Results From Game Design Challenge: Local Legends

By Danny Cowan [10.22.19]

 In Honolulu, it's said that looking into the eyes of the Night Marchers, warriors who used to protect ancient Hawaii, will lead to certain death. Tales of a maniacal Bunny Man haunting an overpass have been circulating in Fairfax County, Virginia since the '70s, and the story of the chupacabra spread from Puerto Rico to the southern United States in the 1990s, remaining a persistent legend to this day.

In every city in the world there are hair-raising tales and legends, from haunted hotels where guests are awoken by mysterious knocking noises to terrifying creatures that residents swear they can see in dark wooded patches on the outskirts of town. These location-specific tales of terror are passed on from generation to generation, with new stories of haunted places and terrifying creatures cropping up all the time.

For Game Career Guide's latest Game Design Challenge, our readers designed games based on local mysteries or urban legends. Here are our top picks!

Best Entries

Adair Tabb, Student at The University of Montevallo, The Devil's Chair of Cassadaga (see page 2)

Savannah Dodson, Student at The University of Montevallo, The Storyteller (see page 3)

Veronika Tanaeva, Indie Game Designer (Junior) from Moscow, Libera Libri (see page 4)

Eric Dolland, Student at The University of Montevallo, Lovelady Bridge (see page 5)

Ryan Coole, Junior Application Developer, The Moddey Dhoo (see page 6)

Harrison Neville, Student at The University of Montevallo, Ghost Masters (see page 7)

Adair Tabb, Student at The University of Montevallo, The Devil's Chair of Cassadaga

The Premise:

It's a sweltering Halloween night in Orlando, Florida. With the disasterous combination of candy, alcohol, and post-midterms despair, some college students are inevitably going to do something dumb: in the case of a reluctant Hawthorne and her friends, it's heading over to Lake Helen Cassadaga Cemetery to have a midnight chat with the Devil.

From the perspective of Hawthorne, the player will go through that Halloween night starting at 9pm and ending at 5am.


As a third-person RPG interactive drama survival horror, Devil's Chair would be heavy on detail in both character models and environment, which the Decima engine is excellent for.

Rough Gameplay:

Phase One (9pm to Midnight):

At 9pm, 10pm, and 11pm, there will be distinct sections where the player chooses which of Hawthorne's three friends Hawthorne interacts with and how she interacts with them, leading up to when they reach the Cassadaga Cemetery.

The purpose of this is to establish bonds between characters, reveal to the player the unique flaws, vices, and virtues of Hawthorne and her friends, and begin setting up the interpersonal conflicts that will really come into focus in Phase Two, while teaching the game mechanics to the players. It is also possible to favor one friend over everyone else, or two friends over the third.

At Midnight, the player will pick which person will sit on the Devil's Chair, except for Hawthorne, who refuses outright. Depending on which person is selected, whether or not the player favored one or more characters over the person sitting on the chair, and various minor choices made throughout Phase One, Phase Two will be different.

Phase Two (Midnight to 5am):

Regardless of who sits on the Devil's Chair, the person who sat reports that nothing happened. It's only at 1am, when Hawthorne and her friends are attacked by demons, do they realize that something absolutely did happen.

The Devil has possessed the body of the person who sat on the Devil's Chair to escape Hell, and Hell wants the Devil back.

Hawthorne and the remainder of her friends have until sunrise to find a way to get their friend back, or the possession becomes permanent. The player can do this in a couple different ways: either through appealing to the lost friend directly, ignoring the Devil, which is easier if Hawthorne spent time with them & harder if she favored others over them; through arguing with or making deals with the Devil, which will be easier or harder depending on how the player has Hawthorne treat the Devil; or a combination of the two.

All while avoiding or fending off the forces of Hell, of course.


Dialogue Trees & Meaningful Action Choices: What Hawthorne says and does matters. Each small decision will affect how other characters view her and how much they trust her, as well as opens or closes later possible dialogue or action choices down the line. These will affect how Hawthorne talks to her lost friend and the Devil, and how the forces of Hell choose to attack.

Combat & Tactics: As a not-particularly-fit college student, Hawthorne must rely on strategy and timing to succeed. She is capable of directing her more talented friends (and useless Devil) to advantageous positions within environments, and use those environments to combat the demonic enemies pursuing them. In a direct confrontation, Hawthorne can use a variety of improvised weapons, but the attack timing must be perfect (no button-mashing).

