Darkness at Bay
What’s Going On Here?
Well, very simply, we’re going to play a game. Revolving around a group of investigators and investigative-minded folks, we’ll be solving mysteries, hunting down suspects, and peering deep into the paranormal darkness that suffuses the setting. Yes, this is no True Detective recreation, although inspiration definitely springs from there. You will have mundane cases that speak of mundane circumstances as well as the weird or occult. Then there’s the supernatural…
Suffice to say, soon your characters will realize there’s actual monsters that go bump in the night. Maybe they already suspect or know, but soon the struggle will come: not only to juggle responsibility to work and family as well as the protection of mankind from the horrors beyond their knowing, but just to survive…
Where Are We?
The game will take place in a fictional city known as Royal Bay, Alabama, replacing real-world Mobile. New Orleans before New Orleans, the city is rich in history and mystery. There are a few surrounding ‘towns’ (really suburbs) around the place, as well as a huge expanse of wilderness: forests, lakes, swamps, rivers, foothills and mountains, and, of course, the Gulf.
When Are We?
Start date in game is January 2003, in a world very similar to our own. No, your characters can’t play the stock market, buy lottery tickets, or make high-stakes bets on popular sporting events based on RL knowledge.
What’s Out There? What Do We Know?
Surely telling you about all the spooky stuff out there would ruin the surprise. You can likely guess at a few things: cultists, vampires, werewolves. Demons, ghosts, serial killers… all staples of the horror genre, and all certainly capable of showing up.
Myth and stories have not changed much in this game world. Sure, some recent media projects have stirred the pot a little (since this is a horror game, Twilight makes an early publication date), but for the most part, the old myths stand: vampires can’t cross running water; werewolves can’t abide silver; and demons are repelled by faith and symbols thereof.
We’ve got a lot of themes to work with; here’s a few of them.
Dangers in the Dark: Not just that which goes bump in the night, but the fact that their capabilities, mindsets, and motivations may be and probably are unknown. When you cannot know the enemy or where it is, how can you fight it?
Mankind as Prey: Humanity may be more populous, but that’s our only strength. The things that hunt us are stronger, faster, and more experienced. Expect to be outgunned.
Our Own Secrets: What, are you just going to tell people you hunt ghosts or demons? Try explaining to your boss the reason why you missed your last shift was to put down a cult of Bacchanalian ritual murderers or to the police that the body you’re dumping isn’t a man but a previously spirit possessed zombie.
Who to Trust?: Is that a particularly hairy, unibrowed man or a wolf walking in human clothes? That girl at the bar—is she fashionably pale, or does sunlight set her aflame? The murder victim has clear signs of paranormal abuse—why then did the police cover it up as suicide?
Children of Men: No monsters here, at least in the mythological sense, but we’re talking about a man drawn to discover the truth and protect the innocent, even at grave cost. Very grim, very gritty, very on point.
Dresden Files: Okay, you’re not wizards; you’re hardly in the know; and you probably aren’t surrounded by such an incredibly attractive supporting cast, but damn it, you do solve mysteries and keep their true nature hidden from society at large. Like Dresden, preparation and allies are your best hopes, but will you really put the latter at risk?
The Exorcist: Let’s see… demon-possessed artifact travels overseas and infests an innocent child with a powerful evil. Good versus Evil, madness, death, and horror… yeah, that sounds like a good fit.
It: a group of children band together to fight a malevolent horror, reuniting in adulthood to finish it off. You may not have started together as children, but maybe you’ll wish you had for the additional experience.
True Detective: No lie, the original inspiration for this game. You’ve got mystery, conspiracy, and horror of all stripes. At the very least, the opening theme (Handsome Family – Far From Any Road) plays at least once when I work on this game.
The Walking Dead: Nevermind the sorry lack of character growth; look to the bleakness of the setting, the physical horror of the monsters, and the human horror of man working against man.
The X-Files: The best situation for people in your situation—supported financially and personally by a government agency. Of course, you won’t have that, but you will inherit the cases, the suspects, and the lingering presence of the supernatural.
I’ve heard Supernatural and Torchwood touch on a lot of things we might see, but I’ve personally never seen either of them.