Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Review: Chill 3rd Edition

Readers here will know of my love for Chill.  It was one of the first non-D&D games I ever played  and to this day I have a soft spot in my art for it.  So it was with great pleasure that I purchased the 3rd edition of Chill last year.
Chill may not be the grand-daddy of horror games (that really is Call of Cthulhu) but it is certainly early in the parentage of all horror games.  Chill was doing things with monsters in the 80s that White Wolf would later get so much credit for in the 90s. Unlike CoC, the characters of  Chill had reasons to believe that they could defeat the monster.  There was more hope in Chill.

So what can we say about this new edition?

Let's start with the basics. I am reviewing both the PDF and the Hardcover book.
The books are 288 pages with full-color covers and full-color interior art.  The art is great mixing in photographs with art for full creepy effect. This is the "real-world" only beset by monsters. The art has always been a central feature of Chill and this edition really has some great art.  Even my wife, who is not really a gamer, was looking at and said it looked cool.
The hardcover is a nice hefty tome that would also look good on the coffee table, but the real fun is when it is on the game table.
(Note: This is another book where I would have liked a cheaper "spiral-bound" copy to lay flat on table)
The PDF is fully bookmarked and comes with a printer-friendly character sheet.  Though I prefer the heavy art sheet because they look so good.

The Forward details a little history of Chill. Nothing new to longtime readers of my blog. This is followed by a comic.  This gives an example of the Chill world. It's not bad, but I usually skip over these sorts of things.  Besides, Chill and I are old friends.

Introduction is the obligatory "this is a roleplaying game" bit, but it also gives you a brief overview of the game system.

If you are familiar at all with Chill then the system here is very familiar.  Percentage dice roll, roll under a target number. This number is usually a function of attributes, skills, and edges or drawbacks. Rolling doubles "33" or "55" is a really good or a really bad thing, depending on whether or not it was under the score you needed. The more you roll under the better.  This gives the game a different feel than most. There feels like there is more randomness (even though there isn't) and more drama (and there is).  This is a crunchy "cinematic" game. IF there can be such a thing.
There are simple, pass/fail tests, and tests that have levels of success.
There are also Tokens that can be used that represent tempory states. These are used in a similar fashion to other games "drama points" but have a more game-mechanical focus here.

I like that this information is right upfront and read first. It sets the tone for the game to come.

Chapter 1 deals with Character Creation. This is important because Chill is a character focused game.  In some games you fight monsters because they have the treasure and XP.  In Chill you fight the monsters because ever since you were a child you saw ghosts. You thought they were harmless till one of them killed your older brother...
There three character creation options. First pick a pre-made character, many are provided. Secondly you could pick a template such as "Anthropologist", "Detective" or "Thief" and modify them.  I expect to see more templates in future books.  Third, is of course, roll up your own character.  Roll up your attributes, skills and pick any Edges or Drawbacks you want.
Note to players of the 1st and 2nd editions. There are some changes here.  Among other things the Luck attribute is gone.

There is a discipline known as "the Art" that gives some characters a magical edge, but don't expect to play someone of Harry Dresden's ability here.  This is more Sam & Dean Winchester levels.  Which is perfect in my mind.

Chapter 2 covers SAVE.  SAVE or the Societas Albae Viae Eternitata, or The Eternal Society of
the White Way, named for their dedication to the good “white” force and opposition to the evil “dark” force.  SAVE is a central focus of Chill and all characters are considered to belong to it.  There is a lot of history here, both in the game world and in the real world.  There are even subtle nods to the history of the game itself here. "1990: Going Dark" is as much about SAVE as it is the Chill game itself.  "1998: The Renaissance of the Art" reflects also the growing popularity again of modern paranormal fiction in books, TV and movies.  For me I'd also add in some failed attempts at getting SAVE up an running again to parallel the failed attempt of Chill 3.0.  I love how the communications SAVE sends out adapt to the times. Hand written letters give way to typewriters to early emails to modern texting and chat software.  While the system maybe the heart of Chill, this is the soul.

Chapter 3 is dedicated to The Art, or is simple language Magic.  Given here are the different schools of the art and their disciplines.  While Chill 3rd Ed has more Player Character magic than the previous versions, the characters are still not going to be at the levels of say "Mage" or "WitchCraft" RPGs.  But this is fine really. These are supposed to be normal humans for the most part.  Also unlike CoC the Art here is mostly harmless. Note I say mostly, there are still dangers and magic always has a price.

Chapter 4 covers the Game System.  This details the material from the Introduction.  If you have played Chill before you will find a lot here that is familiar and somethings that are completely new.  There are plenty of good working examples.  This is the clearest version of the Chill rules to date.

Chapter 5 is for the Chill Master. This covers how to run the game, setting the mood and tone of the games.  If you have played any horror game before there is a lot here that is familiar, but there is also plenty that is new.  My own 2 cents here: Don't run Chill like you would run D&D or even Call of Cthulhu.  This game has it's own feel to it. Yes the stories you tell and the adventures you run can be done under a variety of systems and ways. To get the most out of Chill, play it like Chill.

Chapter 6 is a favorite of mine, Creatures of the Unknown. I will admit that when I picked up my copy at Gen Con last year I turned right to this chapter first to see if all my old favorites made the cut for the new edition.  Not all of them did, but there are plenty of old faves and new monsters here to keep any CM busy. The "Mean Old Neighbor Lady" is now properly a Hag, but most of the Vampires made it over including the "North American Vampire" and it's representative Jackson Jammer.
This chapter also includes the monster version of the Art, the Evil Way.

Finally, we end with Kickstarter backers.

Chill 3rd Edition is a great game and an improvement in pretty much every way over it's predecessors.  The book is great to look at, great to read and easier to play.  While parts of Chill still feel like they are stuck in the 80s or 90s in terms of tone and game design, there is enough new material here and enough refinements to bring this game into the 21st century.   Will it repalce Chill 1st Ed and 2nd ed in my heart?  No, I don't think it will.  Will it replace Chill 1st Ed and 2nd Ed on my game table?  Absolutely!  I'll use these rules from now on and supplement older material until Growling Door gets around to replacing them.  Though I have my doubts they will replace Chill Vampires in my heart!

Time I think to dust off my "Spirit of '76" game.

Full disclosure:  All links are affiliate links. I bought both the PDF and Hardcopies of this game.  No free copies were given and no reviews were solicited.


Jonathan Linneman said...

This is a game I've long wanted to try but have never gotten a chance to play. SAVE is just such a simple concept and such a great acronym; I feel like just about every RPG I play could have me guiding a monster hunter, and I'd be happy with that.

Unknown said...

I have and played all the editions of Chill and by far third edition has simplified the game to the point new comers won't be overwhelmed, the addition of tokens keeps a balance that is fair to both the players and the CM. I look forward to see what GDG does to support the game to keep it alive