Being a Choose Your Own Villain 1

(Bill Coberly, our EIC, apol­o­gizes for fail­ing to post this until now.  He was attacked by poi­so­nous spider-demons armed with amne­sia guns, and for­got about it.  It’s not his fault, you see.  There were spider-demons.  Regardless, from 12/30/13 to 1/1/14, Michael Elliott ran a delight­ful­ly despi­ca­ble game of It Is Pitch Dark, and writes here about his expe­ri­ences.)

My Time With @ItIsPitchDark

First off, I want to send a big thank you to Bill Coberly, the orig­i­na­tor of @ItisPitchDark, and every­one who par­tic­i­pat­ed in the game. It was a lot of fun and I def­i­nite­ly would like to try it again some­time.

I had thought that, like me, most peo­ple would­n’t have any­thing bet­ter to do on New Year’s Eve than refresh and check Twitter every few min­utes, deter­mined­ly ignor­ing every­one else at the party they hap­pened to find them­selves at. Alas, my tim­ing for Dr. Kill’s great mag­num opus may not have been the best, and I there­fore had to spend some time lead­ing the fic­tion­al Minion 47 back to the vil­lain­ess’ lair to see her ter­ri­ble scheme come to fruition.

And on that note, I was quite sur­prised to see all the play­ers just… buy into her plot. Even though I laid it out in no uncer­tain terms that Dr. Kill want­ed to kill every­one… EVERYONE. That was the whole point of Scheme 13 right from the plan­ning stages, that’s why the adven­ture was called “Escape from the Island of Dr. Kill.” I had thought that even­tu­al­ly, one play­er would grab the reins and deter­mine that Minion 47 was not that fool­ish. Instead what I got was a whole cast of play­ers will­ing to empathize with Dr. Kill’s wish­es, that maybe we might all be bet­ter off if we weren’t around.

I’ll just let you think about that for a moment.

So yeah, I was blown away by the play­ers’ choic­es, and how every­one want­ed to be vil­lains as well. They want­ed the long mono­logues, the style, the killing, the fancy gad­gets. Getting to work with the play­ers to make those great scenes hap­pen was a lot of fun, and made me think of some of my favourite moments in other RPGs. It also made me thank­ful for my expe­ri­ence as a dun­geon mas­ter play­ing D&D, being able to roll with the unex­pect­ed and impro­vise.

For those look­ing to run their own games of @ItisPitchDark (and I high­ly encour­age you to do so) that would be my fore­most piece of advice: be pre­pared to impro­vise. I did this by cre­at­ing lists of things I thought I would need over the course of the game. I had a ros­ter of char­ac­ters, dif­fer­ent heroes and vil­lains and a vague idea of what they could do, some loca­tions around Dr. Kill’s island (we never did get to see her under­ground patent­ed dou­ble nuclear reac­tor), what would be in Minion 47’s inven­to­ry, and a gen­er­al plot out­line.

I tried not to get too detailed or invest­ed in any one aspect, so that when play­ers start­ed pulling the nar­ra­tive in dif­fer­ent direc­tions I could switch gears eas­i­ly to accom­mo­date. I knew that the heroes and vil­lains would try to stop Dr. Kill, and that the play­ers would either defend her, try to foil her scheme, or maybe escape the island, and so I tried to think of cool scenes or set pieces that could hap­pen along the way. This also helped me main­tain a good sense of where Minion 47 was in rela­tion to every­thing that was hap­pen­ing, and to give me ideas of how to keep the action going.

Also, with the excep­tion of the set up and finale, do try to limit your­self to just one tweet answers. I found that it could some­times con­fuse play­ers when I had to answer in mul­ti­ple tweets, and hon­est­ly you can get some real­ly fan­tas­tic writ­ing when con­fined to such a tight char­ac­ter limit.

Anyways, I could go on and on about this. I’ve been a big fan of @ItisPitchDark ever since Bill came up with it and I’m real­ly look­ing for­ward to see­ing what other GMs can do with this for­mat of gameplay/storytelling/madness.

Best of luck with future games!


Michael Elliott

About Michael Elliott

Michael is a writer at heart, though most of the time he doesn't act like it. He started as a columnist for The Cross and the Controller where he reviewed video games and talked a lot about the god in the machine. From there he contributed news posts and other articles to a few local sites: Geek Badge and Gamesparked. He is also the co-organizer of the WTF Game Jam ( (Headshot credit: Andrew Ferguson

One thought on “Being a Choose Your Own Villain

  • Stephen Elliott

    sadly i missed the game :( but as i am plan­ning on throw­ing one of these games togeth­er i’m glad to say i’ve sent in an email ask­ing for per­mis­sion and giv­ing a (very) basic set­ting

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