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Tabletop Game / Deep Madness

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Deep Madness is a 2018 American-style cooperative Adventure Board Game with Cyberpunk, Survival Horror, and Cthulhu Mythos elements, produced by Diemension Games. It was funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign in November 2016.

Something has gone very wrong at the Leng Corporation’s advanced deep-sea mining facility, Kadath. Communications from the facility have gone completely dark, and aside from a general sense that the miners down there Dug Too Deep, no one has any idea what’s going on. In response, the Leng Corporation sends down a team of investigators to analyze the situation, fix whatever they can, and report back to their superiors. Unfortunately for the investigators, almost as soon as they come within sight of Kadath, something attacks their submersible and forces them to make an emergency landing at the facility. The investigators all survive the crash, but they swiftly realize that reality itself seems to be breaking down in Kadath — and horrific, sanity-blasting monsters are forcing their way in through the cracks. Trapped within the stricken facilty and cut off from outside help, it falls to the investigators to find out what happened in Kadath and what, if anything, they can do to stop it… assuming, of course, that they live that long, and don’t go mad in the process.

In addition to the base game, Deep Madness has a number of available expansions:

  • Endless Nightmares and Uncounted Horrors, two “big-box” expansions that add a number of new investigators, monsters, and scenarios to the base game. Endless Nightmares will be available through general distribution, while Uncounted Horrors is exclusive to Kickstarter backers.
  • Rise of Dagon, a prequel campaign to the base game that helps to show just how things went so badly wrong at Kadath.
  • The Oracle’s Betrayal, an interquel to the base campaign portraying the fallout after the investigators are betrayed by one of their erstwhile allies.
  • Faces of the Sphere, an expansion that adds a new set of inhabitants to Kadath — inhabitants that appear to be twisted reflections of the investigators themselves....
  • The Art of Deep Madness, an artbook containing several short fiction pieces that help to flesh out the backstory.
  • Shattered Seas, an upcoming novel set in the world of Deep Madness that also includes content for the game.
  • Several individually-boxed standalone Epic Monsters, whose presence in the game makes the investigator’s success and survival that much harder to achieve.

A prequel game set in the same universe, Dawn of Madness, was successfully funded via Kickstarter in 2019.

