non-interactive freakshow. Fun to read about and consider, but you really have to work at it. The system for all of this is light and feels ill-tested. It is built around three Codes: Fatigue, your physical trait; Lucidity, your mental trait; and Memory, your ‘winning’ trait. Reaching 20 Memory means your character is ‘cured’ and free to go. But doing that is difficult. Very difficult.
Patients have their arts & crafts, recreation, and Group Therapy. Here the GM asks leading questions that the patients can use to piece together their memories. I can see this making for a very interesting session, but you’ve got to talk limits with your players first. At night, at midnight, the doors of Ward 23 open. A new door appears on the ward, either huge and ominous or little more than a chalk outline. Beyond is The Night World. The Night World, it seems, is a sort of collective dream world, while still very real. It can be shaped by the whims of the Patients, but some Sets (sticking to a theatrical theme) are so old and powerful they have a life of their own, like the Whisper Labyrinth, like the Broadalbin, like Carcosa. Out here, the Patients are expected to learn about the Play without becoming lost forever, and they may learn of their own past in the process. The Night World and its inhabitants are wonderfully textured, with great atmosphere and some Delta Green references, but it demands a quite a lot from the GM to keep it all from becoming a
The Night World, it seems, is a sort of collective dream world, while still very real.”
In order to take an action, and almost any action detailed in the book was opposed, the two characters ‘blind bid’ up to their max Fatigue and the higher bid wins. You lose the bid Fatigue, and since Fatigue also forms your health you can leave yourself vulnerable. The problem here is that your starting Fatigue is 5, while some enemies go as high as 20 (and there are no rules for teamwork). In order to gain higher max Fatigue, you need to convert one of your starting Lucidity points downward, leaving your sanity at risk. To raise Lucidity, you convert a point of Memory down. Going back up the chain costs five points for one; five Fatigue for Lucidity, five Lucidity for one Memory. While you can gain memory from the Night World, you’re also expected to spend a point of Memory in Group Therapy to remember details. Insylum is definitely an interesting read and intriguing concept,
but getting a good game out of it looks to me like it needs a good and dedicated GM. It doesn’t really add anything new to the existing Hastur canon, but it uses what it has well and does have some very compelling imagery. The system I am iffy on and intend to test soon, so you may expect an update on that. Otherwise one might be better served by pulling out a copy of nWoD: Asylum to splice in. All in all, a game with a great deal of potential hobbled by its own ambition and short length, suitable for a single campaign if you want to try it. I’d try it. You never know what you mind find.
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