a small tabletop rpg about big cosmic horror
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
[based on Lasers & Feelings by John Harper
and [Cthulhu Dark by Graham Walmsley](https://thievesoftime.bigcartel.com/
fear&reason v.1.1 (28oct2022)
By Emanuel James Miller
ⓒ2022VoidCvlt fear&reason is distributed under a CC-BY4.0 license
WHAT IS fear&reason?
fear&reason is a streamlined tabletop rpg that is meant to simulate the cosmic horror of the works of H.P. Lovecraft, August Derleth and countless others, as well as movies such as The Thing, Event Horizon, The Void, and more.It assumes you know the basics of roleplaying games, if not you can find info hereOriginally designed to be used with preprinted adventures from other horror based rpgs, the system is easily swapped for other low magic, high lethality systems.
BASED ON LASERS & FEELINGS AND CTHULHU DARK
This game is a mashup of Lasers & Feelings by John Harper and Cthulhu Dark by Grahm Walmsley. It doesn't pretend to be anything original, simply an homage to two great designers and fantastic games. See Giving The Devils Their Due
A key feature of fear&reason is the playsets feature used to generate original adventures. Through the use of playsets, a GM can fine tune the mood and theme of the horror presented by customizing the aspects, professions, and goals available to the player characters.Threat and location tables also help narrow the focus of the adventures by tailoring the types of threats and providing thematic locations for your story.
A LIVING GAME
"Art is never finished, only abandoned"
As with all Void Cvlt RPGS, there may one day be a final version of this game, that should not be the expectation. While the core of the game (task resolutions) should not change much, small details such as revisions of how the rules are presented, additional examples or explanations and tools available, may be added or change over time for clarity and for the sake of facilitating the intent of the game.This is not to mean this game is a 'beta' game by any means. The rules, as presented, are viable to play. The intent of a "Living Game" is that improvements and additions are inevitable. In short, this game should only get better in its presentation and more robust in its scope of rules clarity and explanation.HOW TO TELL IF SOMETHING CHANGEDPlayers of this game may want to take special note of the Changelog listed in the contents page. Any new changes from the previous version will be noted in pink text like this.Once a new version number is released, the previous changes will be shifted to the standard white text, to allow the new text to be highlighted.EXAMPLE
-Rule X: do the thing with another thing by rolling 1d6 after failing an insight check.-Rule Z: rule Z causes you mental distressVersion 1.1
-Rule X: do the thing with another thing by rolling 1d6 after failing an insight check.-Rule Z: rule Z causes you mental distress, add 1 to your Insight for this situation onlyEND EXAMPLE
As you can see, the pink text from version 1 was changed to white text in version 1.1.
A WORD ON SAFETY AND TOOLS
fear & reason deals with psychological horror, and as such care must be taken before starting a game.The basic concept here is that every person at the table is aware of what they are getting into and they are consenting to this style of play. However, we must also provide an "escape hatch" in case what a person agreed to no longer is comfortable with the game.Fear & reason also uses a unique mechanic for insight that is unconventional and MUST be discussed BEFORE play begins.The following tools and procedures are highly recommended for play.
LIST OF TOOLS
DramaDice.com has put together a list of some of my favorite tools in a handy PDF that is a great resource, but by all means, not complete list of safety tools out there. The article accompanying the list is also a recommended reading. Find a tool that works for your table.DRAMADICE.COM ARTICLE LINKC.A.T.S.
by Patrick O'Leary is one my favorite tools. I believe belief that with providing information about a games contents are, players are empowered to make good decisions about the games they play, as well as allow GMs to run games in a style they choose. C.A.T.S. is perfect for accomplishing this.I have included a PDF of a form that outlines C.A.T.S., so you can print and fill out for your game. A form fillable and online form is forth coming.TEXT OF C.A.T.S HERE
This set of instructions assumes you are writing your character sheet down on an index card or sheet of paper. You can also use the character sheet provided in downloads.If you are using a playset, use the aspect, roles, and goals listed there. The default setting of New England 1920s can be found here
Give your character a name.
Choose an aspect for your character:
Angry, Intelligent, Sad, Obsessed, Hot shot, Detached, Dangerous, Daring
Choose a role for your character:
Doctor, Professor, Private Eye, Dilettante, Great War Vet, Collector, Explorer, Scientist, Journalist
Character goal (Choose one or create your own):
Become rich, Right a wrong, Prove yourself, Explore the unknown, Do the right thing, “Me, Myself, and I,” Learn the secrets of the cosmos, Do one last thing
Choose your Attribute.
