Posted on November 11, 2005 by Monica Valentinelli
The Real World Sourcebook for the Roleplaying Game “Dead Inside”
Written by Chad Underkoffler for Atomic Sock Monkey Press
Useful supplements are hard to come by nowadays; not only does the information in it have to be worth the price you pay, but the information needs to be useful in a way that you’d want to incorporate it into your gaming. Cold, Hard World is an expansion for the roleplaying game Dead Inside—offering more nuts and bolts to the original game than fluff. The supplement is a seventy-four page expansion of the first three chapters of the corebook.
Similar to Dead Inside, the pdf is written with definitive voice changes throughout. Dead Inside draws you in at key moments by addressing the reader; other times you’ll hear the voice of an instructor showing you how to play the game. The voice changes do have an effect—it makes the work more readable by explaining the ins and outs of Underkoffler’s vision. Chapter One has repetition, but this pdf supplement does necessitate repeating key, setting concepts from Dead Inside—the ideology is the game.
Character organization, key characters, places, and settings suggested for game play in Chapter 2 are both ironic and whimsical. Underkoffler took elements of our own society and related them to his ideology with a philosopher’s hand. “The Beautiful People” function logically as “Free Spirits”, the “Gothiks” are truly clueless “Dead Inside”, and “The Phenomena Project” sounds a bit like a certain modern-day religion—a bit of faith and lots of science. Regardless of personal taste, there are enough ideas to play a wide range of characters. All include some sort of spiritual dogma or motivation, as well as a function within society that ranges from socialization to economics. Within these character groups, iconic characters are described to both give examples to GMs and ideas for players on character creation. The characters are, for the most part, multi-dimensional and conflicted.
In this setting, sometimes you need an item that may be enchanted. Objects are not as they appear, a simple “Juice Box is a small, common object that may be enchanted with healing energies” (pg 50). Putting this type of enchanted object into a game can be very rewarding for a non-combat character who chooses to stop, look, and listen. A few, more archaic sounding items are described as well, for those who like a bit more of the occult feel to their game.
To give your adventure a bit of randomness, Cold, Hard World plants the “Seeds and Scenarios” (Chapter 3) reminiscent of a “Choose Your Own Adventure.” I liked the fact Underkoffler pointed out that “moral ambiguity” works best for this RPG. I loved the option to roll dice for your adventure idea. How does it work? You need an “Actor” an “Action” and a “Target”—you roll through pre-generated tables (pg 60). Based on levels of success, you come up with the elements to create a “Seed” that grows into a Scenario. Using these tables takes the guesswork out of starting a Scenario for the game, and adds the element of chance. Examples are given to tie everything together.
Don’t like Dead Inside’s cosmos? Chapter 4 is all about adding your own elements. At first I was really torn about this chapter, so much of the supplement is devoted to expanding the current cosmos, but this chapter is less about going outside the realm of the game and more about tweaking the game concepts in specific, playable ways. Examples for story concepts are included as well as modifications for both Dead Inside and for Cold, Hard World, showing the uniqueness of each.
You won’t find a lot of art within this supplement, what you do find are small pieces intended to accent this challenging cosmos. The art is well placed and functional in Cold, Hard World, these are purposeful pieces that instruct. A mix of spot color, photo-imaging and line art means two things; the pdf is easy on your printer, and you’ll get more text within this pdf’s 74 pages for your money. At $8, if you like playing Dead Inside you’ll appreciate the usefulness and functionality of Cold, Hard, World.
Overall, this supplement is extraordinarily useful; it branches out into areas that aren’t as dark as Dead Inside. At times it reads as a brainstorming session; if you’re looking to play strictly darker sessions there’s plenty of material to satisfy you in the midst of other, more satirical pieces. In reality, this supplement could have been broken out into two, separate pieces—those who expect a Dead Inside feel to the setting, and those who aren’t as sold on the concept but want to explore it through other avenues.
So what should you expect when you buy the pdf? Expect a variety of information; a few rules and tables that will help you nail down the “rules light” system, a few expansions of the corebook, and plenty of ideas to walk away from that dark and dangerous road to self-discovery and play something a bit lighter. Regardless of your take on Dead Inside, the price is right for this supplement. Available through RPGnow, if you even remotely like the key concepts—you’ll be interested in what Cold, Hard, World has to offer.
Reviewer: Monica Valentinelli