tremulus; a mechanics comprison to AW

hello,

I'm running an upcoming game of tremulus. I've run it once before, but have very little experience with the system. I like the game, but find the rules to be extremely vague in some areas. I want to discuss the differences between the HAIKU system and AW/DW. Before we start, my objective at the end of this is to find the differences that are essential to playing (mechanics) but that are not easily seen by reading the book in brief. See, I've come across some stuff in the book that is vague, and then naturally draw upon AW as a means to decode, but I'm afraid that what i'll end up doing is play the game in a way that is otherwise not intended by the author and I want to try this thing without adding in anything foreign to it.

So there you are. how are these games different? (beyond theme).

Comments

  • I suspect you're over-thinking it. Tremulus is just a bad hack. It's someone who took an existing system and grafted Cthulhu onto it, without ever doing a very good job of understanding what made the original system work--and it relies on the players and GM to create an interesting game using their own instincts and intuition, instead of being automatically pointed in that way by the system in the way that all good AW hacks do.
  • Could you be more specific about what you found to be vague? The differences between tremulus and AW are numerous.

    I agree with arscott though that the designer didn't look very deeply at how to integrate the two systems.
  • edited August 2015
    hi, actually it was a fish line to see what I've missed.

    As far as specifics, here's a basic question. If you read the lexicon it presents a very confusing list of terms that, to me is hard to understand. The page on consequences literally talks about a stone skipping on water as an example of a consequence but doesn't explain a consequence mechanically. So for a question how about the simplest one, does a 6- give the keeper a hard move? If you read the text its confusing on this regard.

    Also, Lets shift this conversation. Tell me why you think the sean preston failed to do in terms of integration? I hear this often, but I really like the idea of tremulus and I have a lot of fun playing it, I just don't know if im making up my own game or playing his.

    Oliver.
  • also, is there a better AW hack of lovecraft/cthulhu?
  • edited August 2015
    Black Stars Rise is pretty good, I think. (I haven't played it, though.)
  • This thread prompted me to finally finish off a massive and tragically long nit-picky blog post I started a year or so ago, in which I pulled out all the bits of tremulus I thought looked funny and examined its shortcomings.

    I've run enjoyable games with it, but procedurally speaking it feels like I'm papering over the cracks with my Apocalypse World MC experience. The Keeper's Rules are not written robustly - if you literally follow the procedures described, you'll end up with some very weird outcomes (and not in a Lovecraftian way).
  • @Shiro: I'm glad you finished your giant post. :) I saw you mention it on rpg.net a while ago and was looking forward to hearing your thoughts. tremulus was my first encounter with a *World game, and I wondered if I just wasn't getting it.

    @cupbearer11: There's more discussion about tremulus here, if you're interested: Is There a Cthulhu Horror AW Hack?

    As one example of what I meant, tremulus's puzzle things out move isn't time-limited like AW's read a situation. With puzzle things out, a player can ask "What does this mean?" or "How does X fit into Y?" and take +1 whenever they act on the Keeper's answer, presumably for the rest of the campaign. With read a situation, the +1 goes away naturally once the situation is over. AW is full of tricky bits like this where moving an element into another game can have unintended consequences.

    But really, if you and your players enjoy what you're doing, does it matter whether you're doing it the way the designer intended? :)
  • edited August 2015
    @shiro

    Hey,

    Thank you for that blog post and the rest for their answers.... the whole hard and soft moves part of the post you made was exactly what's been bothering me. I really don't understand how they work RAW.

    I also agree with your criticism of his writing style obfuscating clean delivery and communication (the objective I would think of writing a rule book).

    However, to reference your axe murder situation, you may be being a little too hard on the game though. HEre's my take on your example:

    You're in a room with an axe murder, the keeper can only make a move when the player looks at him/her or when hold is spent. In the example the keeper does not have hold (or is not willing to spend it), the player decides to search a desk in the corner of the room turning their back on the axe murder... in your example that triggers the move 'poke around' and I don't dispute that, but technically he/she is looking at you, as obviously they will want to know what the axe murderer is doing next.... this would be your time to hit them with deal harm...

    now lets come back to what i'm wondering.... if I am right that the keeper could deal out harm now, would it be a hard move or soft? Is the character dodging axe swings while they rifle through the drawers? or is the axe automatic?