This is a number from 2 to 5
A LOW attribute means you are better at FEAR intuition; gut feelings; wild seduction; raw emotional actions
A HIGH attribute means you’re better at REASON technology, science, cold rationality, calm, precise action
Write down FEAR
Underneath, write down your attribute number
Under your attribute write down REASON
Write down the word DAMAGE
you start with 0 Damage
rite down the word INSIGHT
you start with 6 Insight
When you perform an action where there is a chance of failure on your part, roll dice as follows:
|+1d6||if it falls within your role|
|+1d6||if you have gear or have prepared though research, investigations, or other narrative means.|
|+1d6||if you wish to risk gaining insight into the reality of the cosmos|
This gives you pool between 1 and 4 dice, with 1-3 dice acting as a normal pool. If you are risking gaining insight, use a dice of a different color or designate which die represents your insight.
Roll your dice and compare each die result to your number.
If you’re using FEAR (emotions, passion) you want to roll over your number.
If you’re using REASON (science, reason), you want to roll under your number.
IF NONE OF YOUR DICE SUCCEEDS
The GM gains narrative control of the situation, but either way it gets the worst it can get. Failure is an option the GM may choose, the GM also gets one Doom marker or may ask for a Insight Roll
IF ONE OF YOUR DICE SUCCEEDS:
You barely manage it. The GM inflicts a complication, damage, or cost.
IF TWO DICE SUCCEED:
You do it well. Good job!
IF THREE DICE SUCCEED:
You get a critical success! The GM tells you some extra information or provides additional opportunities for you.
IF YOU ROLL YOU ATTRIBUTE EXACTLY:
Earn 1 Clue Marker When this happens, you know both fear and reason. You have peered into the cosmic horror of your reality. You get a special insight into what’s going on. You may use your clue marker immediately or save it for later use.
IF YOUR INSIGHT DIE FAILS THE ROLL
Take -1 Insight or -1 Damage as the fiction dictates. This happens even if you have one success on any other die. This is the price for pressing to hard to meddle in the affairs of tings man was not meant to know.
IF YOUR INSIGHT SUCCEEDS THE ROLL
Choose one: reduce Insight by one or take a Clue Marker. This happens even if you have failed your roll.
To help another character in a task, say how you help (it must fit the fiction). Give the player +1d6, if the roll fails you each take 1 point of loss to either insight or damage depending on the challenge that was being helped with.
If you find a clue (use markers to keep track) you may spend a clue marker to one of the following:
RE-ROLL ANY ONE DIE
PAY 1 CLUE TOKEN
Ask the GM a question that they’ll answer honestly. For example: “What are they really feeling?” “Who’s behind this?” “How could I get them to X?” “What should I be on the lookout for?” “What’s the best way to X?” “What’s really going on here?”
You can pay one clue token to end the combat by killing, subduing, or incapacitant your opponent, or otherwise gaining advantage in the combat. Narrate how you do so.
PAY INSIGHT THRESHOLD
Use to pay insight threshold of a scenario to overcome a situation, mystery or creature.
CHANGE A DETAIL
You may change a detail in the fiction provided the following conditions are met:
The detail must fit within the current fiction and cannot be used to 'wish' for outcomes that would significantly alter the course of the story.
The change is only a minor advantage and not does not retcon the entire fiction.
The GM must approve all reasonable requests, if the GM does not want to allow it, they will pay you an additional clue token.
This last item should not be used as a license to "generate free clue tokens". This is why the first condition is so important.
If you are playing a preprinted scenario, you cannot use the clue marker to earn more handouts. You may however ask a question about a handout you already have, inquire an insight in the current scene, lore, or other scenario specific information. This is a perfect time for the GM to fill in any gaps that might be missed in the narrative between the clues, the scenario, and players by giving them insight into the information/backstory that might not otherwise come up in game.
Combat is messy and dangerous.Cosmic horrors often cannot be fought by directly physically assaulting them and will always result in death for the character who does attempt to do so. There are exceptions to this, but we encourage this to be the rare exception to the rule rather than the rule itself. Game Masters are encouraged to use this general rule of thumb for Fear&Reason: don’t fight cosmic horrors or you will most likely die.
fear&reason USES A SINGLE ROLL TO RESOLVE ALL COMBAT ACTIONS IN ONE LOCATION/SCENE , roles do NOT represent individual actions.
