INSYLUM REVIEW James ‘Grey’ Lloyd-Jones reviews this challenging Chthonic RPG
nsylum is a great idea. A terrible idea. An idea that revolves quite a bit around what the players do not and cannot know, that casts the GM almost as a player themselves, and has the emphasis on co-operative storytelling I’ve come to expect from indie games. If you’re not the GM of your local group, you may wish to avert your eyes and protect your sanity, for ahead there lies squamous and trembling spoilers. Insylum takes place in the Carlsbad County Schizophrenia Annex (I’ll give you a moment for that one), specifically Ward 23. The players are Patients, institutionalized here for... reasons. What reasons? They don’t know. Something awful, something traumatic, something that they are here to remember and confront. As far as the book is concerned, the GM, or Facilitator doesn’t know the details either, but they do know the catalyst; The King In Yellow. Yes, every Patient has been exposed to Hastur and his influence, and their traumas – and the terrible things they may have done – originate here. The part where it gets a little weird is that it casts the Facilitator as an eldritch entity in their own right, a human exposed to and changed by the Play. They have absolute control over the facility and its
staff, and they want to know how they got here. What they lost, what was changed, what the play is. The Patients are their tool. So, we have the players trying to unravel their character back stories which have not been written, while the GM is trying to use the players to unravel the plot of the game itself. We... may have a small problem here.
An idea that revolves quite a bit around what the players do not and cannot know, that casts the GM almost as a player themselves, and has the emphasis on co-operative storytelling I’ve come to expect from indie games.”
James “Grey” Lloyd-Jones
Grey is a writer and gamer living in Cork. He enjoys cats, imported beer, long walks on the Plateau of Leng, and inventing terrible monsters to inflict on his players. You can follow the rickety progress of his RPG Crucible: Dark Age at @@@@@@@@
You might be wondering how a single asylum makes for much mystery or adventure here. In fairness, it would, with sometimes brutal orderlies and baroque, old architecture. But Ward 23 is different. During the daytime, the
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