Chill Capsule Review by grubman on 28/03/02
Style: 5 (Excellent!)
Substance: 5 (Excellent!)
A scary game for scary people! Chill is a great horror game for people not nuts about CoC.
Author: David Ladyman
Company/Publisher: Mayfair Games Inc.
Page count: 256
Year published: 1990
Comp copy?: no
Capsule Review by grubman on 28/03/02
Genre tags: Horror
Introduction, Part 1: grubman's essay on Chill.
This first little bit is mostly my opinion and experiences with Chill. I'm writing it to give you a better idea of what kind of gamer I am, and how I use the game. All to often, I am turned off by a review that turns out to be a game I really end up digging, or, get hyped about a game, that I end up hating. I think the content of the review is always going to be swayed by the writers opinion, so, if your wondering about Chill, this is the kind of Chill player I am.
Chill is my favorite horror role playing game, and is definately in my list top 10 all time favorite games. In my humble opinion, there are really only 2 horror games worth considering anyway, Chill and CoC (Call of Cthulhu, as if you didn't know already!). CoC is a masterpiece itself, but isn't exactly my cup o' tea, for several reasons, I will try to explain. First, I find gaming in a different time period (the 20s and 30s) VERY difficult. As a GM you have to do an increadible amount of boreing research to find out what was invented when, so you don't look like an idiot in play. It's also hard for players to know exactly what is appropriate behavior for a time period they didn't live in. The next biggest problem is the fact that everyone knows all about the Cthulhu mythos, and the monsters, and what to expect. A lot of adventures just seem like a mashing of overused Lovecraft ideas. Last but not least, it's not much fun playing a character that will eventually go nuts, and has no chance in hell of really beating his oponent, not to mention Cthulhu monsters tend to get WAY overused. Don't get me wrong, I love to play CoC with a good GM...unfortunately I'm NOT a good CoC GM.
Chill is a greatly versitile game that's more to my taste. The rules are fast and smoothe (with a few clunks described later). It is very generic, and is mostly designed for modern day horror, which is good. The game allows for a bit more humor than CoC, but can be downright terrifying with a good GM.
Personally, other than game conventions, I always run Chill with only 1 player. I think it really works for this game, if you're more interested in creating a horror masterpiece, that the whole social group role-playing thing. IMHO horror in a group tends to be, well...not so scary! You know who your friends are, you aren't alone, and you usually have someone to pull you out of trouble. There is a hell of a lot of difference between running alone in some remote dark forest with something chasing you, than being surrounded by a group of people (usually armed).
Chill isn't perfect, and I will express my opinion all along in the review, but things I perceive as flaws, other GMs might think are great, so I will try to be un-bias (yeah right!).
Introduction: About the game
Chill was originally written and published in 1984 by Pacesetter. It came in a box set, and was (more or less) compatible with Star Ace and Timemaster, if you remember those games. There were a lot of interesting adventures released for it, these can be recognized by the brownish border around the cover artwork.
The review here is of the Myfair version, a revision of the Pacesetter game, and in my opinion, a much better game, although I have heard the reverse argument.
I've heard that it is still avaliable from Mayfair games, but haven't checked (I already have a copy..geesh!), I assume this information is acurate. There are also a lot of suppliments, and a few adventures out for this version of the game. I might get some argument on this, but I think they all pretty much stink for actual game play material. I've owned and read them all, and have sold them on eBay long ago. I think the rulebook by itself is so perfect that it stands best alone. The suppliments are fluffy like WOD splatbooks.
I think this is one of the coolest RPG books I own! It is a hardcover and VERY sturdy. The pages are thick stock and glued and stiched. I've had mine for 13 years , and other than a few scuffs it still looks new.
The cover itself is a stunning black, with the words CHILL on the front with a really neat simple bizzare creapy face by Joe De Velasco, who does 100% of the artwork for the book. The back has a typical, but accurate blurb, and a quote by Rax, the ..er...thing, who has little quotes all through the book. Anything with the word spittle in it excites me! The back cover also has the quote, "a scary game for scary people", and if this doesn't describe the typical gamer, I don't know what does.
The interior is black and white and purple. The text is double collum and easy to read, exept for a few pages that have the world famous purple blood splattered accross them. This seems to be a favorite gripe, for some reason, probably because it was mentioned in Heroic Worlds. There are only a couple pages like that, and you just have to look a little closer.
Chapters and subsections are nicely divided, and everything is easy to find, and well orginized. There is a nice index in the back along with some usefull tables and charts. Tword the back is also the character worksheet, and character sheet. I really like the character sheet, exept you really need to do some cut and paste to make it bigger, give a section for more equipment and notes, and a character illustration.
I think the artwork is fantastic !!! (3 !!!) But, I have the feeling it is going to be hit or miss, you either love it... or hate it. It is illustrated with very simple, somewhat abstract, and sometimes slightly humerous pictures. I would have liked a few more pictures, just because I like them so much, but most people will probably feel there are enough. I love them, and it portrays exactly the way I play, and think of the game. There are some color plates in the middle, mostly maps, that are rather plain, and not very usefull. They should have either saved the cash, or put in more appropriate artwork.
