Interview: Bedlam Hall’s David Kizzia

Bedlam Hall 1
Art by Michael Tuck

I’ve always loved Ravenloft and Vampire: The Masquerade, so it’s neat seeing the term “dreadpunk” popping up in the gaming world. A couple of months ago, a friend pointed me to a Kickstarter for Bedlam Hall, a game that was proudly flying the dreadpunk flag.

But as cool as it is to see the term being used by people I don’t know (i.e. “people not humoring me”), it’s even cooler when they pick up on the humor. And it looks like Bedlam Hall taps right into that.

Writer David Kizzia reached out to me a while back, and took some time out to answer some questions about his upcoming game:

Derek Tatum: So what is the elevator pitch for Bedlam Hall?

David Kizzia: Bedlam Hall is best described as Downton Abbey meets the Addams Family, a dreadpunk RPG that put players in the service staff of an eccentric and sometimes weird British household after WWI.

Derek: What was your inspiration for creating this game?

David: My wife and I had been finishing the final season of Downton Abbey when we were talking about our favorite story arcs of the series, and one of our favorites was when a visiting dignitary dropped dead in the bedroom of one of the daughters (during a secret illicit rendezvous, of course). I just loved the idea of having a game set in that Julian Fellowes-created world but with a dark, sinister slant — “stepping over the body to get your real work done”.

Derek: How would you characterize the tone of Bedlam Hall?

David: The strange and disturbing things… happening just off-camera. The banality of the horrible, as it were. People aren’t necessarily involved in the confrontation of the macabre, but are often having to deal with its repercussions (or at least its clean-up). Someone has to tidy up after that dark elder god ritual, after all.

Bedlam Hall 2
Art by Michael Tuck

Derek: The blend of humor and the macabre is one of my favorite aesthetics. Are there any comedies in particular that helped shape your approach to Bedlam Hall?

David: Definitely A Series of Unfortunate Events. The tone of its writing and subsequent television series helped provide the focus of how we wanted the narrative to sound — terrible, depressed and not at all healthy. On the other hand, the outfits are nice.

Derek: Pick one: Charles Addams or Edward Gorey?

David: Probably Charles Addams, mostly because he’s funnier.

Derek: Is Bedlam Hall a complete game or more of a world book for separate rules system?

David: Bedlam Hall is a complete game, although it is based on the fundamentals of Apocalypse World and other story game genres. But don’t worry, the apocalypse of Bedlam Hall is its very own crisis and trauma.

Derek: The idea of playing servants in a RPG is unusual. Is Bedlam Hall geared more towards one session games or are extended campaigns likely?

David: The game is meant for recurring campaigns although we also will be providing “adventures” of sorts called Terrible Tales. A Terrible Tale provides a new complication to their already beleaguered existence, allowing new and exciting ways to ruin everyone’s gaming experience.

Derek: Ok, we all know that a lot of people check to see if there’s a monster section whenever they pick up a RPG book. Is there going to be a bestiary?

David: The core book does include an initial description of the main family, the Blackwoods. In addition, there are descriptions of the rooms to make sure every bit of the Bedlam Hall experience drops with the appropriate gloomy despair.

Derek: Ego-stroking department: you used the term dreadpunk without knowing me first. How did you first run across it and why did it resonate?

David: While preparing for Kickstarter, we were doing online research for the influences that helped build our theme and mood. When we found the dreadpunk website, it was a delight to find all of our influences contained in one definition. Truly a “Ohhhhh, that’s it” kind of moment.

Derek: When is the game due out?

David: With our Kickstarter concluded, we’re targeting September to fulfill our unfortunate recipients. Pre-order is available through our website, www.monkeyfunstudios.com.

Derek: Thank you for your time, and I look forward to seeing the finished product!

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