The glistening thing that devoured the Captain is now squatting just outside the light, grinning and whispering. Or perhaps you're just hallucinating. That's what the other crew members did before they murdered each other. Engineering says that there are cascading decompressions all along those hull fractures; we need to vent those chambers now, or we're all dead. You're not so sure that's a bad thing...
ViewScream is a role-playing game designed for play with video-chat software like Google Hangouts. For $10 USD, you receive the PDF of the core game, all custom overlays, all audio files, and all stretch goal materials; the 10 backers who pledge the most will also be able to commission custom adventures to their specifications (see "The Mission" below).
Three to five players assume the roles of desperate people trapped in a world of high-tech horror: crew members going insane aboard a damaged starship; scientists in research labs, hunted by their own creations; or futuristic data-thieves on the run from soulless security drones.
ViewScream is driven by character interaction and difficult decisions. There's a narrative framework for each character, but many story elements are created by the players just before play.
Note: Many of my favorite ViewScream sessions have been with people who had never played before. Someone with zero experience can be ready for a ViewScream session in about 10 minutes; they just need to read the one-page quickstart rules, then print out the character sheet and fill in a couple of sections.
The characters are separated by quantum anomalies, hostile xenomorphs, or tentacled horrors beyond human comprehension -- and they need to work as a team in order to survive. Since they can't reach one another in person, these characters must communicate by using viewscreens throughout the ship (just as the players communicate via video-chat software).
Characters can help one another by using technology, cunning, or violence. Sometimes, these proposed solutions will succeed ("Power rerouted to biofiltration scrubbers!"), and other times, it will fail ("Damn, I can't get into the brainframe. The A.I. has gone hostile, and I'm locked out of the system. You're on your own.").
There aren't enough successful solutions to go around, so it's a given that at least one character will die when the game is over. The situation is complicated by strained allegiances, old hatreds, and dreadful secrets that emerge during gameplay.
Players never refer to their characters in the third person; they remain in character the whole time. A typical game session lasts 60-90 minutes.
Will you betray your shipmates? Will you work with them, even though some of them may be guilty of horrific crimes? What happened to the rest of the crew? How many minutes do you have before it happens to you, too? Can you escape, or will someone find your mangled corpse floating in the void?
ViewScream will be released as a PDF and a print-on-demand publication through Lulu, DriveThruRPG, and Amazon's Createspace. Backers will receive all digital files. If backers want print versions, they can buy the book at cost (meaning there's no profit for me); a print copy will be around $5 USD).
The game includes:
- A core rulebook (30-50 pages long, depending on the layout)
- 25 PDF adventures (each of which is 4-7 pages long)
- Five mp3 soundtracks
- 25 translucent PNG overlays
The rules contain instructions on how to use the custom overlays (which are intended for use in Google Hangouts, via the Toolbox) and the mp3 files (which are played by a single player, on a phone or laptop, and are used to trigger a specific change in the narrative).
If you played the first edition (released in early 2013), here are some of the major changes and new features you can look forward to:
- The player who portrays Bridge is now the game's GM, but still plays in character
- Emergencies can be solved by any member of the crew, instead of a specific character
- Emergencies are shorter, and directly connected to the adventure's narrative
- Solutions have predetermined success or failure; they're also longer, containing more information about how they can be used
- Some Solutions are optional, because they are dangerous or unethical
- The fate of the Bridge depends on the decisions made by other player characters
- Some adventures are accompanied by a soundtrack, and key events are prompted by the audio file at specific moments
ViewScream includes 25 adventures. 15 of these are finished (and we'll get to the other 10 in just a moment):
- A Maculate Conception: "This is a distress signal from the bridge of the exploratory vessel Sycorax. There's something on our ship, and it's laying eggs. But they're not hatching; they're empty. I think we're supposed to go into them."
- Billions of Scars: The denizens of this planet uploaded their minds to an exabyte drive and waited. Your crew accidentally released them. These disembodied minds are full of hate, and they have been waiting...
- Black Widow, Brown Recluse: Recluse, the artificial intelligence aboard the starship Black Widow, has just gone antipathic. Most of the crew died within the first few minutes. You’re next.
- Culler Out of Space: When colonists begin to display anomalous behavior after a meteorite impact, a nearby debris-culler is ordered to investigate the crater. Horror ensues.
- Destiny Rising: "Fuel line’s all tore up, particle vents are bent sideways, and there’s something wedged in the capacitor. Reckon we best get the Destiny fixed, or you’re in a mess of trouble."
- Dunwich Hauler: “Whatever it is, it’s aboard the Lavinia. Sensors can’t detect it, weapons can’t stop it, and if we don’t get to an escape pod right now, we are dead.”
- Golgotha Station: Guerrilla forces have destroyed Golgotha Station. Your small crew is all that remains of the once-mighty Dominion Shock Troops. Will you go down fighting, or flee like cowards?
