House of Keys is the first glimpse into a rich, new fantasy world — Iron Medusa. This world spins new legends and folklore while remaining rooted in Eastern European cultures. Here adventure finds you. House of Keys introduces that world through the lens of a doomed mansion infested with loathsome spirits where trapped adventurers have turned against one another in a fight for survival.
House of Keys focuses on psychological horror.
The character archetypes from this world are merely a taste of what’s to come. Future games will showcase characters in more traditional roles, defending their homes and villages while dealing with the warlords and menacing spirits who rule the land. House of Keys is the start of a sprawling new experience.
In House of Keys, the characters are not-so-typical adventurers exploring a decrepit mansion to look for treasure inside… or to avoid a violent storm raging outside. But once inside, the characters find the mansion has secrets it intends to keep hidden. A twisted and malevolent energy holds the adventurers hostage. Passageways reach dead ends. Doors open to brick walls. Trap doors lead to stairs going nowhere. Sounds echo from places unseen. Unreachable. Unthinkable. Apparitions follow wherever the characters go. And somewhere, at the heart of the mansion, lies an ancient evil, toying with the characters like a cat with a dying mouse.
Are the apparitions sent by this ancient evil? Or are they past explorers trying to help? The hour of perdition is at hand. Death is imminent. Only one escape lies before them. Can the characters find it? Or will fear and mistrust swallow them whole?
House of Keys is available in two game systems — Praxis and Protocol Squared. Each game is slightly different from the other, but both games draw upon the same plot — fighting to stay alive in an abandoned house on the edge of civilization.
- Protocol Squared is an elegant, streamlined game system for roleplaying and telling stories in about two hours. It has been described as the perfect game to start a game convention with, or a break between campaigns.
- The core philosophy is to get people playing within minutes and telling a full story within a few hours. It uses a deck of cards to help keep things moving. There are nearly 100 games in this game line, so it's had time to be refined again and again.
The Kickstarter includes all-new rules for the Protocol Squared system, which allows players to track the successes of their characters after the story is "over," adding more resolution to their haunted lives.
- Praxis is a more involved game system that takes longer to play, but focuses on the character's own personal objectives.
- Praxis is Protocol's bad-ass cousin. It's made to give players firm control over their character's fate, while accepting not everything works out the way you want it. Characters are the center of everything and abilities impact both the player as writer, and the character as archetype.
Both game systems are GMless and require little to no prep to getting started. Protocol Squared is mostly story-driven, while Praxis is mostly character-driven.
Stretch goals ensure that backers of this project receive additional characters, including the potential for more free games.
This project is still in development at the time of this writing. While both game systems are done, there's about 5000 more words that need to be written to complete the examples of play and character classes. The Protocol Squared game includes never-before-seen rules for complex traps and puzzles that require a lot of playtesting and parlance. The Praxis game comes with six character classes, plus the potential for up to SEVEN more, with stretch goals. Each of those takes a few hours to write.
I want to get these games right.
Map by Dyson Logos.
The Protocol Squared system is an elegant way of playing through a story without a gamemaster, in just a matter of two to three hours. Each game uses the same core principles of scene framing, while creating very different experiences through the use of roles, goals, relationships, and world building questions.
The alchemy behind why Protocol Squared works is so simple. The narration is handled through cards and scene types, while players take turns as directors, telling the story they want to tell. There are no dice. Everything is resolved with drama points and a single deck of poker cards.
For those familiar with the original Protocol system, Squared adds more options for ending the story, backgrounds for more diverse characters, and a more complex resolution system missing from the original.
There are numerous examples of play throughout the internet, the updates on this page, and other PDFs in the game line. If you know how to roleplay, you know how to play Protocol.
Protocol Squared: House of Keys is a 60+ page book.
This is the best video on the internet for learning how to play.
(Note: The vignettes in the video are wrong.)
While Praxis uses the same GMless scene-framing logic as Protocol Squared, the games are miles apart in how you experience the story. Praxis offers player motivations, and broad outlines that allow you to take a deep dive into the characters without distracting, overt maneuvering.
Everything is character driven. You and your fellow gamers, are characters inside the story and authors outside the story. You create scenes based on your individual character wants and needs. If you succeed at a milestone, you move forward in the story along one path. If you fail, your side effects (trepidation) open story pathways in another direction.
Everything you need for your specific character is on a character sheet like this one.
Each player receives a unique character sheet to build their characters. Each sheet provides world building questions, character motivations, relationships with others, names, quirks, abilities, and so on. It acts as a guide encouraging players to fully flesh out the “world” their characters inhabit and since no two sheets are the same and much of the play centers on how your character interacts with the others in the game, it virtually guarantees that no two gaming experiences are the same. Ever.
The Praxis version of House of Keys is 96 pages long, complete with all the rules, advice, and character sheets needed to play.
Iron Medusa is a new game world that I'll be exploring for the next few years. Inspired by (but not married to) Slavic mythology and storytelling, the details of the world will slowly be revealed as new books and games emerge. This is just the beginning, so these two books only scratch the surface of a fantasy environment overrun with magic, spirits, and warlords, and a sinister villain at the heart of it all. Characters comes from humble, small community beginnings. Superstition and clouded thinking keep the populace under the thumb of warlords and warlocks, in a muddy and deep game world that balks at fantasy conventions.
A great deal of the world is drawn from pre-Christian records on Eastern Europe, regions the Romans explored and couldn't conquer and the stories that emerged throughout. Magic and superstition are key elements of the world. Numerous magical systems and connections to the spirit world will make it into this and future books.
But this project is just the first taste. It touches on the myth tangentially, giving backers a chance to see what's coming, while still playing a game they recognize as fantasy-based… a haunted mansion that's trying to kill them. Think 'Saw' with elves.
Future projects include a full-scale roleplaying game, akin to Dungeons and Dragons, as well as two large dungeons to be used with any traditional fantasy games. If the line is successful, there's already notes for a board game.
Backers are welcome to review the most recent Protocol kickstarter I made:
or the most recent Praxis kickstarter as examples of my work:
Two things you should know about this project.
One. I do not use BackerKit. I will never use BackerKit or any third party fulfillment software. I will never sell your data to anyone. I only deal with Kickstarter and drivethrurpg (who do all the file storage and book fulfillment).
Two. While I am ordering all new artwork for these two games, my contract with the artist allows him to resell the work to other people. You may see this art again very soon after the release of these games. Bear in mind, I have the first publishing rights and I am not borrowing from other sources. Nor is it my intention to make my games look like generic fantasy.
A Slovakian writer named Štefan Dvorčák is helping on the project with idioms, cultural details, and review of anything I write, to ensure this fantasy world doesn't go off the rails.
Risks and challenges
Backing a project from jim pinto means backing a project from someone who works alone, nearly 12 hours a day. I have 18 completed kickstarter projects. But no one has ever been cheated or left in the cold. If I'm late, it's because I work alone and I have too many ideas to count. If you're reticent to back this project, I understand. If you think I'll cheat you, well… I've been around too long to do that.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)