Tangential Reality

One of the other things I do is spend time working with the folks over at 12 to Midnight writing and editing good old-fashioned tabletop roleplaying games. There’s a project that’s finally entering the production phase in the near future and to go along with its release, I’ve signed up for creating an alternate peripheral world for the setting to be surrounded by.

The setting of the game is a small college called East Texas University, where weird and horrible things happen on a daily basis but the locals tend to either ignore it all subconsciously or work to prevent the secrets from getting out. The college is the focus of the book, but the city surrounding the school is Pinebox, Texas. For more than a decade 12 to Midnight has been publishing adventures and modules concerning themselves with pockets of the city, and now the time has come to create a more complete and cohesive microcosm that will allow for players to have a more immersive experience.

One of the things we did a couple of years back was to create a website filled with oddness, and branded it as the college newspaper The Raven’s Report. Here random passersby can read snippets of creepiness touching on the weirdness of the University from the perspective of student journalists. For people looking to run a game in the setting, characters are created and arcs are built connecting some stories to others. NPCs (non-player characters) have been constructed as canon and often have recurring roles in the tales and can aid or obstruct players in their endeavors.

Lately, Sara and I have started kicking around ideas for additional websites that will further attempt to create a realistic unreality. We’ll be constructing a Pinebox business directory that’ll look and feel like a Yelp (complete with terrible local business ads) for the fictional town. ETU will have it’s own university website that will provide a ton of supporting material. Additionally we’re playing with the idea of developing a Marble Hornets-esque video series released on YouTube showing first-hand horrors through the eyes of Pinebox’ citizens.

World-building is an interesting exercise, especially when the world you’re creating is so closely related to our own. It has to be similar enough to feel familiar, but different enough to feel interesting. We figure that by offering a wealth of information that’s extremely expansive it’ll give gamers enough information to use in their own games while also providing enough flexibility to allow players to mold the world to their own devices.

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Brendan Quinn

Brendan Quinn

Brendan builds stuff and solves problems, often with code and cookies in equal proportions. He's the co-owner of Squid&Crow: a Tri-Cities design and development firm that helps pay his bills, and Forked, LLC: a game design studio that helps give him an excuse to not completely grow up. He's married to his partner in both of the aforementioned endeavors, Sara Taylor, and lives in Pasco WA with her and their eternal puppy Lila.

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  • Sara Taylor

    Brings to mind the “Year Zero” alternate reality.