As a roleplay-focused GM, some of my best games involved very few dice rolls and lots of delicious, scary, tension-building narrative that made the players squirm in their seats. For these sorts of stories, a good game moved away from mechanics and doubled down on rich settings, character interaction and pure story.
For players and GMs looking to keep all those storytelling goodies and ditch the stats, dice, and even the GM’s hate, Lovecraftesque is definitely worth a spin.
A collaborative roleplaying game for 2-6 people, players take turns in the role of the Narrator, who nudges the game through sets of clues and scenes, The Witness, the story’s intrepid protagonist, and the Watchers who serve to assist the Narrator by fleshing out the creepy details of a setting. General themes, along with what concepts the group wants (or doesn’t) are discussed beforehand, and everyone takes a turn in each of the roles.
Play is structured in three parts, each with a set amount of scenes within each part. This structuring helps keep the plot focused and moving forward, but may be the biggest adjustment point for traditional RPG players who are used to a more organic approach to story progression. To help with the learning curve for setup and execution of play, Lovecraftesque provides cards to remind and assist each role. I strongly recommend designating a single facilitator, as the game recommends, to help those initial stories run smoothly.
Lovecraftesque is a great system for the GM looking for an alternative to traditionally structured RPGs. The GM-less storytelling approach is both refreshing and inspiring, especially if your group suffers from that all-too-common problem of having plenty of players, but not enough GMs. For those new to Lovecraft, but love horror stories, this game excels at presenting the feel of a Lovecraft-inspired story without memorizing an entire pantheon or bestiary.
I give this game four out of five stars. The structure and play is solid, and a lot of fun for players with different levels of gaming experience and Lovecraft knowledge. The only bit of caution I have is that if you’re new to collaborative roleplaying, pay very close attention to the rules and structuring devices used in this game.