The Facility

The Facility is a one-shot roleplaying game written by yours truly. You can get it, PWYW, from DriveThruRPG and itch.io. Yes, that means you can get it for free, I won’t judge. It is a body horror reverse dungeon crawl metroidvania. If that word salad of a classification didn’t scare you away but didn’t quite convince you either, read on.

The core mechanic of The Facility is unique, at least as far as I’m aware. Trouble is, the gradual unveiling of this mechanic is a part of the experience for players, so I don’t want to spoil it. If you’re reading this, you’re likely a GM and aren’t afraid of spoilers, but if not, you’ve been warned.

The characters are the unfortunate captives of the Facility, trying to escape from it once They have left. Who’re They? Captors, tormentors, experimenters, the unseen horror, the true evil, the mystery never to be answered.

The same experiments and modifications that were inflicted upon the characters will help them escape. Throughout the game, the characters discover what’s been done to them, unlocking various abilities. The modifications are represented by cards which contain their name, but what they do is entirely up to the players, though there are suggestions in the text.

The Facility itself is a strange, alien place. I had quite a lot of fun making up a dungeon that was bizzare yet made some semblance of twisted sense. The Facility takes people and wrings misery and pain out of them. It is a factory producing anguish – quite literally.

While this is a horror game in which the characters were experimented on by indescribable horrors and will likely be dismembered during its course, I tried not to cross the boundaries of good taste. It’s not shocking or gross or nasty just for the sake of being that way. Naturally, your boundaries may differ from mine, not everyone has the same ideas for what constitutes a tasteful dismemberment.

The entire game was built around a single idea: what if the state of the character sheet reflected the state of the character? Horrific things happen to our characters all the time, yet we track them by incrementing a number on the paper. It’s fine, it’s functional. But can we go further?

When a character is wounded in The Facility, they lose a part of the character sheet: it gets physically torn off. The rest followed: monstrous modifications that get glued onto and cover the character sheet, filling out the character sheet with memories of a life once lived, the struggle to hold on to these pieces of humanity in a horrible place, the Facility itself.

All that remains of the survivors of the Facility (the character sheets have been slightly modified since then)

The mechanics and the adventure intertwined and grew out of one another. That’s why this is something of an unusual proposition: not just a one-shot scenario, but a one-shot game.

Defacing character sheets is a gimmick, certainly. It’s theatrics. But it works (of course I would say that). Hence the spoiler warning: the look on your players’ faces when they realise they have to glue a modification card over a part of their character sheet will be worth it.

There is an unfortunate consequence of the physicality of this game: while it’s possible to play it online using some canny combination of tools to approximate the character sheet manipulations, I don’t think it’ll have the same emotional impact. But hey, prove me wrong. The mechanics and the adventure itself stand on their own and should provide for an entertaining evening.

And did I mention there’s amazing art? Graham Hannah, one of my players, has produced a truly astonishing map. Here’s just a taste of it:

So far I’ve been focusing on getting this game finished, but I’d like to explore the concept further. A standalone version which lets you tell your own stories would be quite neat. We’ll see how it goes.

P.S.: If you’ve played through the game, do let me know how it went! And for bonus points, post a photo of what remains of the character sheets on twitter along with #SurvivorsOfTheFacility, or @magbonch, or, I don’t know, send a carrier pigeon? I’d love to see it, is the point.

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