Yep, I know the MMN blog looks really different right now!
As Ian sez:
Pro: we’ve upgraded our WordPress server!
Con: Our old theme wasn’t compatible. So we’ve got a temporary theme in place — not pretty, but it’s functional. Stay tuned for updates!
I dunno, maybe some of you like the ways this looks, maybe not. Let us know, because as Ian notes, we’re planning on changing it again!
But now that I have your attention with the Mayday! distress calls, here’s some other items you might find interesting:
Last week was the GAMA con, and our reps there, at both the IPR and the Studio2 booths, handed out lots of printed Storypath Ultra brochures, chatted up tons of retailers, and were generally thrilled to be able to reconnect, and first-time connect, with so many folks. I hear it was really well attended, with a big growth in first-time attendees – which is a great sign for our hobby!
As always, we had to do a bit of explaining as to which game worlds we publish, and who publishes which of the old White Wolf game lines, and what is this Storypath System anyway? Glad they seemed to dig the Ultra brochure, and a lot of them took some to take back to their stores.
As we intended – mwa ha ha ha!
Due to some timing and technical issues, Travis wasn’t able to run the Start Up tutorial with Devon Chulick, co-founder of StartPlaying.Games as announced last week- so it’s happening instead this Tuesday @6pm EDT! Devon will be walking folks step-by-step through the process of setting up a game on StartPlaying.Games so you too can run games online!
But if you can’t wait, last week’s Onyx Pathcast features Dixie and Danielle interviewing Devon all about being a pro-GM, the founding and purpose of StartPlaying, and just how it all works. Why should you try playing online? Devon has some actual case studies of how great it can be!
Here’s a reminder that there’s a selection of NerdyKeppie Exalted Essence bags that can hold four Exalted Deluxe books (I think. I mean, it holds a lot of books!) – available here: https://nerdykeppie.com/search?type=product&q=Exalted+Essence
Allow me to share this post by our friends at Jenkins&Tate:
It’s been a very exciting year so far and I know a lot of people have been wondering, how it’s been going.
Well first of all, I just want to say, I’m extremely proud of our team and the people that have joined us along the way. They’ve worked so hard to get us to where we are. And it’s been an absolute pleasure working and talking with Onyx Path Publishing to make sure we’re doing this right.
I’m very excited to release the teaser poster for the show. There will be a lot more coming, so keep an eye out!
Now folks, this is a teaser, and is really, really, really early in the process – it’s not an announcement, and the team at J&K are still out there pitching the show!
Last week, I mentioned this week’s fundraiser in York, PA for the Bodhana Group. Bodhana continues with its mission to spread the use of TTRPGs as therapeutic tools and are looking for people willing to help them by donating funds during York PA’s GiveLocalYork fundraising over May 4th to 5th! If you want to help, go the page at the link below. Fundraising starts during the event and they also have some special events in partnership with some local game store partners over those days if you’re in the York, PA area.
If you can, they’d appreciate any help at any time, from spreading the word to attending their con in the Fall, to helping with this fundraiser!
I’d like to introduce y’all to M. K. Anderson, who is joining us as Managing Editor, and who’ll be in charge of editing and hiring editors, and proofing, etc.
M.K. Anderson is an editor, writer, and video essayist living in Austin, Texas. Her current obsessions: dead philosophy dudes, roof and tunnel hacking’s influence on game design, historical murder plots, and TTRPGs.
Having her come onboard will free up Dixie to dive more fully into a couple of our big upcoming projects where we need her, as well as to continue repping us on our Discord and on the Onyx Pathcast. Congrats to you both!
Matthew continues to post weekly blogs here on Thursday revealing more and more of what lurks in the darkness deep underground in The World Below. Wonder how much he’ll enjoy writing it via this current theme?! Last week was him going into detail on the topic of “What Do You Do?” in The World Below: https://theonyxpath.com/the-world-below-what-do-you-do/
Finally, once again you folks have blown me away with all of your super posts and comments in last week’s MMN Comments section about the “secret world” type of game setting vs a setting where the supernatural is out in the open like The World in Scion 2e. Many, many thoughtful comments examining all sorts of variables between totally open and totally, ahem, masqueraded.
Now, this week, I’m curious as to something that was brought up on our Discord that was based on the discussions in the last two week’s Comments. So we’re in a recursive curve or something because I’m basing this question on the points that person raised: Do you actually have horror in your Horror games?
They’re called horror-genre games, but how much horror is really built in? Which, I guess, depends on what sort of horror we’re talking about. Is it external horror? Is it jump-scare moments and freaky, nasty, antagonists? Is it internal, personal, horror? A beast I am, lest…etc, etc. And even if there is some flavor of horror built in, do you actually want it there?
Much like our previous discussions, so much of what works for one player (or reader, or watcher) is very subjective and pretty personal, so I don’t think there are any wrong opinions here. Which means that I’d love to hear what you think about this – if Onyx Path went back into a full-scale urban horror/dark-fantasy game line someday, how far should we go into horror?
