Issue 6 for Worlds Without Master has been unleashed upon the world. It’s a 23-page PDF that includes:
- “From Salted Earth,” a tale of necromancy and redemption by Evan Dicken.
- “The Pebble Ballad,” an epistolary tale of century-spanning sorcery by Epidiah Ravachol.
- Illustrations by Delfino Falciani, Ed Heil, and Eric Quigley.
- Yet another episode of “Oh, the Beating Drum!” a comic by Bryant Paul Johnson.
- A Scoundrel in the Deep, a game of darkness and fire by Renato Ramonda and Flavio Mortarino.
- A miscellany of experiences unseen.
- And full-color cover art by Jeff Brown.
Go get it now. I’ll wait. When you get back, let’s talk a bit about A Scoundrel in the Deep.
Oh, you’re back! Wonderful! Now we can talk about playing with fire.
As you can see, A Scoundrel in the Deep is a two-player roleplaying game that—like some other ground-breaking roleplaying game Wil Wheaton has told me about—uses something far more exhilarating than dice to keep things moving. In the case of ASitD the action is prodded along with fire. Specifically, a lit match.
“…My lamp dwindles. Tired and hungry, I must scramble in pitch dark, only a few matches in my pocket separate me from endless inky blackness…”
One player plays the titular Scoundrel, who has plundered the Tomb of the Deep and now seeks to return to the surface world. This scoundrel is a bit lost and low on resources, but fortunately they have with them a handful of matches. Unfortunately, it is but a handful.
The other player plays the Deep who seeks to extinguish the light and the Scoundrel with it.
The players play a game of chicken with a book of matches, striking them and narrating as the flame burns ever closer to their flesh. Dropping the match or blowing it out before you’re finished advances your opponent towards their goal. The pace is, predictably, swift and delightfully frantic at moments.
But pacing aside, perhaps the most alluring aspect of this mechanic is the sensuous side of it. From the satisfying feel of strike; to the smokey, slightly sulphurous scent; to the warmth of the fire growing into an alarming heat, the matches are much more than a simple timer.
In just a couple weeks, Winter solstice will be upon us. Before then, I urge you to find a friend and play this game. Learn it well. Then, in the depths of the longest night of the year, play it again in the dark.