- Ligature Marks: After a nightmarish first contact with an alien race, everyone aboard your ship committed suicide. After that, the vessel’s A.I. awoke you from cryogenic stasis. A pity, really...
- Neongeles: From the gene-traders of Melrose Avenue to the flesh-printers of Anaheim, you’ve seen it all. But tonight, with one botched heist, you’ve changed Neongeles forever.
- Optimal Virulence: "Hailing on all frequencies. I'm aboard the Imperial Hellebore. A horrid infection wiped out most of our crew. They have risen, and they are hunting us. They hunger--"
- Saint Bartholomew: A skinless man walks among you. He knows what you did. He is cheerful and silent as he strides through the blood-spattered corridors of your ship. He will save your soul.
- Summervox Whispers: The job was simple: swipe herdsourced data and use it to build a better mediabase. Only problem: no data. Just a sentient cloud of information that hates humans.
- The Call of Kullat Nunu: “This is a subspace emergency broadcast. We’re aboard the science vessel Emma, which left the Auckland system on 022025. In God’s name, please help us.”
- Vade Retro Satana: They should never have agreed to deliver that prisoner. And as soon as they found out what he was, they should have killed him. But it’s too late, and the ritual has begun.
- Yellow Sine: “This is an SOS from the crew of the Camilla. We are trapped in the Hyades cluster, and nearly everyone aboard has been murdered. We few survivors feel compelled to unmask.”
...The Other 10 Adventures
I ran another Kickstarter campaign in which a few backers contributed amounts that were higher than the pledge levels they'd chosen. I was very grateful for this! For ViewScream, I'd like to do something in return (which will also benefit all the other supporters).
The ten backers who contribute the most to this project will get to boss me around: each of them will get to task me with creating a custom ViewScream adventure to their specifications. Naturally, these 10 additional adventures will be shared with all backers! Note: this isn’t a stretch goal; this happens if the project gets funded.
Delivery date will depend on communication between myself and these 10 backers; I imagine that these 10 adventures will be delivered around November or December.
Please note that I reserve the right to edit or reject proposals if they don't fit the tone of ViewScream. Nothing family-friendly, please. Chances are, whatever you're thinking of is probably just fine. If in doubt, look to horror/sci-fi movies such as Alien, The Thing, or Event Horizon (someday, we'll get that 130-minute cut).
Stretch goals include additional adventures, as well as new overlays, audio files, and interior illustrations:
$7,500: New adventures!
- At the Moons of Madness: The first away team found strange ruins on the planet. The second away team found the dissected remains of the first. 90 minutes from now, you'll escape or you'll die.
- The Shadow Out of Titan: Most of the crew members on the exploratory vessel Wingate were killed during a bizarre body-switching phenomenon. Of the few who remain, one is assuredly a traitor.
$10,000: New adventures, which are linked together!
These two adventures are linked together, and can be played in either order to tell the complete story:
- Until Our Crimes Redeem Us: When the inmates of the prison vessel Saint Joseph took control, cannibalism and horror ensued. Now, only a few of you remain, and you're alone on the ship... Right?
- Cut Apart, Sewn Together: Yes, you're a monster. We're all monsters here. But there was a promise of redemption for us on this godforsaken penal colony, and now we'll have to fight for it.
$12,500: New adventures, plus additional audio tracks!
- Long Way Down: The medical team went insane and vivisected the crew, so you hid in the cargo hold. Now, things have gotten ugly: the entity that possessed the medics has taken over the ship.
- Humans and Other Toys: The sentient anomaly that dismantled the Imperial Warship Astaroth has now turned its attention to the crew. A small group of cadets must match wits with an ageless horror.
$15,000: New adventures!
- Spiders in the Webwork: Someone sold us out. Every lowlife in Neongeles is after us, and the corporate paramilitary have declared martial law. Well, at least it can't get any worse. Wait--
- Lights of Gethsemane: The Captain of this proselytic spacecraft said some very strange things before she took her own life. But what if she was right? What if the most dreadful things are all about to happen?
Beyond these stretch goals, other horrors await...
Funding will be used to bring the following team members onto the project:
Risks and challenges
My first kickstarter (Lusus Naturae, an OSR bestiary) shipped a few months late; to make up for the delay, I included three new monsters, some additional full-color artwork, full-color endpapers, and an appendix.
Printing Lusus Naturae took a bit longer than I expected. ViewScream, on the other hand, has the benefit of being digital-only, so I won't have to pack and ship the books, which saves a lot of time.
There are quite a few stretch goals, and the resulting workload might be pretty heavy. In that case, I'll deliver the initial rewards on time, then deliver the stretch goals as they're completed (in bundles). This way, I can still hit the original release date.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)