Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Suspirian School of Ballet

How about a procedurally generated dungeon (akin to The Gardens of Ynn & The Stygian Library) set in the surreal and murderous dance school of the 1977 Suspiria?

During the day, the Suspirian School of Ballet (or the Chthonic Academy of Choreography?) is a tough place, where you have to put up with the cruelty of the teachers and the other aspiring ballerinas.

But at night... everything changes to even worse. You wake up screaming and sweating in your dormitory, only to find that the building is completely different. Corridors twist into a maze of madness, new rooms or macabre dimensions and unfathomable purposes appear. Unnatural lights shift around, and the curtains sway in the air as thousand phantoms. Shadowy silhouettes on the walls chase after you.

Somewhere in the very heart of this labyrinth is the Source of it all, a terrible, terrible secret... To escape this madness, you must find it and fight it.



Nighttime is crawling the vast labyrinth of the School. Only the Dormitory is fixed. Every night all other locations are generated randomly.

One exclusion: the characters can form a bond to a Nighttime location or encounter, to make it permanent and revisitable. Perhaps it's a dead girl's ghost who wants revenge. Or a hallway where healing water is tricking from the statue of a nymph. This has a cost: any place or entity the characters are bonded to will attract the attention of the unkind forces of the school.

This exclusion mechanic lets the players to define little goals or quests for themselves.


Daytime is downtime. Lick your wounds. Survive the torturous dance lessons. Find new weapons and do research in the library. Nighttime events bleed into the day, and each time you bring back more and more darkness. But perhaps certain Nighttime encounters are solvable from this side (kill the teacher who bullied that girl into suicide?).


  1. "Normal" areas of the School, but twisted by the unkind forces (school rooms, offices, halls, staircases, dance rooms, bathrooms, library, cafeteria, dormitories, storage rooms, small gardens, orangeries...)
  2. What was here before the School (Inquisitorial torture rooms, prison cells, dungeons, magic laboratories
  3. Nighttime-born areas, lairs of the unkind forces, intrusions from other dimensions


One of the strongest visual driving forces of Argento's Suspiria is the use of lush, baroque, unnatural lightning in each scene. I think it's possible to implement this in the game as well.
In each location, the Referee rolls for random illumination. This color influences what events or encounters happen, and how they play out. Some locations or circumstances call for two or more illumination rolls, and the influences bleed together.

  1. RED is blood, aggression, death
  2. PURPLE is madness and witchcraft
  3. GREEN is poison, mutation, sickness
  4. YELLOW is pain and torture incarnate
  5. BLUE is deception and lies
  6. DARKNESS is the Void you wish you could fill with any of the above


  1. Ghosts of pupils tortured and bullied to death
  2. Mean girls
  3. Living shadows
  4. Phantom force
  5. Dancing plague
  6. Black-Gloved Killer
  7. The Witch

Ideas for Extra Flavor

  1. Language of sighs & whispers
  2. Blades signal death
  3. Spells contained in shards of stained glass

There's a lot to work out here, but at least I jotted down some basic ideas. Emmy Allen's stuff is a constant source of inspiration for me, and so are horror movies, weird fiction... I think this combination could work pretty well.


  1. This is most excellent! I especially like the "bond" mechanic to anchor locations/characters - gives me plenty of ideas to use this structure for a nightmarish haunted castle.

  2. Nice! Still need to watch the remake. I heard it was decent.

    1. Yeah, I haven't seen it either! The fact that it's not a "copy" of the original and has its own style is a good sign.

  3. I like this idea! Would you try to keep the "depth" mechanic from Ynn/Stygia? Or are day/night and color the more important factors for defining the rhythm of play?

    For color, I would be tempted, rather than rolling for color randomly every time, to use something like 1-3 same color as previous room, 4-5 next color in order, 6 previous color in order.

    1. I'd definitely keep Depth. The farther from the Dormitory, the more dangerous the places and encounters become. I think it's a very elegant and easy to use mechanic (easy to track, just add +1 each time), that you can factor into many different equations. Apply it to random encounters (the deeper = the more dangerous), treasure rolls (the deeper = the more valuable), if you are giving out experience for exploration, then maybe just multiply the maximum depth reached...

      Great idea with the colors! I'd definitely go with something like that. Have a "palette" or "spectrum", and move up/down on it. So the shifts are more gradual; and also you can have thematic blocks of rooms with the same illumination.

      The color mechanic needs much work and testing though. It's tricky. Any ideas are welcome, thanks!

    2. I should also look into Castle Gargantua's color-coded "areas" - could work well for the illumination-themed clusters of locations in Suspisian Dance School.

  4. oooh, the colours idea is very neat.
    But yes, do this, this sounds excellent.