talking tremulus: a bit about playbooks

I wasn’t around yesterday, but I’m fine. Usually, I can get to the RWR on Mondays, but since my kid graduated and got a car the world has become topsy-turvy. That’s okay. It keeps me on my toes. Right? Right. Now with the personal stuff out of the way, on to business.

I got to playtest tremulus this past Saturday. I don’t want to get into the details quite yet. I want to be fully cognizant and not fatigued when I break it down for you. I will tell you some of my thoughts post-play. What I had in place worked well. There were some other spaces which needed a little more definition and clarification for this particular rules set and the feel I’m going for. We worked through them on the fly and they worked just fine. I jotted down the relevant notes and typed it all up early morning yesterday in my draft document.

The attributes got renamed and adjusted to fit the vibe of the game. Trust replaces History. I’ve added a few new basic moves and modified how some of the existing one works. I put a simple Wealth mechanic in place. I put in ways to generate revenue which should be non-obtrusive. And I’ve been powering through the playbooks. As that’s the freshest thing on my mind, I’ll talk about what a playbook actually is.

A playbook is what you use to make your character. In fact, a playbook contains all of the information you need to quickly design your character from your name, look, stats, and down to the gear your particular character gets as well as the custom moves you get to choose from when you start out (and your menu for your character’s future development). For example, an adventurer is going to have a different array of attributes than an antiquarian. It all balances out and provides an interesting choice.

What really separates each of the characters the most, aside from their gear, are their special moves. You can get some pretty cool things right out of the gate which could either be long-term goals for a character in another game or outside of the game’s scope (and, thus, often hand-waved). For example, the antiquarian can start with an antique shop as a move and it has specific tangible benefits (such as providing a source of continuing wealth). On the other hand, the adventurer has his own sets of moves very much based on action. ¬†Although there are only five attributes, creating custom moves which break the normal rules of the basic moves is part-and-parcel of this game.

And there is niche protection. If you’re playing the antiquarian, you’re THE ANTIQUARIAN. No one else is invading your space. Same thing with the adventurer or the dilettante or whomever else you choose. What your fate is as that particular character is entirely up to you (and, perhaps, the dice rolls).

Though I said I wouldn’t get into particulars, I’ll say this about the playtest. I played it with one person and we had an enjoyable session. I noted, during play, it evoked a Twin Peaks meets Stephen King vibe. Horrible things happened. Weird things happened. It was Lovecraftian Horror. The darkness was rich, nuanced, and subtle. The Mythos was there. It was present. Yet, it was never mentioned.

Of course, this was just how this particular story unfolded. Depending upon the playbooks, even the exact same basic structure we used (from the working draft) will unfold differently for you and your friends. While the town is created through a series of questions and answers before play properly begins, the playbook you choose can have a definite impact upon the town and actually shape it. For example, if you took the antiquarian–and selected an antique shop–you’d be adding to the richness and fullness of the setting.

As always, I invite your questions. Who knows what secrets you may be able to pry out of me?

Until next time, I bid you, dear reader, adieu!







4 Notes on, talking tremulus: a bit about playbooks

  1. Ok. I’m beyond intrigued. Is this system able to handle longer running campaigns? It appears that these are one session games. I could be wrong.

  2. Building the city sounds intetesting, is that like Dresden Files? I have been looking for a way that empowers the players to help shape the gameworld. So this aspect sounds cool.

  3. Well, I’ve got a nice PDF copy of Apocalypse world. Guess why? I want to play in your design process for tremulus. I’m usually shy and reserved, as you well know, but I’ve been doing this sort of thing for a while (to put it mildly) on the play-test and design side of things. Arduin Eternal, Call of Cthulhu, Champions, Runequest, etc. blahblahblah…

    I’m particularly interested in conceptualizing character structures that run with the Cthulhu theme a bit more than Angel, Battlebabe, Brainer, Chopper, Driver, Gunlugger, Hardholder, Hocus, Operator, Savvyhead, and Skinner. I’m reviewing things now, having just nabbed the thing last night, but if you want some extra cerebral juju, let me know. I’m up for it.

  4. Carl: The system is able to sustain longer running campaigns, yes. Are you familiar with Twin Peaks or The Killing? You can extend the storyline to fit the length you wish to run it or you can tell a tale in an evening. As with most things, it’s best to go in with a game plan. This is an area I have marked for additional detail after I wrap up the current phase of development.

    Chaosmeister: The city building in this is nothing like Dresden Files. The characters are asked questions and their answers shape the town. There is a robust section detailing out particular details the characters know and secrets only the Keeper knows. Even though the characters shape the direction of play, there is a lot of versatility. Once I reveal a bit of this, it’ll be very clear.

    Lord Mhor: Glad to hear you snagged AW. It’s a terrific system. Not quite ready to put out a call for playtesters, when I do, remind me. I won’t forget who you are.

    Now, regarding the specific playbooks. I’ve retooled the core system quite a bit, and am creating a broad spectrum of playbooks for this. Have no fear, none that you have mentioned shall be found within tremulus. Each playbook is built from the ground up specifically for this genre and to compliment one another and the game itself.

    Thanks for the comments, guys! :)

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