    Oliver.
  • I have a feeling that if we were to play with Sean Preson as the keeper then people wouldn't be as critical of the game. I could be wrong, its just a vague feeling, because I feel like there's something there with this game, that's why I don't want to give up. My real criticism of the game is that its not well written, or rather, its well written in that its evocative and moody, so in a sense it has an artfulness to it; but its not a good text.
  • edited August 2015
    @oringato and @shiro

    Okay, here is a specific question.

    In the lexicon, it describes a consequence as something that occurs as a result of a 6- roll.

    On the actual page that describes consequences, the author actually doesn't really explain anything, he writes a long paragraph about a rock skipping over water.... (probably the most frustrating part of the book)

    In the keeper section, were given three ways that the keeper is allowed to make a move:
    1. When everyone looks at you to find out what happens next
    2. When the keeper spends hold
    3. as a result of a 6- roll.

    Further, Moves are described as either hard or not (soft?), a soft move allows for player reaction, (probably triggering their own moves), whereas a hard move allows for no reaction and is pretty bad ass narrative stuff.

    A hard move is shown to be triggered by spending hold, but the awkward and confusing 'most of the time' is inserted there with no reference throughout the book as to what else might trigger a hard move.

    Here's my problem. I feel like something doesn't add up here. Is a consequence a hard move? If so why isn't it mentioned in the hard moves section? If its not a hard move then does a consequence mean that something bad happens and then the keeper gets to make another move (this move being soft and reactionable) ? Or third, is a consequence just a trigger for a keeper move, and if this is so doesn't it make an endless circle, seeing as a non-hard move triggers a reaction by the player which if another 6- is rolled triggers another non hard move, with no resolution actually happening?

    What do you think?
  • If you're looking for the definition of a "Consequence" in tremulus, I think it's just used as a term for "something bad happens as a result of your actions". I just did a document search for "consequence" and couldn't come up with any better explanation. On p171, under "Handling Acts Under Pressure" is the line:
    "When a character rolls a 6 or less, he earns a consequence (and you can take a hard move against him, the group, or save it for later)."
    "Save it for later" is particularly telling, since I don't believe holding consequences for later is mentioned elsewhere unless Hold is involved... In any case, the consequence basically seems to be shorthand for "kick the character as hard as you want" - permission to make a "hard move" in the Apocalypse World sense.

    I suspect the stone-skipping metaphor is a poetic attempt at explaining "moves snowball". You might get a run of flawless successes and everything goes your way, or you might make a series of mediocre rolls that complicate the issue, or you might just screw up badly and have everything fall apart.

    I would caution against trying to adhere to the Keeper Moves section as-written, because it does not work if you follow it using programmer's logic. RAW, you have to pause before completing ANY Keeper Move, which includes pausing and allowing them to intervene when you "Foreshadow future trouble" or "Turn their move back on them" or "Let the dice decide (roll+luck)", or even when you choose to "Inflict harm". Presumably you then follow through with the negative consequences if they fail the roll? It's not entirely clear.

    A "Hard Move" in tremulus is basically codified permission to drop a fait accompli on the characters. There's no lead-up with foreshadowing and "soft moves", you just narrate how the bad thing happened and all they could do was watch helplessly and now they have to deal with it. It's a pretty handy genre tactic, and does add to the helplessness of most Lovecraftian protagonists.

    As much as I agree that Sean Preston has no doubt internalised the rules and runs the game in a thematic and coherent manner, I think that he has stumbled when actually explaining those procedures in the written word - which is a shame given that tremulus hews so closely to its parent. When I first read it I thought "Oh, now I see hard moves in Apocalypse World in a new light!" But no, they are two separate things, they just share the same name.
  • edited August 2015

    However, to reference your axe murder situation, you may be being a little too hard on the game though. HEre's my take on your example:

