La Methode du Docteur Chestel
La Methode du Docteur Chestel Playtest Review by Philippe Tromeur on 24/02/02
Style: 4 (Classy and well done)
Substance: 3 (Average)
A very original French RPG was published in 1991, in which you explore the mad universes of the Subconscious. "The Cell" movie looked like a rip-off ...
Product: La Methode du Docteur Chestel
Author: Daniel Danjean (text), Karine Paquot (art)
Company/Publisher: Les Presses du Midi
Page count: 52
Year published: 1991
Comp copy?: no
Playtest Review by Philippe Tromeur on 24/02/02
Genre tags: Science Fiction Modern day Generic Other
Do you remember that year-2000 movie called The Cell , with Jennifer Lopez as a psychiatrist, exploring the subconscious of a serial-killer, thanks to some innovative technology ?
There was a RPG, exactly about that topic : a French game called La Méthode du Docteur Chestel , published in 1991 and still considered a kind of masterpiece (or unique aberration).
When The Cell came
out, that was evident : "At least, Docteur Chestel ,
the movie !".
Litterally : "Doctor Chestel's Method".
The PCs work for Docteur Chestel , a guy who has invented a method to travel inside people's Intracos (Intra-Cosmos : the inner universe inside one's mind) during their dreams.
Like in The Cell , the clinic of Docteur Chestel is a little-known facility, taking care of desperate cases (sometimes under scrutiny from the government).
Their mission is generally to find a way to
heal the inner universe from prejudices and other problems. So the
solution is generally not to destroy the menace, but understand it and
smooth the situation.
The PCs can achieve miracles (when rolling a 12) but it's not recommanded (remember : the Intracos is what the patient believes ).
The missions of the PCs are
generally about healing people's mental problems, but the authors give
some other examples, à la The Cell for some of them (see
Technically, a character has got 12 attributes, rated -2 to 2.
Those attributes are organised as 4 sets of 3 attributes : 3 attributes about Self, 3 attributes about Things, 3 attributes about Other People, and 3 attributes about Environment.
As you can see, some attributes are not traditional attributes, they work a bit like White Wolf's Backgrounds (MAT,REL).
Also, the beginning character has got 5
skills : one rated 9, another rated 8, then 7, then 6, then 5.
Otherwise, the character has got a name, a "real" profession, and a description.
There are rules for some evolution
of the character, and also for aftermath : when you die in someone
else's Intracos, your Masque (dream avatar) is somewhat
The PCs are defined by their attributes (and skills), and these attributes allow them to do perfect or incredible feats (when 11 or 12 are rolled, respectively, which is quite common).
Also, some Intracos (the universes inside people's mind) allow for magic or psychic powers, but it is rare.
When someone wants to make an action, they roll some six-sided dice and keep two of them.
When someone has got an attribute of 0, they roll 2 dice and add them together.
When they've got 2, they roll 4 dice, and keep the 2 better dice.
When they've got 1, they roll 3 dice, and keep the 2 better dice.
When they've got -1, they roll 3 dice, and keep the 2 lower dice.
When they've got -2, they roll 4 dice, and keep the 2 lower dice.
The result is compared to a difficulty.
A 2 is always a fumble, a 12 is always a miracle
(only happens in dreams).
actions more difficult (giving a base difficulty to every
The book is a slim (52-page) book ; the character sheet is on the back cover (this sheet is beautifully designed : it contains a summary of nearly all rules !).
The Creation of Character takes about 4 pages, the rest of the system is explained in some 15 pages. The rest is about advice to the GM, play-aids, etc.
There are many synopses proposed to the GM (nearly 30 of them) : most of them are 'classics' (phobia, etc), some of them funky (like this D&D fantasy), some of them psychedelic thrillers :
There are also 2 complete cases, detailed in 15 pages :
Both scenarii involve satanist bikers : maybe the author has some problems with bikers ?
The art is very poetic and dreamlike : a
woman walking through a mirror, absurd landscapes ...
La Méthode du Docteur Chestel has got an original theme and a clever sytem. There are some drawbacks, though : the skill system is a bit too simple (it helps only for easy tasks), and the combat system a bit strange (why rolling against difficulties, where a simple opposed roll would have been perfect ?).
Also, the game was very expensive for its size : 99 FF for 52 pages was a lot. (most games have about a 1FF / page ratio, even a bit less in 1991).
Anyway, this game is really
interesting ; it was the first time such a thing was done, and it was
brilliantly so. In the following years, we have seen Shattered
Dreams and other such games, but Chestel is
still the best one : essential, beautiful, and full of clever
The author and the illustrator have made no other RPG stuff ever since, but they're somewhat working on Onirocosme , the follow-up to Chestel . If you read French, have a look at http://www.chez.com/kpdd/ . There are some pages in English too (on another website), with an even more complete summary of the rules ( here ).
You may order the game at the authors' website.