Dead inside is an ?Modern/Urban Fantasy? RPG that puts players in the roles of the ?Dead Inside?, humans that have lost their souls, by trickery, by theft, by their own corruption and decay, by a soul crushing failure, by accidentally misplacing it, or the most unfair of all, never having had a whole soul to being with. Faced with this fact, the characters must strive for their soul, whether taking back what was lost or stolen, re-growing what they have, or stealing or consuming another. They do this by finding their way from the cold, spiritless Real World into the Spirit World, where the energy of the spirit is alive.
The Real World is host to many creatures, from the mostly spiritually unseeing and unreachable ?Ensouled (Average People), to the Sensitives, gifted with brighter souls and the second sight (I see dead people!), to the Dead Inside, aware of the world of the spirit by the loss of the soul which kept them content, to Ghosts, spirits whose bodies have died but whose spirits remain. Then there are Zombis, Dead Inside whose lives ended, but not their existence, and the Magi, whose great spiritual energy allows them powers and the chance for True Immortality. Many of these creatures can be found in the Spirit World as well, along with Tulpas, beings of thought given life by their creators to whom they are enslaved, Free Spirits, Tulpas who have gained free will, mysterious Imagos, spiritual beings that guide and direct others, and dreaded Qlippoth, beings who have lost all their souls, yet not passed on, feeding on the souls of others to fill the emptiness that consumes them. The cosmology of the setting is fairly existential (i.e. all we know is that we exist and this is what the universe is like) and sidesteps any annoying dogma or message by the author.
SOUL POINTS & THE FOCUS OF THE GAME
Players take on the role of Dead Inside, or Sensitives and Magi, following their particular path within the dream-like environment of the Spirit World, at the center of which lies the ever-changing City. Most of play involves the character?s quests to regain their soul, for the dead inside, gaining greater knowledge for the Sensitives, and attain immortality for the Magi, depending on the type of campaign being played. This spiritual journey is tracked by the character?s gain and loss of Spirit points. Which can be acquired nobly by hewing to their Virtues and resisting their Vices (the exact nature of which can be chosen by the players and GM?s), referred to as soul cultivation, or stolen by preying upon other dead inside or consuming ghosts. Though stealing soul points this way is quick (easier, quicker the dark side is.), it can have diminishing returns as doing so causes soul decay for the character.
As players gain these soul points they can use them to evolve from Dead Inside to Sensitives, and from Sensitives to Magi, whose ultimate goal is to achieve True Immortality. To make matters more complicated, the players must deal with their own psyche within the spirit world, in the form of their parasitic shadow. Soul Points lost to soul decay go the character?s shadow, a part of the character intent on indulging their base desires, at once enemy and ally, inextricably linked to the character. A character?s powers are fueled by the use of soul points and, in some cases, his basic spiritual abilities. Abilities and Powers are less effective and require more soul points to use in the cold, hard Real World. Finally, soul points are used as a form of money for commerce in the spirit world. Thus, soul points, and the acquiring, loss, and spending thereof, form the main crux of play.
The GM?s chapter provides ample advice on how to setup a campaign based on the various player types, and decide upon the focus of their adventures, as well as handle the tone and style of the game. It can be New-agey hippy self-improvement, or a harsh struggle to eat or be eaten, or more likely somewhere in between, depending on the type of play in which the GM and players are interested.
Dead Inside uses the Prose Descriptive Qualities (PDQ) system for resolution. This rules-light system rates players abilities as poor [-2], Average , Good [+2], Expert [+4], and Master [+6]. Which is the rating added to a 2D6 roll and compared against a Difficulty to determine success, with a Difficulty of 7 being average. Qualities are freeform in his game, and are chosen by the players, with examples given for various categories. Any ability not described for a character is assumed to be Average . The system uses multi-step conflict resolution, resolving the results of the actual conflict, rather than individual tasks. As part of this conflict resolution process, characters can suffer Failure, or Damage Ranks, which are then used to reduce their listed abilities.
When all of their listed abilities have been reduced in this manner, they are out of the conflict, and have lost. A character that loses a combat conflict isn?t automatically dead however, as a player must specifically state that he is going to kill a character on the losing side of a conflict. After an appropriate time after a conflict, a character?s abilities return to normal, depending on the nature of the conflict. This system can be pretty random, and players can quickly be wiped out, and lose a conflict, by a lucky die roll. Certain abilities, however, can be used to provide ?armor?, thereby allowing you to ignore damage from a conflict, at the cost of temporarily reducing that quality. As you can see, the system is rather abstract and there is not much crunch and little detail involved in its application. It favors a narrative approach, indeed there is a ?Being Badass? rule that rewards players who come up with compelling action description.
ARTWORK & PRESENTATION
The PDF itself is a 128 page document, done in a 2 column format with a non-descript and functional layout. Section headings are in a large bold font, text in an fairly easy to read serif font, fiction and mood material is in different font and indented. Important notes and are block quoted in italics, and there textboxes with explanations, examples, and additional rules as well. Overall it is readable and functional, with no fancy borders or excess white space to waste your ink. The artwork is acceptable, if rather amateurish in spots, many pieces of which are done in a ?pen-doodles-on-a-high-school-notebook? style. My favorite piece is the Qlippoth(?) on page 36.
Dead Inside presents a unique and interesting game experience to its players, as noted by designer Chad Underkoffer in his forward, one meant to turn the ?Kill Things and Take Their Stuff? meme of most games on its head. With the choices of Dead Inside, Sensitive, and Magi characters, as well as Free Spirits, and Ghosts, it provides many different options for play and depending on what elements the players stress it can offer an introspective, surreal, heroic, or horrific tone. The rules-light nature of the system and the narrative emphasis of the mechanics can well serve the dreamlike nature of the Spirit World and support the thrust of the game well. So if you are looking for something a bit different than say Wraith, or your typical horror game, or just something besides the old KTaTTS grind, I recommend you give Dead Inside a look.
<br><br><b>LIKED</b>: Qlippoth are neat, and Eyes of the Dead God, and I like the dichotomy of being able to prey on others to gain spirit points or to be virtuous and self-less.<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: the PDQ system can be pretty random in conflicts, the artwork was pretty weak. <br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Very Good<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Satisfied<br><BR>[THIS REVIEW WAS EDITED]<BR>