Tabletop Game: JAGS Wonderland
"But I don't want to go among mad people." Alice remarked.
"Oh, you can't help that," said the Cat: "we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad."
"How do you know I'm mad?" said Alice.
"You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn't have come here."
It's the world on the other side of the mirror, the world that pretends to look like ours, that behaves while you're watching it, that's watching you when your back is turned. Wonderland is the world that exists in empty places where no one can see it. It's the universe that's up and about at 3:00 AM. It's twisted and hungry and it knows all about you. It's read your mail, your diary, and your mind. It has your single, missing socks. It's eaten your sister. It's awakening across the globe and getting stronger. Wonderland is what you should be afraid of, instead of the dark.
Imagine Lewis Caroll meeting HP Lovecraft
is a tabletop setting for the free generic RPG JAGS. In it, a bizarre, inexplicably contagious mental illness known as Cyclic Psychoaffective Disorder is sweeping the world. The psychological community and most governments refuse to acknowledge CPD as anything more than normal Schizophrenia.
A few conspiracy theorists insist there must be more to it, but nobody believes them.
They really, really should.
In reality, CPD is not a mental illness. In reality, there are seven lower layers of reality (called "Chessboards" individually and "Wonderland" collectively by those who know about them) beneath the one we inhabit
, and once in a while someone accidentally falls through the cracks
becoming Infected (or Unsane
, because they are not losing hold of reality, reality
is losing hold of them
), and periodically being returned to Wonderland against their will. While on one of the lower chessboards, they throw a ''Reflection'' (an irrational copy of themselves) up onto our world
) that tries to imitate their actions on the lower levels to the best of its ability. If it can't copy them, it freaks out
). Worse yet, once one finally makes it back up to reality (usually taking a few hours and finding their Reflection has done something embarrassing or illegal) the native creatures of Wonderland can follow them back up (Notice
). While in Wonderland, one can be mutated (Twisted
). Most people who are Infected die or vanish into thin air within a year.Chessboard One
looks like the real world, for the most part, except that the people living there (shadows
who directly reflect one person from Chessboard Zero) act very strangely, going about their tasks in very roundabout ways, and all spoken or written communication expresses exactly what the speaker subconsciously meant, rather than what they said. Chessboard One also serves as the entrance to the Linear Maze, a strange environment that connects all the other Chessboards to one another.
On Chessboard Two
, there are still shadows, but only a fraction as many. The parts that aren't directly used by shadows tend to be nearly-deserted, twisted places that look like they came from a certain little resort town
. The deserted areas are home to monstrous manifestations of the dominant impression of the area on Chessboard Zero, known as Wild Things
, that have no direct analogue above.
On Chessboard Three
, the world is nearly unrecognizable, becoming a strange mix of Victorian cities, Medieval countryside, and representations of bits of the mass subconscious (for example, a shopping mall might become a cathedral dedicated not to any god, but the idea of Consumerism). The Wild Things are pretty common here.
On Chessboard Four
, small suburban towns dot the confusing, dreamlike landscapes of the mind. Things like expectations and ideas are actual physical substances that can be pried from the land. Wild Things are everywhere.
At the very lowest layers
live the Caretakers
, some of whom Alice and Lewis Carroll met, others who they had the good fortune never to. The Caretakers really don't care for reality, because it operates on mathematical principles and they operate on literary ones. They especially hate (or love, for certain values of the term) mankind
, the one thing that can actually understand the rules. In the 1960s, after extended contact
with a shadowy organization in the US Government, the Caretakers decided something needed to be done. They ultimately decided that the most effective way would be to simply tear apart humanity's will to live
. This they accomplished by creating a series of projects that could go up to the levels just beneath Chessboard Zero and bedevil any shadows they find. Foremost among these are Big Pharma
, the official initiative supported by most Caretakers, which seeks to pervert psychiatric medicine to eradicate all hope and free will
, and Project Pagan
, a Caretaker-controlled conspiracy within the U.S. Government
to twist humankind so thoroughly that they will become something the Caretakers can work with.
A few others try to make Faustian bargains with the Infected in exchange for exposing more people, with the goal of infecting the entire world.
What they don't know is the very lowest level, full of machines that keep the other levels working, could render them obsolete if humans ever understood what the machines were for.
Which they will. Soon.
However all is not lost. The remains of the agency that made first contact with Wonderland, called Project Pilgrim then and Project Puritan now, crusades to keep Wonderland as hidden as possible, in the hopes that if the infection is contained, it can be controlled.
Those Infected who survive for long enough and don't throw their lot in with the Caretakers wage a desperate struggle to get by. And most hidden of all, the Magicians, who learn to control Wonderland without entering it, and who each choose any of a number of different allegiances.
JAGS Wonderland uses the following tropes: