Thursday, November 1, 2018

Five or So Questions on Die Laughing

Hi all, today I have an interview with Craig Campbell on Die Laughing, which is on Kickstarter right now! I hope you all enjoy reading what Craig has to say about this cinematic horror-comedy game in the responses below!

The Die Laughing logo with a smiley face in spattered red color with x's for eyes and the text "Die Laughing"
Tell me a little about Die Laughing. What excites you about it?

Die Laughing is a short-play, GM-less RPG. Players portray characters in a horror-comedy movie and everyone's going to die. It's just a matter of when it happens and how funny you can make it. After your character is gone, you become a producer on the movie and continue to influence the story and the characters right up until the end.

I'm really stoked that Die Laughing finally came together. One of the problems with horror games where characters actually die, as opposed to "thriller/mood" type games, is, "what do I do after my character dies?" You can make a new character, play an NPC. What else? I've been working on this game off and on for over a decade. Every couple years I'd come back to the idea and try something different. Hitting on the "making a movie" angle finally made it gel for me. It came together pretty quickly over the past year or so, kind of in the background while working on other games. It's a game that embodies horror and embraces that type of game experience, but with comedic elements and the "making a movie" idea to keep it from getting too heavy.

A comic depicting a group of people in the woods around a campfire with someone telling a scary story, then two of the characters turn into demons
What were the inspirations for Die Laughing and how is the game the most similar and dissimilar to familiar materials?

I'm a big horror movie buff. This most recent iteration of the game, I hit on the idea of the game being about making a movie specifically, rather than just generally a horror story. That introduced a "director" role into gameplay and also a "producer" role that players could take on after their characters are dead. Making it a horror-comedy opened up the idea that it's OKAY for your character to fact, it's kind of the point of the game. Your character is going to die and you're going to make it funny and then you're going to do this other cool thing for the rest of the game.

It's sort of a hybrid of a traditional RPG and a story game like Fiasco. You have a character sheet with four traits and a few cool capabilities that sort of bend the rules. But there's no GM. Instead, there's an act/scene structure that generates random scenes that everyone roleplays to move the story forward. But these are just prompts. The "director" of each scene helps set the stage, but the players with characters in that scene propel everything. A dice mechanic resolves general success/failure of your character in the scene, rather than for every action. The game has a little bit of this and that from a lot of horror RPGs and a LOT of horror movies, all kind of bent and twisted with some humor.
The character sheet titled "Autopsy Report" and styled appropriately
How does Die Laughing work mechanically?

During each scene in Die Laughing, one of the characters is the lead character (and that changes from scene to scene). That character's player decides who will be in the scene with their character. One of the players portrays the director, setting their character aside temporarily to help set up and guide the scene (that also changes from scene to scene). Everyone in the scene plays the scene out. Sometimes the monster attacks during the scene. Sometimes it doesn't.

At the end of each scene, everyone with a character in the scene makes a trait check by rolling their dice pool to determine whether their character succeeds in the scene or not. Then everyone narrates that success or failure for their character, thus pushing the story forward. As the game goes along, your dice pool decreases based on the results of those trait checks. This decrease is a countdown to your character's death. When you run out of dice, your character dies and you narrate their death.

In addition to the director and producer stuff, there's a unique rule for each monster that influences your involvement in the game after your character is gone.

A monster sheet for "that crazy clown" with various stats and an image
What kind of horrors do the players encounter in Die Laughing? How do you ensure players are having a good time and not encountering subject matter that makes them feel alienated or afraid in a not-fun way?

The narrative, relatively open nature of the game allows the players to basically take it as far as they want. The monster is defined for the game you're playing, but that's not to say there couldn't be multiple monsters or that the monsters could mutate or...well, whatever you want. I've played games where the violence was cartoony. I've played games where there were gory descriptions of things.

That said, any game -- horror games in particular -- can go too far. That is addressed in the book, encouraging players to be clear in what they expect from the game. The simple version is presented as a "movie rating system." Everyone agrees the game will be PG, PG-13, or R-rated and plays appropriately. The book also points out some common sense...if you even remotely THINK that a particular subject would make ANYONE uncomfortable or hurt them, just don't do it. Finally, the book points out there are a variety of other safety tools, such as the X-card, and information on those can be found easily online. Pick the one that is most fitting to your group.

You mention special rules for monsters post-kicking-it. When you die, what happens?

This is a little "extra" that gives players whose characters are gone something to do. It varies from monster to monster. For example, with the Mad Slasher with Weird Weapons, when your character is dead, you get to describe the moment when your character's corpse is found at an inopportune time, like you see in so many slasher movies when everything hits the fan at the end. There's a trait check that happens there that can weaken the character finding the body. With the Sexy Vampire, your character doesn't die, but rather gets turned into a sexy vampire. And you can insert them as an NPC into scenes throughout the rest of the game.

The Nerdberger games logo with a hamburger with sunglasses and a cocktail umbrella, a d20, and a d8 stuck in it, with a splash of red "blood" over it and the text "Nerdburger Games"


Thanks so much to Craig for the interview! I hope you all enjoyed it and that you'll check out Die Laughing on Kickstarter today!

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