Lovecraft Social is an online role-playing game (using a service like Google Hangouts or Skype for example) for three friends. Each player creates a Character and rotates between three roles; the Investigator, the Witness, and the Scribe. The characters take turns telling a story about their investigations, questioning each other, and recording their findings in the Master Chronicle. Characters have only one stat; Sanity. Characters slowly lose Sanity while recounting their investigation but gain some back with the support of their peers.
Name: What you choose the other characters to call your character. This may not be their birth name but an alias they use to communicate with the Social members.
Personality: A couple of sentences that summarize who the character is, where they come from, and what they focus on. This is a touchstone for character development and interaction. When an Investigator is unsure of how they should progress in their story the Witness can prompt them, “Remember who you are.”
Sanity: Every character starts with five points of Sanity but there is no limit to the number of Sanity points a character can earn during play. While acting as Investigator, the player must spend a point of Sanity for every other-worldly or terror inducing element they introduce into their story. Characters regain Sanity by gaining the trust and support from their fellow players.
There is no way to run out of Sanity. As long as you take a turn as an Investigator you will always regain one point of Sanity. Having low Sanity only limits how much mythos content you can introduce to the group during your Investigations.
The Investigator: When playing the Investigator, the character begins recounting their investigation since the last meeting, or for the first meeting, recounting what brought them to the Social. The Investigator is in charge of the narrative. While the Witness can, and will, ask questions, the Investigator makes the final decision. When acting as Investigator the player is always in character. Only when the Scribe asks the Investigator a question is the Investigator player allowed to break character.
The Witness: When playing the Witness, the character interrogates the Investigator, asking questions about their story to help connect it to the other investigations or uncover secret truths the Investigator is unaware of. The Witness is also responsible for asking, “Did that affect your Sanity?” as a prompt to remind the Investigator to spend Sanity points. When acting as Witness the player is always in character. Only when the Scribe asks the Witness a question is the Witness player allowed to break character.
The Scribe: When playing the Scribe, the character is recording the Investigator’s findings in the Master Chronicle. The Master Chronicle is a document shared between the players (using a service like Google Docs for example) where the players keep track of their findings. The Master Chronicle acts as both a reminder for the players and an “publishable” paper on the Social’s findings. When acting as Scribe the player is always out of character.
When the Investigator finishes his account for the meeting, all three players secretly vote on the strength of the Investigator’s contribution to the Master Chronicle. Each player picks one of the three Reviews based on what they thought the strength of the account was. Whichever Review receives the most votes wins and in case of a tie no Review wins.
The Investigator earns a number of Sanity points equal to the number of winning Reviews cast plus one for every Review they matched with. The Witness and Scribe regain one Sanity for every Review they match with. If there was no Review winner, the Investigator regains 1 Sanity but the Witness and Scribe get zero.
Original: The account stood out because of it’s creativity and brilliance.
Building: The account stood out because of it’s contribution to other player’s investigations.
Horrifying: This account stood out because of it’s ability to induce fear, shock, or disgust.
No Matches = 1
Match 0 = 2
Match 1 = 3
Match 2 = 5
No Matches = 0
Match 0 = 0
Match 1 = 1
Match 2 = 2
No Matches = 0
Match 0 = 0
Match 1 = 1
Match 2 = 2
John finishes his account so Fabien and Rob cast their votes. In secret, Rob selects Building, Fabien selects Building, and John selects Horrifying. Building wins, so John regains 2 Sanity. Since John did not match any Reviews he does not gain any more Sanity. Since Rob and Fabien matched the each gain one Sanity.
Rob finishes his account so John and Fabien cast their votes. In secret, Fabien selects Horrifying, John selects Building, and Rob selects Original. No Review wins so Rob gains one Sanity. No one matched either so no one gains extra Sanity.
Fabien finishes his account so Rob and John cast their votes. In secret, John selects Original, Rob selects Original, and Fabien selects Original. Original wins, so Fabien regains 3 Sanity. Since Fabien matched both John and Rob he regains an extra 2 Sanity. Since John matched Rob and Fabien he gains 2 Sanity. Since Rob matched John and Fabien he gains 2 Sanity.
At the end of the meeting; John has gained 4 Sanity, Rob has gained 4 Sanity, and Fabien has gained 6 Sanity.
If you find yourself routinely low on Sanity you need to consider how you’re handling your Peer Reviews. Low Sanity means you’re not seeing things the same was as your fellow players. Talk with your fellow players more, get a better understanding of why they are giving the Reviews they are giving. The better the players can align their visions the deeper they can dive into the mythos. Remember to stay on the same page.
When the Review is complete the Investigator becomes the new Scribe, the Scribe becomes the new Witness, and the Witness becomes the new Investigator. Once everyone has taken a turn in each role the players can decide if they would like another pass around or if that is the end of this meeting.
