The tavern is supposed to be a safe place in fantasy RPG storytelling, a restful sanctuary where adventurers grab a pint and a trencher of stew, and trade gossip or meet up with other eclectic travellers with whom they might share the road. But the most insidious horror makes light of our assumptions, as designer and artist Jeeyon Shim illustrates in her newest tabletop game, The Longest Rest.
Currently crowdfunding on Indiegogo, The Longest Rest is a twisted and gruesome take on the well heeled gaming stereotype where a group of adventurers begin their campaign in a tavern’s common room. While there still might be giant rats in the cellar, there’s also secret hatreds, hunger older than the bones of the world and a seething, writhing life within the whitewashed walls of the building.
The Longest Rest takes four players and a facilitator through an experience meant to test their physical and mental resolve. Each player will choose from amongst six playbooks - the vainglorious Sellsword, the zealous Penitent, the precocious Consort, the wild-eyed Warder, the mocking Sparrow or the tormented Hunter - and explore an ostensible rest stop along a particularly dark road.
Gradually, the true nature of the house is revealed. The tavern conspires to grant the adventurer’s their heart’s truest desire in exchange for their humanity, but it’ll steal their bodies by hook if not by crook. Shim quotes House of Leaves, Annihilation and The Thing amongst her influences. Sessions will see the familiar reflected as grotesque and otherworldly terrors as the party traverses the shifting layout of something very much alive.
The Longest Rest uses Meguey and Vincent D. Baker’s Apocalypse World as its mechanical Core, but Shim notes several additional systems that supplement a fiction-forward approach to character interaction. Whenever a player dies, their character becomes part of the tavern’s defences in exchange for their heart’s desire. From then on, they work against the remaining players, increasing the difficulty of subsequent dice rolls of the dice hard and ratcheting the pressure to survive and escape.
All players track their health via coins, adding them to the tavern’s coffers when the house damages them in some way and reclaiming them if they manage to find time to repair or scant peace to mend their wounds. Players characters who die add their coins to the coffers, deepening the resources that the dread inn has at its disposal.
Parties move from room to room to face scenarios introduced through horror vignettes that describe the final moments of some lost soul previously claimed within the tavern’s halls. Some rooms may house hideous amalgams or threats to their bodies, while others may assault their senses or their minds. The party can attempt to map out the confines but - true to House of Leaves’ influence - this exercise may reveal the madness at the centre of their particular, fleshy hell.
The proposed hardcover book is a gorgeous volume with art throughout by Conner Fawcett, an illustrator who contributed to Wanderhome and whose style often evokes feelings of fondness and morbid fascination simultaneously (you should check out their series of From Software-inspired knight designs for some wonderfully messed up dudes). Shim herself has an established history with weaving horror and intimate storytelling together in games such as The Last Will and Testament of Gideon Blythe. Her previous title with Shing Yin Khor, Field Guide to Memory, tackled the existential through natural ephemera and tied the idiosyncrasies of human emotions to the unknowable world outside our own minds.
The Longest Rest slams the strengths of both artists through the meat grinder of good ol’ fashioned body horror, gory descriptions and spooky worldbuilding for one of the most compelling horror RPG pitches I’ve heard this year. Find out more information on its Indiegogo campaign, which will run through November 18th and offers both a physical and digital edition of the game. Fulfilment to backers is expected to begin in December 2024.