Playing ViewScream

As there weren’t enough players for Haralds planned bi-weekly Labyrinth Lord game, he decided to run ViewScream instead. ViewScream, which is just now running the Kickstarter for the 2nd Edition, is a game that is explicitly designed to be played via videochat.

Rafael Chandler is surely no „Indie Author“ anymore, although his RPG products probably get lumped into that category. But he is a brilliant horror game designer if you ask me — and ViewScream, which plays on the isolation and despair of people sitting alone somewhere, reaching out to their colleagues for help, is an even more brilliant idea. The general mechanic is this: Everyone is alone, connected to the others via videochat. And everyone has at least one, maybe even more dire Emergency at hand, that is threatening their lives, and that they cannot solve by themselves. Your only hope for rescue? Someone else has to use up one of their Solutions (basically one or two sentences of technobabble that the game providesto you) and apply that to your problem.

In our game, each of us had three Solutions and two Emergencies — the kicker being, that not all of those solutions would actually work! None of your fellow players know how many Solutions you actually have, nor which of those will be successful: There are small indicators next to every Solution, telling you if they would work or not. So you pick a solution, narrate how you’d apply them, and then, more often than not, let the other players know that, alas, they weren’t working for some reason or the other… or that they were saved, because the solution did work. But the game is actually rigged in a way, that there usually are more Emergencies than workable Solutions. Enter the haggling, backstabbing, pleading and outright begging!

Yesterday, Harald threw us into some cyberpunk world, where we were just returning from what was supposed to be an easy-in, easy-out hack into some virtual world. Except it went horribly wrong, we probably had a traitor in our midst, the enforcers were on our asses, our equipment sprouted the most disturbing bugs and the clock was ticking…

About halfway through the game (which took about an hour), I realized that my character wouldn’t make it. So I let the virtual ghost that was riding my system take over and scare the bejeebus out of my fellow players, who were so eager to sacrifice me for their own sakes…

(The girlfriend was reading in the room next to me and later stated that she was on the verge of calling an excorcist to get those demons out of me.)

In the end, this was the most fun I ever had in a Hangout RPG session. The game provides custom overlays that enhance the mood, and the game mechanics are as close to freeform as you can get — while still providing enough structure and crunch to make things interesting on that angle.

The different characters are described in a gender-neutral and just vague enough way that basically everyone can fill those roles. But they are also provided with hooks and connections to each other to keep the game running and interesting. ViewScream encourages you to never leave character during gameplay, and as you never need to grab some dice or do anything that isn’t covered by the narrative, things feel very natural.

The first edition (with slightly clunkier rules) is free on DriveThruRPG, and the 2nd Edition is 10 bucks well spent on Kickstarter. If you are even remotely interested in playing a Horror game or in playing over videochat, you want to try this out!

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