By default, Lovecraft Social assumes three players. To add more players simply add a Support Investigator, Support Witness, or Support Scribe. Every round assign one Investigator, Witness, or Scribe as Lead Investigator, Lead Witness, or Lead Scribe. The Lead character is responsible for coordinating and taking notes from the other characters sharing their role. When voting time comes, only the Leads cast votes but should take into consideration the thoughts of the other players sharing their role.
After the Review is complete, players still rotate roles.
Four Players: Roles – Lead Investigator, Lead Witness, Lead Scribe, Support Scribe\Witness\Investigator. Rotation – Lead Investigator becomes Lead Scribe, the Lead Scribe becomes the Lead Witness, the Lead Witness becomes Support of their choosing, and the Support becomes the Lead Investigator.
Five Players: Roles – Lead Investigator, Lead Witness, Support Witness, Lead Scribe, Support Scribe. Rotation – Lead Investigator becomes Support Scribe, Support Scribe becomes Lead Witness, Lead Witness becomes Lead Scribe, Lead Scribe becomes Support Witness, Support Witness becomes Lead Investigator.
Six Players: Roles – Lead Investigator, Support Investigator, Lead Witness, Support Witness, Lead Scribe, Support Scribe. Rotation – Lead Investigator becomes Support Scribe, Support Scribe becomes Lead Witness, Lead Witness becomes Support Investigator, Support Investigator becomes Lead Scribe, Lead Scribe becomes Support Witness, and Support Witness becomes Lead Investigator.
Try to avoid hosting seven or more players in a single meeting. Divide your group into cells of investigators (for seven players consider two groups with three players plus one floater between the groups for two four player games) or simply rotate Investigators from meeting to meeting.
Investigations are flashbacks told by the current Investigator. If it’s the first meeting, the investigation should include the character’s first brush with the Lovecraftian as well as how they became attached to the Social. For subsequent meetings the Investigations should explain what they have done since the last meeting. The only job the Investigator has is to recount their time since the last meeting.
The Investigator role is often most difficult during the first Meeting, especially if you’re also the first Investigator. The goal of an Investigator during the first meeting is to describe the event that opened their eyes to the strange world as well as the road they walked to find the Social. For later sessions the Investigator’s reports should pertain only to their experiences since the last meeting.
For the first meeting the Investigator should strive to answer the following questions:
- “Who are you, where do you come from, what do you do professionally, etc?”
- “What did you see, or experience, that made you aware there was more to this world than most perceive?”
- “How did you find out about the Lovecraft Social?”
For subsequent meetings the Investigator should strive to answer the following questions:
- “What have you seen since our last meeting?”
- “Where did you investigations take you?”
- “Who, or what, did you encounter recently?”
- “When did you set out on your investigation?”
- “How does this relate to what we already know?”
It is often true that an Investigator does not spend their full-time digging into the mythos. Most split their time investigating the greater mysteries of the world with more mundane concerns like paying rent or having lunch. These topics are not for the Lovecraft Social and are distracting from the greater work. Investigators tempted to elaborate on their life outside of the Lovecraftian should contain those impulses unless they directly relate to their findings. The Social is not the place to talk about your day job, stay focused.
The Witness acts as part guide and part critic for the Investigator but always in a capacity that leaves the Investigator in control of their own story. The Witness is only allowed to talk in questions to the Investigator, or the occasional explanation to clarify their question. It is not the job of the Witness to narrate the Investigator’s case, but to help the Investigator connect pieces with other cases and to keep the case focused on the mythos.
The art of the Scribe might sound tedious or unnecessary, but it is perhaps the move important of the three roles. The Investigator can rattle on and on about their case while the Witness makes endless inquiries, but unless the Scribe is recording the findings it’s all masturbatory. The Scribe is responsible for taking down the relevant facts — names, places, creatures, rituals, etc — so that the secrets of the world can unfold for the characters. It is the sole responsibility of the Scribe to help correlate the contents of the human mind so that the Social may voyage deep into the black seas of infinity.
There is a secret, unspoken, Fourth Role that until not we have yet revealed. A role that has no give name but still binds all the players together. The characters are members of a secret group meeting to share their notes and findings with each other. After each Investigator presents their cases, there is always a lull in the conversation where the three roles are set aside and the participants talk about what they have just uncovered.
There is no Scribe to record these discussions, no Investigator to call the shots, and no Witness to ask questions. Instead, the players simple talk to each other about what they have just learned. What their new findings could mean. What avenues they may wish to pursue in the future.
This secret Fourth Role is meta to the Social. It transcends the prescribed rules and instead uses external factors to affect or goes beyond the supposed limits of the story. The Fourth Role refers to the game universe outside of the game itself; breaking down the walls of perception and guiding the players to a more fulfilling story.
At the very first meeting it’s best that the players take up the Fourth Role before anyone taking volunteers for the first Investigator. Discuss what brought the characters together and decide, roughly, the shape of your mythos.