Note: Chthonian is currently being rewritten and, at the moment, looks nothing like this earlier version. See the Harlekin-Maus front page for news on the new Chthonian RPG.Back to Games | email author (firstname.lastname@example.org) Chthonian is geared mostly for fans of weird fiction, but can easily be modified for other tastes. Central to the game is the concept of the Narrator and Players. The Narrator acts as the author of the Story, describing events and actions taken by secondary characters. Players roleplay the part of Excursionists, the main protagonists of the Story.
My Excursionist is Walter Henning, a journalist working for a reputable local newspaper.
Three months ago he traded in his job as a detective so he could get more public recognition as a reporter.
Walter's friends find him a likable guy, though he can be bull-headed over small details. His stubborn nature helps him with his job, but he can be difficult to ignore and comes off arrogant at times.
His motivation to find a good story and prove his ability to the public leads him to join up with the other Excursionists.
Walter lives alone in a small apartment close to the center of the city. While he carries a tape recorder instead of a badge now, he still isn't comfortable without a gun and packs his revolver whenever possible.
|1 or 2||Hobbyist or a mentionable characteristic|
|3 or 4||Professionally able or impressive|
|5 or 6||Nearly unmatched; best of the best (or worst of the worst)|
|7 and above||Seemingly superhuman or astoundingly pitiful|
After some thought, and the Narrator's approval, I write down the following:
|Terrible Insight & Style|
|Pulp Adventure||Practicality||One-third Terrible Insight||Your Excursionist favors direct methods over the sociably-conscious ways of a proper gentlemen. His manners and dress are often at odds with the upper class, placing practicality above style.|
|Cognizance||One-half Terrible Insight||Recognizing ancient cultures, their languages and practices, becomes intuitive. Weird science bends thinking less as your Excursionist recognizes the bizarre logic which applies.|
|Weird Tale||Practicality||One-half Terrible Insight||An Excursionist with an increased Practicality will lose sight of his social peers' mores, discarding the trappings of culture and society.|
|Cognizance||One-half Terrible Insight||Making sense of mind-bending logic and the motivations behind darker cult practices.|
|Shocking Discovery||Practicality||Equal to Terrible Insight||In a Shocking Discovery, a character's Practicality affects his ability to interact with ordinary people and think in a logical manner.|
|Cognizance||Equal to Terrible Insight||With sanity crumbling away comes understanding of the true mechanics of the universe. Your Excursionist suffers from a heightened understanding of weird science and otherworldy entities.|
|* Round down to nearest whole number.|
Walter begins with no points of Terrible Insight. His experience as a detective has been limited to mundane
crimes of the city. I mark a place to record Walter's Terrible Insight. For each point of Terrible Insight
I will check off one of the O's.
Since the Narrator and Players have decided to play a Weird Tale, my Numbers in Practicality and Cognizance are equal to one-half my Terrible Insight rounded down.
-1 -1 -2 -2 -3 -3 -4 -4 -5 -5
O O O O O O O O O O
+1 +1 +2 +2 +3 +3 +4 +4 +5 +5
|Types of Rolls|
Narrator declares Difficulty.
Roller's Extent must be zero or greater.
| Opening a stuck door,
Researching an artifact's history
Highest result succeeds in the task.
| Outcome of a combat,
Battle of wits,
Snatch a book from a pedestal
Narrator declares Difficulty.
Every competitor rolls.
Highest Extent greater than zero succeeds
|First to solve a puzzle|
|Cooperative|| Like any Roll above.
Narrator decides highest Trait.
All other Traits usually give a +0 or +1.
| Moving a granite slab,
Linking hands to keep standing
Walter is trying to get into a locked chest. I want Walter to pick the lock
using his Ex-Detective Trait. The lock is Well-Crafted 3
and the Narrator doesn't think Walter's Trait applies. She decides that picking the
lock would be a Standard Roll with a Difficulty of 11. I roll
an 8, adds Ex-Detective 2 and subtracts the lock's Well-Crafted 3
for a result of 7. My Extent is -4 (7 minus 11). Walter fails, nicking his finger in the process.
Walter then takes a more direct approach and grabs a crowbar. The Narrator wants to add the element of chance to this (the chest is fairly tough) and requires a Roll. The Narrator says it is a Standard Roll with a Difficulty of 5. Walter' Player rolls a 7, adds the Crowbar's Pry 2 for a result of 9. My Extent is 2 (9 minus 7). Walter opens the chest and finds a mysterious jade figure inside ...
A bizzare creature identified in Phinnias' Bestiary as a Grumbling Mulk swings its hairy paw at poor
Walter. The Narrator makes this combat a Contest Roll. Walter is using his revolver (Powerful 1)
and is an Ex-Detective 2. The Mulk can be described as having Inhuman
Strength 3 and Tough Hide 1.
