ALAS VEGAS is a dark journey through a bizarre and terrifying casino city where sinister forces war for control and lives are worth no more than a handful of gambling chips. Caught in a struggle between rival factions, the players must find allies, the truth, and a way to escape. Memories are recovered, secrets are revealed, old debts are settled, and nothing is what it seems.
Your character sheet starts as blank as your memories, but your character gains skills by having flashbacks to their earlier life, so as the game progesses their backstory does too - creating a twisted web of links between the characters as they piece their past together and work out what's happened to them.
The conflict mechanics are based on the casino game Blackjack played with Tarot cards, creating high-stakes narrative showdowns, and spinning elements of the game's story from the cards that come up in play.
'Alas Vegas' lasts four sessions, structured like a high-budget HBO miniseries, leading to a revelatory final climax that's a fitting end of the campaign. Itâ€™s Franz Kafkaâ€™s Fear and Loathing. Itâ€™s The Hangover meets The Prisoner. Itâ€™s Oceanâ€™s Eleven directed by David Lynch. Itâ€™s like nothing youâ€™ve played before.
ALAS VEGAS runs on the Fugue game system, built to tell stories of characters with amnesia. It uses Tarot cards and rotating GMs to create unique, high-tension adventures, heavy on character and narrative. As well as 'Alas Vegas' itself, the book contains three extra complete Fugue campaigns:
Introduction for personae
Tell your players to close their eyes, then read this to them.
From a dreamless sleep, you dig your way up to consciousness. Your world is full of dirt. Itâ€™s in your eyes, your nose, your mouth, your ears, your body is covered with it, the weight pressing you back down into the earth. As your mind claws back to the surface your arms are instinctively doing the same, pulling frantically through the loose soil to the air above you.
You break through, exploding into the cold night like a body reborn, your lungs burning for oxygen, dragging yourself up from of the shallow grave beneath you.
Youâ€™re in the desert. A soulless moon gives faint light. There are other people here. Naked like you, cold, dirt-stained and silent, watching. Behind you in the grave another body lurches upright, another one returning to life.
Who buried you for dead here, in this wilderness? How did you get here?
Why canâ€™t you remember?
Why canâ€™t you remember anything?
On the horizon there is a scar of neon in the shape of a city, pulsing like
something not quite alive. A red beam stretches up between the land and infinity,
reaching to the stars. Sometimes it flickers.
There will be answers there.
It's a set-up
Thatâ€™s the set-up. Read that out loud, or paraphrase it, or even circulate it to the players before the game begins. All the personae have just crawled out of a shallow grave in the desert outside an unknown city. Everyone is naked, nobody can remember anything, and theyâ€™re all bloody cold. Donâ€™t give them any clues beyond that.
This is the moment to run through character generation (page 10), and you should create a character alongside the others. Three points here:
1. Encourage the players to come up with names or nicknames for their personae or each other, or youâ€™ll spend the game addressing them as â€˜Prune-faceâ€™, â€˜Wrinkly assâ€™ and â€˜Obscene tattooâ€™, which isnâ€™t friendly.
2. An extra character whoâ€™s climbed out of the hole. Make up a description for them. They donâ€™t talk much. Actually itâ€™s your real persona, who you will be playing in sessions 2, 3 and 4.
3. Feel free to play around with the set-up a little. You may have more first-hand experience of deserts at night than I do.
Right, letâ€™s get back to that shallow grave.
The desert floor here is mostly hard dirt with occasional ridges and patches of scrub vegetation. Thereâ€™s a full moon but itâ€™s still pretty damn dark.
Anyone who stops to look and listen gets the hackles-rising sensation that they are being watched by something they canâ€™t see. Someone or something out in the darkness. Whatever, wherever it is, it doesnâ€™t respond to shouts. Nothing is moving apart from them.
Just as the initial sense of weirdness and coming to terms with the situation is ebbing away, and just before someone suggests that they start walking towards the neon streak on the horizon, the desert lights up. Like the brightest day. Off to the north, something just exploded. Judging by the roar and the shock wave thatâ€™ll be reaching the personae rightâ€¦ aboutâ€¦ now, and the mushroom cloud filled with fire climbing inexorably into the blackened sky, someone just set off an atomic device about fifteen, twenty, twenty-five miles to the north.
And as soon as they can bear to look in its direction, silhouetted against the afterimage of the blast, on a low escarpment a couple of hundred yards away, is a figure. Human. Standing. Canâ€™t tell if itâ€™s watching the blast, or watching them. And then itâ€™s dark again, and the figure is gone.
If the personae call to the figure or go looking for it, itâ€™s as if it was never there.
The scar of neon in the shape of the city lies to the east.