Style- This is a game about heretical philosophies that have been dismissed, ridiculed or suppressed because they don’t have ‘happy endings.’
It’s a game about people driven to seek truth despite the danger. It’s about the double-life those people must lead and the thrill and power that accompanies their exploration of the dark truths of this world.
This is a horror game, yet players are not given the comfort of a monster they know from legends: there are no ghosts or vampires or devils. Instead, the ‘monsters’ are the people, places and things that we depend on and believe in and that suddenly turn malevolent when their true nature is perceived.
In Dark Alleys draws style from three main sources:
Background- The game takes place in what seems to be the modern world, yet hidden just below the surface is a world of conspiracies, heretical faiths, occult powers and supernatural dangers. The true nature of the universe is not immediately divulged to the players, but players know this much: what most people believe about the universe is not only wrong, it is a deliberate deceit. Los Angeles is provided as an in-depth campaign setting, yet In Dark Alleys can be played anywhere in the modern world.
Player Characters- The players are all “touched,” people who have had a peek behind the curtain of normal reality and have been irrevocably changed by otherworldly forces. These encounters often were against their will. The exact nature of what has happened to them is currently beyond the characters’ understanding. The encounters have left them different in two ways. First, they have unusual abilities. Second, they know that the reality most people believe in is false. The touched are driven by fear, by curiosity or by lust for power to discover more about the universe’s dark secrets, even if it means walking into dangers they can’t comprehend and may not be able to survive.
Character Creation- The character has one pool of points to buy attributes with and another pool of points to buy skills with. Characters must choose a Day Job (the character’s place in mundane society) and a Secret Life (the source of the character’s supernatural knowledge and powers). The Day Job sets the cost for mundane skills and the Secret Life sets the cost for supernatural skills. Advantages and disadvantages are used to round out the character. Skill points, attribute points, money and points from advantages and disadvantages can all be traded for each other via a simple ratio.
PCs earn XP (experience points) by surviving dangers, helping people, discovering secrets of the universe and by scaring or creeping-out fellow PCs. XP can be used to improve characters. In order to gain supernatural skills, PCs must spend XP but must also do dangerous experiments with their own abilities.
Game Mechanics- All mechanics are based on a simple system: The sum of attribute + skill + modifier(s) + 1d20 must be equal to or higher than the difficulty of the proposed action. Opposed rolls are made when two actions are in conflict with each other. Each of the opposing parties wants to beat his or her particular difficulty by more than the other party beats his or hers. Fighting is made up of opposed actions and reactions with different difficulties and effects. In combat, for each round each character gets one action to make against an opponent and one reaction if someone else does something to him or her. Supernatural powers use the basic skill system.
See also: What Makes IDA Different From Other Occult/Horror RPGs?