Designer’s Diary: Fun Sized Games – Little Fears Nightmare Edition

Little Fears Nightmare Edition
Little Fears Nightmare Edition is a complete role-playing game powered by a unique system and published by Fun Sized Games.
By Jason L. Blair

Welcome to the tenth Designer’s Diary, a regular column where designers are given the opportunity to take readers on an in-depth ride through the design and development process of their system, setting, or product.

Designer’s Description
Little Fears Nightmare Edition is the game of childhood terror. You play kids, aged 6 to 12, fighting monsters from a place called Closetland. You have to rely on your ingenuity, tenacity, and the power of belief to push back the things that go bump in the night.

Nightmare Edition is my second take on the idea of kids fighting monsters. The original, just called Little Fears, was released back in 2001. It was a much darker take on the premise. For years, I’ve wanted to take the same idea and push it in a different direction. Finally doing that was a big part of why I wanted to do Nightmare Edition. Another was that I had recently entered the wonderful world of freelance writing and wanted to do something to get my name back out there. Revisiting the game that got my name out in the first place seemed like a good idea.

The primary influences on Little Fears Nightmare Edition were the stories kids tell each other, the monster myths and campfire tales that are prevalent in our culture. Secondary influences were those also derived from the same stories, books like the Goosebumps series, the television shows Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Eerie Indiana, and so on.

For research, I read those books and watched those shows. I don’t work on things that don’t genuinely interest me. I learned long ago that trouble dots that path. Middle Grade and Young Adult horror has been an interest of mine since I was a kid. I went back to those books, those sources, and got in touch with what makes those so cool. There’s a magic to those books and shows, some really good stuff.

Art Direction
The art in Little Fears Nightmare Edition is a mix of traditional and photomanipulation, though it’s primarily hand drawn. Some of the art comes from the German and French editions of the original Little Fears as well as the first book itself. Some was commissioned years ago for supplements that never saw publication. The rest, including Veronica V. Jones’ wonderful cover, was freshly commissioned.

While a lot of the art is illustrative of scenes you might act out during the course of play, some is meant to be evocative of tone and setting. I try to keep the latter to a minimum. While that can be really cool, I saw Nightmare Edition as a book with a more direct focus and voice. Everything from the art to the writing to the rules was meant to give concrete form to the premise instead of the more vague approach of the original game.

Gaming Experience
Little Fears Nightmare Edition is designed to tell a good old horror story. Monsters figure prominently in the game and the lore, but are not required. One of the official episodes, The Longest Night of Your Life, is all about drama. Still horrific but without a monster in sight. In the book, I lay out some rules on how to adjust certain mechanics so they better reflect a desired experience.

The original Little Fears was the grand-daddy of kid-focused games. By the time Nightmare Edition came about there were already a couple handfuls of such titles on the market. I haven’t dug too deeply into any of them, to be honest, but I don’t think anything compares to LFNE thematically. Even World of Darkness: Innocents is drastically different from Little Fears Nightmare Edition in tone, style, and purpose.

Development Process
The design process spanned over six years though only the last year was a period of serious effort. I worked on the system with a friend of mine, Caz Granberg, for a long time. We tried out a lot of different third-party systems but none of them really did what I wanted the game to do. One day, as I was going through some old notes for this other game, I checked out the system and—while it was rough—it was a solid core. I hammered out a framework and then Caz and I started to work on it. This eventually became the Top 3 System.

I wanted the basic aspect of the system to be dead simple but I worked to include things like Passing and Failing Grades to give granularity when the situation called for it. Of everything, the Belief system was the hardest to nail down. It wasn’t until I decided to move beyond just using dice, allowing myself to include tokens in the system, that everything about Belief fell into place.

When going from the original Little Fears to Nightmare Edition, I chucked a lot of the old lore and rebuilt that from scratch. A lot of long nights went into coming up with a world that was as engaging as it was playable.

As far as the nuts and bolt of developing the book, I draft the chapter breakdown and a table of contents. From there, it’s a matter of filling in the headers, which is what I do. It allows me to go from one interesting topic to another out of order. Game books aren’t linear fiction which provides me the opportunity to cherry pick which portions I write when. I’ll smooth the transitions during the second pass.

Thank you for the opportunity to talk about Little Fears Nightmare Edition. Anyone interested in the game line can check out for updates, inspiration, and to order any of the game’s products.

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