As always, I just want to thank everybody for contributing these last few weeks to these fascinating conversations, and in advance for those of you who can find the time and interest to share your thoughts this week! It’ll be really cool to explore this one aspect of our:
MANY WORLDS, ONE PATH!
Coming Next: They Came From…?
Onyx Path Media!
The Pathcast crew are digging deep into The World Below!
As always, this Friday’s Onyx Pathcast will be on Podbean or your favorite podcast venue! https://onyxpathcast.podbean.com/
Onyx Path Media now has its own blog on Tuesdays! We’ll continue posting our highlight of the week here, but Tuesday will be the day to visit if you want to catch up on actual plays, interviews, deep dives, and other assorted Onyx Path media!
Please check out our attached media schedule for the videos on our Twitch channel this week! In particular, keep those eyes open for our Storypath Showcase, where we give an excellent profile of our various Storypath games and how to play them!
MEDIA HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK:
We’re a big fan of Where I Read threads, often hosted over on RPGnet. In this case, a new thread has freshly begun on the subject of They Came from Camp Murder Lake! Give it a read, post your thoughts of the game, and follow along: https://forum.rpg.net/index.php?threads/wir-they-came-from-camp-murder-lake-from-the-onyx-path.909891/
The Onyx Path News discusses recent and upcoming releases! You can find it on our YouTube channel (click the bell to be informed when we go live!) but if you missed the last episode, here it is: https://youtube.com/live/d9t8A5jVzm4
They Came From Beneath the Sea! on Roll20 VTT!
Here are some more shots from the They Came From Beneath the Sea! Compendium!
And there’s also the Scion Jumpstart, all ready for Roll20 VTT fun!
More news and links when we have them!
The Scion: Origin and Scion Hero Compendiums are now available on Roll20!
Scion is just the start! They Came From Beneath the Sea! and other
Onyx Path RPGs are in development for Roll20 virtual tabletop!
The first of our official Scion sheets designed for Foundry VTT are
Direct Link: https://foundryvtt.co
Looking for more virtual tabletop resources? We have a selection of
Tokens, Encounters, and more available now at DriveThruRPG!
Get ’em here: https://bit.ly/3SnrNJ7
Our Sales Partners!
We’re working with Studio2 to provide our traditionally printed books out into your local game stores. Game stores can order via their usual distributors, and can also contact Studio2 directly. And individuals can check out our projects via the links below!
Looking for our Deluxe or Prestige Edition books, dice, and screens? Try this link! http://www.indiepressrevolution.com/xcart/Onyx-Path-Publishing/
As always, you can find Onyx Path’s titles in PDF and PoD versions at DriveThruRPG.com!
Amazon and Barnes & Noble!
You can now read our fiction from the comfort and convenience of your Kindle (from Amazon) and Nook (from Barnes & Noble).
Check out Melody Through the Mirrorshade Lens and Facets of Truth , as well as Trinity Continuum: Terat and The Hollow Courts on Kindle in the Kindle store!
On Sale This Week!
Explore the mean streets and exotic locales of the 1930’s pulp era in Trinity Continuum: Adventure! Weird science! Strange worlds! Talking gorillas! Punch a Nazi! PDF and PoD versions on sale this Weds on DTRPG!
As we are slowly returning to attending conventions in person after the current COVID-19 outbreak, keep an eye out here for more physical and virtual conventions we’re going to be involved with!
Once again…the creature RISES! Here comes the Onyx Path Virtual Convention (June 16th – 18th)!! More news to come!!!
Game Night With Onyx Path Publishing at Start.Playing is the last Friday of every month! Come play some They Came From! in celebration of the upcoming They Came From…? KS! (But any of our game lines are welcome all day long!)
Please spread the word about GMing games as much as
possible. Details on how list a game are at the bottom of the page in
And now, the new project status updates!
Our full list of projects will be available monthly on our blog! Check out April’s full list report here: https://theonyxpath.com/release-roundup-april-2023/
DEVELOPMENT STATUS FROM EDDY
Here are the projects that moved to the next stage of production:
Scion – Titans Rising (was Titanomachy 2)
- Matthew: The Titans are rising and it’s looking damn dangerous for our Scions. A skilled trio of developers will be crafting this one into shape to make for an excellent sequel to the fantastic Titanomachy.
Scion – Scion: Divine Inspiration
- Matthew: I’m very excited for this Scion: God companion book. We’ve got so many options for this iteration of the Scion line, and I know you’ll be impressed with what we present in here. Previews to come!
They Came From the Cyclops’s Cave! – They Came from Witchford Academy!
- Matthew: From the Owl House to Wednesday and everywhere in between and surrounding, expect a great deal of wizarding wonder in this tribute to the magical school genre.
Tasty Bit – Scion Demigod: Village
- Eddy: Just got the final draft in. Haven’t had a chance to crack it open yet, but I was excited by the first draft, so this should be a fast turnaround!
Exalted – Tomb of Memory (was Exalted Essence Jumpstart)
- Danielle: David and Monica are going through this exciting adventure and getting it into ship shape before sending it out to editing.
