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Tabletop Game / Chill

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First edition box art.

Chill was a somewhat lesser-known horror RPG, originally published in 1984 by Pacesetter, then released to a second edition in 1990 by Mayfair Games. In 2015 yet another edition came out courtesy of yet another company, this time Growling Door Games, which sadly folded quite quickly.

In Chill the player characters are sometimes called away from their routine lives to investigate cases by the secret society known as S.A.V.E. ("Societas Albae Viae Eternitata" note ). The organization reaches out to people who survive a harrowing encounter with a paranormal being, then asks such people to investigate on its behalf into incidents involving other supernatural dangers (collectively referred to as "the Unknown"). The most gifted members of S.A.V.E. can even learn to wield the power of "the Art", a nebulous conflation that's a bit magic, a bit Psychic Powers.

The game is a little more optimistic than others in its genre, as the players belonging to an organization that actively hunts down the supernatural might suggest. The odds are certainly stacked in the monsters' favor, but careful investigation can unearth their weaknesses and allow the players to halt a great danger.

Tropes found in Chill include:

  • Achilles' Heel: Usually defeating the monster comes down to finding this, since it wouldn't be very scary if the players just tracked it to its lair and shot it a few times.
  • Adapted Out: The lore in 2e was pretty consistent with the lore from 1e, in addition to expanding on the setting and what had been learned about the Unknown, even giving it a main (if still mysterious) villain in an interdimensional entity known as Rax note . 3e backed off on various details from the previous setting, such as there being any kind of identified central antagonist, or saying anything that previous editions did about S.A.V.E.'s encounters with Dracula, although other prominent vampires from the lore still get mentions. 3e also edited out some of the sillier background details for various monsters, like how Yetis in this game were actually the reincarnated ghosts of hermits who realized they didn't like being lonely after all, and go through elaborate schedules stalking people on mountain-climbing expeditions while gradually using their powers to turn people into more yetis to have company.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: The game makes it very clear that it doesn't use "monster" to mean "an inhuman species," it means "amoral and dangerous". There are no friendly supernatural forces; if a monster shows up, it's bad, and the players have to kill or dispel it. End of story.
  • Amusement Park of Doom: Module "Isle of the Dead" has the players trying to exorcise a haunted amusement park.
  • Anyone Can Die: The rules are pretty bluntly honest about how PC turnover is expected to be fairly high.
  • Bigfoot, Sasquatch, and Yeti: Can be introduced to menace the players, with some editions having stats for variants like the skunk-ape. The earlier editions of the game unfortunately also afflicted them with the silly backstory of being the reincarnated ghosts of hermits who decide to get revenge in various ways for being "ignored".
  • Call-Back: One of the vampires in the "Vampires" sourcebook is Jackson De La Croix, stage name Jackson Jammer, who was originally one of the featured evildoers hopefully killed in the module "Death On Tour".
  • Celebrity Endorsement: Certainly the weirdest book in the Chill library was "Evenings of Terror with Elvira'', where the Mistress of the Dark provides ingoing and outgoing commentary on each of a series of short adventures meant to last a session apiece.
  • The Corruption: The in-narrative reason for encouraging envoys not to try to master multiple schools of the Art. It's manipulating the same supernatural energy that empowers the Unknown, and getting too powerful in it tends to attract monstrous attention, who then try to lure the envoy into experimenting with blacker and blacker powers until he's irretrievably lost to The Dark Side.
  • The Dark Arts: Known as "the Evil Way", meant to be an evil counterpart to "the Art" available to players. Ends up more of a catch-all for the various supernatural powers monsters can have, than a set of special skills that such beings can learn.
  • Devil, but No God: SAVE's observations have most of its top minds believing the Unknown answer to some kind of central intelligence or source. There is, however, no benevolent counterpart fighting back with good supernatural power. The only advantage SAVE has is having learned to channel the same supernatural energy to a degree in less powerful, more benign ways than the Unknown.
  • Dracula: Appears in, obviously, the Victorian-era adventure "Vengeance of Dracula", the mini adventure "Castle of Dracula", and got top billing in the "Vampires" sourcebook. Which when released to a second edition, even had an updated version of "Vengeance of Dracula" packed in as a freebie.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: One special power available to players through the Art. Premade adventures for the game actually had all relevant prophetic dreams for the adventure written in advance, which would give vague clues on how to uncover the enemy monster's weakness.
  • Evil Old Folks: The 1e monster compendium had the "Mean Old Neighbor Lady", a monster who looks like an old lady and kidnaps neighborhood children (but is clearly a monster by dint of her supernatural powers and the lesser monsters who usually work for one). 3e folds that monster type into a general category of witch-type monsters called "hags".
  • Good is Not Nice: SAVE is full of all different kinds of people with different methods for fighting the Unknown. For instance the journals on its hunt for the vampire Anton Garnier mention that the agent leading the explanation brought two beautiful female agents along primarily as bait. They didn't seem to know.