THE ROLLS ARE MENT TO PROVIDE A FREAMEWORK for how the fiction will play out, everyone at the table will have to fill out the details of the combat.
EACH PLAYER GETS ONE ROLL IF THEY CHOOSE TO PARTICIPATE IN COMBAT Describe the back and forth of the combat describing how each damage taken/given effects the character in the combat. You may roll again if the fight moves to a separate location/scene.
IF YOU COMBAT A HUMAN, DESCRIBE WHAT AND HOW YOU DO IT. Is it colder and more calculated (roll Reason) or full of rage and passion (roll Fear).
EACH SUCCESS EQUALS 1 DAMAGE TO YOUR OPPONENT If you roll your number, you gain a clue marker and may use it to end the combat scene.
|# of Success||Effect to you||Effect to Opponent|
|0||3 dmg + GM get 1 doom||0 dmg|
|1||2 dmg||1 dmg|
|2||1 dmg||2 dmng|
|3||0 dmg||3 dmg|
|Your number||trigger fear&reason and earn 1 clue token||3 dmg|
There are 2 ways to take damage.SITUATIONS NOT COMBAT
If the situation is due to falling or other non combat situation, roll a d6. If you roll your Damage Score or higer, add 1 to your Damage ScoreIN COMBAT
If you take damage in combat, you deduct the amount from your current Damage Score
|Damage Score||Effect||Recovery Period =Roll 1d6|
|3||You are beat up, bruised or otherwise sustain a minor injury. Examples include: a sprained wrist or shoulder, a black eye, twisted ankle, etc.||Roll 1d6|
1 or 2 = 1 week
2 or higher =a number of hours appropriate to the fiction
|2||describe some serious injury to your character roll on the 4 Damage Recovery Table. The max number of dice you can roll after this is 2 until recovery.||1 or 2 = 3 weeks|
3 or 4 = 2 weeks
5 or 6 = 1 week
|1||describe how your character is permanently altered, only 1 die max can be rolled until recovery. After recovery you are at a max of 2 die for all physical based rolls.||1d6 weeks until recovered.|
Example: a roll of 3 = 3 weeks of recovery.
|0||You are dead|
A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.
So is a lot.
In the course of investigations, you will often begin to catch glimpses of the nature of the cosmos. This differs from the natural horrors of our known world. While a person may butcher another person, and this is horrific in and of itself, it is vastly different than when a person butchers another person in the service of performing a ritual or appeasing beings that are not of our world. While both crimes may look the same, your unconscious mind will slowly understand the difference and see things for what they truly are.
This opening of the way can come from witnessing violence, reading a book, hearing an incantation, or seeing a cosmic entity, and can cause lasting damage to the psyche of the person unfortunate enough to witness it. At the very minimum it will cause a bout of madness.This is represented by your insight.
Before starting make sure all players see and understand the reaction table AND HAVE CONSENTED TO THIS RULE (See Red Note Below). This is a distinguishing but ultimately optional rule for this game. If all players agree to use it, care must be given not to abuse the trust and the intent of the rule.
When you see or experience something disturbing tied to your investigations, roll 1d6, if you roll your number or under on your insight, you will suffer a bout of madness.
Add 1 to your insight score and perform the following steps:
Roleplay your character's reaction to the disturbing thing. This is your character's reaction as they perceive it, not their actual reaction.
Another player secretly rolls or picks a reaction and writes a note describing your character's actual reaction, then passes it to the GM.
The GM describes the situation considering the other player's description of your reaction. The GM may reject the reaction for any or no reason and roll randomly on the reaction table.
