Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Mystery Terrarium

I don't mean the sort that might be investigated by Scooby-Doo and the gang, but rather a variant of the mystery sandbox, maybe one where player's don't even know it's a mystery sandbox to begin with. Or (to state in a more player-centric way), a setting where the level of mystery can be dialed up or down as desired.

What got me thinking about this is Wayward Pines wherein what appears to be a place again to the Village (from The Prisoner, I mean), is actually slightly more like the Village from The Village and is in fact [SPOILER] apparently a model 21st century town in a post-apocalyptic future.  So we get a setting where people are living in an artificial society where the reality of the world is hidden to one degree or another. It could just as easily be a faux-Medieval society as opposed to a modern one.

This differs from your standard post-apocalyptic fantasy setting like Tekumel in a few of ways. One, the nature of those settings isn't a secret from the inhabitants. There are details that don't know and things they don't understand, but most of time people are at least partially aware they are in a fallen world. Nor, generally, are there forces actively trying to hide the nature of the world from them. Lastly, the world is artificial to an extent--it was setup to to provide a certain environment and to fool people. It would be as if the quirky societies in the biospheres in The Starlost had been purposely created rather than be accidents of cultural drift. If the world of Anomalous Subsurface Environment were a big, crazy social experiment. Or a human ant farm.

The players' can run around the ant farm, blissfully unaware of their captivity--or they can take on the bigger mystery and try to break out.


Logan said...

Sounds interesting...
I have a small town like Twin Peaks, Innsmouth or Silent Hill. A nice place...but with dark and sinister secrets behind every door. And the only way out is to solve all secrets...or to die!

Would a nice idea for an "Arkham Horror"-like survival board game with a nice town map and a lots of mysterious hints. And with every solved hint and secret a rising number of inhabitants are hunting the players to kill them. Because every secret must be a secret...

My mind is working... Thanks! :D

PlanetNiles said...

I once had a project of an island inspired by The Village. The fact that it was mysterious and lousy with mystery was part of it's evil as the prisoners, all people who had gotten too close to The Truth (tm) were exactly the sort to be unable to resist a mystery. Worse those whose jobs were to keep the prisoners there and entertained were themselves prisoners. It was very meta.