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i think im gonna hack this


Black Mass is a 62 page, black-and-white, tarot-based storytelling rpg (and accompanying soundtrack!) set during the witchcraft accusation hysteria of the late 1600s in colonial America. It has gorgeous, evocative art and clear layout, and it's also probably one of the most complex, nuanced character studies I've seen in interactive fiction.

Mechanics-wise, Black Mass is a little similar to Bluebeard's Bride, but you play as the personas for two different characters rather than one, and the game is less of a funnel through a series of bedrooms inhabited by abusive skeletons than it is an open-ended exploration of an ominous New England woodland.

Black Mass does tackle some heavy material, but it also puts a good deal of effort into warning folks upfront, offering safety mechanics, and recommending alternatives. There's even a suggestion for using playing cards instead of tarot if people aren't comfortable with tarot---which works due to the shared history of playing cards and tarot---and this wasn't an accommodation I expected to see in a game that was already about the occult. There's also three broad modes of play, named after different months, and which allow you to pick the content, tone, and themes of your game before you start.

The game itself is divided into phases, with the first serving as a sort of communal storytelling prologue, and the second as something closer to a supernatural horror adventure game, and the third returning to the communal storytelling format. During the second phase, the rules change considerably and the game gains a fair bit of crunch (using portions of the tarot deck to make skill checks, giving the characters special abilities based on their personas, and relying on a GM to push the narrative along.) Everything is extremely flavorful, and I personally really like this shift from storytelling to mechanics and back to storytelling again---although I acknowledge it may not be everyone's preferred thing.

Overall, if you like the idea of an atmospheric horror rpg that doesn't really lean so heavily into the horror, if you like the idea of a game that's a deep character study with a lot of scaleable interconnecting elements, or if you just really liked the movie The VVitch, this is a steal for $9. I would strongly recommend checking this out.

Minor Issues:

-Some headings display with a line through them, rather than underneath them. This looks a little weird.

-Page 48 "It emerged as the Massachusetts was settled" is the 'the' part of the intended phrasing?

-Page 48 and 49, there's some scribbles on the page that are a little jarring, and that pulled me right out of the immersion. Are these an intended element?


I haven't played this yet, and I don't have a group, so I don't know when I'll have the chance, but I have to say that just reading through the zine was a delight. You clearly put a lot of time and creative energy into it, and your writing (and the brilliant illustrations!) was fantastic at creating an atmosphere that I wanted to dive into headfirst. The personas are intriguing and the questions about them eerie and inspiring, it makes me want to start jotting down ideas. Very nice work, and thank you for including it in the bundle!

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I'm down to play with you!! - i have a few friends who would be down too

Oh, that'd be awesome! Do you have a discord or something where we could talk about it more?