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!