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Don’t Tell Mom & Dad is a tabletop RPG fueled by pulp horror VHS cassettes, sugar and fireworks

Don’t stay out past curfew… or else.

Stop the aliens from invading, push the sewer trolls back into the slimy depths and find the vampire coven hiding in the abandoned shopping mall all before dinner in upcoming tabletop RPG Don’t Tell Mom & Dad.

The players will become a group of ragtag children dealing with all the threats that comics, cartoons and overactive imaginations promised were real while also avoiding the stern, disapproving eyes of adults - especially their own parents. The kids will need to juggle strict curfews, a limited allowance and their own fear as they battle the weird horrors threatening their homes.

Imagine the shlocky horror and thriller section of the video rental store mixed together with a strong injection of Goonies-esque kid antics and you’ll get close to the vibe of Don’t Tell Mom & Dad. The Kickstarter page says it wants to “capture the freedom and excitement of childhood, while proving that growing up in a small town can be anything but quiet.”

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The town is built by the group and their Guidance Counselor (this title’s name for the Game master) from a selection of tiles, demarcating each home, landmark and potential horror hot spot. The distance between those tiles changes how long it takes to travel between them, and time is a luxury the group cannot spare in their investigations. How many hours remain before the threat of a grounding looms will structure their day-to-day, but each kid can do their own work at night - or straight up ignore the rules at their own peril.

Classes are constructed from four loose archetypes - the nerd, weirdo, jock and rascal - along with 16 available skills ranging from bravery and studiousness to breaking in and petty theft. Each player-controlled kid will also sport a set of wheels, some pocket cash and a certain public image in the eyes of the town’s adult population.

Don’t Tell Mom & Dad uses a simple roll-over D20 system for all of its encounters, offloading any complexity into other mechanics tracked on the frankly charming character sheet. As the mystery heightens and weird happenings get downright spooky, each kid’s Scared-o-Meter will rise. Let it fill, and they’ll be overcome with fright and book it home as fast as possible.

Those that don’t might still find themselves breaking the rules or pushing their physical and mental limits. Sugar in the form of candy, soda and other treats can give a kid an edge in their chosen specialty at the cost of the eventual crash later on. The rules feel like a more improvisational version of Kids on Bikes, instead using the group-designed town and their own imagination to conjure mysteries from session to session.

The pulptastic title is the brainchild of Philadelphia-based writer and zinemaker Ted Gilbert, alongside Ben Mazzochetti, who wanted to create a game that harkened back to the endless possibilities of wonder and fear in the world of children. Tattoo artist Stacy Fevinger set the tone with illustrations reminiscent of VHS sleeves and the black-and-white advertisements in the backs of children’s magazines for spy gear and prank paraphernalia.

The Kickstarter campaign for Don’t Tell Mom & Dad will run through September 12th in order to fund an 80-page softcover sourcebook that will include character sheets and printable tile cards for designing the group’s town. Backers can secure a digital or physical version for $9 (£6.50) and $25 (£18), respectively. Fulfillment is expected to begin in December of this year.

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