Chill introductory insert:
In a pocket in the back of the book is a 32 page..er..introductory insert. It explains what a RPG is, and a very stripped down version of the game (but gives the basic game concepts). It also has some (stripped down) introductory characters, and an adventure that (really) holds the GMs hand. All of this is very usefull to the first time role player (and you dont have to buy an extra boxed set, which seems to be a popular money making scheme these days!). Experienced players will find the insert handy in getting the basics of the system down, before diving into the rulebook, however the adventure will be a bit to simple for the vetran gamer.
This brief 1 page, just kinda wets yer wistle for whats comeing up . It also gives a summary of the orginazation of the book.
The eight basic abilities:
Since the introductory insert took care of all the crap, the Chill rulebook jumps right into the good stuff. This first section describes character ability scores, all raged from 10-90 (Chill is a percentage based system (very nice) that I will go into more later). The abilities are, Agility, Dexterity, Luck, Perception, Personality, Stamina, Strength, and Willpower. This is a few more abilities that I preffer, but they are all very usefull, and work well in this system. Current Stamina and Willpower change during the game, but the original score stays the same. The scores are used for general tasks that require rolls, they effect skills, and are used to determine other secondary abilities, such as Movement, Unskilled Melee, Sensing the unknown, Initiative, and Wounds.
The next section of the book describes skills, and how to use them.
All skills have 3 ranks, Student, Teacher, and Master. This might seem to simple, but it works increadibly well.
There are 3 different ways to check if a skill is successfull (or an ability score check. It should be noted that combat is just another set of skills. Chill isn't really a game about combat anyway, so, the simpler the better). They are the General check (the score or less on a d100), the opposed check (rolling against an opponent, whoever suceeds by the most wins), and the Specific check (I'll cover this more later).
I love the skill list because it's short! A GM can actually remember all these skills without looking back at the book 100000 times. These are meat and tater skills, without all the stupid Palladium skills you'll never use. The only skill list I like better is Star Frontiers.
Skills are divided into Combat, and non Combat. Combat skills are simply weapon types.
All the skills sucess rates are based off of ability scores fixed into a formula (PCN plus WPR divided by 2, for example).
Skill descriptions are brief but complete.
Edges and Drawbacks:
This section includes edges and drawbacks you can buy for your character, much like in GURPS. These cost, or give you back CIP (Character Insight Points, more on these later, but you get the idea).
Again, the list isn't to long (36 in all), so I like it. Since Chill characters don't die like flies (well, hopefully not), you don't need a ton of these to keep the interesting PCs comeing. They are all pretty interesting, and give players and GMs something extra to play with, without going overboard.
The next section describes "the art". Some characters can have the art, which is the ability to percieve, and draw energy from the world of "the Unknown". For lack of a better way to say it, these are like psionics or spells (mabey more like the force!). There are only a few of these abilities (12) and "Sensing the unknown" which ALL players get. There is another form of the art called The Evil Way, these are covered later (not for the players eyes!), and are what the creatures of the unknown use (the monsters).
That said, while a lot of people will think the art is cool, I don't allow any players to have it, unless they are a medium, or some such thing. This game is about horror, being scared to death of an unconceivable creature or situation, not being on par with it.
The art abilities work exactly like skills, but are described in a bit more detain (for obvious reasons).
Creating a Character:
Now that we know all the stuff a character can have and do, we actually learn how to create one. This might seem a little odd, since most games start right off with the character generation, but, with the introductory booklet, the whole thing comes together quite nicely.
Character generation, along with templates, take up 43 pages of the book. It is simple and streamlined, but it does take a little time (it takes me about 30 minutes to an hour to make a character from scratch).
Character creation is a point based system. Points are called CIP (Character Insight Points, see, I said I would get back to it!). These are also what characters gain as XP to improve their characters later. Players use CIPs to buy all the goodies mentioned in the sections I've already gone through. Characters come out very nicely balanced.
There are 3 options for creating characters.
Creating a character from scratch: This is the most time consuming, but the most fun. With this option you can build the exact type of character with the exact skills you want. You should be realistic when creating your character, though. Chill isn't about creating super characters, it's about creating "real" people.
Cusdtomizing a predesigned character: The rulebook has 10 pregenerated characters in it, great for pick up games, or quick NPCs. The second way to create a character is to simply take on of these characters and modify it slightly (b..o..r..i..n..g).
Profesions: The third, and probably most popular way to create a character is by choosing on of the proffesion templates. Each template has a description, skills, ect. and has a point cost to buy the package deal. The package is a bit cheaper than buying the skills individually. This is offset by the fact that some of the skills aren't as usefull as others you might pick on your own. The templates work very nicely, and describe a ton of different types of characters. Some are steriotypes, and some are kinda funny, but all have thier place in a modern horror story. (my proffesion in real life isn't included...buggers!)
