ndpdesign
independent games & design by Nathan D. Paoletta

Imp of the Perverse

Funded via Kickstarter in April 2018. Thank you backers! Visit the Kickstarter for updates, or sign up for my newsletter to get notified when Imp of the Perverse is released!

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A new game of psychological horror and monster-hunting in Jacksonian Gothic America. Inspired by the work of Edgar Allan Poe, this game centers on the struggle to overcome harmful impulses by hunting down those who have fully given into theirs and turned into literal monsters.

Deeply embedded in this exciting, tumultuous time in America's history, this game enables you to first determine what it is about you that sets you apart from humanity, and then grapple with the temptations offered you to approach the Shroud that divides the world of the quick from that of the dead. Can you overcome your own Imp of the Perverse?

About The Game

Imp of the Perverse is set in a Gothic America of the 1830s-40s where monsters are real. One player takes on the role of the Editor, who creates monsters and sets the stage for the rest of the players, who take on period-appropriate Dramatis Personae, to fight against the horrors that stalk the night. These protagonists are people who have an Imp of the Perverse on their own shoulders, impelling them to commit terrible deeds. Only by fighting those who have given in to their own Imps, and literally transformed into creatures of the night, can they gain redemption and reject their Imp - but the struggle itself continually tempts them to embrace their perversity and become damned. 

Struggle

The core mechanic of the game is a simple d6-based system that represents the tension between perversity and humanity. While the odds are in the Imps favor, it is certainly possible to fight to regain humanity, and end your story free of perversion. However, if and when a protagonist finally falls to the Imp, they become a monster - and their player is invited to become the Editor for the next Chapter, finishing the story of the unfortunate soul as it is hunted down by its former companions.

Structure

The game plays out in a series of linked Chapters. Each Chapter concerns the hunt for a single monster, and is generally playable in 1-3 sessions of face-to-face play. This accommodates rotating attendance, with players dropping in and out of individual Chapters, but it also rewards long-term play with the same protagonists, as you explore their long-term journey and construct your own unique Gothic world of horror around your Dramatis Personae that reflects your interests and their successes…and their failures.

Society

Imp of the Perverse is set during the decades of the Jacksonian Era of American history, which happens to coincide with the majority of the creative life of Edgar Allan Poe: the 1830s and 1840s. This is both thematically resonant and incredibly tumultuous - cities were growing, new technologies that enabled unprecedented communication and trade were invented and new lands were being explored (and exploited). Social relationships were constantly renegotiated along familial, ethnic, geographic and professional lines, creating a dense web of networks that all influenced each other.

Protagonists in this game are embedded in this society, linked to those around them by bonds of career, family, marriage and personal interest. The presence of a monster frays these bonds, and the slow dissolution of normality around the protagonists is creates tension and motivates them in their hunt just as much as their internal struggle.

Just a taste…

Take a look at the free playtest download to get a sense of the game! The game rules have been further developed and expanded from this, but the basics are there. The full release includes a historical primer on the East, South and West of America along with material to use for creating protagonists and monsters, and advice and guidance for using the techniques presented in the game to enhance the horror while prioritizing player safety as they engage with difficult material.



Preorder

Imp of the Perverse is going to press! Preorders make the print run the most efficient it can be, and support the release of the game so that more people are ready to play.

  • The Book will be graphic novel size (10.25”x6.625”), cloth-wrapped hardcover with color interior, 224 pages.

  • The Cards are a deck of 12 double-sided Tarot-sized cards to provide inspiration for perversities and greatest strengths, as well as pick-and-up-play options for getting started quickly.

  • All print preorders include the PDF, which will be delivered to the email address you use to checkout (please allow up to 24 hours to receive the download link). EU PDF customers, please use itch.io or DriveThruRPG.

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Downloads

The Beta Playtest PDF is a playable version of the game that has been further developed into the final release. It is compatible with the current playsheets, and the Master of the Yard Playtest Chapter is formatted similarly to the three Ready-to-Play Chapters in the final release.

The Master of the Yard

This Quickstart Play Chapter is an example of a fully-realized Monster and a set of pregenerated Dramatic Personae with connections that will pull them towards it, included in the playtest PDF download.

The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, the first of the modern effort to connect the continent, is busily building new routes. The rail yards of Baltimore are going full swing, and the company has brought an experienced railway foreman from England to oversee the timely connection to Harper’s Ferry, opening the tracks to business with the Winchester and Potomac railroad.

As the yards have become more productive, however, things have begun to happen. Disappearances. Mutilations. Men who formerly spent their wages freely are now seen only in the brief hours between shifts, covered in soot and barely keeping their eyes open.

The Dramatis Personae of this Chapter all have a connection of some kind to the B&O rail yards, people there, or the business of the railroad - and the terrible things that have begun to happen there. 

Actual Plays

Horticultural Hall - Shuffle Quest Podcast - a two-part podcast AP set in 1840s Boston.

The Steam Doctor - Party of One - a two-part single-protagonist AP in 1840s Philadelphia.