Gain 1 clue
|1||Scream In Terror|
|2||Incoherent Babbling/Persistent Repetitive Rambling|
|3||Freeze in terror|
|Insight Score||Effect||Recovery Roll|
|3||You can only roll a max of 2d for|
all mental/social based rolls until recovered.
|2||A maximum of 1d6 for any roll can be rolled until recovery. After recovery, you can roll a maximum of 2 die for all mental/ social based rolls.||1d6 weeks|
|1||You have suffered trauma and now are changed. Describe a characteristic your character takes on. You can only roll 1d6 for all mental/social skills, no clue tokens can be used to reroll.||1d10 on a 1 or 2, roll 1d10 for number of years|
|0||You have seen the truth of the cosmos, it cannot be unseen. Your character is no longer playable.|
After you recover, you now recognize the mythos connected to this investigation. You might now understand fully how it all is connected, but you recognize the connection.VARATION:
The player chooses or rolls on the reaction table in leu of having another player roll. The whole table must agree on which method will be used BEFORE play begins.
The intent of this rule is to simulate the feeling of involuntary reactions to horror. This is different than gaining a mental illness, just like pulling your hand a way from a fire is different than losing a hand entirely or having limited use of it. These reactions provide a meta feeling of confusion for the player as well as the character, but by no means is this meant to simulate any real-world mental illness. It does remove some player agency; therefore, it is important to discuss the limitations of the rule.
Some suggested starting limitations are as follows, feel free to add or subtract from these limitations as is appropriate to your table.
no sexual related reactions, no reactions where the character can be put in a situation where they interact with another person or creature in a sexual manner.
no self harm
no harm to children or animals unless it is previously discussed and agreed to by everyone at the table
YOUR DAMAGE SCORE or INSIGHT SCORE DETERMINES HOW LONG IT WILL TAKE TO RECOVER
If you sustain another injury or loss of insight during the week or weeks of recovery, add 1 damage to your Damage or Insight Score (as applicable) and you must roll again on the appropriate table for recovery. Add the number of weeks for recovery to the original recovery period.
Recovery includes bed rest and light work.
Investigations, travel, any thing even resembling combat, will reset the recovery time needed. This intent is to use this as a way of eating up characters time.
Characters may continue to investigate the case they are on, but they do so at great mortal peril.
A wise character will fully recover before pressing forward in any investigation that might result in a confrontation with the horror that damaged them in the first place.
Example: Christopher has been stabbed by a cultist and now is at 3 damage. He rolls a 1 on his recovery roll. He needs 1 week of recovery. During this time, he decides to go to the docks and ask around at the local watering hole about new worker he’s investigating. While walking home he is assaulted by the cultist/dock worker who has a club. The ensuing combat ends with Christopher sustaining 1 damage, plus another 1 damage because he is in his recovery phase putting him at 5 damage (since he had not fully recovered from his level 3 damage) he rolls a 3 on the 5 Damage Score table, which means he will need 3 weeks of recovery, plus the original 1 week from his previous injuries, for a total of 4 weeks of recovery. Plenty of time for the cult to advance its nefarious plans.
Each time you fail a roll, the GM will earn a DOOM marker.
Doom markers represent your character stumbling into things which are not meant to be known. These should be always visible to the players by being placed in front of them as a reminder that doom is looming overhead.
The GM may spend one of these AT ANY TIME to make a roll fail. Or it can be used to force a roll if it fits the fiction.
Doom tokens are intended to be used by the GM to take control at a later time after the initial failed roll. Placing the doom tokens in front of the player is intended to illicit a clear sense of impending doom in both the player and the character. However, players may always use clue tokens to undo any complication from Doom.
NOTE: Doom Tokens are THE ONLY TIME outside of a poor roll from the players, that a GM may take any negative action against the players.
Example: a horrific scene, or a creature revealing itself forcing the characters to make Insight checks. This is a tool for the GM to speed the story along or push the machinations of the threat of the scenario toward fruition.
GIVING THE DEVILS THEIR DUE
fear&reason is a game of Lovecraftian Cosmic horror based primarily on Lasers & Feelings by John Harper, as well as Cthulhu Dark by Graham WalmsleyThe influence of the work of John Wick (the award-winning game designer, not the movie assassin which is only an approximate 70% accurate telling of John's extraordinary life) cannot be stated in enough in my overall gaming life, and in this game in particular with the clue mechanic that allows you to change the fiction. And in even greater effect in a future version of this game that will be based on another rules system.And of course to Sandy Petersen and everyone who has made Call of Cthulhu the gold standard of Horror TTRPGS and can be credited with almost singlehandedly keeping the mythos alive when few people even cared.ON H.P. LOVECRAFT
tldr; he was a horrible fucking racist
He was a horrible fucking racist with some cool ideas for monsters and horror. But nonetheless, less, still had some vile thoughts in his head. He's dead, and I have zero issues with using some of his works since there is no way for him to profit in any way. Plus, I love the idea of people who he may or may not have been fond of, creating amazing new works with his worlds. What better way to demonstrate that while he was brilliant in some regards, he was a complete fucking tool in others. If he were alive today, he would have either had to take a hard look at some of his beliefs or slithered back into the hole that people who think like that today should all live in. \N
This game is for everyone, POC, LGBTAQ+, those that are neurodivergent, women (ALL women, if you say you're a woman, you're a woman. Period, full stop), and any other underrepresented and ignored minorities. In short, if you're racist, homophobic, transphobic, misogynistic, or otherwise someone who does not welcome everyone to your table, you can fuck right off, and this game is not for you.
