Categorized | Game Designers

[HTV2E] Interview with Chris Allen

Posted on February 28, 2020 by Flames

Hunter The Vigil Second Edition Skull LogoHunter: The Vigil Second Edition was developed by industry veteran Monica Valentinelli for Onyx Path Publishing.

To celebrate the release of the Hunter: The Vigil Second Edition Kickstarter, Monica reached out to members of her team for a series of in-depth interviews.

Today, Monica wraps up her series of interviews by chatting with game designer Chris Allen who worked on The Slasher Chronicle.

Introduce yourself. In addition to Hunter: The Vigil Second Edition, what other games have you worked on?

Hi! I’m Chris Allen, and I’ve worked on a wide range of games over the years. A lot of what I’ve done recently has been with Onyx Path Publishing – Werewolf: The Forsaken Second Edition, Trinity Continuum: Aeon, several chapters for the Dark Eras line, etc. – but back in the mid-2000s I also contributed to several role-playing and miniatures games from Mongoose Publishing.

The Slasher Chronicle is presented as a sample setting for Storytellers to use in their Hunter: The Vigil Second Edition game. Tell us why a Storyteller should consider running a slasher-based chronicle.

So, for me, part of the appeal of using a slasher in a Hunter: The Vigil game is the shift in tone and feel that comes with one of these murderous antagonists. They sit in an interesting spot between conflicts with normal mortals and showdowns with eldritch horrors. They’re human vice, human hate, and human violence honed to a cruelly sharp edge, without the excuse or distancing of being an actual, no-shit monster. Some terrifying Slashers can wield supernatural power, yes, but that’s usually an outgrowth of their fundamental malevolence rather than the cause. The notion of hunters, who try to protect humanity (or at least their part of it) from the nightmares in the darkness, having to go up against a threat that shares so much with them – and indeed presents a potential fail-state for hunters who cross the line and go too far – works for me as a great contrast.

Developer’s Note: The Slasher Chronicle presents rules and fiction to customize the introduction of movie-inspired slashers into your game. It also offers alternative rules to provide more flexibility with how much (or how little) supernatural elements you prefer.

Can you give us examples of a slasher-themed movie, novel, or game you think would be appropriate for inspiration?

I mean, most video game protagonists make pretty great slasher fodder if you turn the perspective on its head and take what they do literally – unstoppable machines of death killing their way through crowds of opponents with scarcely a flinch, convinced they have to follow their assigned path without deviation – that’s absolutely terrifying if put in the right context.

Obviously, there’s a whole raft of excellent slasher-appropriate movies out there. However, the thing that stands out for me recently is a book by Adrian Tchaikovsky, Cage of Souls. I can’t really dive into it much without spoiling it, but suffice to say there’s a serial killer who plays a major role in how events pan out. What I find most fascinating about them is that for much of the book, it’s not clear whether they actually have supernatural abilities, or if they’re operating purely on smarts and iron will, with the terrifying legend they’ve cultivated making others interpret what they see this serial killer do as inhuman or impossible when it could actually be mundane.

Since the Slasher supplement debuted in 2009, horror has changed and expanded in many ways. Do you feel the slasher genre has as well? Why or why not?

I think it has; art often reflects our cultural mores and neuroses, and those’ve shifted a fair bit over the past decade. I think there’s probably some interesting analysis you could do by looking at all the remakes of old slasher films that came out during and since 2009, examining the particular ways they’ve changed from source material over time.

HTV2E is a modern horror game, and the Slasher Chronicle could be downright terrifying. What tips for Storytellers and players do you have to help them tell a compelling story that’s enjoyable for all?

Social contract is vital – getting group buy-in from everyone on the overall chronicle concept, working out the limitations of what everyone’s comfortable with, and the like. Find a set of safety tools that your table likes. If what someone thought they were comfortable with turns out to cross a line for them when it comes to actual play, it’s not a criticism or rebuke for the Storyteller, it’s just an update that needs to be taken into account. Communication is, as ever, key.

