Those Dark Places (2020)

Those Dark Places (2020) is an industrial science fiction RPG set in space. That sounds pretty narrow, but it is actually a broad umbrella and can sit comfortably on the shelf next to Alien, Mothership, Death in Space and similarly themed games. There is a surprising range of tones in this niche!

The very conversational rules present a simple attribute based system. Tests roll a D6, add the attribute value and try to beat a 7 (usually; easier tasks beat a 6, harder ones an 8). Rolling the exact target number gives the player a partial success. There’s a Pressure attribute that can both help and hinder, same as Stress in Alien and Mothership. That’s basically it, system-wise!

The rest of the book is for the GM, explaining how to run the game, handle the rules, structure scenarios and all that. There’s info on equipment and stuff like ships and how life in space works (the better to complicate it). A short adventure is suitably horrific and tests player morality as much as their will to survive.

It’s pretty great and refreshingly generic. The other space/tension RPGs all have very specific agendas that are reflected in their mechanics. You can’t run an RPG that’s JUST about space truckin’ with Alien, it just won’t work mechanically. Eventually, Alien requires aliens, and monstrous deaths and a little bit of betrayal. Those Dark Places isn’t tied to the specifics of theme that way. It CAN be used to run an Alien-style tension-fest, but it can also be used to run any other sort of deep space game you might want to cobble together, where space is a constant threat to human survival, and probably enough of a threat without the people-eating aliens.

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