Savannah Dodson, Student at The University of Montevallo, The Storyteller

Urban Legend: The Satanic Ram-man sculpture in Birmingham, Alabama

This sculpture, called "The Storyteller" by its creator Frank Fleming, was intended to capture the southern storytelling tradition of smart-aleck creatures as well as capture the attention of children. A human with a goat head sits in a stump, reading to various animals who are surrounding him. The sculpture's unorthodox focal point was believed to be a representation of Satan, and the five frogs who surround him are meant to show the five points of a pentagram. This led to the formation of its own urban legend, where many people claim that satanic rituals are held at this fountain, but there is no evidence to support this.

The game concept: Players will take on the role of the goat-man statue, who is truly Satan, and will have to obtain followers while silently sneaking around individual houses.

In an opening scene, players will see the statue, standing completely still as the sun sets behind it. Once darkness has fallen, the goat-man will start to shudder, as if trying to unstick himself from his pedestal. As he rises, Satan will start to monologue, lamenting at his small following and expressing a desire to increase his worship. After this, a tutorial will commence, explaining to players that their ultimate goal is to gain total control of the city they occupy. They will then teleport into a nearby home, where everyone is sleeping.

Players must find a way to sneak around the house without waking the sleeping individuals, avoiding obstacles such as children's toys, sleeping animals, and even the occasional passed out drunkard. As houses get harder, there will be more of the stationary obstacles that must be avoided, as well moving obstacles that can only be passed be remaining completely motionless. Once the players approach an individual who is sleeping in a bed, they will be prompted to hypnotize them, bringing the NPC under their control (The initial tutorial house will only contain one individual, and as players progress through the game, there will be increasingly more people in beds that they must hypnotize and harder obstacles that they must find a way around).

After this is completed, a cutscene will begin where we see the hypnotized individual performing a ritual around the statue's base. This will cause Satan to gain Power, which would be measured in a red bar along the side of the screen. Players can use Power to obtain upgrades and tools from the five frogs that surround the goat-man's pedestal, forming a pentacle. At first, only the first frog will be available with fairly weak upgrades, but as players progress through increasingly difficult houses, new frogs will become available with better upgrades.

Veronika Tanaeva, Indie Game Designer (Junior) from Moscow, Libera Libri

The game about reaching and sharing the knowledge.

Top-down stealth horror experience with elements of tactical RPG, were you need to pick up the most fitting character from your squad for mission and use your gaming skill not to lose the advantage. Find mysterious Ivan Grozny's Library in the Moscow undergrounds. Try to avoid all its inhabitants.

According to local legends, Moscow Underground contains much more than just Metro. There are frightening mutants living in the tunnels, all of them afraid of even more terrifying Ghost Train which picks up everyone on its way and abducts its victims to nowhere.

In distant future, when the events of the game take place, Earth was abandoned and faced decay. Leaving to Mars, people took away all available sources of knowledge with them. Mythical Ivan Grozny's Library is the only hope for those who were sent back to Earth as a death sentence for their sins.

Locations are top-down dungeons with difficult labyrinths. Visual style and atmosphere inspired by This War of Mine.

You can pick one of several available characters for each mission and explore undergrounds. Supplies and time are limited, firepower is really low. Goal is to reach the Library as fast as you can, but you'll have to search for food and lights, leave underground to have some rest, solve puzzles to open blocked tunnels, avoid encounters with mutants and, of course, run away from Ghost Train. But beware: your group might be not the only one searching for the Library, and others might not want to share.

Each shift you decide whether to replenish the supplies in familiar safe areas or explore the unknown locations. You pick and equip one of available characters whose personal parameters fit the mission best. Each character can't go on two missions in a row (even more if was hurt), so you need to be careful.

Character can interact with some objects on a map, open new start points for the travel, hide from the enemies behind the corners and in different holes. The presence of enemies is identified by special sounds. Characters can barely fight, so the player must always consider some place to hide.

You start with only one character. On your way you meet other characters. You have to find information about them before inviting them in your squad as some of them will be useless and will just spend the supplies while others may kill you in your sleep. Also, you can't pick endless number of characters. You may ask one to leave in order to invite someone more useful, but he knows your shelter and your intentions so he can return to get revenge. 

