a huge Fate fan I’m thrilled. But I’m not just here to raise a celebratory glass to Fred Hicks and the folks at Evil Hat. I’m here to tell you about a little scenario called “No Exit” being written for Fate Core – by yours truly.

A few days before the Kickstarter went up, Fred reached out to me to write a supplement that would be included as a Kickstarter stretch goal. We tossed around a few ideas but one rose to the top pretty fast. The scenario’s called “No Exit” and if you’ve heard that title before, maybe you’ve read a certain play by Sartre by the same name. That play’s been one of my favorites for a long time and feeds perfectly into the themes of interpersonal psychological horror I want to explore with “No Exit”.

“It’s what one does, and nothing else, that proves the stuff one’s made of.” – INEZ, Jean-Paul Sartre’s NO EXIT

Folks who know me know that I love games that give you the space to explore powerful interpersonal relationships and interactions. Any time I can really get into deep role-play situations that tug and pull at social dynamics, charged intertwined backstories, or intense psychological drama, you’re singing my tune. I’m a big fan of shows like Lost that play havoc with people’s emotions by twisting each character around the other, making everyone play off each other in remarkably odd circumstances. The goal is to discover how people REALLY are when the chips are down. So I boiled down those elements with a weird, unnerving scenario that came out of a strange encounter in the dead of night.

I had come home late from graduate school late one night and walked into the apartment to find no one home. That’s not unusual so I went about my business. As I was getting ready for bed, I heard a noise at the front door. As it was three AM, I got concerned and went to check. I tried to pull open the front door only to find it stuck. I tugged it over and over, but it wouldn’t budge. Finally I pulled as hard as I could and the door unstuck with a jolt, and I looked into my hallway. Down the hall stood a man, stooped over, looking at the floor. He looked up at me from under a hat for a moment and then walked through the door to the fire stairs. I wondered what the man was doing in the hall and why it sounded like he was at my door. I looked down and saw I was standing on a religious pamphlet going on in tiny, hand-written letters about bringing me back to God. I turned and went back inside and made sure to lock the door. I tossed the creepy pamphlet, forgot about it for the most part and went to bed. But before I fell asleep, I imagined one thing: what if the pamphlet had said something else? What if instead it was just a note.

It would say, “I know your secret.”

What if it was more specific? How about, “Your husband has been lying to you all along”?

No, more specific. “Your daughter isn’t your daughter after all.”

What if there were more notes, one for every apartment? What if there were phone calls, and mysterious voices that spoke through drains? What if there was a man in a hat who told you as you went to the garbage to think about last Christmas, when everyone went home early from the office party and you stayed behind with that girl from Accounting. And don’t you just remember that night, but you never told your SO for fear of what they’d do…

I lay in bed thinking about these options. Then I wondered about the front door and thought:

“What if it wouldn’t open?”

Intimate psychological pressure, confinement and the search for meaning. To paraphrase Sartre, hell really is other people.

With my stretch goal funded on Day One, “No Exit” will be released at the end of the Fate Core Kickstarter run. And I’ll give more updates about the process as I go along. Meanwhile, this project’s a hell of a ride and I’m excited as can be to be a part of it. Time to get on the writing fingers and go find out just what keeps people between the four walls of Westley House.