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tremulus: Lovecraftian RPG
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Author Topic: tremulus: Lovecraftian RPG  (Read 22371 times)
wyrmis
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« on: January 28, 2013, 08:06:24 PM »

Finally got around to playing tremulus (Sean Preston stylized it with a lower-case "t") this weekend, and have another session coming up this Friday to finish the one-shot. It uses a modified version of Apocalypse World's mechanics, with a focus on Lovecraftian themes. Right now, the only version I know of is the Kickstarter version, which seems to be a partial bit, but I think it is due out for wider release soon and so wanted to go ahead and post some thoughts.

I wrote up some thoughts and reviews and playnotes on my blog, which you can read here: Our tremulus game write-up: Ebon Eaves as a dying industrial town in the South (part 1). Or, to sum up and expand on some of the things I mention, there:

PROS:
(1) You can start a game with almost zero prep (besides printing out playbooks and the Keeper reading the rules) in under an a half-hour. In fact, players can actually start interacting and getting the basics laid out while the Keeper is doing the initial note taking, meaning it might be more like five minutes from sitting down to going.
(2) Since it focuses on pieces of stories and open-ended threads (with an oncoming doom to add some horror it), you can use the same framework/playbook/playset/etc without playing the same game, adding both to the weirdness of it and giving it replayability.
(3) Rules are simply enough to be basically taught to players in about the time it takes them to read their playbook.
(4) Strong narrative focus.

CONS:
(1) Some of the rules/rolls feel a little game-mechanic-y. Kind of like a board game played "in the mind" (to probably quote some old 80s RPG book). For instance, a full success for a "Puzzle Things Out" gives three questions. A partial gives one. If you fully convince a person, you have to make assurances, if you partially convince a person, you have to give something concrete. Etc.
(2) [at least with the current version, though this might change with the fuller release,] It feels like it could be fuller and some of the rules/wordings can make the Keeper have to make judgement calls. Which is true in most RPGs, but is *especially* true, here.
(3) Some players might not be comfortable with just running with their character rather than having more concrete rules to dictate. Basically, if it is not one of the basic or special "moves", the flow is entirely up to the group/Keeper to decide as an outcome.

Keep an eye out for it, I'd say, especially if it comes through DriveThruRPG for $10 or so. If anyone is interested, you can get the "playbooks" at my link above, or just let me know and I can email them. They aren't the complete rules, but are the character archetypes and have a good number of rules right on them. Maybe not enough for you to get the system, but enough for you to get pretty close if you are used to RPGs (and especially if you know Apocalypse World or Dungeon World).

One last note: To help a friend who isn't able to play in person very often, I might run an online game or two (on top of running another couple in-person games) so if anyone is interested, just let me know and I'll figure out what I can do.

EDIT: Fixed link to include new fangled actually working hypertext technology!
« Last Edit: January 29, 2013, 02:19:29 PM by wyrmis » Logged

Doug Bolden
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wyrmis
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« Reply #1 on: February 06, 2013, 01:45:44 AM »

This is my write up from the second (and, for that "campaign", final) session of tremulus: Pools of acid and the infernal machine, part 2 of our tremulus game write up. Include a bit on what works and what doesn't, that is kind of an expansion of the above Pros and Cons with about twice the gameplay under my belt.

Still enjoy it. Still would recommend it, though unless they add some more world data and samples it might be best for people who have played Lovecraftian games, looking for something new, rather than people who have played alt-RPGs but never anything Lovecraftian. I suppose if you know the stories of Lovecraft and other weird fiction, you could fill in enough gaps.

I had planned on adding some "frameworks" (i.e., game modules, tremulus style) and will probably type a few up that I've been mulling over, but since the game is postponed due to creative team sickness (and/or insanity for peering too deep into the cosmic void), not a whole lot of people would be able to take too much advantage of it. I might hold those off for a few weeks due to this.
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Doug Bolden
Si Vales, Valeo
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