Eric Dolland, Student at The University of Montevallo, Lovelady Bridge

The urban legend I will be talking about is the ghost of Lovelady Bridge. In my hometown of Dadeville, Al there is a bridge that is said to be haunted by the ghost of a mother who has lost her child (speculation is that her child was killed). It is said that if you stand on the bridge and recite the words, "Lovelady, Lovelady, I have your child" then she will appear and attack you.

The game I will design based on this legend will be a 4-player murder mystery style game in which players confront the ghost and help her find her child's killer. The game will include 4 color avatar pieces, 4 information sheets, 4 colored player cards with information about each player, a sheet containing the rules and a backstory about the legend, and a box to hold the materials. At the beginning of the set up the 4 character cards are placed face down and each player will close their eyes and, one by one, open their eyes and draw a card. They will then grab the avatar piece that matches their card color and close their eyes again.

To start the game, one of the players is designated as the killer in the beginning; however, he/she cannot reveal this fact to anyone. It is the objective of the other players to determine who killed the child of the ghost. Each player will be given a separate story which tells about different parts of the ghost's life in order to determine different clues. These players will match their clues together along with the killer feeding false information into the group to determine the odd player out and accuse them.

The non-killer players have information that is unknown to everyone else that is used with information from the rest of the non-killer's pages to determine a solid story to accuse another player. The killer is given small amounts of information from the other sheets as well as their own so that they may keep up with their story. It is their job to use their skills of deception and remembering their own story to make others believe that they are not the killer. If anyone other than the killer is accused, the ghost will kill the accuser. If another player is accused that is not the killer: the party loses the game, the killer roams free, and the Ghost of Lovelady Bridge is free to terrorize more innocent people.

Ryan Coole, Junior Application Developer, The Moddey Dhoo

Genre: Survival Horror


In the days when Charles II was King in England, Peel Castle was always garrisoned by soldiers. At the end of the long days in the castle, a different soldier each night would lock the castle gates and bring the key through a passage to the Captain. It was about this time in the cold and dark nights that a big black dog with rough curly hair was seen around the castle, with his red eyes glaring. He did not belong to anyone there and no one knew anything about him. He made no sound, but watched them until the break of day, when he would then disappear into the dark passage.

One night, one foolish soldier had drunk more than was good for him and he began to brag and boast that he was not afraid of the dog. It was not his turn to take the keys, but to show how brave he was, he said that he would take them alone. There was a deathly silence in the passage; no sound was heard but the dashing of the waves on the steep rocks of the Castle Islet. Shortly after, there was the most unearthly screams and howls coming from the passage, as blood splatters everywhere. You witness it all from your room and must find your way to the key, as it is your only way out!


Harrison Neville, Student at The University of Montevallo, Ghost Masters

Since its founding in 1896 The University of Montevallo has been a hotspot for paranormal activity. For years the ghost have made their presence known in little ways, but now they have decided that they are longer content being the topic of little events like a yearly ghost walk. The time has come and they're ready to rule.

Objective: As one of the predominant ghost occupying the campus, your goal is to gain the respect of other lesser ghost by generating fear among students and thus build up a following in order to become the most powerful ghost of all. Your goal is to conquer all of UM by taking control of the three prominent haunted locations. 

Players: 2-3 players.

Characters: Connie, Trummie, and King


The game takes place on a board that is a map of the University of Montevallo campus with most detail being given to the locations around which hauntings are most frequently known to occur. Each character starts on the specific location associated with them. So Reynolds for Trummie, Main Hall for Connie, and King House for King. Each location will have challenges that must be completed to generate fear from the college students spending time in the area. Fear is the currency used to purchase the loyalty of lesser ghost to join your side. These ghost can be purchased at either your starting haunting location or the King Family Cemetery. To gain access to the ghost at other haunted locations you must build up your deck and then drive the other characters out of their domains.

There are two types of cards in the game. Fear cards and ghost cards. Fear cards focus primarily on building up fear to purchase ghost and ghost cards are used to combat the other players. Some of the fear and ghost cards will work together, but for the most part they will stay contained to their disciplines. Players will work throughout the game to build up their deck with both these card types in order to generate fear and defeat their opponents.

In addition to the ghost that players can recruit into their decks, there are also several powerful ghost whom they can recruit as their right hand spirit to help them in their conquest. Players can build these acolytes their own separate mini decks and use them to help defeat their opponents. Naturally, the recruitment of one of these ghost requires far more fear than the ghost cards.

The game ends when one player takes control of Main Hall, King House, and Reynolds.

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