October 17, 2019

MALL RATS: unsorted ideas for a Maze Rats campaign set in an INFINITE DEAD MALL

You’re dragging yourself away from Security, leaving a trail of blood dark on spotless linoleum tiles. Tinny music plays through hidden speakers as you reach behind you — only to find you’re out of crossbow bolts. Security comes closer, scales silently sliding against one another. You’re exhausted. You don’t know how long it’s been since you slept; there’s no day or night here. Security opens its mouth wide. Breath hot on your face.

This is clearly one of those ideas where the name came first and then everything else. It was 3 a.m. and I was looking at my copy of Ben Milton’s excellent Maze Rats and for a second it looked like it said Mall Rats. Then I realised I had to make this and so I made a blog and here I am.

Joseph Manola wrote about how fascinated old-school RPG writers are by the æsthetics of ruin. Dead malls, left abandoned after they stopped being profitable, seem like a prime example of modern-day ruins. There’s something I find really eerie about these pictures of totally deserted shopping centres.

Basically, it’s a game set in a dead mall that goes on forever. My thinking is that the project would combine a slight hack/reskin of Maze Rats with a much larger section of resources for procedural-generating an infinite, hostile, dead mall complex. Gardens of Ynn, but with Hot Topics instead of topiary.

The Infinite Mall is:

  • Infinite. Obviously. The Mall is everything. There is no outside”. The Mall goes on forever. This is all there is. (There are places which you might briefly think are outside, but they’re just huge rooms, still inside the Mall complex. Look closely, and you’ll see the sun” is just a bright light and the wind” comes from hidden air vents.) Furthermore, it’s unmappable. The Mall shifts and changes whenever you’re not looking, rearranging itself. Different shops vanish and appear at different times.

  • Artificial. Nothing grows in the Mall. Everything is fake here. There’s no sunlight, only buzzing fluorescent lights which sting to look at. There are no real flowers, only plastic imitations. Even the air is stale. Food is all processed: scavenged frozen tacos and slushies. Everything is artificial, tacky, stagnant.

  • Hostile. The Mall is inherently hostile to human existence. It’s not sentient, as such, but it has a horrible cunning. Think of it as a very very clever virus. The Mall does not want humans to exist in it. (Perhaps it needed us once, but our usefulness to it is finished.) There’s no day/night cycle. The lights hurt your vision. The tinny music slowly drives you crazy. The Mall hates you, and so it manifests Mall Security, to kill the infection like white blood cells.

Update 31/01/20: The reddit thread for this post made the Best of 2019 in r/osr list!


Campaign Pitch Mall Rats Maze Rats


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1d12 other forms potions can take Drink. The classic. Easy to make, but they usually expire in a month or so. Tablet. Crunchy. Tastes bad and not as effective as a liquid potion, but