- What is Enter The Shadowside?
It's a roleplaying game. You can buy the book and play it at home with actual pen-and-paper and a DESTINY deck of cards, or you can read the wiki and play it here, online, with virtual friends through the magic of the internet. Why not both?
- What is the game about?
The premise of Enter The Shadowside is that there exists a parallel reality made entirely of mental and emotional energies, shaped by our dreams and hopes -but also by our nightmares and fears. This titular realm is not just the origin but the actual seat of our sentience, and the "afterlife" where we all return to after we die. Several very different organizations explore this realm for their own agendas, and the game's core dynamic is focused on the interactions between these groups. Most battles, for instance, occur against named NPCs with their own life stories and motivations, and feel for all purposes like virtual PvPs. Rational people hardly ever fight to the death, but instead surrender, flee or negotiate long before they feel their entire life is in jeopardy. There is no experience awarded for merely winning a fight; although StoryHost may award Aces every now and then to reward awesome roleplay.
EtS introduces the concept of Hierogamy: an arrangement between a mortal (the player character) and a Shadowside entity where the mortal agrees to host the entity within his flesh-and-blood body in exchange for some measure of paranormal power. It is in many ways like a marriage; each is able to listen to the other's thoughts, and the couple can have entire conversations inside their heads. This grants the host a number of Paranormal Skills, so a character in Hierogamy is considerably more powerful than a regular mortal or a regular spirit. The Hierogamy spirit is roleplayed by a different player, usually the StoryHost (EtS's term for "Game Master"), in such way that the spirit is generally agreeable to what the character wants to do, but remains his/her/its own individual person.
- How is a campaign structured?
An EtS campaign can be quite long, but it roughly consist of three acts: Act I, where the characters learn the order of the world, only to see it disrupted in some Big Event, which launches Act II, where the characters strive to come out on top of the mad rush of all organizations's reacting to the Big Event, and finally Act III, the Endgame.
The details of the Endgame are kept secret from players (and from StoryHosts too until they reach a certain level of experience), but without fear of spoilers we can simply say it is a war-like conflict between two very different ideologies. The seven main organizations will pick one side or the other throughout the course of the campaign, and the dichotomy is designed in such way that joining one side or the other can be justified in many ways for each organization's ideology. Different campaigns will have different organizations at different sides of the Endgame, and it's incredibly interesting to explore how different, yet at the same time authentic a single organization can be at either end of the spectrum. Sometimes it feels like alt-history of the sort of "what if Mexico had joined the Nazis and allowed German troops on Texas?". You can have conversations like "What?? You had The Sisterhood of Salem and Accelletrix become allies? Holy hell, in my campaign they were at each other's throats, but to be fair I had GTS sign a pact with Somosa.", etc.
EtS avoids falling into easy concepts of "good" and "evil", preferring instead to arrange the organizations along two axis: whether they are primarily interested in helping themselves vs helping others, and whether their hierarchy is orderly and structured, versus improvised and chaotic.
- What's the goal of the game?
Like many RPGs, EtS is a collaborative creative exercise. Some RPGs focus on winning, like a sport. These games live or die by a fair-but-flexible set of mechanics which allows for strategy. Other games focus on simulating a fantasy world. These games need robust and comprehensive sets of rules so that every single aspect is accounted for. Finally, other games focus on story-telling and these games need to allow players as much creative freedom as possible, and streamline everything else out of the way. EtS falls in the third category, but it is more about "being there" than about "doing that". It's more about being set loose in a fictional world than about being put on a course for a particular adventure. We're not in a hurry to reach Act III. Nor Act II for that matter. We just want to feel what it's like being someone else, doing whatever it is that someone else chooses to do, rather than what a Game Master has planned to put us through. This is best exemplified by our use of the term "StoryHost":
A GameMaster is the "Master" of the "Game". Like all masters, he owns it. Also, it's a Game.
A StoryTeller is the "Teller" of the "Story". It's more of a Story now, but there's still one Teller of it, and he's it.
A StoryHost is just there to let the Story happen. A host arranges the locale, invites the guests, turns on the music, (may occasionally send bouncers to kick out the drunkards) but usually just stands out of the way letting the party goers enjoy themselves. Unlike a GM, an SH is very hands-off when it comes to driving the plot, but very hands-on when it comes to adjudicating consequences short and long term to the PC's decisions. In a nutshell, the SH roleplays the World.