The rest of this section covers nationality, height, weight, salary, ect. It ends with character development, using CIPs awarded during play to improve skills and abilities.
All in all, this all works together very nicely, and have never had any problem with any of the character gen stuff.
This section covers the game rules. It is 9 pages long, and I love it because it's brief , playable, and fun! Movement (kinda usefull) and time (yeah, right) are covered in this section along with leaping and jumping, and some other such tidbits, but the core of the system is the Checks.
I described general checks and oposed checks before. The other type of check is the specific check. This check is made by folling a percentile, and if you succeed, using the result to determine variable levels of success. You can get a Low, Medium, High, or Colossal result. There is a simple formula for figuring out the result, or, if you're a MORON like ME, there is a chart in the back of the book, and on the GM screen (not included), that you can check on.
The specific check is a very handy and simple rule for the GM to use, on the other hand, general checks are also handy for speed and simplicity. The inclusion of both make this game A'O'Tay! in my book, and is why I love it so much. The only clunk in the system is if the GM feels the need to look up specific check results in some of the skill or art descriptions (I don't bother, to time consuming).
Also covered in this section is the ever important (you'll make a lot of these!) FEAR CHECK! The fear check is a specific check against your current Willpower score (see, you already know how to play) made whenever you encounter a creature of the unknown, or an otherwise terrifying situation. If you fail, you usually run for your life, and lose all kinds of Willpower. Of course as your willpower goes down, it gets harder to suceed at fear checks...get it? While you can become a blubbering idiot, your characters don't go insane like in CoC, you eventually get better, with some of moms chicken soup (low willpower is great for pity sex!).
Of course combat gets it's own section, even though it's just another skill. Combat is pretty simple, but works well and fast. To hit you make a specific check against your combat skill. Each weapon has a SR (Strike Rank) the specific check, cross refferenced with the SR, determines the amount of damage you do (again, a slight clunk, but nothing you won't get used to). You do both Stamina (superficial wounds) and Wound (the nasty stuff!) points for damage. Out of Stamina equils unconscious, no more wounds equils roll up a new character.
Poison, fire, ect. are all covered in this section, as well as recovering Wounds and Stamina.
Again, this is all very simple, and works well, of course, I love the simplicity of a percentile based system.
A VERY nice GM section that relly gives the GM a feel for the game. It gives a ton of good pointers for running a horror game, and is fun to read.
SAVE is an orginization that fights the creatures of the unknown. It is asumed that characters will belong, or have dealings with it. This section describes the orginization and its history. You may say this is the "campaign setting" material for Chill.
Personally, I think SAVE is a crutch for the GM (I don't use it). It gives the GM an excuse for having PCs get involved, "SAVE wants you to investigate...". (Ho-Hum!). I much rather come up with unique ways to get the PCs sucked in. Who cares if bad crepy stuff keeps happening to them, look at that poor girl from Nightmare on Elm Street!
That said, this section is fun to read, and I'm sure a lot of Chill playeres use it a lot.
The evil Way:
Murahhahaha!! This is the form of the art that the creatures of the unknown use. Gee, they get a LOT more than the PCs, and they are a lot more nasty too!
Usually I would find a section like this a little dull to read, but this one is fun. As you read, you can think of ideas for adventures based on just one of these abilities.
This is a pretty nice section of nasty animals to throw at your PCs. Chill is a very good contemporary RPG, and personally, I do a lot of other stuff with it, just to keep the PCs guessing. Sometimes it's a who dun it mystery, sometimes its a "pulpy" adventure, sometimes it's a psycological thriller, and sometime it's true unknown horror. I think the animals section is great for making you think, "hey, I can have them fight other stuff than creatures of the unknown!".
Of course some of the animals can be horror stories themselves, a man eating wolf is pretty scary when your camping by yourself, and who can forget JAWS! (the price of a bigger boat is included in the rulebook).
Other than some tables and stuff, a 53 page list of creatures of the night fill the remainder of the book.
OK, these are fun! They are fun to read, they are fun to use. I think the majority are drawn from actual legend, but I may be wrong, I know some are for sure.
Chill creatures are the typical creatures of movies and books. Werewolves, vampires, ghosts, banshee, poltergeist, mean old neighbor lady (my favorite), zombies, and a ton of more interesting ones that the names alone probably won't say much about. Some can be used over and over, and some pretty much only inspire one adventure. Some are very nasty, and can stomp out the PCs with a thought, of course they don't (what fun would that be?), just like in the movies, they toy with them, and, if the PCs are lucky, they come up with a way to defeat them (at least temporarily).
What can I say? I love this game! There is nothing in this book that you won't find usefull. It is a very fun read. Unless you hate percentile systems, this is one of the best, it is simple, but allows for all situations, it is streamlined, and all the pieces fit together flawlessly (well, almost, but you get used to the few clunks I mentioned). The game can be used for any contemporary adventure you may want to run. I couldn't concieve of anyone thinking this game is a waste of money. Honest!