Friday, October 03, 2014

Classic Horror RPG CHILL Rises from the Dead with New Kickstarter

Before I get into the details of what my ideal new edition of the CHILL role playing game is, I'd like to take a moment to thank Matthew McFarland and Michelle Lyons-McFarland for taking the time to acquire the license to this classic game and put together what looks to be a very solid horror role playing game. 

If you are a fan of horror role playing games and want to help small press publishers succeed, then you should back the brand new Chill 3rd Edition Kickstarter. I'm a backer and I will be blogging about the game's playtest rules very soon.

Now that I've cleared the air and made it clear that I am excited about the game that Matthew and Michelle are putting together, I'm going to gripe. That's what we obsessives do when things aren't perfect, we gripe. But I'm not going to gripe in an non-constructive manner. This isn't about what I think Matthew and Michelle are doing wrong, it's about what I wish they would ALSO do.

If you were to ask me what my favorite genres of film are, I would without hesitation tell you that they are romantic comedies and horror movies. You are probably wondering what When Harry Met Sally and Hostel have in common that I would rank the genres of these two films so highly. I would tell you that I don't think Hostel is a "horror" movie. Being pedantic, I'd try to convince you that it was splatterpunk or back track and change the word horror to weird. When it comes to weird and fantastic tales, my heart has two great loves Ray Harryhausen and Hammer Studios. It is the horror of the kind that Hammer Studios made, and now makes again, that I love. Give me stuffy Victorian/Edwardian era investigators encountering terrors from the unknown with a skepticism that is fueled by emerging scientific discoveries, and you have warmed my heart to know end. If you add to that a romantic element - which can either be of the courtship or familial variety - and I'm all in. Films like Horror of Dracula, Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed, and The Woman in Black are rich in mood and capture the imagination and are perfect for adaptation to role playing. The original Chill role playing game attempted to emulate this kind of storytelling, and I loved it because of it.

The rules for the original Chill role playing game were easy to learn and perfectly designed for new gamers. It was the combination of ease of play and Hammer Horror that I believe led to Rick Swan's negative review in The Complete Guide to Role-Playing Games. Other publications like Space Gamer and Different Worlds gave the game much higher praise - I'll share those reviews in a future blog post - and seemed to understand that Chill was the introductory game in a series of games that became increasingly complex as their genre required. The Goblinoid Games blog has a great description of the original Pacesetter system and they are the publisher of some of the other Pacesetter System games. Goblinoid Games has also designed their own horror game inspired by the horror movies of the 80s which I blogged about at Blackgate Magazine.

When I read the description for the new edition of Chill, it was immediately clear that the game would not be my idealized version of the game. The description referenced the Mayfair edition of the game, a game that tried to be "edgier" in order to compete with Call of Cthulhu. I've also seen Matthew's Facebook discussion of the game and he mentions how his version will treat mental illness. I'll be the first to admit that Call of Cthulhu doesn't do a good job representing actual mental illness, but neither does the fiction it is emulating. Lovecraft's fiction is about a descent into a particular kind of madness as understood at a particular time. Having said that, my idealized version of Chill would have no rules for insanity. It would only have rules for fear and shock. Hammer stories aren't about protagonists who are slowly driven insane as their world view is shattered. Instead, they are about the success and failure of the rational to engage with the supernatural.

The new Chill's artwork hints that it is inspired by many of the horror films currently on the market, with no small touch of American Horror Story. This is not a bad thing. In fact, if one ignores the shifting of time period that's pretty close to the Hammer tone...and films like Mama have demonstrated that the classic Ghost Story has legs. That's my longish way of saying that I'd like Matthew and Michelle to release a Victorian/Hammer supplement for Chill and that I hope their game system is quick easy and intuitive. My first read through the quick start rules gives me reason to believe at least half of that will happen...the rules part.

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