  • Guns Are Useless: By and large, as the fear element wouldn't work very well if adventures could resolved with a run-of-the-mill shootout. The rules point this out-that the players will want their characters to carry guns and they're right to do so-but not to expect much from their firearms.
  • Harder Than Hard: The "Creature Feature" rule supplement had a part that talked about S.A.V.E. having trouble staying out of the red and its agents dying a lot more often than in the past, if the GM wanted to make things even tougher for the players (and to be clear, as writ this is already a hard game to win).
  • Haunted Technology: More recent editions have included mysterious "digital entities" that can haunt TV sets, computers and the like.
  • Hollywood Voodoo: There was a sourcebook for 2e all about incorporating voodoo elements into the game's world.
  • Jackass Genie: One type of opponent the players can face. Djinni appear like they're using their powers to grant wishes to the person who lets them out of their bottle, but it's just an act to gain the person's confidence, and after doing that the djinn will destroy them as cruelly as possible.
  • Magic by Any Other Name: The various books constantly insist the Art is not "magic". There's no such thing as magic, because the Art or the Evil Way creating its effects involves someone, be they human or monster, manipulating ambient supernatural power in specific ways to create specific results. Which is a definition practically all gamers would find acceptable for "magic".
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Later editions reveal the founder of S.A.V.E. wrote in his last journal his fears that by developing the Art, he ended up attracting the attention of whatever malign presence is the source of the Unknown, and increasing the number of monster incidents as a result (Of course, the Unknown is inherently unknown, and the truth of this is left up to the individual GM).
  • Nigh-Invulnerable: Most monsters powerful enough to drive an adventure, and their main servitors. Players will have to find and exploit their one weakness to get around this.
  • Ninja Pirate Robot Zombie: The "Vampires" sourcebook has a vampire who's also a ninja for the players to deal with.
  • No Ontological Inertia:
    • The case with some Evil Way powers: killing the supernatural being who inflicted the effect breaks the spell. Killing that supernatural being to do so is usually a job and a half, of course.
    • In some cases, killing a monster will kill all of the others of its kind it created too. Sometimes even the restless spirits whose deaths were caused as a result of those monsters are allowed to travel to the afterlife at the originator's destruction.
  • Not Using the "Z" Word: Not the actual "Z-word", as all editions go right ahead and call zombies, zombies. They do make a point not to use certain terms like "demon", instead just calling malevolent incorporeal beings "spirits", since they don't want to indicate that any particular school of faith is correct in the game's setting.
  • The Order: S.A.V.E. Near the end of the 80's it started to crumble, however (since belonging to a large, well-equipped organization that fights monsters took away some of the essential fear of the game), thanks to a combination of a sharp uptick in the number of agent deaths and losing its previous sources of funding. Then the head office was destroyed in a surprise monster attack that still nobody can really explain (that is, left vague on purpose so the GM's left free to tie it to an aspect of their own campaign). Eventually its previous members found ways of getting in touch and carrying on the fight, but with a less centralized structure to make finding and infiltrating it harder.
  • Our Monsters Are Weird: Chill used all the "standard" monsters like vampires, ghosts, zombies, and werewolves, most of them even getting a dedicated sourcebook in 2e. Then it had the book "Things", which was every other crazy concept the designers could think of, like the Ahe, a limbo-dwelling dragon-creature that takes personal offense to people sucking at magic, and the Ellerdice, the vengeful ghost of a homeless person so angry at not being helped in life they come back to torment the indifferent.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: There are multiple strains of vampirism in the game, each with its own abilities as well as weaknesses and immunities. Perhaps most notable is the African variant, which, instead of just an animated corpse, is actually a colony of blood-sucking insects controlling the movements of a corpse from the inside.
  • Rotten Rock & Roll: The module "Death On Tour" was about a network of rock stars who are secretly monsters, and use their tours to hunt for prey while going unnoticed at packed concert venues.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Various monsters, but especially djinn. They're immune to any kind of damage the players can do, and can only be removed as a threat by tricking them back into their bottles. And all it'll take to unleash the djinn again (burning for revenge against their captors, of course) is one gullible human to find it and fall for the whispered promises of wealth and power...
  • Secret Art: "The Art", with its various supernatural disciplines that S.A.V.E. members can learn to wield.
  • Silver Bullet: Carried by most characters and effective against common werewolves. Useless against the big ones, known as the Loup-du-mal. Only the blood of a righteous martyr hurts them.
  • Your Mind Makes It Real: In the second edition at least there's a type of real "monster in the closet" created by the fear of a child believing there is one. The only way to defeat such a creature is to hypnotize the suffering child and tell them to imagine the monster getting weaker. Otherwise they're just Invincible Boogeymen.