Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Demon City

An all-new horror game by Zak Sabbath (and some other people). It uses tarot cards instead of dice.

Donate to Patreon to help get it made here

All the posts about the game so far are collected under the Demon City tag here--many of the mechanics posts concetn old rules that've been changed since the original iteration.
Murder, corruption, death, whiskey, hate, night, darkness, noise, summoning, possession, car chases, claws, disorder, firearms, glass shattering, bathtubs filled with blood, devoured corpses, neon, broken men, fear.

The System

The Demon City system is based on simulating the kinds of struggles that characters typically experience in horror movies and other horror fiction. In those struggles, it’s usually important who is better, but how much better is less important. For example, a 90-pound weakling is likely to fail to dodge a supernaturally puissant tentacle from the Ninth Archon of the Drown Dimension and be knocked off a roof into a dumpster, but they’re about equally likely to fail to dodge a punch from the school bully and end up in the same dumpster. How much better, faster, stronger, smarter matters in military simulations and superhero games, but only which side is better matters much in horror. In horror, fights are relatively quick and decisive—as are many other contests.

What’s important in Demon City is simply who has a better stat, not how much better it is. Broadly, it works like this:

Most situations are resolved via opposed rolls: each side rolls a d10 and the high roll wins.

If the opponents have different stats, the opponent with the higher stat in the relevant contest gets to roll an extra d10—and the superior side uses whichever of their d10 rolls is highest in the contest.

In certain specific contests, extra dice may be alotted based on the situation—for example, in combat: not only does the character with the highest skill get an extra die, but the character who is in the more advantageous tactical position (skill aside) gets an extra die. To take another example: If one character is looking for another in a warehouse at night, the pursuer might get an extra die if their Perception was better than their target’s Stealth, but the pursued would get an extra die if the crates were densely packed and the floor too clean to hold footprints.

No matter what, the highest die on either side is compared, and the high roll wins.

The more goes into the Patreon, the more time I spend on Demon City instead of my day job making paintings, and the faster the art and writing gets finished and shown to publishers. There are a variety of backer rewards from getting your name on the NPC list to getting original art from the game. If you've got ideas for rewards let me know.

Demon City will be an entirely new modern noir/crime/horror game--independent of any other system or setting. I'd like to create a whole game from scratch entirely outside the constraints of working for some company.

This will be a complete game on every level you'd expect: classes, demon creatures, rituals, advice on running horror, tables and tips for running modern horror in the city, the whole nine yards.




David Rollins said...

I like the concept for resolving conflict. It's fast, simple and flexible. That's all the high notes for me when it comes to game mechanics.

The setting sounds like a lot of fun too! The art you shared here has me excited about this project! I'm looking forward to seeing this thing unfold. I'll be contributing as soon as I can manage it.

Jeremy Smith said...

Backed the Patreon. Can't wait to see it develop and eventually buy a copy!

Zach Sweetland said...

Count me in. I've been waiting for a full game from you. Sounds wicked.

Sean McCoy said...

Yes!! This looks awesome. I'm in.

Johann said...

I'll probably blindly purchase it for all the ideas (I love your other stuff) but the central mechanic leaves me cold. I prefer a mechanic that actually allows me to estimate my chances of success. I dig your explanation of why you won't need degree of success here, though.

Zak Sabbath said...

This mechanic does allow you to estimate your chances of success.
It's 50-50 if you're equal, 25-75 if the enemy has 1 extra die on you, etc.

G. B. Veras said...

How you will handle ties?

Zach Sweetland said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Zach Sweetland said...

I'm gonna make an assumption that it would go to the highest stat. Beyond that...I'd also be interested to know.

*edited for spelling...

G. B. Veras said...

Using the Troll dice roller, I have found these probabilities...

1d10 vs 1d10
45.00% of Win
10.00% of Tie
45.00% of Lose

best 2d10 vs 1d10
61.50% of Win
10.00% of Tie
28.50% of Lose

best 2d10 vs best 2d10
43.35% of Win
13.30% of Tie
43.35% of Lose

best 2d10 vs worst 2d10
79,65% of Win
6.70% of Tie
13.65% of Lose

worst 2d10 vs worst 2d10
43.35% of Win
13.30% of Tie
43.35% of Lose

1d10 vs worst 2d10
61.50% of Win
10.00% of Tie
28.50% of Lose

Zak Sabbath said...

Ties mean different things depending on the specific test.
There will be a specific post on combat, but in combat a tie will mean that basically there has been a stalemate for the moment (both parties are as they were at the beginning of the clash) but the GM must also alter the situation around them.

Like, someone shoots someone on the fire escape, misses, but then a crowd of people begins to gather on the streets below.

Again: horror movie logic--a longer fight indicates more developments and complications.

Charlie Vick said...

After reading your article from 2012, Hunter/Hunted, about running investigative horror without railroading, I am very excited for this. Do you figure that structure is going to get some use in any of the Demon City material?

Zak Sabbath said...


Ro Annis said...

I'm in. This looks fun. I think creating images first and using them to shape the game engine is a way to make something that can be "not another x". I design adventures scribbling drawings first, it's way more interesting. I look at your image of the ashtray and immediately wonder...if the cigarettes are smoked using your left hand that just handled dead flesh and then arranged a certain way...could you read them like tea leaves? Words would not have opened that door for me.

Meta said...

Gorgeous art !

Your dislike of systems which try to quantify "how much" success is accomplished in horror settings is an interesting assumption. I'm looking forward which other fundamentals you will introduce in your game apart from this clever one, especially concerning your treatment of horror : I'm presuming you will let the players be afraid without any guiding rules (like J. Raggi), and that you will assume that art and thematics are sufficient without using any fear or sanity mechanics, but I can be mistaken...

"for running modern horror in the city, the whole nine yards" : will you create a setting, with plot and/or history for the setting, like in "Maze of th blue Medusa" ? Or will it be a more generic setting like "Vornheim" ?

CipherTest said...

Anything incubating on what format this will end up in if you had it your way? Hardcover, boxed set (yasssplz)?

Jorge Jaramillo Villarruel said...

Sounds great, but it would be perfect if you could have Amazon to sell it because shipping to Mexico is becoming more and more prohibitive.

Tamás Kisbali said...

Every time I see "Demon City", this song starts playing in my head: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JrDaKV-kE2M

Which is a good thing.

fred said...

Could I use D6 instead of D10? Even heads and tails... Odds are the same, aren't they

Zak Sabbath said...


Chances of a tie aren't the same though-- and I want ability scores to double as target numbers and have 10 points of articulation.

fred said...

Guess I need to flip some pages...