Author: Kurt Potts (@kurtpotts)
Where to Buy: https://kurtpotts.itch.io/sigils-in-the-dark
If Sigils in the Dark (SitD) existed in the ‘80s, it would’ve inspired a whole new level of Satanic Panic. I mean, just imagine the amazing Chick Tracts we would’ve gotten for a game where you play a wizard filling out your grimoire with strange, eldritch symbols in an effort to gain power over the world around you! It’s like the designer, Kurt Potts, set out to make a game that perfectly exemplified the fears of folks convinced D&D was luring their kids into a life of devil worship. While it’s not clear if that was his intent or not, there is one thing that is perfectly evident: Potts certainly succeeded in creating a unique solo RPG that’s not only fun but also useful.
SitD is a solo journaling game where players embody a desperate wizard making pacts with dark forces. In exchange, this otherworldly patron provides them with arcane symbols and spells to help them meet their needs. The zine provides a method of randomly generating evocative and interesting sigils through a number of tables. Some of these tables provide instructions on what to draw whereas others help define the overall effect the spell will have.
But, of course, nothing worth having is easily gained.
As spells increase in power, so do their costs. These costs, much like the spells themselves, are generated via rolling on a table a number of times and are essentially the material components the caster needs to fuel the magic. Simple spells might have a relatively simple cost, such as “a strand of hair; taken unknowingly” or “a pail of fresh-fallen snow”. As spells grow in power and complexity, the costs become more esoteric. For example, players may find themselves needing to fuel their spell with the “Death of one of The Four”. Not only is that a bit harder to pull off than a bucket of snow, it’s also much more open to interpretation.
These options that are open to interpretation are what make any journaling game work. Who are “The Four”? Why must one of them die? Several entries on the cost table suggest the wizard is part of some established setting, however no setting is provided and the player must forge their own meaning from the handful of concrete elements provided. This is not a bug – this is a feature! As with the spell effects themselves, everything is open to interpretation and can be fairly easily twisted and personalized to fit what the player had in mind.
At the end of the game, the player has an artifact from an evil spell caster that not only provides their spells but also their drives, motivations, and path to power. And if the player is a DM, they can just hand this book over to their players who will now gain incredible insight to the BBEG’s first steps towards dominance. I hope more designers follow Pott’s example and create games that are both useful to DMs and fantastically fun on their own accord.
DISCLAIMER: I do not know anyone involved with this game, nor did I receive anything for free in exchange for this review. Also, that composition notebook aesthetic is just…*chef’s kiss*