Monday, September 24, 2012

I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream: The RPG

Over on Rather Gamey, Ark was describing an adventure format for Stars Without Number, based on the idea that you're all "Redshirts", beamed in and out of planets, which would allow for quick, one shot adventures with a rotating cast.  In the comments, someone pointed out that if the adventure didn't wrap up at the end of one session and instead needed to carry over to the next, each person would have to show up next time, defeating the modular aspect that Ark was going for.  Instead, he suggested, why not have a crazy computer AI beaming people in and out of scenarios at random intervals, so if someone drops out mid session, oh don't worry it's just that glitchy AI, it must have changed it's mind, Ensign Singh is gone now, and oh it looks like he's been replaced by Yeoman Hossenfeffer.

Now, to me, that sounds like you've left Gene Roddenberry behind, and crossed over into Harlan Ellison, specificially one of my favorite short stories of all time, "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream".  What an awesome game that would be.  The story practically writes its own RPG - the AI = GM, you've got different characters, each with their own specialty (even if one of those specialties is f***ing), and they're being led through an endless maze by a crazed AI who just wants to mess with them.  Now that I think about it, you could probably file the serial numbers off of Paranoia and run it pretty well. 

Or you could just make your own game, because hey, Harlan wouldn't care if someone made a game based on his idea, right?  Right? 

Hahaha of course he would. 

Maybe a free version just distributed via fileshare, adapting the book to another system,  a la Thundarr for Mutant Future?  I dunno, I'm not sure how that would work, but I'm curious enough to find out!

Thinking about this has inspired me to crack open some of my Ellison books, and I may post more about him in the near future, as he's been a huge inspiration to me since I was but a lad.  I've written about half of a novel that is a love letter and spiritual sequel to The Whimper of Whipped Dogs, and Deathbird Stories is one of my favorite books, 25 years after I read it for the first time.  As much of a cranky, quixotic bastard as Ellison can be, his stories always manage to evoke a reaction in me, and he'll always be at the top of my list of authors.


  1. Awesome! I really got into Ellison a couple of years ago, then slowly lost interest. I was especially disapointed in his selections for Dangerous Visions.

  2. Yeah, Ellison the editor is a different beast than Ellison the author. My copy of The Essential Ellison is more thumbed through than most peoples bibles, and Mind Fields (the book of art by Jacek Yerka where he wrote a story for each painting) is one of the most inspirational collections of art and word that has been put to press.

  3. Fantastic. Huge Ellison fan. Read pretty much everything and have copies of nearly everything. Deathbird Stories would be one of my ten books I took to the deserted iland list.

    Game sounds cool. I would have to agree that putting file to paranioa would work great. There was a half decent computer game based on the story.

  4. Of course Harlan wouldn't mind if you used his idea for a game. Not at all. He's a nice guy.

    Oh, btw, I noticed you typed his full name in your blog. There is a fee for that. Per instance.

    Oh, that image of the book . . . yeah . . . sorry. Another fee.


    - Ark

  5. I thought you were joking, then I looked at his wiki page:

    He had his own name trademarked in 2005, registered by The Kilimanjaro Corporation, which Ellison owns, and under which all his work is copyrighted.



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