Before I start talking about this thing, I need to give the basics of the system, which is pretty easy to do. The system has no dice. You just compare the number representing your character’s salient ability to the number assigned to how difficult the thing you’re trying to do is, and if you’re over, you win. If you’re under, you lose. If you tie, then there is either a stalemate, or you both win and lose, whichever is more interesting.
You start by choosing your Archetype and your Subtype. The archetypes are taken from our thinking about horror as a genre – what kinds of people get caught up in a horror story? we came up with the Innocent, the Foolhardy, the Jaded and the Victim. Your archetype is important because it determines how many Hopes and Scars you start off with, as well as how much Virtue and Adrenaline one starting Virtue per Hope that you have, one starting Adrenaline per Scar you have. Hopes are things you Hope for, Scars are bad things that happened to you that still hurt you.
There are four subtypes under each archetype, and each subtype has one once-a-session ability that only they can use. This ability will hurt a PC in some way but benefit your character or your player agenda in some way. They are all different, and are still in rough form, but that’s the idea behind them.
There are four Attributes in this game – Might, Precision, Appeal and Conviction. Might helps you pass physical tests; Precision helps you pass technical tests; Appeal helps you pass social tests; Conviction helps you pass psychological tests. Physical tests are usually about avoiding or inflicting Pain. Technical tests are about overcoming obstacles in the fiction. Social tests are about getting NPCs (and PCs if you go PvP) to do what you want. Conviction is about resisting social influences from others and about resisting Fear.
Fear and Pain are what destroy your character. If you accumulate 4 of either, you go for a side talk with the GM and your character is subsumed by the horror, whatever it happens to be – or possibly just insane or dead.
Adrenaline, mentioned above, helps you resist your own Fear and Pain (which impose penalties). Virtue lets one character remove another character’s Fear or Pain – nothing else in the game does that. You get Adrenaline for kicking ass and Virtue for putting yourself in danger on behalf of others and that kind of thing.
Lastly, there are Traits. You have six kinds of traits, and they modify your Attributes in a test, usually by +1. Feats are physical abilities that you have, ways you can push your body to do amazing things. Influences are social abilities you have, as well as friends or allies or contacts you have that you want to be part of the game. Items are things you have with you when the game starts – they are a contract with the GM, because if it isn’t on your character sheet, there is no guarantee that you’ll be able to use it in the game. Knowledges are areas of expertise. Once per scene, you can ask the GM a question in your area of experties (if in the game you have the opportunity to sit and reflect, do a little research, use a lab, etc.) and the GM has to give you an honest answer. Mysteries are the wild card Traits in the game that we are still working out – things like ESP or telekinesis, knowledge of alien abductions and conspiracy theories, or occult abilities. Mysteries are very versatile, but when you call upon one, you risk increasing your own Fear. Last are Skills, which are just like skills in every other rpg.
Each Trait functions differently, but they’re all pretty simple. They either let you do something, let you introduce something into the game, or give you about a +1 on specific kinds of tests. That’s about it.
What drives this all is the Countdown. The Countdown is represented by some cards on the table (right now) and it functions to keep the pressure on the PCs. As cards are taken away from the center, they know that death and disaster is looming closer, but they don’t necessarily know why. The Countdown can represent anything – time until the full moon, how much air is left to breathe, cultists completing a ritual to summon a dread deity, how many campers the slasher goes through before he gets to the PCs – anything. It is the screws that you put to the player’s thumbs. The only ways to buy time are 1. take a risk once you’ve figured out what the Countdown represents or 2. do something awful to someone else – push another camper in front of the slasher, suffocate someone so they don’t breathe your air anymore, kill one of the cultists in cold blood, etc.
That’s the basics. Now some analysis.