Master Mines

We’re digging RPGs

Back to the outside

Let’s leave game aside for a bit and, inspired by all y’all’s recent talk about the importance of setting, dig into some story.

Here’s all of the extant background material for Outside Men. (Be not afraid; it ought to fit in your browser window without scrolling.) This is the game I came into Master Mines with, and I’ve switched projects like eighty dozen hundred times, but it’s okay; we’re doing light duty today.

What I want to know from you is: what kind of stories come to mind when you think of the Outside Men setting? Lovecraftian ones, I hope, but which ones? (My grounding in the actual literature is woefully thin.) Maybe The Road by Cormac McCarthy? Been meaning to look at that. The Thing, probably? What else should I put on my reading/consuming list? (Please do not say a whole lot of technothrillers okthxbye)

And, for extra credit: based on the sketch on the Outside Men page, how do you think playing the game might feel, in terms of interactions between people? I’m looking for wild blue-ocean speculation here.


March 18, 2008 - Posted by | Games in Development, Outside Men


  1. Mike,

    It sounds like you’re trying to two different kinds of stories here — playing the living Outside Men stopping the dead Outside Men, and playing the dead Outside Men who are trying to push forward their plans amidst struggle. To put it in Call of Cthulhu terms, the hapless investigators or the cultists.

    It also seems like there’s some sort of uneasy truce or something going on. I mean, to quit the company but hang around in the town as a regular worker suggests that it’s safe to just bum around town. Without any further explanation, that cuts some of the tension for me. If their goal is to stop the company from doing its shit, why are they taking up jobs in a town where the dead Outside Men would recognize them?

    Furthermore, why take up these crap-paying jobs at all, when you probably made a good deal of cash as a contractor and your reason for being up here isn’t to work in a diner, but to stop a horrible thing from happening?

    In your head, I’m sure there’s a reason. I want to tease it out of you some.

    While you mentioned no technothrillers, I will say that this oddly reminds me of the zombie elements persistent in the Borg from Star Trek — you reduce your foes not by eliminating them, but by also simultaneously conscripting them (almost) postmortem. Which I guess is to say it reminds me of the true horror of fighting against zombies — not that you’ll die, but that death is just the beginning & the horde grows ever larger.

    I’d like to know more about this dead Outside Men.

    Comment by Ryan Macklin | March 19, 2008 | Reply

  2. Mike,

    Outside Men came out of Jason Morningstar’s undead copy technicians in Alaska challenge (or whatever the specifics were), right? In keeping with Ryan’s post, what about those specifics still intrigues you? There are some interesting ideas here, but some of them are buried and the rest seem in conflict with one another. I hate to ask you questions when you’re looking for answers, but what’s the core of Outside Men to you?

    I’m concerned that if you’re looking for source material you feel you should absorb before working on the project, it may not be the project for you. Additional research is fine, or fleshing out basic knowledge you already have; starting from scratch with a new genre or area is quite another. (This is a variation of Write What You Know, but I think it still holds true here.)

    Comment by Matthew Gandy | March 19, 2008 | Reply

  3. Matthew – I’m not a big fan of Write What You Know. Most of what I know, I’m already bored of, I feel like “seen it.” I’m a bigger fan of Write What You Want To Know More About. And within that, I don’t think you can possibly help writing what you know.

    That said, there may be elements of the challenge to throw out, and if you squint you can kind of tell which ones I’ve thrown out already. Things like proximity to Anchorage are really just there because they were required; I really want a remote, barely-populated town. Also I may ditch the specific ancient language and go more explicitly Lovecraftian with that part.

    What compels me, still, about Outside Men is the aspect of total outsider nerds traveling into a forbidding, lonesome, cold environment, being anti-social, and working either to save the world or destroy it – and nobody knows which, not even necessarily themselves. I hope that the metaphorical resonances there don’t need to be explained in too much detail.

    Ryan – the heart of Outside Men is somewhere in, or near, the fact that each character may be working for one side or the other, and that is secret information. Some of them went there to do something terrible – the rest got wind of this and knew they had to go there to stop the others. Some of them are one side and posing as being on the other. Some of them may have switched sides. That’s the single story I am playing: intrigue and double-crossing amidst high stakes and near-total isolation.

    I guess I need to take in a lot of noir.

    Comment by misuba | March 19, 2008 | Reply

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