Escalation is Built In

Chill LogoIn the comments for the Chill Third Edition Kickstarter site (October 28), one of the backers (Mike Callahan) says this:

(Speaking of old system flaws): Another one that we put a fix to was the “Let’s go to the Library”…a sort of turtle defense that was tried all the time. The characters did not like having to encounter the Unknown without some knowledge…makes absolute sense. So they just researched the heck out of it until the had every scrap. Meanwhile the creatures either did their own thing or stayed put, not having (or knowing) that SAVE was on to them. The players knew that endless rolls in a library would result, but that was better than finding out in battle that IT was immune to gunfire. So…they turtled.

I devised a system that the Unknown would get added strength (in Willpower and such) as it accomplished it’s goals…and that the players knew that each creature did have some goal (as do we all). They could not hide and wait, (lets use your system, here) for each day the players could see the creatures build up a special chip that gives them a one use dark side (it is used, does not flip to white and is discarded). So, Dracula gets a Renfield, there’s a chip. Dracula gets a home, there’s a chip. Dracula gets his coffins, there’s a chip. Players NEED to prevent these things and can (perhaps) remove unspent Dark chips if they can reverse the accomplishment.

I can see why Mr. Callahan went there, but the “turtling” concept would have been an abject failure in my game. There was almost always a ticking clock in the background, between when the investigators first become aware of the menace and when the next body would drop (or when the menace would slide out of sight and out of reach for years to come.)

“Turtling” only works if you don’t care how many victims this thing claims in the meantime. If your buddy Jack is being targeted by the ghost of a spurned woman, he’s got maybe 3 – 7 days before it tries to claim him. If someone is being visited in their dreams by a bane, it’s working up to the final dream where it exerts all its power and makes them seem dead so they are buried and the bane can savor their life force. If that house is being haunted, maybe the chance to cleanse it of the dark spirit only comes up once every thirty three years.

Not every creature is laying siege to the world. Many are safari hunters, popping in to bag a trophy then slipping away before any consequence can connect with them.

The monster hunters in my crew learned to be lean and fast. They learned to go for witness interviews, find things that were out of place, and feed those scraps of intel to the library-bound among them. If the hunt drew the ire of the creature, they did not whine about that–because if the monster was targeting them, they had drawn its attention away from the innocent. They knew the clock was always ticking, and if the investigation slowed down there were likely to be more corpses or broken lives piling up. Each death or crippling provided clues, but that was a price that innocents paid to help the investigation along.

You see this clock at work in the playtest packet; a child is in the grasp of darkness, and if the investigators don’t move fast, not only will the child be lost but all evidence will fade away. You must act, quickly, decisively, or the monster claims more victims. Then either the monster hibernates or escalates. Either way, you’ve failed round one if you turtle.

The old system was not broken because some cowardly saps hid in libraries. This chit-adding system may be a fun new trick to give to some creatures, but I firmly believe the greatest motivator should be to get out there and stop those creatures of darkness before they create more victims. If it is too late to save the innocent, then you had damn well better avenge them. If all you can do is make detailed notes for the next crew of investigators that will face these monsters, then you’re not quite useless. But don’t pretend that’s enough.

To conclude, my experience is counter to Mr. Callahan’s experience. I can see the advantage of having some monsters that grow more established and insidious if given time to do so–but that should be one motivator among many, the greatest of which is to protect the innocent before darkness taints or destroys their lives.

So that’s a window into the awesomeness of monster hunting with Chill. You can’t solve things with bullets or research alone, but you need a balanced approach that is all about figuring out what the menace is and how to deal with it rather than muscling up and shooting your way through. It’s a great game, and I encourage you to check it out. Ladies and gentlemen, Chill Third Edition!

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2 Responses to Escalation is Built In

  1. Mike callahan says:

    And without argument that is how it should be…IF your players are very heroic. But if you can scare the players then tjeu may default to “better them than us” or if they imagine they aren’t ready for such a menace then: “we’ll die and be a help to no one”. I duggested another method that does not remove your points but does address the other situations. In a lot of horror stories, the protanganist is not so self sacrificing and very deliberative.

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