“No man chooses evil because it is evil; he only mistakes it for happiness, the good he seeks.” – Mary Shelley
In what seems like an age ago, we drew attention to a new horror themed tabletop RPG released via Kickstarter – SHIVER.
Well, Parable Games, the creative team behind that successful first drop is back with a new slant on the themes of horror and roleplaying in the strange and unknown. Where SHIVER deals with modern tropes in a modern world – zombies taking over the mall or a masked slasher rampaging through the suburbs, for example – SHIVER Gothic offers an expansion into something different.
‘A metal clang rings out across the graveyard as from the mist and behind gravestones a group of raggedy individuals armed with shovels reveal themselves. They are covered in soil and have large roughspun sacks on their backs. “You’ve made a mistake coming here, no scraps left for you vultures. This is our turf, them bodies that are left are ours!” the leader growls, before charging at you, shovel tip first.’
The Guts of the Game
Rather than rehash the description of the core rules I looked over back in 2020, I thought it would be better to focus on some of the things I liked and think worth drawing attention to.
The core system itself relies on symbol dice. This is often viewed as a bit gimmicky or a means to tie additional product into a game. As technology advances and the propensity for online gaming continues unabashed, dice rolling apps take care of any concerns here. In addition, simple stickers can be used on ‘regular’ polyhedrals or one could have a table to cross-reference. Despite all this, new players and converted grognards can really buy into seeing success and failure on a set of symbols rather than numbers. Essentially a long-winded way of saying that there’s a themed dice rolling mechanic which lends itself to storytelling; something critical in maintaining flow in a horror based game.
Characters take on archetypal roles and whilst in some other settings this might feel restrictive, for horror, it captures a mood and tone which seems very much in line with the ‘source’ inspiration. Think of any horror book or movie you’ve enjoyed and no doubt you can pretty much peg each character to a trope. Rather than be hackneyed, this can actually help quickly build up cohesion in a group and is invaluable in one shots or short campaigns.
Lots of the core system really lends itself to pick up games and for gaming groups looking at something new or to drop in between longer campaigns, SHIVER ticks a lot of boxes.
I can’t talk about SHIVER’s system without mention my enjoyment of the Doom Clock. A mechanic that seems to be gaining traction and inclusion in a lot of games these days is the idea of a ticking clock or timer that builds tension. As events proceed, the clock moves ever forward. When the clock reaches certain times, something inevitably bad happens…
Its simple, its effective, and without getting into a long debate about how system can work with or against an implied setting, SHIVER does a really good job of providing a strong framework for those wishing to pull from or recreate their favourite movies or horror tales at the tabletop.
‘Wind howls outside the tall window, the gust whistling through the cracks in the glass pane. A bolt of lightning splits the sky as the door is thrown open and a figure cloaked in black enters the gloom of the parlour. Their heavy, purposeful footfalls cause the floorboards to creak in protest as they prowl their way over to a high-backed armchair garbed in a threadbare red velvet by the fire. Reaching into the folds of their cloak they pull out a book clad in dark leathers with a heavy clasp holding it shut. With a flourish, the tome’s pages are freed and fall open. The stranger smiles, the firelight glinting against rows of sharp teeth as they turn a page. Shall we begin?’
So, you like horror gaming and you liked SHIVER. Why then do you need SHIVER Gothic?
Where modern horror has gone through a long period of slash and gore, the gothic traditions and early science fiction are a mine of resources for today’s gaming storytellers. Whether in candlelight ghost stories or from the Modern Prometheus, mention gothic horror and it’s easy to conjure up scenes of dark figures stalking Victorian streets.
Promising expanded rules for situations you might find yourself in whilst exploring tales of classic horror, I’m hopeful that there will be some nice re-works to better fit foggy cobbled streets, dark woodland or moors, and crazed scientific labs. For a lot of experienced or adventurous groups, there’s a high chance they’re already in a good place to tinker with the core SHIVER system. For everyone else, a new book, tailored for just that, dripping with fantastic art in the same vein as previously, seems like a win-win.
SHIVER Gothic is currently funding on Kickstarter until the 31st of March, and you can check out the campaign by CLICKING HERE.
The writer of this piece was: Adam Brown
Adam Tweets from @brother_rooster