I roll a 6 and add Walter's Traits for a result of 9. The Narrator rolls an 8 for the Mulk and adds the Mulk's Traits for a result of 12. The Mulk is the winner with an Extent of 4 (12 - 8). The Narrator tells me that the Mulk's furry paw smacks Walter's head like a sack of bricks, sending poor Walter flying against a wall.
|Walter creeps into the room to spy his jade figure on a table. A hooded man appears in the doorway and shouts, "The Goddess is mine!" The pair race towards the table. The Narrator gives Walter a Trait Close to the Jade Figure 2 (only for this instant). I roll a 6 (4 + 2), not enough to beat the Narrator's roll of 10! Walter's jade figure disappears into the man's loose robe.|
A sturdy chain leads down into a murky lake. A single Excursionist could try to pull it up,
but all the characters are going to pool their strength and
pull up the chain together. The Narrator decides to add up all strength-related
Traits, and any Traits that would normally hinder the roll are not applied.
The four Excursionists all have covert operation backgrounds and work on a strategy to infiltrate a scientific compound. The Excursionist with the highest Trait (in this case an ex-Green Beret 4) applies the Trait in full, and everyone else planning adds 1 to the Roll.
|Examples of Style & Extent in Combat|
|Pulp Adventure||Damage from Faceless Goons & Traps||One-fifth Extent|
|Damage from Main Villain||One-half Extent|
|Weird Tales||Mental Damage||One-half Extent|
|Phsyical Damage||Full Extent|
|Shocking Discovery||Any harm to Excursionists||Full Extent|
Walter writes down some complicated directions on opening the secret compartment in his
jade figure. I make a Roll with an Extent of 4. The directions now have the Trait
Instructive 4. Anyone trying to decipher Walter's notes would add the Instructive
Trait to their own Roll.
Undaunted by the fearsome Grumbling Mulk, Walter fires his Revolver (Trait: Powerful 1). I Roll successfully with an Extent of 3. The Mulk is now suffering from a Wounded 3 Trait, and applies the new Trait to all its future rolls.
The Narrator and Players have agreed to Atomize any combat Rolls. Walter, wearing a protective vest
(Protection 1) faces a Phase Bear (Strong 3, Clumsy 1). The Phase Bear lunges at Walter.
Walter tries to duck and I roll a 7 (no Traits apply). The Narrator rolls a 9 (10 - 1 for the Phase
Bear's Clumsy) for an initial Extent of 2. Traits are then used to modify this Extent, so the final
Extent is 4 (2 + 3 - 1 from the Bear's Strong and Walter's Protection).
Walter, snooping around a warehouse, surprises a band of cultists who immediately begin shooting! Walter wants to dive for cover while firing at the cultists. This would normally be one Roll but the Narrator decides to Atomize the Roll. I must make a successful Roll to dive behind the crates and not get hit by gunfire, and a separate Roll to hit any cultists.
|Using Nodules of Terrible Insight|
|Automatic Success||Player decides Extent of Roll without having to roll the die.|
|Authorial Power||Player writes her own event or character into the Story.|
|Lucky Break||Player causes another character in the game to make a Roll or suffer decided effects.|
|Insightful Shift||Player shifts the focus of the scene towards Practicality or Cognizance.|
|Walter studies a three volume set written by Ezekial Strium, Wicked Energyes and Their Terrible Uses. After discerning the use of his jade figure to collect ethereal wisps the Narrator decides that a Terrible Insight Roll must be made with a Difficulty of 8. Walter already has a Terrible Insight of 2, and Walter's Player rolls a 7 (9 - 2 from Practicality) for an Extent of -1. Walter gains another point of Terrible Insight.|
Once again, Walter faces a Grumbling Mulk. He still bears scars from his last encounter and is determined
not to suffer again. Walter fires his revolver, praying that the knowledge gleaned from Phinnias' Bestiary
will aid him. The Mulk, as Defender, rolls a 10. Walter's Player, not wanting to fail, spends a Nodule
to get an Extent of 15. The Grumbling Mulk is now completely incapacitated by an amazing shot to its
Walter's Player must now make a Standard Roll with a Difficulty of 15, modified by his Practicality; the Player rolls a 5 (7 - 2) for an Extent of -10. Walter gains another point of Terrible Insight along with new Numbers for his Practicality and Cognizance Traits.
Having discovered a crate filled with tentacles that reached out towards him, Walter is fleeing
desperately from the warehouse. As the Narrator describes the wet slopping sounds from behind
Walter, I feel this would be a good time to make an Insightful Shift towards Practicality.
I spend a Nodule, lose a point of Terrible Insight, and Walter keeps running. Is is eventually
overtaken by the sounds, but instead of the horrid thing Walter feared, the sounds were Walter's
crazed imagination distorting the rain and cultists' pursuing footsteps.
Later, when Walter hears the sounds once again, I decide to make an Insightful Shift towards Cognizance. I feel that Walter could use an edge against whatever eldritch being is stalking him. I spend a Nodule, gain a point of Terrible Insight, and now Walter's mind is better armed at truly understanding the approaching thing.