ASPECTS & PROFESSIONS
|2||Intelligent||Professor||Right A Wrong|
|3||Obsessed||Private Eye||Prove Yourself|
|4||Hot Shot||Dilettante||Explore the Unknown|
|5||Detached||Great War Vet||Do The Right Thing|
|6||Dangerous||Collector||"Me, Myself and I"|
|7||Daring||Explorer||Learn the Secrets of the Cosmos|
|8||Uncouth||Scientist||Do One Last Thing|
<-scroll on mobile->
|d10||THREAT||WANTS TO||THE||WHICH WILL|
|1||Cultist||Destroy/Corrupt||Migo Ray Gun||Destroy Town/Building|
|2||Madman||Steal/Capture||Vibrational Portal||Reverse Time|
|3||Mob||Bond With||Book of Doom||Kill X|
|4||Cosmic Creature||Protect/Empower||Crystals of Knowlege||Corrupt Forever|
|5||Jealous Lover||Build/Synthesize||A Dark Favor/Exchange||Rip Hole In Reality|
|6||Naive Explorer||Pacify/Occupy||Unholy Experiment Brought To Life||Fix Everything|
|7||Librarian||Save/Cure/Heal||Lover||Burns it all down|
|8||Dreamer||Mate with||Spawn from the sea||Pervert Nature|
|9||Musician||Open/Uncover||Secret Song||Summon A Being|
|10||Scientist||Create||Serum of Life Everlasting||Death of an unborn child|
|1||Forgotten road in the woods||old house||heavy air|
|2||Place of worship||basement||obscene|
find an error? Send it here
please include what page (insight, doom, etc) the error is on, as well as what the error is.
HOW TO TELL WHAT HAS CHANGED
Any new changes from the previous version will be noted in pink text like this.Once a new version number is released, the previous changes will be shifted to the standard white text, to allow the new text to be highlighted.Version numbers are grouped in 3 categories. So if we look at:
"1" represents major change in rules if a rule is completely rewritten, a change in core procedure, or other fundamental change in how the game is played.
"5"=minor fixes, corrections, or clarifications.
"7"=bug fixes such as formatting, typos, or other small changesNOTE:
the exception to change log highlighting rules are typos, typos will only be noted as "typos fixed" in the change logExample:
-Rule X: do the thing with another thing by rolling 1d6 after failing an insight check.
-Rule Z: rule Z causes you mental distressVersion 1.1
-Rule X: do the thing with another thing by rolling 1d6 after failing an insight check.
-Rule Z: rule Z causes you mental distress, add 1 to your Insight for this situation only
As you can see, the pink text from version 1 was changed to white text in version 1.1.
CHANGE LOG DEFINITIONSADDED for new features or text.
CHANGED for changes in existing functionality or changes in text
DEPRICATED for soon-to-be removed features..
REMOVED for now removed features..
FIXED for any bug fixes in features or navigation.
TYPO for any misspelling or grammatical errors fixed
3 Nov 2022
CHANGED Change layout to include separate Desktop and Mobile views.
3 Nov 2022
FIXED Playset template expanded and scroll instructions added
1 Nov 2022
CHANGED Rules page layout changed from links to buttons
CHANGED Navigation buttons on bottom changed from horizontal to single column
28 Oct 2022
ADDED"A Living Game" Text. note: This text will not be highlighted as a change
ADDED Changelog section note: This text will not be highlighted as a change
ADDED Changelog link to contents
note: This text will not be highlighted as a change
ADDED Added text to Rolling Dice section in Core Mechanics
25 Oct 2022