About the game—
Dangerous Times is a tabletop role-playing game for two or more players, played in sessions each describing a single "issue" of a publication.
Players take the role of journalists who put their lives on the line to document corruption, disaster, and crime— in a 1920s New York that’s just discovered magic.
There's danger and suspense, but players don't always set out to punch evil in the face— sometimes they just try to live through encounters with it.
As long as reporters survive to inform the public, there's a chance for the world to change.
Everything you need to get started is included in the Zine. The game comes fully prepared with rumors and events, characters and locations that can be woven into play. Additional preparation is not required, though an interest in history can enrich the experience.
While a single session stands on its own, multiple sessions are meant to be strung together into a short campaign, during which recurring motifs and the progress of time tell a broader story about the city, characters, and publication.
The game will be printed in blackand white, 48-pages (originally 38 pages, thanks stretch goals!), saddle-stitched, with a light cardstock cover.
In addition to the rules of how to play and the information about the setting, the pages will contain public domain art drawn directly from publications of the time, as well as newspaper clippings and advertisements slightly tweaked to add an occult flavor.
What makes it unique—
Unlike mystery games which focus on detectives solving a single case, reporters will bump into bits and pieces of multiple stories during a single session. Lots of rumors, lots of evidence, lots of stories.
By the time of publication, many questions will likely still remain.
Sometimes they'll save those questions for a later issue, and hope the stories they do have will still sell enough papers.
Sometimes they'll feel pressured to print questionable things just because they're exciting, and hope that the result doesn't damage credibility too much.
These decisions should not be made lightly.
How it's played—
Each play session contains the following phases:
- A staff meeting, where leads are discussed and resources are allocated.
- An investigative phase, where players travel the city and gather information.
- Trouble, which the reporters must get into and out of.
- A publication phase, where articles are assembled and their impacts are determined.
One player assumes the role of editor-in-chief, and acts to guide play towards interesting situations. They use rival reporters, gangsters and other characters to drive conflict, and work to "make the real unreal" by weaving historical fact into arcane fantasy.
Other players act as reporters, traversing the city and encountering strange happenings and monstrous plots. They'll gather information about happenings within city, and in doing so often encounter trouble, which they'll escape by cunning, magic, or brute force.
At the end of the session, players come together during the publication phase to turn information they've gathered into witty headlines, then determine how each article shapes the world for the next session— what organizations and people it angers, changes it makes to the environment, and how well it sells newspapers.
This system, of adventure (during investigation and trouble) followed by impact (during publication) allows players to build a world that reacts around them, with recurring motifs as problems from prior issues show up again in new ones.
It's about journalism, about asking questions and telling a story, about the things that get printed and the things that get left out.
It's about collaboration and competition, between reporters and newspapers, between titans of industry, between friends and family.
It's about magic, and the way that power distorts the world around it. About children sparking flames with their minds, gangsters hiding behind illusions of legitimacy.
Finally, all these elements come together with actual history, filled with triumphs, tragedies, and odd occurrences. Collaboration and competition become the backbone of play, players' roles as reporters and editor let them investigate the world around them, and magic is used to underscore real ways the world was changing.
It's a game that's meant to be both fun and interesting— one that reveals ways in which the seeds of the present exist within the past.
The great war has ended, and an economic boom is pushing American prosperity to new heights. Every day, new technologies are revolutionizing daily life. Jazz music fills the popular nightclubs, Street-cars and early automobiles ferry commuters to and from work, and silent film is giving way to a burgeoning “talking pictures” industry.
A time of progress...
Women have won the right to vote and continue to fight for self-determination and new freedoms. Immigrants from around the world are building lives and homes within the city. Soon-to-be famous black artists, writers and musicians in Harlem and around the country are defying racism through art and politics. Queer folk carve out spaces for themselves, hosting an annual ball attended by hundreds of dancers and thousands of curious onlookers.
A time of violence...
Yet not everything is copacetic. Every day, scandal, corruption, and violence fill the papers. Shifting societal norms give rise to moral outrage and panic. Terrorists flock to organizations like the KKK, perpetrating vile acts, lynchings and riots. Hard and desperate criminals make a quick dime as bootleggers, and the illegal sale of alcohol brings in enough money to make mob bosses into millionaires.
A time of magic!
A rising skeptics movement at the turn of the century sought to reveal the "tricks and falsehoods" behind magic. Instead, they revealed its truth.
Though it did not come soon enough to change the outcome of the great war, by 1920 the workings of all major magic tricks and the knowledge on how to perform things like them is starting to spread.
Fire-eating and levitation are practiced by children running in the street. Mourners seek out mediums to find closure, and the crafting of illusionary images becomes a Hollywood staple. Meanwhile, law-breakers use hypnotism and escape-artistry to great and disastrous effect, while those who seek power consort with things best left alone.
This is not only the age of The Great Gatsby, but also the era that gave us mysteries by Dashiell Hammet and Agatha Christie as well as Lovecraft’s horror writing. It's the time period of famous figures like Amelia Aerhart, Harry Houdini and Al Capone. All of these elements come together in a collaborative narrative experience.
Now that the project's reached it's funding goal, there's some opportunities available to make the project even better. Check out the image below for what's coming up, and read the recent project update for more details.
Risks and challenges
I've set the delivery date for rewards to April, to allow the highest possible standard of product.
A 38 page draft copy of the text is all laid-out, and I've collected a nice set of period-appropriate art, photographs, and more from the public domain that go perfectly. What's left to do? More playtesting, proof-reading, and additional art and content made just-for-this.
I did layout and reporting for my college newspaper, and I've done freelance work in that area since then, so I'm very familiar with the production side of things.
The only aspect of this which will be entirely new to me is international shipping, however the price of shipping and physical copies is set to average out any problem spots. I'm confident we'll be able to get the zine delivered anywhere with an address.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)