    You're in a room with an axe murder, the keeper can only make a move when the player looks at him/her or when hold is spent. In the example the keeper does not have hold (or is not willing to spend it), the player decides to search a desk in the corner of the room turning their back on the axe murder... in your example that triggers the move 'poke around' and I don't dispute that, but technically he/she is looking at you, as obviously they will want to know what the axe murderer is doing next.... this would be your time to hit them with deal harm...
    Well if you follow the RAW, when the player triggers "Poke Around" they are not actually looking to the Keeper to see what happens, they are rolling the dice and looking at the Move to see what happens.

    now lets come back to what i'm wondering.... if I am right that the keeper could deal out harm now, would it be a hard move or soft? Is the character dodging axe swings while they rifle through the drawers? or is the axe automatic?
    I guess it would be in keeping with the fiction to not let the player trigger poke around while there's an imminent axe murderer; it's probably more appropriate to go with tell them the possible consequences and ask: "You can look through the desk, but the axe-murderer WILL hit you if you do. Are you sure, or do you want to do something else?"

    As far as hard or soft moves, in tremulus you can only trigger a hard move by spending Hold - although I just realised that the p171 quote in my previous post implies that you can also make a Hard Move on a miss (at least for Act Under Pressure), which is not actually detailed anywhere else. Perhaps that's the one piece of information that's missing?

    If we apply Apocalypse World procedures, I think the sequence of moves would be pretty clear-cut.

    MC: "As you enter the attic you see your uncle's writing desk, and standing near it is a man wearing an oilskin coat and a mask, and wielding a bloodstained axe. He turns to you menacingly. What do you do?" (announce future badness)
    Player: "I search the desk for my uncle's letters." (hoping to poke around)
    MC: "Are you sure? If you take the time to search now, the guy with the axe will be able to hit you, no problem." (tell them the consequences and ask)
    Player: "Yes, I'll ignore the guy. Those letters are of utmost importance!" (presents a Golden Opportunity)
    MC: "OK, as you start rummaging through the desk he swings his axe into your side like you were a rotten tree. Take 3-harm. What do you do now?" (inflict harm)

    Let's see what happens with tremulus RAW.

    MC: "As you enter the attic you see your uncle's writing desk, and standing near it is a man wearing an oilskin coat and a mask, and wielding a bloodstained axe. He turns to you menacingly. What do you do?" (foreshadow future trouble)
    (Technically we're supposed to pause before completing this move to give the player a chance to intervene in whether we actually foreshadow future trouble or not, but since that tends to create a nonsensical result I'm going to ignore that for now)
    Player: "I search the desk for my uncle's letters." (hoping to poke around)
    MC: "Are you sure? If you take the time to search now, the guy with the axe will be able to hit you, no problem." (tell them the consequences and ask)
    Player: "Yes, I'll ignore the guy. Those letters are of utmost importance!" (hoping to poke around)
    MC: "OK, as you start rummaging through the desk he's going to swing his axe at you. What do you do?" (follow-through on tell them the consequences, lead-up to inflict harm)
    Player: "I keep searching!" (ignoring imminent harm)
    MC: "OK, he swings his axe into your side like you were a rotten tree. Take 3-harm. What do you do now?(follow-through on inflict harm)

    So it turns out you can get to the same result, but because of the requirement that every Keeper move must allow for player intervention, the process becomes a bit stilted if you follow it to the letter. From working through the example, I've noticed this: In AW, MC moves are atomic. In tremulus RAW, Keeper moves are procedurally broken in half so you tend to be finishing one off and starting another, then seeing what the players are going to do.

    If in the above example the player had opted to dodge or fight back and rolled a 10+, then there seems to be no way in the RAW to inflict Harm on them without spending Hold or waiting for them to fail a roll. Even if you look at it as "they say what they want to do and look to the MC so I'll trigger a logical move of my own instead of letting them trigger the move they're after", they always have the opportunity to react and roll to avoid it.
  • @shiro

    whoa awesome, you are so helpful! I did not see that passage.... I'm going to look that up and then respond in full to the post. I have a game this Friday. I really want to stick to as close to the text as possible to see how the game plays RAW and this is definitely going to help.
  • @cupbearer11 - I am hanging out to hear how your game went!
  • edited August 2015
    Hi,
    @shiro
    Hey, sorry got busy with work and just had to go with what i had. I played on Saturday, will do the final 2nd part next week at some point. Two players, a drifter and detective, played "in the blood" + "The penitent".

