Original Publisher: Pacesetter Ltd.
Current Publisher: Otherworld Creations, Inc.
Original Copyright: (c) 1984 Pacesetter Ltd.
Advancement: XP (Insight Points) spent to purchase skills, attributes
Features: Skill system, horror/victim-based gameplay
Chill is one of a subset of notable RPG titles (along with Call of Cthulhu and Paranoia, amongst others) which significantly deviate from the typical “Hero’s Journey” perspective built into most such titles. Revolving as it does around gothic horror concepts, the characters are rather more expendible than normally assumed, and the challenges are generally vastly more powerful and resilient than the characters ever have any hope of achieving. Chill is definitely an entertaining representative of the genre.
Chill’s basic character sheet makes the straightforward nature of the game mechanics rather obvious. Characters are quickly generated, a plus for a game where it is a fairly common task to be performed (heh). Roll 8 attributes, select a handful of skills, buy some equipment, and step out onto the fog-shrouded streets of a terror-haunted town…
Note the wound tracking section in the lower left… one of the earlier examples of the mechanism, most commonly associated with Shadowrun.
The setting of Chill is prototypical gothic horror on an alternate Earth inspired by Shelley, Stoker, and Poe: vampires, werewolves, mummies, ghosts, goblins, and ghouls, oh my! The basic rules accommodate nearly any time and place from Victorian Europe to modern day America, from gas lanterns and horse-drawn carriages to nightvision goggles and souped-up hot rods. It doesn’t really matter… the creatures still have a massive advantage, being immune to nearly everything.
As a character in Chill, you have been inducted into a secretive worldwide organization named S.A.V.E. (Societas Albae Viae Eternitata), founded in 1844 for the express purpose of turning back the rampant incursions of the Unknown, as personified by various ghosts and ghoulies the characters will need to find ways of vanquishing. In this task, holy wafers and cloves of garlic are likely to be more useful than guns and bombs… your challenge is to find the creature’s weakness before IT finds YOU…
Chill, like all the Pacesetter titles, uses a range of attribute scores a little different than normal. Typical character values are generated by rolling 4d10 and adding 30, a range of 30 to 70. This feeds into the skill system, where the base percentage chance of success with any skill is based directly on an average of 2 or 3 attribute scores. Applying this mechanism to this specific range of values gives characters a logical and fair chance of success (and failure) without need for an extensive skill definition process, a nice touch.
Chill’s skill system is quite basic, yet offers a fair chance for character’s to distinguish themselves in various endeavors. Skills can be developed to 3 basic ranks: Student (+15), Teacher (+30), and Master (+55), with the noted bonuses applied to the base chance of success determined from attributes.
Task resolution is accomplished through a color bar chart mechanism (somewhat of a fad of the time, as I recall). A skill check in Chill is a roll of percentile dice (1d100). If the roll if less than the modified skill score, the difference between the value rolled and the needed score determines the “Attack Margin” row used on the table. The Defense Column is determined based on the situation (ranged attacks used a 1d10 roll, while melee attacks used the defender’s relevant combat skill divided by 15, for example).
The code at the convergence of the row and column yielded the result, which could range from “S” (scant damage/scratch wound) to “C” (crushing damage/critical wound). Nearly all skill checks could be resolved in the same manner, contested or not, with the selection of Defense column being the manner in which the difficulty of the attempt was established.
Characters aren’t totally left to the tender mercies of the beasties with naught but the mundane to defend themselves, however. Characters have the opportunity to develop disciplines in the Art, a pseudo-magical set of abilities that helps slightly to level the playing field against creatures that can summon hurricanes and stop time, amongst other things.
Disciplines are handled as additional skills, and include possible effects such as Restore Stamina, Prescient Dream, and Mental Shield, all definitely useful when the Unknown is stalking the area (and even when it isn’t…)
Character development in Chill is as straightforward as the rest of the mechanics. The gamemaster grants a number of Insight Points per session and/or challenge, and the character uses those points to purchase skills, attribute points, and/or additional disciplines of the Art. Easy enough.
Chill is a quick, fun game for those who don’t mind being a bit paranoid at times… if properly run, you’re never quite sure what is really going on until it’s _almost_ too late. (Word to the wise: don’t get too attached to a character.)
Pacesetter was the original publisher, but the Chill title has changed hands a few times over the years. After a brief stop at Mayfair Games, with a slew of updates and changes (for example, the Action Table is history, details here) it is currently being updated and repackaged for new publication by Otherworld Creations, Inc. The new version will be compatible with the Mayfair version, according to the latest news from Otherworld. Some additional details and links related to the new version can be found at the Chill RPG web site.