Posted on August 8, 2008 by Monica Valentinelli
So far in our horror design essay project we’ve heard from Preston DuBose on Degrees of Horror, Clash Bowley on The Evolution of Blood Games and A.W. Gryphon regarding Witchcraft, Magick, and Tackling The Unknown. Three different projects with different goals, methods and styles of writing.
Next up we’re going to take a look at the design process of the Exquisite Replicas RPG from Abstract Nova Entertainment. We’ve had several Previews of this new game on the site already. Now we get a chance to hear from one of the authors about the creative process that went into its development. Monica Valentinelli tells us about the setting of Exquisite Replicas…
Designing the Initiation to Exquisite Replicas
The Initiation chapter in Exquisite Replicas is told from the point-of-view of a senior citizen, a rock-of-the-earth woman who used to own a landscaping business. Her code name is DM-107864923Q-AAP and she is what Exquisite Replicas is all about. Imagine a woman at peace with herself and the earth. She’s lived to see past her middle ages and she has that sense of calm that comes with experience. Now think about what happens when she realizes something is wrong–very wrong–and she’s not sure who to tell or what she should do about it.
As I put myself in DM’s shoes, things got a little muddy for me. You see, Lee (Mr. Abstract Nova, himself) had told me that this was “the” setting chapter and had to include all of the game’s setting and character descriptions for the game. Once we (by “we” I mean our team) fleshed out the growing skeleton of the setting, villains and the like, I was given an outline to make sure I nailed each and every point. My creative side and my game design began to clash, because I felt that the formatting and headers in the chapter might detract from what I wanted to do with it. In my mind, every last piece had to be intentional–moreso than any other project I’ve worked on. I didn’t want this to be a long diatribe with jarring breaks; nor did I want to fall back on stilted text to factually describe what the “horror” in this game is all about. Luckily, Lee was kind enough to entertain my thoughts on what I wanted to do.
The result of my efforts to integrate outline with narrative from the point-of-view of an extremely paranoid (yet justified in her paranoia) woman, was an experience I will never forget. I mentally donned DM’s cheap, black suit and feathery mask, to get inside her head. Forcing myself in a dark room, filled with shadows, I pushed myself to write like she might write. The first thing you’ll notice about the Initiation chapter is that the text is very organic. Instead of standard chapter headings, there are medium and font changes. You’ll notice podcast scripts, letters, map notes, and journal entries. There are times when DM’s emotions get the best of her, and force her mind to travel to a place she doesn’t want to go. Then, whoosh! All of a sudden, she’ll snap back in the best way she knows how, to continue on.
One side effect of writing DM’s narration was that I felt I had to give her a role within her group, The Anonymous. You see, in order for her to know all of this “stuff,” I needed to be able to justify why she knew it so I made her a keeper of the group’s official documents.
There were other intentionally-written nuggets for DM’s character, which you might not catch. One thing you might notice is that she sometimes mentions a different god or goddess as a throw-a-way line.
He showed me his wall of pain the day I got initiated. Words spray-painted in all directions; notches of the people he had lost fighting the aliens. Words like: “Who is real?” “Human, means hue-man?” Now, you may think I’m crazy (Amon-Ra may think so) but you never know. Sometimes, the craziest people in the world know more than you do; sometimes they can talk to gods.
Her world turned upside-down, you never find out DM’s real name–just her story. I’m very grateful to Lee, John, Werner, Todd and Anita for their work on this project and Eric and Keith? If you’re listening, you guys did a bang-up job on the artwork and graphics.
Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about the work I did on Exquisite Replicas. You can meet me in person at various conventions throughout the year. At GenCon, I’ll be manning the Abstract Nova Press booth (Booth # 2115) so be sure to stop by and say “Hello.” Don’t forget to look over your shoulder before you do, though, because you never know when a Black Eye or a Boogeyman will be there waiting for you.
– Monica Valentinelli
Visit the Abstract Nova website for more information on Exquisite Replicas and other games.