Hopeless Role Play

As a young human, I played a fair few role play systems and it was a significant part of my life. One of the normal features of a role play game is that the world is… well… world sized. The setting you game in is usually as large as your imagination is willing to invest in.

A role play game set on Hopeless Maine is clearly a very different kettle of fish (or tentacles). It is, by any definition, a rather small setting. You could walk across it in a matter of days, and one of the features of the island is that it is very hard to leave it and go elsewhere. It is a tiny reality of its own, full of weirdness, but it is not really how most role play worlds function.

But, small can be beautiful. Small can be really intense and there’s not much scope to run away from the consequences of your actions. Everything you do as a player on Hopeless will stay round to haunt you – probably in a literal sort of way. You can’t just leave town and move on if things don’t go well, or you’ve nabbed the treasure or made an enemy. Outside of town, beyond the farms it is difficult to survive, which is why people mostly aren’t living there.

Hopeless as a role play setting is really good for intense scenarios. It lends itself to mysteries and murder mysteries. If you’re looking for a setting where your characters will have to make long term relationships with NPCs, this is for you. If you’re looking for situations where people have to think and role play rather than dungeon crawl, Hopeless works well. It’s not going to be the right setting for anyone who wants to spend their time slaying monsters, grabbing treasure and hooking up with pretty NPCs. But, if you like your gaming experiences to be weirder, more gothic and with more focus on the role play, this could well be the ideal setting for you.

The Hopeless Maine role play game has been a work in progress – and largely the work of Keith Healing – for some time now. We will have some significant news for you soon, we think, which is why I’m dangling this teaser-tentacle today. Also, the cover above is the old cover, there will be a new cover soon…

Durosimi – the Magician

Durosimi O’Stoat is Salamandra’s father in at least some senses of the word. But not all of them. He is obsessed with magic, and power and the quest for more of those things. No bargain is too dangerous, no spell too twisted, no pact unthinkable.

Sometimes I impress myself,

Although I am not easily impressed

My standards are high.

(Art by Dr Abbey, small poem by Nimue)

Life with spoons

What did spoonwalkers do before there were spoons on the island? Their bodies are soft, their tentacles might otherwise be used for dragging their delicate flesh over the cold, hard, unforgiving ground… Clearly this is no way to live. Although, it is easy to imagine that their mournful faces are somehow the consequence of generations of soft bodies dragged mercilessly over the island’s harsh terrain.

Before the spoons, there were sticks. Of course the island has a lot of sticks, so you might wonder why a creature would give up such a plentiful supply of stilts in favour of scavenging for spoons. But spoons tend to be of a size with each other. The spoonwalkers cannot break sticks to get the right length, and finding a really well matched set of sticks, like in weight and length, is no easy task. And then, those perfect sticks will not last. The island is a damp place. Water will inevitably get into the wood and the wood will rot and when you are running for your life, a suddenly breaking stick can be the death of you. Spoons do not break, and many a spoonwalker has escaped being eaten by a glass heroin for just this reason.

There is also the shiny factor. You will never see a spoonwalker with dirty spoons – at least you won’t unless it is at that moment fleeing through mud from something that means it harm. Spoonwalkers lovingly polish their spoons, using leaves to clear away dirt, licking the spoons and rubbing them to make them shine. There isn’t much on the island that naturally shines with the lustre of polished cutlery. It appears that the spoonwalkers have fallen in love with shiny metal.

And so, if you wake at night and hear a soft ‘zee-boo, zee-boo’ sound from within the darkness of your home, it is likely the sound of a spoonwalker who has stolen one of your socks and is huffing gently to itself as it polishes the spoons you will never see again.

(This was written for a rather exciting thing Gregg from Dark Box is doing – a Hopeless Maine project that has drawn in other Hopeless family members… watch this space…)

Alicia Poe – a Hopeless Ghost

I am the ghost of the girl you killed

Over and over when you silenced me

Every time you deprived me of peace

Told me to be nice, say nothing of anything

That is not nice even as it happened to me.

I am the ghost of the girl not allowed

To cry in the night, in pain, in fear.

Shut up or I’ll give you something to cry about.

I am the ghost of the woman you killed

Over and over, when you denied me

The right to be myself, to have my feelings

When you shut down my thoughts,

Ignored my needs, turned my pain

And my despair into irrelevant nothing.

Locked me in the house for my own good

Then in the attic since I could not be trusted

To act in my own best interests.

Saying only you knew what was right for me

Only you could say what was good and proper.

You said nothing is more tragically romantic

Than the untimely death of a beautiful

Young woman. And how you smiled

When you said that to me.

I am the ghost of the woman you killed

And I have all the time in the world

For my revenge.

