Surrealist Exploration RPG: A House Of Many Doors
On Kickstarter, with demo
I've been waiting for A House of Many Doors [official site] to arrive on Kickstarter for a while now. Developeres Pixel Trickery are asking for £4,000, which will be added to savings and £12,000 of funding from Sunless Sea makers Failbetter Games, it's an exploration-based RPG set in a bizarre world in which you play a poet/journalist. Listen.
"In A House of Many Doors you are an explorer, poet and spy, traversing and mapping the House – a vast parasite dimension that steals from other worlds. You explore the House in a clanking train with mechanical legs. You will discover bizarre civilizations, assemble a dysfunctional crew and level up your poetry, while clinging to life and sanity."
The list of influences includes Planescape: Torment and Calvino's Invisible Cities. I want it.
There is a pre-alpha demo and it feels like a pre-alpha demo, which is to say it feels more like a proof of concept than a slice of game. The text on the campaign page is a more convincing sales pitch than what is playable at the moment and I'm fine with that - this is a game, like Sunless Sea and Fallen London, that will be thick with words.
"I want you to feel like a particular type of 19th-century polymath - a Richard Francis Burton or a Gertrude Bell. An absurd figure with absurd talents who propels themselves confidently into absurdly terrifying situations.
"In the game you are both a journalist and a poet, and each of those careers comes with its own challenges to face throughout the game. The poems you write are procedurally-generated, and over time you will build up a proud canon of stirring titles: "The Troglodyte Vomiting of the Mirrors," "An Elegy on the Reluctant Hell of Grief," "Ode to the Strangling Toad." Your poems and travelogues are your route to fame and fortune."
We here at RPS have an affinity with procedural poetry and all of those titles are apt descriptions of my hungover Sunday mornings.
"As you explore the House, you will journey through a labyrinth of procedurally-generated architecture.
"It's not all procedural generation, though - your Navigator will guide you towards rooms in which you'll discover carefully-designed areas of interactive narrative.
"These rooms are packed with quests, stories and lore - by "lore" I mean the House's intricate history, ancient secrets and complex politics, much of which will lurk below the surface and only be revealed in hints and half-truths. In these cavernous rooms you might find cities or ruins or ten-mile-high abomination gods made of inexpertly conjoined crows."
If A House of Many Doors is a weirder Sunless Sea with procedural places, that'd be dandy. If it's even more than that, I'll be very pleasantly surprised. July 2016 is the planned launch window and a £5 pledge is enough to secure a copy of the game.
You can read more about Failbetter's involvement here. And if you think the whole thing looks a little too much like Sunless Sea, this comment from the creator might set your mind at ease.
It has real-time-with-pause combat where crew placement and damage to vehicle components are very important. It is also extremely focused on procedural generation - almost all of the House consists of procedurally-generated architecture, and half of the crew are also procedurally-generated. The player character is a poet, and writing proc-gen poetry is one of the core loops of the game.