This game contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Artifact of Doom: The Sphere, the cause of all the problems in Kadath, is an artifact of uncertain origin that physically manifests the dreams and nightmares of those who make contact with it. It is very heavily implied in the game, and all but stated outright in the art book, that Kadath was constructed at that particular location on the seabed so that the miners would inevitably discover the Sphere.
  • Artistic License – Physics: Investigators can move freely between flooded and non-flooded rooms without changing the flooded status of either room. (So can monsters, but to be fair, a lot of the monsters barely care about physics in the first place.)
  • Closed Circle: Thanks to their submersible's destruction by... whatever it is that's lurking outside, the investigators aren't going anywhere until they manage to deal with at least some of the problems plaguing Kadath.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Meredith Waite, head of the Leng Corporation. Her PR team has gone to some lengths to ensure that she's viewed as an Honest Corporate Executive instead.
  • Cult: The Church of the Golden Dawn is a major player in the world of Deep Madness. The CEO and many of the shareholders of the Leng Corporation are members, and it's heavily implied that everything involving Kadath — including the current nightmare situation at the facility — is All According to Plan for them.
  • Dark World: Portions of Kadath that have been “devoured” are lit with a hellish red glow and covered in a tentacle- and eyeball-heavy Meat Moss. Devoured sections of the facility are also where monsters spawn.
  • Dream Land: Much like in Lovecraft's stories, the dream world in Deep Madness appears to be Another Dimension separate from our own physical world. The Sphere taps into the minds of those nearby to thin the dimensional barriers between the dream world and reality, and the results are... not pretty, to say the least.
  • Eldritch Location: Kadath, particularly the “devoured” parts.
  • Eldritch Ocean Abyss: It's a game involving the Lovecraft mythos. The "Eldritch" part is definitely present.
  • Expy: As is often the case with Kickstarter-funded board games, several of the investigators in the expansions are thinly-veiled copies of characters from other franchises.
    • Amanda Weaver and Hannah are heavily based on Ellen Ripley and Newt as portrayed in Aliens; Amanda also has a close association with a pet cat, similar to Ripley from the first movie. The android pilot David shares a number of similarities with his namesake character from Prometheus and Alien: Covenant.
    • Franklyn Christie, the navigator from Endless Nightmares, draws inspiration from Tank and Dozer from The Matrix, as well as the similarly-named character from Alien: Resurrection. The same expansion gives us Emma Kruger, who is essentially a blonde version of Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow, and Lisbeth Gibson, who is the spitting image of another hacker named Lisbeth.
    • Clarence Branom from The Oracle’s Betrayal is basically Hannibal Lecter.
    • Stephen Cooper is a bespectacled young physicist much like Dr. Gordon Freeman, while Jacob Clarke pretty much is Isaac Clarke in every aspect save his first name. To further solidify the homage, they start the game armed with a crowbar and an ore cutter, respectively.
    • Finally, one of the Kickstarter-exclusive investigators, the novelist Ward Phillips, is an expy of H. P. Lovecraft himself.
    • Outside the investigators, several of the game’s monsters are also clearly intended to be or are inspired by monsters from the Cthulhu Mythos. The Immortals are Elder Things, the Drifters are inspired by The King in Yellow (and the Epic Monster version of the Drifter, the Drifter King, is the King in Yellow), Obscure is a Hunting Horror, and the Spawn of the Sleeper is a Star-Spawn of Cthulhu. The monsters Putrid, Delirium, and Blind resemble smaller versions of the chthonians, the Dark Young of Shub-Niggurath, and Nyarlathotep’s "God of the Bloody Tongue" Mask, respectively.
  • Herd-Hitting Attack: The advantage of using melee attacks over ranged attacks is that melee attacks inherently target every monster in an investigator's space, as opposed to ranged attacks targeting only a single monster by default. The disadvantage, of course, is that melee attacks require the investigator to be within arm's reach of the monsters....
  • Hope Spot: Basically, if it ever seems like things are going to get significantly better for the investigators at the end of a mission... they won't.
    • Chapter 4 of the base game's campaign. Working with Dr. William West, the investigators have delved into Kadath's past, locating crucial information relating to the experiments being performed at the facility. Now Dr. West will be able to alter the timeline, undo the damage, and save everyone! HA HA HA—No. What the investigators have actually done is give Dr. West everything he needs to take full control of the Sphere's manifestations — and unluckily for them, Dr. West is precisely the sort of person who would do just that. The entirety of The Oracle's Betrayal expansion is dedicated to dealing with the fallout of this mistake.
    • Chapter 7 of the base game's campaign. After encountering nothing but monsters, corpses, and Dr. West up to this point, the investigators finally locate a handful of sane Kadath personnel actively working to escape the facility or jettison the Sphere back into the ocean. The investigators have the opportunity to help with either or both of these plans. This scenario can end a few different ways depending on what actions the investigators take, but three things remain constant: none of those people survive the mission with their sanity intact, no one is leaving Kadath, and the Sphere isn't going anywhere.
    • The Another Dawn "true end" scenario, found in the Uncounted Horrors expansion. Kadath is coming apart under the strain of the extradimensional manifestations, but against all odds, one lone submersible remains that can take the investigators to safely. The investigators must race against time to open a path to the submersible, even as Kadath dies a firey death around them and the encroaching reality of the otherworld threatens to swallow them whole. They don't make it — the Sphere's manifestations wholly overtake reality, trapping the investigators in the otherworld (although perhaps saving them from being incinerated in the process). Despondent but alive, and with no other options before them, the investigators decide to keep doing what they'd done since setting foot on Kadath — looking for a way to get home.