(Art by Dr Abbey, poem inspired by the art, and a bit of a snarl at Edgar Allen Poe, who really did say something to the effect that the death of a beautiful young woman was the only real subject for literature)

Bringing Salamandra Home

The sea gives, and the sea takes.

It takes the heat from your body and the breath from your lungs.

It gives you mystery and awe.

It takes the living, and gives back the dead.

It takes the dead and gives back the beyond dead… the changed… the terrifying.

The sea takes from the living and gives us shipwrecks, salvage, treasures to use for daily life.

It gives us people who did not want to be here.

And sometimes, just sometimes, what the sea brings to us

Is life.

Japanese Salamandra

Those of you who have read Volume 3 – Victims – will know there’s a silly bit where Owen and Salamandra are going to a party. Salamandra has always been good at illusions and likes messing about with appearances, so she dresses them up. I was vague with the script, suggesting that Owen’s might be more silly and less flattering. Tom decided to give Salamandra a distinctly Japanese look.

This caught Dr Abbey’s imagination, and below is his take on Sal in her party gear.

Of course it raised questions – not least being why Salamandra chooses to look this way at this moment.

There are outside the story reasons – that this is an aesthetic Tom likes, and that he has always wanted to appeal to a Japanese audience is most of it. Manga has been a big influence on Mr Brown and there’s a desire to offer something back. Also, this is how Tom does things – he draws whatever arrives in his head and then someone else (usually, but not always me) has to work out how that makes any kind of sense.

So, why is Salamandra inclined to look this way? Has she seen an image like this in a book? Was there a dream, or a scrying experience? Is there a slightly disturbing doll of her mother’s somewhere, wearing just this attire?

I don’t know. Maybe you do. If you are the person who knows how this story goes, please do get in touch and tell us!

Jed Grimes

Jed Grimes runs the Hopeless Maine hardware store. However, sourcing on Hopeless is a bit haphazard. People who make stuff tend to want to sell or trade it themselves. Mostly what Jed sells is stuff he has scavenged, and he’s a really good scavenger. He also plays the long game. When a ship flounders off the Hopeless coast, most people are out there looking for exciting things they can use or eat straight away. Jed takes home bits of wood, and nails.

He’s really into nails.

Jed is also the sort of person to take a length of heavy ship’s rope and pick it apart for usable threads. He’s almost as much into string as he is nails.

If you’ve read Hopeless Maine: Victims, you’ll already know a few other things about Jed. His life is complicated, but, no spoilers for the people who haven’t got that far.

Young Salamandra

This week we bring you another Dr Abbey art.

There is an extra story to tell with this one, and on this occasion it is more about the materials than the image. That textured paper was my grandmother’s. I inherited her art equipment, and had quite a stash of paper and oil pastels that were hers. It’s been good putting the paper to use, and I’ve wondered repeatedly what she would make of this process. Hopeless is very different from the kind of art she used to do.

I’m fairly sure that some of the colouring materials used in this were from Dr Abbey’s family as well, and that it is a meeting of people in a rather magical way.

Hopeless, Maine returns to North America with Outland Entertainment

Hello people! (and others)

We can now reveal that Hopeless, Maine is returning to North America with Outland Entertainment! The first two volumes will be printed and released soon, along with illustrated prose novels by Nimue Brown and Keith Errington and the Hopeless, Maine RPG is in development and may well be out at the same time. Here is the press release! 

Cover art – collaboration between Nimue and myself.

James Weaselgrease and the bear

The above image comes from The Gathering. The young man on the right is a very young James Weaselgrease (to use my son’s steampunk performance name). He is the child in this story who Salamandra rescues and to whom she gives her bear.

 

James Weaselgrease and the bear

 

She gave me this small toy bear

Torn, battered, restored with care

Softness in my open arms

Best of magic, best of charms.

 

Old toy bear to ward off fear

Wonky face and sewn up ear

Damaged but not yet destroyed

Comforting, my spirits buoyed

 

Courage with a messy face

Saved, repaired and full of grace

Saw who I could choose to be

Found the hope to uplift me.

 

Nights are long and dark and grim

Demons tear us limb from limb

Days are cold and grim and grey

Much to steal your life away.

 

Even in the darkness, light

Find the means to live and fight

Fill this time with something good

Do the best, the most we could.

 

In each tiny action seek

Kindest ways, protect the weak

Every chance there is for joy

All your wits and strength deploy

 

She gave me this bear to hold

Ease my fear and make me bold

Do for others what I can

And this is how my work began.

 

Image at the top by Tom Brown, poem by Nimue, bear by Dr Abbey.

News for the residents of Hopeless, Maine.