Defining Some of the Design Goals of tremulus
As I work on tremulus and the project is beginning to seep into the cosmic consciousness (or what you may call the Internet), I want to clarify exactly what I’m talking about when I am saying this is a storytelling game of Lovecraftian horror. A designer should set out some design goals for what his plans are before he just leaps into the writing process and those words are stating it clearly and plainly and, perhaps, with a bit of subtlety. And that’s the whole point. Right?
Lovecraftian horror is, painting it with the broadest brush possible, cosmic horror of the unknown. If you think about it, that’s an awful lot to take in. When HPL was writing, the world was full of very real horrors (as it seems to be throughout time) and humanity is a blip on the radar. There are things afoot in his stories which are beyond the ken of man. That’s cool. The stories are rarely full of hyperviolence and the sort of madnesses we have become (largely and terrifyingly) desensitized to today. His time was a simpler time. And he made that time scary.
Influenced as he was by Poe, creator of the mystery as we know it today, HPL’s stories are mysteries suffused with mind-shattering truths, things man is best not knowing. Ignorance offers no sanctuary, no protections, no safety. Just because someone doesn’t know a killer lurks in the neighborhood doesn’t make him immune to the man’s bloodlust, to his insatiable and inhuman drive to kill again. Remember, there is no safe place.
Sprinkle elements of the weird into the equation. Things which are unknowable and strange and scary. Well, that is mighty hard to do with something so ingrained into the fiber of the modern gamer. You may have never played any of the Cthulhu RPGs out there…but you know about Cthulhu and, quite likely, some of the other parts of the Mythos. If you’re reading this, you’re probably familiar with my previous development of Realms of Cthulhu. I love all the tropes and the bits and pieces of all the lore and all the stories and all the horrific turns of events. And I’m working on a massive beast of a project entitled Echo of Dead Leaves rich with all of those ideas.
tremulus is a different sort of game. While you can play it that way, it has a different vibe, a different rhythm to it. Strange things are transpiring. Cultists and other dark entities may still be lurking about (depending upon the setup), but tremulus is a shared experience. Everything is uncertain. Not even the Keeper knows how things are going to turn out which means any scene could fold out in a huge number of ways. This is a liberating, exhilarating experience, and feels a great deal different than the vibe I’ve gotten from a lot of other games. Everyone stays engaged. The mysteries unfold before everyone’s eyes. And, while you may not be encountering foul creatures from the depths of the void regularly, the characters know bad things are out there. And, yes, bad things happen.
Hopefully, this clarifies the difference between traditional Cthulhu games and the design space I’m currently working within. I’m not typically one to split hairs, but I feel it’s important enough to let you guys know what my target is right off the bat. Please feel free to comment and let me know what you think.
Until next time, I bid you, dear reader, adieu