    There's still time to improve though so here is what I have:

    Points you made were awesome, still confused about the page 171 mention about holds being allowed for a consequence (or is it just that move so weird). I played it as the following (may have done it wrong), on a 6- keeper gets a hard move, but can't store it, on a "everybody looks at you" you get a soft move and then when explicitly stated I get a hold (saved hard move) as a result of certain moves. During the course of the game I got 2 hold btw.

    As far as game play and moves were concerned, it went okay. Saw an interesting thing about the game in that there is no dex/agility score, so basically smartness (reason) kind of covers that in a way. The act under pressure being almost like the defy danger move which Is what I use for being stealthy often enough. Wasn't a huge problem, but kind of weird since that means certain stereotypically clumsy playbooks like the prof. are not so clumsy when reading the rules this way.

    so do you disagree that a 6- is a hard move? I say it is, because if not, then you end up in a circular situation (as I mentioned before), the player rolls a 6- then I do a soft move which then triggers there move, but no resolution. as for the mention of page 171, I am going to email Sean preston himself and ask him. I hope he doesn't give that vague answer game designers give to make everybody happy. I fully realize how flexible and personal this (and other games) can be, but if I was interested in completely making it up I wouldn't bother asking you know!?!?!

    Also... and lastly, you didn't really give your opinion about what you think 171 means.... how would you play it?

    Oliver.
  • edited August 2015
    Oliver,

    I think you're right about creating circular situations. Personally I just use the AW method, which means I can make a "hard" (unkind) move on a 6- or a Golden Opportunity, and tend to lead-in with "softer" moves on a 7-9 or when everyone looks to me. I do as you describe with Hold, although in my latest game of Derelict Adrift we've had two sessions and I've yet to get a single point of Hold.

    The problem with asking "is a 6- a hard move in tremulus?" is, there are two definitions of hard move at work - the Apocalypse World version, and the tremulus version.

    aw_hard: An MC move you tend to make on a miss or Golden Opportunity, which is as nasty and irrevocable as you like.

    t_hard: A Keeper move you make when you spend Hold, which you resolve from start to finish without the chance for characters to intervene.

    If you're lining up to hurt someone in Apocalypse World, you can do it like this:
    - Announce the impending attack (soft move, announce future badness)
    - If character rolls a 6- or ignores the threat...
    - Describe the attack connecting (hard move, inflict harm)

    If you're lining up to hurt someone in tremulus, you can do it like this:
    - Announce the impending attack (situational move, lead-in to inflict harm)
    - If character rolls a 6- or ignores the threat...
    - Describe the attack connecting (situational move, follow-through on inflict harm)

    See, barring fictional circumstances, there's nothing stopping you from inflicting harm in tremulus at any time, or taking away their stuff, or capturing someone, or whatever. You pick whatever you want the end result to be, but because you have to offer an opportunity to intervene, you effectively couch the approach as foreshadow future trouble. There isn't even a mention of "soft" moves in tremulus at all.

    This is what I meant by tremulus splitting moves in half. The only problem with this interpretation is that some moves make a nonsense of the approach - how do you announce trouble elsewhere while giving the characters a chance to intervene before it happens?

    If you spend Hold, though, you can make a t_hard move and just inflict harm, without recourse, any time you want.

    Page 171 either indicates that the author has missed out some important text from the Keeper Moves section, or he does not understand how his own t_hard move regime works. If you're Acting Under Pressure, presumably you're already under threat of something happening if you fail. That move is already in motion, so there's no need to activate a hard move on a 6-; you can just follow through with the logical consequences.

    Personally I think that the Keeper Moves procedure is broken. You can kind of get bits of it to work, but then other parts break down if you apply the same logic. Trying to strictly follow the RAW is a recipe for frustration.

    Here's a flowchart that shows the process for *W games; it would be interesting to try one for tremulus, but I don't have the time at the moment. ^^

    Reason is a bit of a god-stat in tremulus. You could consider it to be stealth through showing discretion and care, paying attention to the environment, and keeping a lid on your emotions.
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