Custom moves for a Cosmic Horror game

  • 5 Replies
  • 4817 Views
Custom moves for a Cosmic Horror game
« on: September 30, 2013, 12:23:11 PM »
Hi...

I am a total newbie to this system, but I am looking for some advice on what to do if I want some cosmic horror (aka Cthulhu Mythos) elements in my game. I bought Monster of the Week and got Urban Shadows, but none of them really hits the spot.

I would think that someone else has thought about this before - if so, can you point me to that work?

Otherwise, how do you see a Cosmic Horror game working with the AW rules? I love the system, but what would be needed to make such a hack playable?

Thanks in advance!

Re: Custom moves for a Cosmic Horror game
« Reply #1 on: September 30, 2013, 02:48:52 PM »
2 that I know of:

Black Stars Rise and tremulus. I don't think tremulus is available to non-backers yet though.

*

DannyK

  • 157
Re: Custom moves for a Cosmic Horror game
« Reply #2 on: October 09, 2013, 07:27:41 PM »
You can turn AW into a cosmic horror game without many additional rules, I think, if you play up the hugeness of the disaster and the insignificance of the survivors.  You might ban some of the more hopeful character types like the Savvyhead and Touchstone. 

Change the flavor of the apocalyptica so it's more cryptic and abandoned instead of dusty and broken, and don't worry so much about making it seem real. Add some surrealistic elements -- throw in horrible things that don't make sense, then watch the players creep themselves out trying to make sense of it.  I learned this technique a long time ago when running Nobilis and it always works. 

The Fronts are pretty good for cosmic horror already, just take their descriptions and go with weird and cosmic trappings instead of translating them into more mundane post-apocalyptic terms.  If you read the names and impulses of the different threat types and take them literally, you'll get lots of nasty ideas. 

The Maelstrom, if you're going with classic Lovecraftian horror, probably translates into the realization that the cosmos is indifferent and inimical to human life and sanity.  You might come up with some nasty custom Moves to make up for the lack of a "SAN roll" in Apocalypse World, something to do with when you strive to understand the arcane logic behind the transportation system... or when you take anti-hallucination pills and see what's really out there...

Regarding threats, if you want to make them scarier, take some of Dungeon World's advice for making monsters scary.  Google the story about the 16 HP dragon.  The really bad stuff shouldn't be scary because it has a lot of hitpoints, it should be scary because it's awful and incomprehensible.

EDIT: Maybe look at Monsterhearts, too: beneath the teenage rebellion, there's a creepy game about people trying to control each other with unsuitable methods in order to meet their own needs.  Plus the playbooks have a whole heap of weird powers that can be stolen and adapted.

Re: Custom moves for a Cosmic Horror game
« Reply #3 on: October 10, 2013, 04:05:29 AM »
Thanks, that was really good advice. Great post!

*

DannyK

  • 157
Re: Custom moves for a Cosmic Horror game
« Reply #4 on: October 11, 2013, 12:25:18 PM »
Oh, I forgot to mention: if you want to simulate SAN using AW mechanics, just make a Move with a countdown clock.  At 6 o'clock, the character starts seeing things out of the corner of their eye and develops phobias; at 9 o'clock, they have terrible dreams and NPC's start treating them differently; at 12 o'clock, they go insane.  Or borrow the Trauma mechanics from the Ghost Lines hack, they are very nice!  If you want to give the mechanic real teeth, then when they reach 3 o'clock, tell the player "This stuff is starting to make sense to you, take +1 forward for attempts to understand the geography of the Impossible City/read the literature of [untranslatable]/communicate with the alien flesh robots."  That incentivizes them to keep doing stuff that will imperil their sanity, and get the Call of Cthulhu-like dynamic going where the PC's need to balance understanding the threat that faces them with the risk of going mad and maybe even becoming part of the threat.   

Some groups may consider this a dick move; you should probably make sure they're all on board for a particularly bleak and hopeless game of AW, like Call of Cthulhu on Purist mode.

Re: Custom moves for a Cosmic Horror game
« Reply #5 on: October 12, 2013, 04:37:49 PM »
If you want to give the mechanic real teeth, then when they reach 3 o'clock, tell the player "This stuff is starting to make sense to you, take +1 forward for attempts to understand the geography of the Impossible City/read the literature of [untranslatable]/communicate with the alien flesh robots."

Ooh, nice- mad insight! That's right down my alley; I already meet the prereqs.