TC: Aberrant – With Great Power
- Eddy: The first in a line of TC: Aberrant supplements we’re working on! This one focuses on superhero teams like Team Tomorrow, so it should be a great support book for most every TC: Aberrant game.
Scion – Scion: God
- Matthew: We’re free of editing and now in the process of accepting and / or adjusting text based on editorial notes. Meanwhile, an art breakdown has also been supplied, so things are really moving for Scion: God.
Realms of Pugmire – Jumpstart
- Eddy: Right on the heels of wrapping up the edits on Realms of Pugmire, the jumpstart leaps into my arms and squirms around, trying to lick my face!
Tasty Bit – TC: Aeon: Spaceship
- Eddy: This month’s Tasty Bit is back from editing. Should be a fast turn-around, and then it’ll be ready for launch!
TC: Aegis – Trinity Continuum: Aegis
- Eddy: The next big era of the Trinity Continuum is back from editing! Lauren’s very excited to dive into these edits. We should have our swords sharpened and our shields polished in time for a crowdfunding campaign in the near future!
ART DIRECTION FROM MIKE CHANEY!
In Art Direction
- SCION Once and Future – Awaiting art from Gong, Farri, and Lauren.
- TC Aegis – Running down some reference for Shen Fei and contracting the rest of the artwork for the KS.
- TCF ? (KS) – Getting KS graphics going and figuring out where my N— and S—– pcs are.
- W20 Icons of Rage – With Maria.
- TC Anima
- W20 Apocalyptic Record Screen & Booklet
- HTV Tending the Flame – I have symbols in and gathered the older assets (thanks Rich).
- Wallpapers for Essence, Adventure, Apocalyptic Record
- W20 Apocalyptic Record – With backers for errata.
- MtAw Tome of the Pentacle – At Paradox for approval.
- TC Adventure Screen & Booklet – Wrapping that up and getting it ready for press.
- Exalted Essence
- M20 Victorian Age – Shipping to KS backers.
- M20 Victorian Age Screen – Shipping to KS backers.
- Scion Dragon Screen – Shipping to KS backers.
- Scion Dragon – Shipping to KS backers.
- Scion Masks of the Mythos – Shipping to KS backers.
- Scion Masks of the Mythos Screen – Shipping to KS backers.
- Storypath Ultra Brochure – Handed out at GAMA.
- They Came From! Tasty Bit Compilation – PoD proof on the way.
- Ex3 Surface Truths – PoD proof on the way.
- SL Vigil Watch Kelder Mtns – PoD proof on the way.
- TC Stampede of Justice (Adventure JS) – XXing and prepping PoD.
- TC: Adventure! – PDF and PoD versions on sale at DTRPG this Weds!!! Trad printing files prepping.
Today’s Reason to Celebrate!
Yeah! May Day is today! We’ve got the Maypole stuff up above, and this date is just extremely important to a lot of people. There’s Beltane, International Workers’ Day or Labour Day (International), Calan Mai in Wales, Lei Day in Hawaii, and the ever-popular International Sunflower Guerrilla Gardening Day! Obviously, some of these are much older and serious than others, and some are based on the natural phenomena connected to the end of winter and the return of life. And some aren’t –
39 responses to “MAYDAY! MAYDAY! It’s the Monday Meeting Notes Blog! [Monday Meeting Notes]”
Can you tell mr jenkins and mr tate I can portray any sorta God with maestry? and write some screenplays too?
In all seriousness – I can suggest all sorts of things, but when it comes to TV production I bow to the folks at J&T’s years and years of experience. So, I do talk about their casting ideas, but rarely inject anybody who could fill a role except in brainstorming conversation – they have actual professional casting directors for that. As for writing – what have you written for that we might have seen on TV, online shows, or films? They have professional script writers set up for these scripts, so you have to be able to step into that arena. 🙂
I mean, a lot of the humanity in World and Chronicles is dredged up and made explorable because of the horror. THat said, RPG’s are kind of hard to facilitate a “gather round the fire and scare the shit out of each other”, so while I’m interested in seeing how much stronger the horror element can be, I don’t think it could leave, or have it be productive, to go too far beyond the strong underline, pervasive atmosphere level we see in World and Chronicles. But if I were to suggest a direction for deviation, I’d rather see it go deeper and darker than kick for the surface.
Are you suggesting that there is some sort of zone between WoD/CofD levels of horror and “too far”? And if so, how would that zone being deeper and darker appear in a game setting?
If I get a clever idea what deeper and dark looks like that’s still useful for a RPG play setting, I will definitely share that. For the most part, that’s just me stating a broad, projected preference.
As for the broader point, I think there’s a zone where horror is a useful tool for exploring a lot of the humane and humanist themes that World and Chronicles explored as a group play experience, but I think we’ve all come across media where the experience superseded or was default more the point than it’s related ideas-letting the idiom lead the work rather than the ideas or the form, to borrow from Scott McCloud. I think both World and Chronicles both sat pretty comfortably in that zone where the horror and the themes worked in tandem with each other and makes a good measuring stick in any attempt to make a work with a distinct feel, because you can compare the two and see when/if a work is starting to have it’s idiom (horror) override or under-serve the themes.
