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[UnSpeakable] Narrativising Mr. Cthulhu?

Started by Filip Luszczyk, April 24, 2007, 02:35:05 PM

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Filip Luszczyk

Last Friday, we played quite a fun session of UnSpeakable via Skype. The game was pretty spontaneous, as someone proposed we try out InSpectres, curious of how it works in actual play (I'm the only one in the group who had any previous, limited, AP experiences with the game, but we all find trying out unfamiliar solutions valuable for design purposes). Also, we've been in a rather relaxed mood, so the session was loose and short (at most two hours of play or so, not counting tabletalk and pre- and post-game discussion).

We dug up demo rules, and Kamil winded up as the GM ("Umm... so who runs it today?" "Umm... whatever?"). After talking a bit about the flavor, we tossed out the proposition to play The Chinese Ghost Story with the rules, and settled on something Lovecraftian in tone. Then, Kamil recalled there was a Lovecraftian expansion for InSpectres, and since it's freely available as well and (gasp) two pages long, we decided to use it and quickly familiarized ourself with the rules.

I can say only as much: UnSpeakable, as a Lovecraftian game, is brilliant.

Just before I got myself dragged into the Game Chef madness, I've been playing Arcane (Lovecraftian adventure game in flash) and thinking about writing a short pulpish system based on Lovecraftian adjectives. Now, it seems I don't need it any more, heh.

I had some issues with InSpectres, but with UnSpeakables, everything made much more sense. We had a small problem figuring out whether Job Dice work as normal, cause the text doesn't mention them at all, but otherwise, I see only one thing that could work even better (I'll get to it in a moment).

I don't suppose the details of the session are that much important. It was your average pulpish Lovecraftian romp. We had totally cliche characters that basically consisted from a name and a talent ("What's your name?" "Professor Moore." "And the first name?" "Well, Professor!"). Many noisome things were encountered as we slowly descended into madness. We've barely managed to gather 10 Job Dice and saved Arkham from the otherworldly threat, winding up imprisoned. Another session like that would leave at least one character insane, if not both.

Fun.

The thing is, despite our session being on the silly side, I think the game could be used for a game more serious in tone just as well (as serious as a game about blasphemous Lovecraftian horrors can get, at last).

I'd say that the game has everything needed to emulate the atmosphere of Lovecraftian stories, and is very playable on the purely gamey side as well. No "roll to check whether you can continue playing this scenario" absurd. No encouragement to protect one's Sanity - the more Sanity you loose, the more powerful madman you become. So much for CoC, whether BRP or d20 version.

The confessional as diaries rule is great. So much for De Profundis, too.

One thing I really like about the game is how Sanity works. As you loose it, you advance mechanically. But you never advance in the social area. You're gradually turning into a withdrawn, solitary creep.

However, in the middle of the session, something struck me about the Sanity. Why is it the GM who decides when, why and how much Sanity do I loose?

Stress dice are one of the things that I don't like in vanilla InSpectres - they hinge on the GM's fiat way too much, and the system doesn't regulate clearly how often and how much stress the character takes. It's like Sanity in classic CoC - a grenade from the GM. Playing UnSpeakable, oddly enough, I didn't feel the grenade thing as strongly as in vanilla InSpectres. Probably because it was more of a mechanical reward here. However, it was still there.

So, I asked myself why can't I simply decide what makes my character go insane, and how strongly it affects his mind?

After the game, we discussed the issue, and we came to the conclusion that Sanity rules would be so much more interesting if it was more in the player's hands. The solution we produced in the end is as follows: if it's the GM who asks for a Sanity roll, the player chooses the exact number of dice to roll, and if it's the player who asks for a Sanity roll, the GM chooses how many dice are rolled.

Callan S.

Is this a suplement or a stand alone game?
Philosopher Gamer
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David Artman

Where is UnSpeakables? I can't find it with Google (though I probably didn't try hard enough).
Designer - GLASS, Icehouse Games
Editor - Perfect, Passages

Filip Luszczyk

It's a two page suplement, but it turns the game on its head, so it would be better off as a stand alone, I think. However, taking into account how strongly it changes the game, I don't think anything more than the startup edition is really needed to play.

It's freely available at Jared Sorensen's site, along with the demo.