“Lovecraftian” is a word that I wouldn’t precisely referred to as abused, but it is each conveniently recognised and a small open to interpretation.
Stygian‘s intepretation of Lovecraftian horror is practically meta. I’d get in touch with the core of Lovecraft a confrontation of reality. It is not that the truth is gory or major or even scary. It is that it just does not match into the human thoughts devoid of shattering it. It is not even actively malevolent. Certainly, the defining function of a Lovecraftian monster is its sheer indifference.
It is about how fundamentally, all humany’s ideals and beliefs and societies are inventions we cling to in order to shield us from that horror.
Stygian is generally an RPG about carrying out that.
I’ve had some concerns with Stygian. Combat is slow, dull, and a bit also influenced by opportunity. Its remedy of mental illness as traits you can spontaneously choose up though walking across a space is a bit unfortunate (despite the fact that thematically it would be daft to not steadily put on your character’s mental overall health to nothing at all, and it is somewhat refreshing that establishing schizophrenia does not turn you into some sort of monster or tragic figure). How and why it saves games so haphazardly is beyond me. But I’ve truly enjoyed its atmosphere, and I feel it communicates effectively a subtle, abstract portion of why old HP’s much less hateful function was such great horror.
The premise is straightforward sufficient. The town of Arkham was vwomped into yet another dimension some time ago for unknown motives. The survivors have settled into a surprisingly steady subsistence, despite the fact that as you could possibly think about, amongst the aforementioned existential horror and plain trauma, every person is a bit of a mess mentally. They’re also beneath the thumb of the Mob, which leveraged its handle of the considerably-necessary drugs and alcohol to take more than fairly considerably undisputed. And any one who gets truly out of line, they mark for the focus of the cultists across the river.
You have an odd dream in which an ominous Rorschach-lookin’ feller, the Dismal Man, leads you out of the attic you have rented (employing cigarettes as currency) to the measures of the old university. Naturally, when you wake up you retrace these measures, and there’s a principal plot you have to stick to, but Stygian is not just about following the principal plot, per se. It is about how you react to the entire setting. That is broadly accurate in any RPG with a lot of conversation of course, but right here it feels a lot more basic. Character creation demands that you decide on a belief method, not merely as roleplaying flavour, but to clarify how you have endured till now.
Rationalism. Faith in the divine. Occultism. Humanism. They’re all coping mechanisms when you get down to it.
Faith and philosophy, or even just powerful opinions, are commonplance in RPGs, but really feel a lot more important right here, in this setting, exactly where it is not just an intellectual excercise in who’s suitable, or philosophically comfy. It is valuable and significant – the final issue amongst the protagonist and the terrible void. Kindness also feels a lot more momentous. RPGs are normally wretchedly dystopic and complete of folks who are suspicious of generous strangers, or pathetically grateful. In Stygian, optional moments of kindness turn out to be potent, because the enemy is not fascism or aliens or zombies or some generic evil, but despair. Or even reality itself.
Exactly where other games treat this query as “if you had to decide on, which of these points matters?”, Stygian asks “what keeps you anchored in this hopeless existence?”
Even nihilism is a belief of sorts in this location, a sort of armour to numb oneself and possibly smother your conscience. And occultism also – exactly where the effortless issue with Lovecraft is to make the cult potent, their fervour and ceremony is itself a coping method. Do the elder gods hear them? Of course not. Their rituals, their surrender to idolatry, their revelry in cruelty and madness are a mote of dust in the cosmos. Just yet another, especially bloody piece of driftwood on a cold, eternal sea.
My initial surprise was that humans had been nonetheless subsisting right here, and not totally devoured. But it appears that the look of Arkham in this vast plane is a totally irrelevant occasion to what ever lives right here. Fitting. Lovecraft’s contribution to horror was much less about a major monster hating every person than the sheer existential horror of scale. Not that the monsters are major and several, but that we are finite in an infinite reality. And it is one particular issue to know that intellectually, but to really perceive it is like becoming force-fed a continent.
Its defining moment comes soon after a couple of hours, which was when an individual ultimately asked why I sought the Dismal Man. The reply selections ranged from blaming and attempting to punish him for causing this, to looking for answers, to a fundamental “iono”. I do not know, but suspect that eventually, the plot will merely be what it is, and no answers will resolve something. Possibly you will kill him. Possibly you will have a lengthy speak and leave. Possibly you will join, or turn out to be him. I feel it a lot more probably that he will merely come about, and the player character will have to make their personal peace with that, or not.
I feel I can reside with that.