Of course, that does raise the question of what themes would you want to set as the foundation for a new urban horror/urban fantasy game.
No worries – I wondered if there was something I was missing. As for themes, what would be a couple you think were underlying in WoD and/or CofD?
As for Horror. I had a lot of horror in my very first cofd game where i was player,it was a Promethean: The Created game. and there was a LOT of personal horror,and it worked wonderfully.
But i personally think the horror should be encouraged,but not still optional. Many games,even horror games are about living out lifes we cannot live in our world. Sometimes i want to be a epic werewolf hunting a evil spirit,or the sexy vampire or the badass wizard and shaman. Sometimes horror should be played down,only sometimes.
One of the reasons i like persona horror is that since personal horror comes for your emotions,you can be a powerful but still feel the horror.
So, you’re an epic werewolf hunting a spirit: where does the horror of this horror game show up? Even if you aren’t participating in horrific actions, are there ways that a horror game still injects the horror in? How does the personal horror manifest?
Imo In the werewolf case,the horror come. from how alien spirits are and how alien werewolves are to us,even if we’re playing one
OK, so the horror came from the strangeness of the alien nature of the supernatural? Did you have any particular ways your players and storytellers showed that alien-ness at the table? I’m wondering how strangeness went from horror-inducing from, say, unsettling strangeness. And were the books and how the setting was described and pictured a big part of that? Like, the picture with the wheelchair in the original blue-book core new World of Darkness – I think it was from the first time I was lucky enough to art direct Sam Araya – was deeply unsettling to me. It was just off. For me, at the time, that piece of art caught the tone of the text that described the setting.
Since the game was promethean, we had horror come from body dysmorphia. How our character felt uncomfortable with their bodies.
And how our bad guys were viscerally twisted In almost cronwnburgian fashion.
If the game was changeling or werewolf,the horror would probably come from how alien our enemies are. And how we can’t trust our own memories and perceptions.
I feel like strangeness can be horrific as opposed to unsettling if the strangeness implies that something terrible is about to happen
Nice thought about timing and, I guess, the potential for something awful being part a horror experience.
What a fancy new look! I will confess, when I play something like CofD I don’t feel horror so much, but then again this is perhaps because I mostly play Werewolf, where it can be hard to actually find horror when you can turn into a ten foot tall wolf monster yourself. It’s kind of how I see the 2016 DOOM. You are surrounded by the horrible and grotesque demons, but to hell (literally) with them, you are the Doom Slayer! Rip and tear until it is done.
I have felt spooked in Werewolf for sure, but I just tend to unconsciously not think of Forsaken as horror even with all the, well, body horror. Vampire has horror but you are causing the horror, and Kindred can be monstrous in form and in action, but again you are playing as the monster.
To me, horror is about a loss of control and feeling weak. Attempts at horror really miss me when they are just about spectacular violence or ridiculously depraved actions for no real logical or narrative purpose. I will continue to sing praises about Werewolf the Forsaken 2E and Vampire the Requiem 2E, but I personally find myself disappointed when either book almost seems like it’s trying too hard. Like in Werewolf there’s an off-hand remark about how one pack blinds a child because it’s the will of Luna and a tradition in that area, and with this they gain prophetic visions. Again in Forsaken, I really actually dislike how Lodges became these depraved cults and I was made aware that certain “secrets” of these cults were supposed to be in the writeups but got cut, like how one Lodge feeds their dogs or wolves on enemy werewolves, then kills and eats those dogs… For power. I don’t know, I may be in the minority but that kind of “horror” is what I mean when I say I don’t like horror that tries too hard. It’s such a convoluted and horrible action even for werewolves I think, and it just feels to me like a lot of the fluff seems to imply that every werewolf you meet secretly eats babies or something.
Every werewolf/vampire/etc. is or CAN be the source of their own horror, but when you assume that everyone is doing something utterly depraved you lose any sympathy for the characters in the fiction which I think is important to keep. Simply put, even in horror it is possible to go to far.
I seem to have made a novel so I will finish this long thought by saying that horror for me only really works in highly specific ways, so I know people are going to disagree with this, and I hope that my thoughts do not come off as overly hostile!
Not even slightly hostile – no worries! And I do think that horror – our definition and reaction to it – is personal. Then add in the idea that if you are playing a monster, you should be part of that horror. What does that even mean? You being a monster is just basically horrific? You do horrific things, like blinding children? Or, because these are TTRPGs, not movies or books, and require folks to participate, is the horror stuff a backdrop that your character (and group of characters) perform in front of but aren’t part of? People talk about the “superheroes with fangs” description of vampire TTRPGs, but maybe that’s the only way some, or even most, players can actually roleplay these monstrous PCs? Then, a little dip into the horror, having your PC go ahead and do something you, as a real world person, wouldn’t do, let’s the horror in in a controlled way. Maybe?
