Lovecraft PbtA

edited April 2017 in Make Stuff!
Hey all, I made something. Since I don't have a regular group of committed gamers, let alone story-gamers, this is completely untried and untested. It's probably horribly askew, but it's more a stab at a concept than a finished thing - I'm trying to catch the lighting of sanity meters, mental breakdowns, and all that tropey Cthuhu stuff in the PbtA bottle, with a few (I think) original ideas thrown in.

Ask questions if you have any - I know the document isn't clear at the moment but I'm not up to writing out all the explanatory stuff just yet. I'd rather answer questions in areas where it's particularly unclear than try to cover everything.

The big empty box called "Skills" should be filled with traddy skill names, but I hate looking at skill lists, let alone writing them, so I'm procrastinating with that. Help would be much appreciated.

There's a risk when making games about people going crazy that you reduce mental illness to a set of logical gates and simple explanations. I'm not trying to capture the reality of mental illness here - more what's seen in Lovecraft and its ilk.

Finally, since I have no group to play with at the moment, if someone wants to playtest this thing please feel free, and let me know how it goes.

EDIT: here's the link which I forgot:


  • I might head off one of the big PbtA questions at the pass: there are no playbooks. For your character you decide on a profession and circle all the skills that would ordinarily belong to that profession, plus one or two more life skills. Probably just one. Then those go into rotation in your skill list.

    I'm not sure about gaining experience and advancement at the moment. One thing I'm pretty clear on is that every time you advance you can either swap a skill between your d4 and d6 lists, or take a skill off your d4 list and put a skill from the master skill list in its place.
  • I'm glad people are putting work into different versions of Lovecraftian PbtA since Tremulus 1e was so poorly received.
  • edited April 2017
    I'm glad people are putting work into different versions of Lovecraftian PbtA since Tremulus 1e was so poorly received.
    There's also Mythos World, but for some reason people don't talk much about that one.

    PS: I'm also happy to see people starting to ditch playbooks. They're useful for many games, but sometimes they just limit options for no good reason.
  • This is a really interesting and ambitious hack. (And great layout/design!)

    Many of the moves are really well done.

    Some of the design features confuse me, however. For instance, where do we start filling the harm clocks? Why do the best rolls punish you? (Are you supposed to get better at doing things while the clocks fill up, and then start to cause problems for yourself? An interesting concept.)

    Overall, the way all the moves and clocks and options interact seems overly layered (for example, for any given roll, you have 2d6, possible extra dice for advantage and disadvantage, then an +add from a stat which fluctuates constantly, and finally possible extra dice based on skills), but I'd have to see it in action to be able to tell whether it's a beautifully-working clock or a messy mish-mash.

    Some orienting text, describing what to expect in play, might be helpful to the reader! ("In this game, your clocks will fill up as you encounter ________, but then ________ will happen, so try to follow your Instincts..." or whatever the actual process is.) That would make it easier to gauge the text and the rules, by providing some context.

    Would you be willing to describe how it's *supposed* to go here in this thread?

    (While we're listing hacks, another one I like, which isn't strictly Lovecraft but easily could be, is Black Stars Rise.)
  • Happy to explain, Paul.

    You start filling out the clocks at the top, at -1 for the top four (the Psyches) and at +2 for Body.

    The best rolls punish you because I wanted to create the feeling of losing control of your character as they come closer to the edge of insanity. The idea is also that as you inch higher in the clocks, the moves should prompt you to do things which will cause you to suffer Psyche-harm, meaning that players are pushing the limits of their character's sanity when their characters are at their most effective.

    The reason for this being that most of the things requiring you roll+Psyche are fairly psychotic things to do – hurt and manipulate people, find out other people's secrets. So I wanted to drive that to a sort of conclusion: as you get better at taking control of those things, they get better at taking control of you. It's also because in horror fiction characters should never be powerful, and, in Lovecraft especially, characters are either powerless, or monsters themselves.

    Regarding skills, advantage, etc, my thought is that you can only have one extra dice to roll at any time. Disadvantage would negate advantage or skill. Would that be enough simplification, or is it just the presence of these modifications that causes complexity?

    Instincts are one of the potential cogs in the unfinished advancement machine.

    What moves are most problematic for you? Personally I'm least sure about Search, and also the Suffer Trauma mechanism. But I see how difficult it will be to know whether this works without a playtest group. If only I had friends who were interested in story games :( does anyone have any advice on how to get a playtest going when you don't know anybody who plays these games?
  • Probably the easiest thing would be to do some very brief playtests of the various bits and pieces in isolation.

    Overall, the game just reads as fairly overwhelming. But this isn't necessarily bad - sometimes complexity is very much worth the effort. If it all works really well together, there's nothing wrong with that!

    I don't recall having any particular problems with the moves - they're very well put together, as far as I can remember (I noticed that in particular). It's just hard to visualize how all the bits work together without spending a lot more time looking over the thing.

    I'd love to hear some other people's feedback on this; maybe they will see other things!

    Finding playtesters is always tricky. Are you on Google+? There's a Community called "Games on Trial" which will help you get some readers, if not playtesters (but then you could ask the readers to do a playtest with you online).
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