Successfully funded on Gamefound in May 2022!

Two games of survival horror, often without the survival.

Desperation provides a unique, card-driven game play for gothic storytelling experiences steeped in actual history. Dead House and The Isabel are dark, lyrical games about people pushed far past their limits.

If you like card-based roleplaying games like For the Queen and The Quiet Year but have a dark and unmerciful heart, you’ll love Desperation.


  • Two complete card-driven games
  • Each is for 1-5 players and 1-2 hours of play
  • Cooperative storytelling, work together to tell a story

What is Desperation?

Desperation is the engine that powers two unique and chilling experiences, built on the same dark tone and mechanics, that are truly pick-up-and-play experiences for you and your friends.

The Desperation Engine is different because you don’t decide what is said—you decide who says it. And in a small community, who says “I burned a house down with the family trapped inside” makes all the difference in the world.

The cards for each game include an entire claustrophobic world of characters that form a web of relationships you will then apply agonizing pressure to and, in most cases, destroy.

Dead House is set during the great blizzard of 1888, and in it you will meet the people of the tiny town of Neola, Kansas, who find themselves unprepared in the teeth of the storm. As supplies and sanity dwindle in equal measure, who will live and who will be added to the dead house?

The Isabel is set aboard a three-masted cod schooner fishing in the Gulf of Alaska in 1888. Her passengers and crew have unpalatable secrets, and they are sailing into a storm the Isabel cannot weather. A doomed ship, raging seas, and a handful of leaking dories await them—and then the hard times begin.

Desperation Press Kit

If you’re interested in Desperation and would like to write about the game, schedule an interview, or play the game on your stream, check out our press kit and contact us for more information!

What People Are Saying

“Dead House is tragic and weird and somehow beautiful, too. With a few decks of cards, Morningstar has carefully placed each cobblestone on a bumpy road to hell. Like so much of Bully Pulpit’s work, Dead House is enriched by the real histories it peers into. You may weep for the town of Neola, but you won’t save them.”

Kurt Refling

“A thoughtful, quiet game about hard people, hard truths, and hard choices. Experience the slow, inevitable breakdown of society during a brutal winter in the comfort of your own home!”

Casey Hardy, Talented Fool Cosplay, owner of Shadowmoor

“It was awesome. It was really cool. It was really nice to just be sitting around and telling a story and bouncing ideas off each other and who’s in love with who and who hates whom and who killed whoever might be dead. It was very dire and we all felt the stakes of it. We all felt that loss when a character died. A really good immersive experience.”

Jillian Kiefer, narrative Designer of ScreamCap

“Dead House harvests dread from the smallest seeds: one page of rules and a deck of cards suffused with perfectly specific prairie gothic details combine to provoke a panoply of dark tales from players. My students couldn’t stop talking about how much they were into this game.”

Rick Dakan, writer, game designer, and professor of Creative Writing, Ringling College of Art and Design

“Dead House is daring, emotional, and almost desperately bleak—a Bully Pulpit jam. Hotter than blood and colder than snow, Dead House demonstrates how a master of the craft like Jason Morningstar collaborates with players across space and time through the power of design. In the inevitability of an historically grueling winter, it mashes an unstoppable narrative force against the dramatic power of each player’s honesty and empathy. As winter turns to hell, players discover their own limits and face wrenching decisions while the characters’ torrid, fragile lives crack and break like ice. Dead House is a nail-biting chronicle of fear, judgment, and desperate hope, married to a game so raw and sharp that it cuts deep. I doubt any player comes out the other side of this game unchanged.”

Will Hindmarch, writer, game designer