  • Loss of Identity: This happens to everyone who ends up trapped in Dr. William West's mental world. Including, ultimately, Dr. West himself.
  • Mega-Corp: The Leng Corporation. In keeping with the game’s inspirations, they’re cut from the same sort of ethical cloth as Weyland-Yutani.
  • Oxygen Meter: Unfortunately for the investigators, several parts of Kadath have become seawater-filled Drowning Pits due to structural failures. Taking actions in flooded rooms costs an investigator oxygen, while ending an activation in a non-flooded space lets the investigator catch their breath. Naturally, poor oxygen management can lead an investigator to an early, watery grave.
  • Ridiculously Human Robots: David and Pris, two of the Kickstarter-exclusive investigators. In an interesting twist, Ridiculously Human Robots are actually illegal in this setting, and so both of them are forced to hide their true nature — David by pretending to be a human with bionic enhancements, Pris by pretending to be a somewhat-less-ridiculously-human robot.
  • Sanity Meter: Sanity is a renewable resource the investigators can spend to enact various effects, while Madness is a burden that, when it gets too high, is discarded in exchange for a detrimental Madness Card. Managing the investigators’ Sanity and Madness is crucial to achieving mission success.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The names of the Leng Corporation and its Kadath facility are both shout-outs to The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath. The base game investigator Randi Carter could be considered a gender flipped version of that novel’s protagonist, Randolph Carter.
    • A second base game investigator, Dr. Felicia Armitage, shares a surname with another prominent Lovecraft protagonist, Dr. Henry Armitage. The fact that she’s an attractive redhead named “Felicia” could also be a shout-out to Felicia Day.
    • A third base game investigator, Arthur Weyland, is named after the Weyland-Yutani Mega-Corp from the Alien franchise. Arthur’s character profile also mentions that his family owns a “prominent, powerful business.”
    • Pris, a Kickstarter-exclusive android investigator, is named after the character from Blade Runner, and like her is a Ridiculously Human Robot (albeit one created to be a secretary rather than a prostitute).
    • The Endless Nightmares expansion contains a crawling, Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl-looking monster that’s a dead ringer for Saeki Kayako. The name of this monster type? Grudge.
  • Status Effects: Investigators and monsters alike can be slowed, weakened, or paralyzed, all of which interfere with the afflicted model’s actions in some manner. A slowed or weakened model loses its next movement or attack action, respectively; paralysis costs an investigator their next action, or a monster its entire activation.
  • Timed Mission: Every mission has a “devouring track” that serves as a turn counter of sorts. Each turn, a marker advances one space along this track, causing monsters to spawn and mission-specific hazards to trigger. The mission automatically ends in failure if the marker reaches the end of the devouring track.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: Dr. William West is not the friendly presence they first appear to be, and the Sphere is the ultimate source of all the madness. These are treated as twists and major revelations within the base game’s campaign, but no one who has paid even a modicum of attention to the Kickstarter campaign or the supplemental material will be at all surprised.
  • Treacherous Questgiver: It’s repeatedly implied that the Leng Corporation knows a lot more about what’s really going on than it’s told the hapless investigators that have been sent into Kadath. Also, Dr. William West is portrayed in the first half of the base game’s campaign as a Reasonable Authority Figure who wants to stop the madness at Kadath, when in reality he’s anything but. To their credit, the investigators nearly all immediately peg him as untrustworthy, but desperation and a lack of alternative options cause them to go along with his plan.
  • Underwater City: Kadath is a relatively realistic take on one of these (at least until everything goes to hell and monsters start popping out of the walls). It's a sprawling complex, large enough to require a dedicated light rail system to transport people from one portion of the facility to another, but it's still a mining facility built to withstand a hostile deep-sea environment. As such, the place is a maze of tight, claustrophobic corridors, more akin to a modern-day submarine than the stereotypical "city in a dome."
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Ward Phillips was just a mild-mannered novelist who managed to turn his terrible nightmares into inspiration for a moderately successful literary career. He never imagined that a gaggle of deluded cultists would end up taking his work way too seriously, or that those cultists would eventually get their hands on an artifact that allows them to manifest those nightmares in reality. And he certainly never expected to get pulled into the dream world himself, and end up in a future where the barrier between reality and his nightmares is worryingly thin....
  • We Cannot Go On Without You: The death of any investigator instantly ends the current mission as a loss.
  • X Meets Y: Deep Madness is the plot of Sphere, in a setting that combines the location of BioShock and the aesthetic of System Shock, with the basic gameplay and Cthulhu Mythos elements of Mansions of Madness.
  • Your Mind Makes It Real: Much like the equivalent artifact in Sphere, the Sphere in Deep Madness causes the subconscious fears of those within its area of influence to manifest in reality. Amusingly, it’s implied that the reason the monsters in Kadath resemble things out of the Cthulhu Mythos is because some of first minds to make contact with the Sphere were huge fans of the local Lovecraft Expy. (Although it's left somewhat unclear how much of this is due to the cultists' beliefs shaping the Sphere's manifestations, and how much is due to said Lovecraft Expy getting an accurate view of the dream world through his nightmares.)