Thursday, January 27, 2011

Reviews: Chill RPG

Reviews: Chill
Did some more reviews the other night.  Woefully behind schedule. So wanted to take a big chunk out of it with ones I really, really like first.

Longtime readers know of my love for Chill, my first true horror RPG.

To many role-players around my age their first introduction to Horror roleplaying was the venerable “Call of Cthulhu”, but not me. Mine was Chill. I had the Pacesetter version (1st Edition), which I remember quite fondly, even if I did not get much of a chance to play.
The Mayfair version (2nd Edition) is of course superior and it is great to see it here. Picking up a copy of the Mayfair version now I get the impression (true or not) that the makers of Kult saw it and thought, “yes this is good, but what if the world was much, much worse?”
I liked Chill also because it had Midwest sensibilities. Pacesetter was from Wisconsin; Mayfair was/is in Niles/Skokie, a suburb of Chicago than is not to far from where I live (and has one of my favorite pizza places). It was while playing Chill that learned that the best horror was horror close to home. I don’t know, or much care really, what Hollywood thinks is horror. How can a place that gets like 350 days of sunshine know what is horror? On the other hand East Coast horror (Lovecraft) has a completely different flavor. It’s almost alien. Chill may have had a global scope, but the horror is home grown. Chill remembers that there is simple horror in the haunted house, or the strange creature from the Unknown. It is not about the bigger-badder-more horror of some games, where every game has to up the ante on the last game.
Chill does look dated by today’s standards, but keep in mind that most of it was written in the early 80’s and updated in the 90’s. A lot of the rules in Chill can be found in one way or another in modern horror games. In fact one gets the feeling of seeing evolution in process when comparing similar rules in Chill and Unisystem or World of Darkness. Successes, Fear Checks, even proto-Drama point usage (of a sorts) are all here. If one is more used to modern games, the Chill versions do seem unwieldy and even a bit primitive, but looking at them the other way, the Chill rules were a landmark for the time. Indeed there are a lot of rules in existence today that we take for granted that were still cutting edge in Chill.
But that is not to say that Chill does not have something to offer the player of today.
If horror is your game, then Chill is worth your time and money.
5 out of 5 Stars.

Chill Companion
A must have if you are playing 2nd Edition/Mayfair Chill, AND a good buy for fans of any horror rpg.
Add more depth to your characters including (and most importantly to me) the use of magic and psionics. Nothing beats Chill and this was one of the best additions to the game.
5 out of 5 Stars.

Horrors of North America
What I loved most about Chill was it was American Horror. Not just New England, or even old England, but the Mid-West, the North and all over the place.
Horrors of North America is one part travel guide, one part monster manual and all parts awesome. Great even if you are not playing Chill as a guide to whats weird and supernatural out there.
5 out of 5 Stars.

Chill: Vampires
Chill Vampires is the standard to which all vampire related supplements to a horror game must be measured. Any game can produce a bunch of stats, some bad fiction and link them together, Chill: Vampires is a Master's Thesis on combating the undead. Not just notes for the would be vampire slayer (and game masters) but also detailed accounts of the most brazen of the undead. Complete with stats, history, motivations and the notes of previous investigators and SAVE agents.
This book is fantastic for any game but essential for a good Chill game. I would recommend it on the basis of the Dracula and Bathory write-ups alone, but there are more and even stranger and deadlier vampires in these pages.
All games before, and many after, dealt with vampires much the same way, little carbon copies of Hollywood Dracula. Sure, some made attempts at doing different things, but most were weak in implementation. But Chill (and to be fair a D&D article in Dragon about a year before) did something that no other game had done before, give us varieties of vampires. So it was not just pack your stake, holy water and crucifix, you had to know what species of vampire you were after. So that stake would be fine against a Common Carpathian and by luck the Macedonian Vampire, but completely useless against an Alpine Vampire. This played well into Chills other evolutionary concept, in game research.
Some of these vampires represented a type or species of vampire. The Common Carpathian, Macedonian and Oriental Vampires are of this kind. Others were most likely unique individuals with a specific vampirism curse, Elizabeth Bathory is a good example, she is most like a Common Carpathian with some things that are unique to her nature in life.
5 out of 5 Stars.

Unknown Providence: SAVE in New England
Part source guide to New England, part historical treatsie and part adventure Unknown Providence covers a lot of ground. Set firmly in the Chill/SAVE meta-plot this book was one of the first of what was to be the new direction in Chill. Sadly it was also one of the last.
The background and history of New England is awesome. Filled with all sorts of facts and ideas to use in any game as well as a cast on NPC, monsters and SAVE agents.
The adventure is less good, though perfectly fine.
4 out of 5 Stars.


Todd said...

I always liked that game too. I hoped the updated version would become a reality, but apparently that fell through.

Timothy S. Brannan said...

I have seen Chill 3.0 and while I thought it had somethings going for it, the world of horror games had passed it by.

Alex Osias said...

I loved the sourcebooks for Chill 2nd Edition, but wasn't as enamored with the 2nd Edition rules.

The Voodoo supplement was awesome.

Then again, I can barely remember the 1st edition rules having only played once in my life.