Definitely fair questions. I have found a bit of a dissonance between the expectations of a game and the way the group ends up behaving. It is very hard with TTRPGs because the book can only really give tools to the players but the players can take them in so many different ways. There is no developer there to tell the players they are doing it “wrong” like the “superheroes with fangs” phenomenon I hear talked about so much. I think horror can be interesting in a few ways, either in making a choice you feel has to be made even if it goes against your morals, or about being confronted by something greater that can hurt you in ways you didn’t expect. I think my experience so far has been having characters that exist in front of a backdrop of gloom and horror, trying to avoid the worst choices, but getting dragged into or consciously making choices that I as a human do not have to make, usually in regards to killing something or someone. Killing on its own is, needless to say, a horror in its own way really. And I am fine with that level of horror, even if it may seem a bit basic. If you spend your life as a normal kind person, but you become a werewolf and you are specifically designed to kill things, how can you look the people you care about who are still human in the eye again? How do you cope with that?
I like creeping cosmic horror too, there are some interesting stories there too. For me there’s just a spectrum of horror, and I check out of the experience when I stop having sympathy for the characters because their actions are so heinous they don’t even deserve to “win” or I lose hope that there will be a necessary counterbalance of light and goodness.
We have a saying now, that may have come more out of computer games, but is still true for TTRPGs, that the game design really starts once it’s in the hands of the players. When people talk about how the themes and emphasis’s changed over the course of WoD and CofD, much of that was driven by players letting us know what they enjoyed, and what they didn’t. In the early days, that was mostly us looking at what sold and listening to what few channels of communication there were back then, and later on as we started being able to hear directly from folks online, those bits of input were also considered. When the creative vision collided with how the games were really played, there could be sore spots, but when people found ways to play that caught some of that vision, or even most of it: those are golden.
Ultimately, the only way I’d say a player is doing it wrong is if they literally are not using what’s specifically in the rules and setting and then complaining that it’s no fun. Otherwise, they’re there for folks to play them their way, and to legit find no fun if they aren’t to the player’s taste. Now, if I’m getting what you’re saying here, the setting works for you as horror if there are horrific things happening in that setting, and then if the players have the potential to go really dark – they could get as nasty as that backdrop – but also they aren’t forced to by the game. Is that a fair synopsis?
I would say that is a fair synopsis of my thoughts yes! I think if there was some hypothetical new game that was specifically tuned into horror, or was at least dark urban fantasy on the level of CofD (most of the time) then that would be great because the more I think about it, the more CofD gives space to turn the dials of horror up or down to an extent. The setting is dark and mysterious, but it’s still recognizable and the human world largely goes on like it does in real life, but if you step too far into the shadows they might not let you go.
Glad I was able to hit what you were saying! I like your encapsulation of CofD, and think it’s a good thing to aim for: a designer could keep it at that general feel, and emphasize whatever aspects work better for the world they’re creating. Even going public with the supernatural could be leavened in a fair bit with that definition – just not to a full-out, “And now the news for Vampires” sort of way.
Well I will say this about the site’s surprise temporary format: it’s mobile friendly.
Well, that’s to be expected, I think. I’m not saying our old site and the WP theme were old, they did have some thought included for different devices – but maybe they weren’t set up for all the devices/formats that have come out in the past 5+ years. Still, great to hear!
I’ve tried to look for the Storypath Ultra brochure that you mentioned on Drivethru and couldnt find it. did i miss it? or is there another way to get it?
As always: keep an eye on the MMN and Wednesday Release blogs for when it might show up- thanks!
Ah sorry, I didn’t see it in the MMN. Forgot the mighty power of the Ctrl+F. Thanks!
I am a gentle person, (at least I believe this to be true 😉 ) and there for the horror in my games is not necessarily core shakingly terrifying as many movies or audio shows can be.
There is to many of my games a strong note of mystery, threat, dark elements. It’s not a happy world you are entering, when you are joining my Changeling games (or hunter). There are also beautiful wonders but this beauty will turn against you, thorns made of diamonds will be brilliantly glistening with your blood at dawn.
As stated before one very important source of horror is the loss of control and the feeling of being helpless. Sometimes I use this. More oftenly, I believe, I will phrase situations in a way, that encourage a dfecission between two horrible things. I let my players pick between two bad/hurtful options. They make the call, they are responsible, they gonna think about that and process it over the (next few) session(s).
My horror is more subliminal, a feeling creeping under your skin and I don’t want it any other way. Changeling has the perfect setup for me and my style. I can dial up the horror and trauma as I need. Nobody really knows what happend to you in Arcadia, but it changed you sure as hell and left it’s marks. All your incredible time magic doesn’t help you with having a working relationship with those you love and are drifting apart from.
CofD games always carry potential for immense power moves. It can be hard to get horror in there. And I agree with Wes and the others, if I ever going to run or play a Werewolf game (which I really want), it will be katharsis for me. That game will be a voice to my rage, it will be bloody and gory, and fueled by the real nightmare our world is right now and has been for many people for a very long time. It will be dark, but not necessarily horror. And that’s fine. The second game might become something else, as I sneak into my players emotions and introduce new undertones.
My regular player pool contains several people who join me for the personal horror aspect and critizes when games/books turn away from that aspect.
