Friday, November 28, 2008

The Invisible Man

"Not wanton killing, but a judicious slaying. The point is, they know there is an Invisible Man — as well as we know there is an Invisible Man. And that Invisible Man, Kemp, must now establish a Reign of Terror. Yes — no doubt it's startling. But I mean it. A Reign of Terror. He must take some town like your Burdock and terrify and dominate it. He must issue his orders. He can do that in a thousand ways — scraps of paper thrust under doors would suffice. And all who disobey his orders he must kill, and kill all who would defend them." — H. G. Wells

About three years ago, I had an idea to make a game based on H. G. Wells's The Invisible Man. In the novel, a scientist discovers how to make himself invisible, then goes on a mad rampage. (I'm oversimplifying here—the novel is not a mere hackneyed mad-scientist tale. If you haven't read it, you should!) My idea was to have the players cooperate in trying to defeat the Invisible Man, while the Invisible Man attempted to complete his Reign of Terror. I came up with a nifty mechanism whereby the Invisible Man could be a non-player character, moving around a map according to a set of rules, in such a way that the players would not always know exactly where he was.

And there it stalled for some time. The problem is that I don't much care for cooperative games, yet the theme seemed to demand cooperation. What could the players possibly be competing for in the face of such a fearsome common threat? A week or two ago I finally got an inspiration. The Invisible Man had a treasure: his scientific journals detailing the invisibility process. A competitive game would involve the players cooperating to defeat the Invisible Man, but competing to find clues to the place where he has hidden his journals. If the Invisible Man wins, all players lose. If he is defeated, the player with the most clues wins the journals and the game.

The novel is old enough to be in the public domain, so there would be no need to license the title and characters, and no problem including quotes for flavor. I think it would be a fun theme, but I've got a lot of work still to do to build a good game around it.

"This announces the first day of the Terror. Port Burdock is no longer under the Queen, tell your Colonel of Police, and the rest of them; it is under me — the Terror! This is day one of year one of the new epoch, — the Epoch of the Invisible Man."

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