The Dark Wood

The Dark Wood was produced as a part of the October 25 Ronnies, a 24-hour RPG challenge sponsored by Ron Edwards on the Forge. Each player takes the role of a poor soul who has committed suicide, and is given one last chance to redeem themselves. Those who succeed will ascend to one of the ten Heavenly Spheres, and those who fail will be condemned to suffer on the banks of the Phlegethon River for the rest of eternity, never to know the grace of God. This game is built around the terms “Pain” (in reference to the worldly pain experienced by the characters, which drives them to their sad fate at the beginning of play), and “Sphere” (referring to the Heavenly Spheres which represent the redeemed characters’ ultimate goal).

The Dark Wood is a role-playing game about worldly pain, the consequences that may follow, and redemption after it seems that all hope is lost. The players play the part of the souls of people who have committed suicide, and have therefore been condemned to Hell, their souls inhabiting a black, thorny tree on the banks of the River Phlegethon, their bodies hanging from their barren limbs. All hope is not lost, however. As the trees are wounded by the Harpies as part of their torment, they are granted the ability to speak, and tell the stories of how they came to take their own lives, and land themselves in such a lamentable situation. Although it is not often mentioned (for obvious reasons), this infernal torture is not always eternal ? some fortunate souls may, though introspection and atonement, cast off their worldly sins, and ascend to one of the Heavenly Spheres, to bask in the presence of God for the rest of eternity.

This task is not easy as one might imagine at the outset. The chance at salvation carries with it certain responsibilities and risks. Firstly, no soul may attempt to redeem itself alone ? when they are ready, a set number of damned souls are chosen, and given the opportunity to purge themselves of their Woe, and of the sins that brought about their fall. These souls are bound to one another, and may not leave the company of their fellow aspirants, lest they bring about the damnation of them all. Additionally, salvation is not assured. It is possible that this clutch of souls may fail at their task, and condemn one or more of their company to return to their punishment as a wounded

tree for some indeterminate period of time ? perhaps they will receive another opportunity to save themselves from eternal torment, perhaps this was their last hope, and they will never see grace again.


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