The phrase “Nightmare Edition” has been bandied about for years now. I first uttered the words back in 2002, not even a year after the original Little Fears debuted. And it’s come up time and again in the seven years that followed. Work has started, stopped, and restarted at least four times that I’d consider to be an actual effort. The last big push was in September 2008 when I started compiling all the notes I’d collected over the years and started drafting a definition for what the Nightmare Edition would be.
The biggest sticking point was the system. I wanted Nightmare Edition to be a fresh take on the roleplaying genre that Little Fears pioneered. I drafted my buddy Caz Granberg to help kitbash a few established systems and dabble at putting a new one together . A lot of systems were considered and we even made good progress on a couple conversions (of which Caz did the heavy lifting) but none of them did what I wanted Nightmare Edition to do in a manner I’d consider thematically appropriate and elegant. They were fine systems for what they did but they didn’t do what Nightmare Edition needed to do.
So the project sat. And I pretty much locked it in a box and put it away for good.
Then a couple months passed and I was smacked aside the head by the missing piece. I had written a system six years ago for a ghost-hunting game I was designing. Initially, I dragged out the notes for the setting. I was thinking of buffing it into a Savage Worlds setting. I read the rules and, as unfinished as they were, there was something to them. I started drafting some more notes, sent a bunch of notes off to Caz (who graciously agreed to be my partner-in-crime once again but we more evenly shared the lifting this time), and we set about polishing and changing and working those ghost-hunting notes into a system that we were proud of. A system that not only worked, it did it well, and it could do what I’d been wanting Nightmare Edition to do for years. (It does some other things too but we won’t talk about those just yet.)
We had the system. Now we had to play it. A lot.
And play it we did. Personal sessions, small playtests here and there, times sitting across from each other running through context-free combat, challenges, what-ifs. Caz ran a session at the local Madison Games Day event that Matt McElroy (of Flames Rising) and I put together. Once it was good and shiny, it was unleashed on some loyal and encouraging fans. I knew they’d be hardest on it. One of them, Peter Amthor, had three long-standing Little Fears campaigns going concurrently back in the day. Another fan, who goes by Jack of Tears on the Little Fears Yahoo! Group, has been the number one cheerleader online for a long time.
I read the Closed Beta feedback eagerly. I was fortunate to get such great feedback from everyone and it really helped polish Nightmare Edition into the shiny jewel it is today.
The original Little Fears was a critical hit. For an indie, no-name game about kids fighting werewolves, a non-d20 game at the height of the d20 bubble, it sold very well. It was controversial–infamous, to some–and it inspired, at least in part, a couple more mainstream games and supplements. What it had was a reputation, a standard, an expectation that it needed to meet. The Closed Beta was the system’s proving ground. How folks react to the new world surrounding Little Fears is yet to be seen. (For you observant folks, when that will be is clear.)
There is still some work to do on Nightmare Edition but it’s coming. After all these years, after all these broken promises and missed deadlines, it’s coming.
So turn off the light and close the door. Maybe if you can’t see it, it can’t see you.