Equally, getting players to feed in suggestions for the sort of horror they’re interested in seeing is important, and players should build their characters with the sorts of hooks and attachments that they want to see reflected in the story to come. No-one wants a dull slasher who feels detached from the player characters and their lives; that doesn’t meant the slasher needs to be coming for characters’ families or the like, but rather that each killing should put pressure on the break points in a player character’s life outside of the hunt, or remind them of important figures or concepts that play a key part in their life.

A slasher who paints works of art in cartilage and sinew has more meaning for the player character who is themselves an artist; the hunter who prides herself on staying fit and battle-ready even in her advancing years finds more conflicting horror when on the trail of a slasher who picks elderly prey.

Hunters and slashers should bounce off each other in interesting ways, ideally so that the players feel their characters are motivated in the Vigil, and so that the slasher can find and exploit the hunters’ weaknesses–or give the hunters the opportunity to hold strong and prove their strengths in the face of adversity.

What advice do you have for hunters who want to track down a slasher?

Look for the Tell. Every slasher has one – it’s their calling card, their obsession, the manifestation of their malevolent purpose made real in the aftermath of the kill. The Tell can be a danger, of course, as getting yourself too much into the mind of a slasher is never healthy, but it can prove vital to identifying and tracking down the killer.

Beyond that, slashers, even those with supernatural powers, are considered human. A monster might fake the veneer of a human identity to hide behind, but a slasher often comes from the opposite angle, and their human identity could well be what compromises them.

If you were running a slasher-based chronicle, what would your story arc look like? Can you walk us through the first couple of sessions?

Good question! A lot would depend on the specifics of the characters my players made, and what they’d be interested in seeing from such a chronicle, but for a starting skeleton of a story I think I’d choose an overarching slasher – or a cause, or patron – who’d serve as a connecting theme across at least one story arc. They wouldn’t necessarily be at the center of the action all the time – I’m keen to have a varied cast of antagonists, and I wouldn’t be able to resist having several slashers crop up – but they’d be the link behind most of what’s going on, culminating in a revelation or showdown at the end of the arc.

The first session, I’d want to start strong out the gate, with the cell already embroiled in the action. The first slasher’s already killed someone important, someone linked to the cell – maybe an informer, maybe an ally – and they have evidence that the next killing will happen soon. Present them with an urgent situation, an implied time limit, and some clues that they can use to figure out what the slasher’s going to do. If successful, they can stop the killer; the confrontation (or the aftermath if they’re too late) lands some hooks clearly indicating the wider story arc villain, to give a sense of foreboding.

Session two is all about consequences. I’d look at the characters as they move on after the confrontation, trying to handle the stresses of what happened and the demands the Vigil places on them. That includes the practical issues – if they’ve killed the slasher, they’ve just killed someone, so are they covering that up? If they captured the slasher, what now? How do they explain this situation to the police? If they are the police, how to they square away the warnings of something darker at work with the likely skeptical response from their agency? Ideally, once the characters maybe feel like they’ve gotten a lid on things and begin to get a little comfortable, that’s when the hammer blow of the next threat comes in to shatter their complacency, and throw them further into the deep end of the Vigil.

I have a fairly loose style as Storyteller, adapting on the go a lot and spring-boarding off the actions of the player characters, so I can never really predict how a story arc will play out.

Thank you so much for answering our questions. What’s next for you? What are you looking forward to?

Well, I’m already busy on more material for Deviant: The Renegades, Mummy: The Curse, and Trinity Continuum: Aeon! I’m also cracking on with some fiction writing, and eyeing a few personal tabletop RPG projects I’ve had on the back-burner for a while. I’m also really looking forward to the UK Games Expo this year, where I’ll be running some games for Onyx Path again – including a session of Hunter: The Vigil Second Edition!

Want to learn more about The Slasher Chronicle? Check out the Hunter: The Vigil Second Edition Kickstarter for exclusive previews and more information. Thanks!

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