My experiences with CofD game lines and horror from real games as a ST or player:
Changeling: “I can’t but really need to trust myself. Even with people sharing my experience we have our moments of questioning just everything! What seems good or magical in this world might turn away from me any second like my loved ones. I am afraid to loose even more.”
Hunter: “We are out numbered, out gunned, have basically no idea what we are up against and don’t know if we are even making a difference. Any step I take endangers those, I am trying to protect. No preparation in the world realy balances the scales in a fight and I find out as somethings is mopping the floor with my face.”
Demon: “I am on my own, I did something frightening and right (maybe wrong?), that led me to a point, where I get hunted down as soon as I show my true potential. The enemy has spies everywhere, can learn anything and their agents don’t need to hide as I do. My abilities might just draw out the inevitable.”
Mage: “I don’t know so much about the world, I struggled to write my name in a book on a tower and became part of a worldm that’s beyond anything I could imagen before. This is an arms race.” (We are turning away from horror as you can see.)
Vampire: “I am a monster. I am supposed to be powerful but all the other monsters are more powerful than I am. If I loose control, they will kill me.” (We played a very low level VTR game.)
Thanks for the in-depth run-downs your take on the scary side of the various games. Maybe that’s closer to where we get with horror in TTRPGs? Scary, rather than horror as defined by other media like books and films? With the abilities players want to have, can we really take away their ability to control their characters and keep it a game?
Taking away power/agency is very tricky and necessary to some understandings of horror. I think a base component for gaming is player activity. Otherwise we end up with the ST becoming a audio book narrator. Players come to the table to take an active part in the story telling. (Many are.) So you can’t completly take away player agency. I see two ways to work with the players to create a horror filled game.
One can reduce it or narrow the range of activity down by phrasing. Instead of “You see the creature coming out of the mist is wearing the face of your mother. What do you do?” you could ask: “You see the creature coming out of the mist is wearing the face of your mother. What do you do with the gun in your hand?” The player is gently pushed into a direction, yet still can decide to put the weapon away. This raises tension, draws up horrible options, leaving the players mind to filling in the blanks as they contemplate the possible actions You can stir things into further escalation, so that players partake in characters loosing control over the development.
The other option I am stealing from Bluebeard’s Bride: Ask the player, what would be the most horrible thing to happen. Let them tell and then show how it is even worse. Adding to the input of the player. The player is in controll of the narrative to a degree. They had a very high activity in the game and then might exerience a little shock by learning that everything is even more awefull. The character might not be able to act in any way, but the player is.
Taking away powers is difficult I feel. When I create a character, I choose a concept with a supernatural feature already in mind. I want to be able to transform into a werewolf, I want to be able to drink other peoples emotions and learn all their secrets and so on. Taking this away or making it meaningless because it doesn’t work as intended against an adversary, makes for a good horror moment. But a game should have more horror moments than one. And I wouldn’t be happy to play a game with my powers that I chose for a reason not working 90% of the time. Chronicles is always a power fantasy for me too! (No reason to lie.)
Chronicles also come with a huge number of powers, tweaks and abilities for starter characters. Obviously you got your disciplines and contracts and so on. But then there are abilities tied your supernatural trait (Blood potency, wyrd) and others tied to your Clan/Seeming/Tribe and others to your faction and others to merits. (Style merits basically give you a new special power with each dot.) I am learning Scion at the moment and I counted from my limited point of view, there were 16 super powers on the premade character sheet in various degrees of visibilities. (I know, it’s not Chronicles, but except for games about mortals, I can easily find similar numbers for other game lines.) Demons start with 7 powers from their demon form alone and then get their 5 points in regular powers + X. With so many options on the table, there is rarely a moment of true powerlessness. (Demons can’t be caught lying, Changelings can’t be restrained and so on.) Thing is, so many powers are in there, because their ideas and concepts are amazing and should be explored. And often there aren’t any games that get the ideas and themes in the way Chronicles (Changeling, Demon i.e.) does.
Are characters in my games truely helples? Sometimes, not often. I feel like forcing them to make a horrible choice is an better option.
Also I feel sometimes horror is mixed up with revulsion? I have a few lines and veils not because of phobias or because I am afraid of something, but because I find these things/actions to be repulsive. I just feel sick imagening them, so there are many horror tropes from movies that I am not affraid of but just give me the urge to release my food onto the floor.
I am afraid, as I don’t want to see harm coming to a person. NPCs can e a source of powerlessness fueled horror. It doesn’t have to be anything disgusting happening to them. Instead demonstrate how they are robbed of their defenses and agency and then thread them with (further) harm. We have all seen the barely covered human sacrifice on the altar, about to be cut open. That’s not horror, I think. Showing their fruitless struggle, the inevitable pain and unrevokeable damage to their body and soul in detail, makes horror. Reducing the options of the players by a countdown, limited resources (only two shots left) depens the experience. As said before by others: these scenes work ones or twice but then they loose their impact and drag down. So sooner or later we are back to personal horror, that fullfills the circle to the beginning of the post.
