(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!