Games I might want to run #1 – Dead Inside

So I’ve got a bunch of games laying around — stuff I want to run, to try out… whatever.
I communicate more succinctly in the written word than the spoken, however, so my enthused rambling face-to-face usually tends to miss a few things that I really wanted to mention about any particular game.
Therefore, what I’m going to do is assemble (and I mean that literally) a summation/review of the various games that I’d like to take a stab at some point — some I have in mind for the weekend folks, some I have in mind for the DnD group… some would work for both, so g’head and read — you might see something you like. If so, lemme know.
First up (simply because I’ve been reading it this morning) Dead Inside:

Dead Inside’s focus is on the dilemma faced by people who, through neglect, abuse, or happenstance, lose their souls. This premise is backed up by easy-to-use rules, a very detailed ‘spirit world’ setting (which, I point out, just oozes story ideas).
Player characters are those who are Dead Inside. Character generation is loose and open in format; basically, you answer seven questions, assign a few points, and go. There are virtues and vices (modeled after the standard Christian traits, but with notes on customization), Qualities (like ?handsome?, ?dancer?, and ?scientist?), and Special Qualities (like ?bind?, ?change landscape?, and ?soul-taking?). Finally, you have soul points (or, for starting characters, a single lonely soul point).
The rules (for quality checks, conflict, and combat — all emphasize quick resolution) are coherent and seem quite playable. The book includes many good examples of play.
The object of Dead Inside (at least the most obvious goal) is to acquire enough soul points to regain their soul and become complete (again, or for the first time, depending on your particular background). There are a variety of friendly and less friendly ways of doing this. The game has a built-in moral compass of sorts, one that requires wisdom, kindness, self-knowledge, and occasionally a little ass-kicking.
The game is not rehashed Vampire crap. As one reviewer put it: “this is the Pilgrim’s Progress meets the Tibetan Book of the Dead meets Carl Jung meets Monkeybone RPG you’ve been waiting for […] It really is a story about the soul and saving it, if you’re lucky and noble and true. I think it’s probably the first game I’ve ever played where the whole point of play is being nice.”
From the book itself:

The Dead Inside strive.
They reach for meaning. They struggle for growth. They seek a return of what has been lost. They cannot turn away from their quest for a soul, because that would give them time to dwell on the holes within. They must keep moving, trying to fill themselves.
Because they know that if they die, the hollowness won?t end ? it will only become deeper, longer, and colder. Without a soul, they cannot return to the Source. Death will merely change them from a living body without a soul to a dead body without a soul.

The setting is split between two worlds: the Real World and the Spirit World. While the PCs usually begin in the Real World, the Spirit World is where the real action is. Scenarios can be set in either world, as well as weirder places — like within the dreams of a little girl, on the surface of a gigantic dead god’s skull…
The game is very complete ? good rules and lots of plot hooks waiting to be used. Also, bonus: a thorough glossary and bibliography and a very detailed introductory adventure that could easily form the basis for an entire campaign (and also serves as a model for how to set up and run a DI game).

Note on the bibliography:
Cartoons & Comics
Gaiman, Neil. The Sandman series (Vertigo); McCay, Windsor. Little Nemo: 1905-1914 (Evergreen); Straczynski, J. Michael. Midnight Nation (Top Cow);
Willingham, Bill. Fables (Vertigo); Willingham, Bill. Proposition Player (Vertigo); Willingham, Bill. Elementals (Comico).
Films & Television
Dark City; Hook; Jacob’s Ladder; The Matrix; The Prisoner; Spirited Away; What Dreams May Come; Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory; Yu Yu Hakusho: Spirit Detective

I mean… where do you go wrong with a list like that? How do you?
The game’s not for everyone. If you groove on the setting, you?ll probably love the thing. If it doesn?t work for you, you’re better off with something else.


  1. It does sound a bit like the World of Darkness stuff — with some Nobilis thrown in. The setting not jonesing me, I fear, though you’d think the Anguished Loner Seeking His Humanity would be right up my alley …

  2. Anguished loners really aren’t…
    I’m beginning to think that my statement “I explain this stuff better when I write it down instead of say it” is false. Maybe I just don’t explain games well. I should just use De’s advice: “Show up, say ‘this is what we’re playing. You’ll dig it.’ and play.” 🙂
    The game is not rehashed, Vampire, “A Beast I am lest a Beast I wankity-wank-wank.” crap. It has much more flavor shared with something like Midnight Nation (or, come to it, Catspaw 🙂 than with Vampire.
    As I said elsewhen, If it sounds like that, then I’m telling it wrong.

  3. Well, I worry sometimes that Catspaw strays over into the “A Beast I am lest a Beast I wankity-wank-wank” stuff (a phrase I must paste to my monitor, especially since I can just imagine Spike saying it in a mocking voice).
    On the other hand, I do like De’s suggestion. If you don’t mind people walking in cold to the rules.
    Or we could just play InSpectre (hint hint).

  4. Yes, none of this stuff I’m putting up here is a new review — I’m recombinging and rehashing what others have said to most succintly express my impressions without having to put any… you know… effort into it.
    Because none of it’s a review, it’s a summary to give people an idea of what I’d like to run 🙂

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