Looking at anything else than Kult are any other major HORROR games out there, that wouldn’t be more on the scary side of atmosphere? The only other game, that I know of and also haven’t played yet, because the idea gives me nightmares, is Bluebeards Bride. The most successfull Vaesen podcast plays the nordic horror rpg more like a DnD campaign. It get’s scary at some points. So I feel yeah, we are more in a time for scary/unsettling rpgs than hard core horror experiences. In the end nothing can compare with the true horrors in reality and I’d like to get to a place, where I can change things and aren’t forced into submitting to them.
After writing all of this, it feels like preaching to the choir. So do with these tangents as you like.
To start at your ending: I really don’t think of any of these comments and conversations as preaching to the choir. In fact, hearing from all of you and comparing your thoughts on these subjects is pretty enlightening, as we all have specific shadings to our points, even when we agree. For example, your bringing up direct player – not PC – involvement is a legit addition to my asking about adding in horror. When you stream a horror film, you usually have some sort of idea what sort of horror you’ll be getting. That seems pretty similar to sitting down with your GM to determine the sort of horror you as a player want to explore – and the sorts of horror you DO NOT want in there. And you may well feel like saying “surprise me!” and seeing what happens.
But you, as the player are holding the power – so then does your character need to have any control over the situation for you to enjoy the session? Does the player getting to be involved in the horror-ing allow more horrific, loss of control, loss of powers, revolting things to happen to the PC? Again, we’re still talking safety tools before these sessions, so nobody has to deal with things that horrify the player (unless they want to – people still get catharsis from scary things, I think). This sort of player involvement wasn’t directly a part of the systems in WoD or CofD, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t work in a new game.
There is no way around safety tools, 100%. Tbh I am more concerned if my players say to me: “everything is OK, just hit me” than with some lines and veils in place. As a ST I need personally reassurance, that I am doing no harm to my players whilst torturing their characters.
I think Mediocrities of Socrates has a good point about constant stress and misery. Especially in hunter (like) games, it feels like the characters burn out fast. Too much horror also dulls out the impact on players, whilst the characters are traumatised again and again. In Changeling I counter the effect of burnout by introducing heartwarming and very supportive npcs, creating a home for the PCs. Give time to breathe and have genuinely good things happen.
I think it might be a special spin to a game to give players an active role in creating horror at the table. For this you need lines and veils/consent sheet front and center. So everyone knows where they can push. And then work on techniques to on how to increase the scaryness for the players. Like a campfire situation where you join in on telling horrific tales with your friends (but know, what topics to avoid and which to go bananas with, bc you are caring friends).
We could probably separate in two types of tools. One that leaves the player in control and one that gives ones power to another person (player or ST). We got the latter already in Wraith with one player playing the shadow of another player character. The former can be found in degrees within character abilities that come with a part that allows other players/ST to chime in and make matters worse. The active players knows, something bad is going to happen and can willingly go for that. Leaving them partially in power and active. Or you can have bonus effects on abilities come with an extra drawback, that can be willingy added. I am thinking about story repercussions, dark twists like: “If you use this power with extra effect, something you believed to be true turns out wrong … or … sharm is done to someone who is important to you.” Just adding a point of lethal damage as drawback isn’t inherently horrific.
Mechanics like this lead to a stronger metagame, but I find conditions already very meta, so I don’t believe they will change much on that level of gaming experience. (To not drive your ST mad you should always give the ST a chance to interject, if they get in trouble with the plot or see a golden opportunity to implement something.)
I think a rpg would profit from teaching the ST and groups how to create certain moods and atmosphere. I collected my tools to build atmosphere and horror from different games, where techniques like “Always give players two threads to worry about, so they can’t relax during solving one crisis.” or “Cut fast between player characters perspectives.” or “Let players roll dice and then turn to another player and draw out the tension with withholding the effect of the dice roll just a little bit longer.” Like a real manual how to set up scenes.
I still remember the way that Damnation City introduced chase scenes. It is an amazing way to run action scenes, that I use in all my games to this day (and often scrap any other racing/chase rules for it.)
Most techniques are centred around the ST but there might be cool things for players to do as well. Keeping them active and in some (little) controll.
Yes, just in games I’ve worked on, you have the Shadow in Wraith – which was one of the aspects about the game that scared people off, dunno if that was the overall concept or the idea of a fellow player screwing with your character – or the concept in the original Ars Magica of cycling through which kind of characters you’d be playing in any given game. Both being steps towards more player directed control of the way you play. Many forms of safety tools do the same thing. Even D&D5 has formalized the setting up of character relationships previous to starting out playing through an adventure. So a horror game that pulls ideas from the players makes a lot of sense.
First, congrats. that Scion poster looks GREAT.
Second, when can the non GAMA goers get a peak at the storypath ultra brochure?
I agree! Great work by J&K, especially Victor, who did the actual creation of it! As per every question that is about when something will be available: keep an eye on the MMN and Wednesday release blogs!
