The Gauntlett
The Return of Chill, A Horror RPG Classic

Adam Gauntlett | 19 Nov 2014 12:00
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AG: Mechanically your Kickstarted version of Chill is likely to be different from its predecessors; can you talk a little bit about those differences?

MM: Chill 2nd Edition feels very much like a 90s game in terms of its design. It uses a percentile system, which on its face is simple enough, but calculating success levels from rolls requires a calculator, a chart (I always used the one in the screen), or a more mathematical mind than mine. It also had a lot of subsystems (NPC reactions, hypnotism, etc.) that weren't really necessary and so tended to get ignore, at least in my experience.

Chill 3rd Edition strives to keep the feel of that kind of game, but to make the mechanics more transparent, and more user-friendly. We're also jettisoning the unnecessary sub-systems, making the skill system a lot less granular (in 2nd Edition, you could buy Farming, Accounting, and Semaphore as skills - not that I ever saw anyone do that). We've focused skills on what the player is likely to roll in the context of an investigation. That means focus on gathering clues and fighting the Unknown. Your accountant character is assumed to know how to do his job, but it probably isn't going to come up in play (if it does, however, we've got a way to simulate that).

AG: You were introduced to the game by the 1990 Mayfair 2nd Edition, which is still available in .pdf form via Mayfair. What caught your imagination, when you first picked up that game? Is your version likely to be significantly different from it, whether mechanically or in narrative?

MM: Honestly, the cover hooked me. I had never run a horror game before - this would have been 1992 or so. I'd been running TSR's Marvel Superheroes game for a few years, but I'd just graduated high school and I was looking for something new. The cover looked slick, clean, and cool. I started reading the handy little insert that explained the game and provided new Chill Masters with a quick adventure to run, and I found myself introduced to a whole new style of play - instead of trying to simulate comics, I was trying to scare my players.
I'd never really been a fan of horror before that; I liked it well enough and I'd read Stephen King and Edgar Allen Poe and so on, but Chill opened that genre up for me in a big way. It became a big part of my taste in media, from literature to cinema to RPGs, and I branched out from Chill to the World of Darkness (via Wraith: The Oblivion).
Narratively, our edition of Chill hews closer to 2nd Edition than to 1st (which tended more toward camp horror than "straight" horror), but we're putting a greater focus on the humanist aspect of the game. Specifically, we're playing up the presence and mission of SAVE in the game, asking players to consider their characters' roles in the organization, and their motivation for staying involved even when it's likely to get them killed. That will mean, of course, delving into the darker aspects of SAVE's history...and the last couple of decades haven't been kind to the Eternal Society of the Silver Way.

AG: This isn't your first Kickstarter, but I think I'm right in saying it's the first in which the product wasn't yours from the start; has it made any difference to the process, that Chill began life as someone else's work?

MM: You are correct; the first two Kickstarters that we ran (for curse the darkness and A Tragedy in Five Acts) were for original properties that my wife Michelle and I developed. In developing Chill, I approached it more like I do when developing properties for Onyx Path Publishing. It's a bigger book, with a more traditional mechanic base, so I want more eyes on the rules and more voices figuring out how the game is going to work. I assembled my team of writers and got everyone brainstorming about what we liked about the game, what we didn't like, what we wanted to change, and what we wanted to add.
That team, by the way, consisted of people with a lot of experience playing and running Chill, as well as newer writers that I brought over from the World of Darkness. I wanted some new perspectives, because I know that when you're developing a product with a lot of history, it's tempting to keep something in that doesn't belong just because you remember it fondly. I like having multiple perspectives on a property like this - it reminds me to kill my darlings.

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