Working on ReAnimator
You might've seen the frantic past two weeks where I was, as part of Lynnvander Studios, one of the folks working with Dynamite on the ReAnimator Kickstarter. I put a lot of work into this game and the parts surrounding it, and it has been an amazing experience.
We did a good chunk above and beyond what we were looking for, but the biggest lessons I gained from it has definitely been working with voice and playing within one of the most iconic bodies of mythos in our world. Though we started with the original short story of Herbert West: Reanimator by H.P. Lovecraft, it wasn't long before we started pushing both into the rest of Lovecraft's works, along with his contemporaries, and into the work that Dynamite has done.
Careful not to Steal
There's a lot of people who have done different takes on Lovecraft, taking a myriad of things and blending them together. When looking over that gigantic morass of potential, we had to be extremely careful to avoid stepping on anyone else's toes. With so many of these different takes, we had to ensure that we weren't inadvertently stealing from them. Chambers, Blackwood, Lovecraft; they were all open game. Writers who lived after them, worked after them, many of them are not. We avoided them like the plague.
Let's get Lovecraft
Despite being one of his works that Lovecraft hated the most, Reanimator still has some very interesting things going on in it. The first two serials, in particular, have some neat narrative choices and ways of discussing, and even occasionally undermining, the mechanistic view towards life that is one of the primary themes of the piece. Since it is a first-person narrative, though much in the tradition of Dr. John Watson being the less interesting character who tells us what the more interesting character is doing, it also has some neat things that come from the nature of feeling like a very concrete warning about a world, the feeling of being a found document.
Translating that narrative style and the thematic ethos into the cards, while also staying true to Dynamite's particular interpretation of the Reanimator mythos. They've gone a different direction with it, growing Herbert West and eschewing the original narrator.
To address this, I tried to stay honest to two main things; the voice and the tone of the work. Speech patterns included on the cards in the game are oriented to sound more like the narrator of the original story. Even Dynamite's Herbert West sounds like a man out of time, and I endeavored to use word choices that supported a continuous voice across the multiple products.
Matching theme was another story. So much of the original is based on the tension between whether mankind can and ought to try to fully master their world. Many of the subplots built into the game are varying riffs upon that original idea. Whether or not the world is mechanistic, whether or not humanity should blindly attempt to master nature.
When drawing on Lovecraft's other works, as well as those from Chambers and others, we kept riffing on that original idea, working off of that core theme. Even when there are nods, sly and otherwise, towards icons of horror, we tried to keep that concept in mind. Given that the players and Herbert West are, by nature of their work, forced to try to overcome nature, the cards bring up instances where the players should be questioning how far they would go for something they believe in.
Every piece of the game tried to serve this goal, but it is invariably one that has a large amount of writing in it. Subplots build up into serial into more. If you end up picking it up, I really hope you enjoy it.