Contributing my own unobjective singular data point: Back when I first started to play New World of Darkness games, maybe about 15 years ago now (goodness, how time flies), I tried to play them as horror games. Horror, in this case, meaning dire situations and the grotesque; serial killers, blood sacrifice, people spewing spiders from their eyes, and so forth… And while that kind of horror is extremely atmospheric, it is emotionally scarring on characters and draining for players. It makes for a lot of really intense moments that are fun and interesting, but which can make ongoing character dramas quite miserable. There’s a reason – I learned after much trial and error – why games like Call of Cthulhu tend to be one-offs, and it’s not (just) because of the high body count.
This isn’t to knock that style of gameplay. I enjoy what it can do! It just isn’t for me. I like ongoing stories that are about characters growing and changing, where I or my players can lose ourselves in the characters and their mindsets. That’s horrible if those mindsets and experiences are just constant stress and misery. Once I figured that out, my Chronicles games moved from gothic horror to romantic (in the art movement sense) high weirdness, and I’ve been happy with it ever since.
Since then, I’ve moved on to Trinity and love it too. And if I ever do want to go back to horror, They Came From…! is always there. But y’all put out so many wonderful products that I absolutely love (no matter how much I sometimes complain about this or that), and you’re all wonderful for it. With the decline of the Chronicles line, I’ve moved on to Trinity as my game of choice and I’m very happy with it.
Thanks for all the fun times I’ve had with friends over the years because of all the writers, editors, artists, proofreaders, etc., who’ve put their name on an OPP product.
Thank you so much for your kind words and it’s awesome that you’re enjoying the Trinity Continuum! And what works in the TC for people is a whole ‘nother discussion for another time. For this time, though, did you find that CofD as a whole gave you the latitude to go from horror to weirdness? Like, was your shift using the material more because the material had that range, or was it mostly that you took less and less from the published books and added in more of your own stuff to get the mood you wanted?
Sorry for the delay!
I think my answer is that it’s a bit of both, plus something extra. In the case of the former, CofD’s mechanics don’t really force a particular kind of narrative, so CofD has a lot of flexibility in it. The high lethality combat and the integrity system in blue book games do incline to horror, but I mostly played MtAw and Changeling, with occasional dabbling in other lines like Werewolf and Mummy. As such, the lethality was reduced via supernatural powers being available and the integrity system was replaced with others that, while somewhat inclined to horror, were of a very different nature. Clarity can be as much about intensity of experience as fear. Wisdom can fall for good deeds. And so on.
But some of it is that, yes, I wanted to focus my tone away from things that were indeed included at least in the 1st edition of nWoD/CofD games.
That said, as CofD moved into its second editions, the games also underwent fairly dramatic changes that also saw them increasingly embrace High Weirdness (the entire reason I use that term is because Dave Brookshaw used it to describe his own perspective for Mage). Games like Werewolf moved away from horror in their second edition by the introduction of mechanics like Harmony, which replaced the decline into madness and horror in systems like Integrity and 1e’s Morality. Without that, there was nothing to simulate Gothic Horror’s descent into madness; a staple of the lines since the old World of Darkness. Without that foundational feature, these games don’t contain a mechanical requirement to bend towards a kind of psychic descent. Instead, there’s a goal to work towards; an ideal looking up, instead of a descent looking down. Geist, similarly, portrayed a much more positive and hopeful vision: A better world is difficult, but it’s possible. Even Beast, a game whose characters contain creatures outright called Horrors, is about being the horrifying thing, rather than being horrified, which changes the tone dramatically.
I think my own shift moving in time with the development of the second editions isn’t a coincidence, I suppose is the neatest summary. Even in the darkest of those games, there was a lot of hope and possibility.
I hope that answers your question!
Will the Storypath Ultra Brochures appear on DriveThruRPG?
Inevitably! If we make a PDF, it goes on DTRPG – any PDF, including the Ultra Brochure. We will probably also make a PoD available, but that one we’ll have to charge for as that’s the way PoDs are set up. Plus, we’ll be doing all sorts of lead-ins to The World Below, which will be the first game using Storypath Ultra, so you’ll have lots of chances to get those rules from somewhere before The World Below is on DTRPG and in stores.
Part of the problem with “Horror”, is that most of it comes from a feeling that you have no control over the events; you are trapped in the spaceship, pursued relentlessly by the unstoppable revenant, haunted by the ghost that blocks the exits, possessed by the demon clown suit and made to do evil things, and so on. And an RPG is all about the agency of the PCs, and their ability to guide the game through their actions. So “Horror” is tough to pull off without railroading the players, and so it becomes gore, or gratuitous violence, or something that isn’t really that scary (though it may be disturbing). Unless they risk death at any moment, which isn’t conducive to a longer campaign, it’s tough to make a game truly horrific, which is why “am I the monster?” ends up being default so often. I’m not sure there’s a solution to this – I haven’t seen one yet.
If you get a chance, read elsewhere in these Comments where we’re talking about having the structure of the game involve working directly with the player as to what is horrifying to them. I’m wondering if that level of control of the horror situation by the player would alter some of the feeling of lack of control when the PC is put into those horror moments you mention.