In tremulus, a "storytelling game of lovecraftian horror", there exists the concept of framework, a slightly formalized way of describing key points of a scenario. One of the elements of the framework is "the Unknown: open questions to be answered during play." These are major questions significantly influencing the story and the mystery, though they do not define it—other elements of the framework define the overall threat, how it progresses and what happens when it succeeds. One of the examples provided in the rulebook:

How powerful is the mayor? Does he already know the dark ritual? What exactly are the Creatures in the Woods? What are their powers?

However, there doesn't seem to exist a method for collaboratively answering these open questions with the input of players. The game suggests asking provocative questions of the players, but all the examples provided are limited to getting them involved in exploring the mystery:

Certainly, they can see a figure in the graveyard, but they can’t make out who they are or what they’re doing. Do they get closer?

Further, on the official forums the game creator answer a question about dispensing information with Lore or Clues that players earn:

You can certainly collaborate, if you and your group are willing to have a little give-and-take. Just be certain to keep things in the proper tone, and atmosphere, and not let them enter ridiculous areas. It's best to provide a little lead and direction, such as "You notice something about the painting that's unusual... what do you think it could be?"

tremulus is based on the Apocalypse World engine, which I am unfamiliar with. I understand there is a Maelstrom in AW, which is always undefined at the start, for players to answer questions about and thus define as they interact with it.

Are there some elements of rules in AW that are not explained for whatever reason in the Kickstarter (unfinished) edition of the tremulus rulebook, that would allow for player-driven answers to the Unknown? A major part of tremulus is exploration of mysteries, and these answers would have to fit the other parts of the framework.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Not an answer, but there is a thread on the Reality Blurs forum about this. No answers yet, but you might want to keep an eye on it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Chuck Dee
    Dec 22, 2012 at 15:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is one the hardest things for me to wrap my head around. It SOUNDS like fun, but there are 20 years of GM'ing in my head that scream to do it otherwise. :-) \$\endgroup\$
    – user8245
    May 13, 2013 at 13:36

2 Answers 2


I know what you mean. Call of Cthulhu scenarios are always completely explained, planned out, with details on how to guide players through each mystery & investigation. In tremulus, its different. You've got to "play unsafe", and let the story evolve organically.

The biggest eye opener for me was when i realized that after reading Call of Cthulhu scenarios that I was excited about, I tended to be less excited about running them... why was that? Because the mystery was gone (for the Keeper). The scenario ceased to capture my imagination because it was all spelled out and I knew what would happen, and what the weird threat was. tremulus finally clicked for me when i realized that leaving blanks kept the GMs role exciting, because he was just as eager to finally find out the horrible truth as the players, and there was no way to find out but though play.

That being said, it can be intimidating to run a mystery/investigation game without a roadmap for the GM. I found that all my time spent reading Cthulhu adventures has prepared me with plenty of ideas and tropes to call upon in the heat of improv' Good Luck!


I've asked a friend who played both games and I'm going to translate his answer for you, adding something myself.

Nobody is asked to answer those questions but things that come out during play and fit become the answers. There are similar questions in AW and it is explicitely stated that the GM can't answer them because he would otherwise plan a part of the story, leading to something that's really well explained in Dogs in the Vineyard, by Richard Baker

You can’t have plot points in mind beforehand, things like “gotta get the PCs up to that old cabin so they can witness Brother Ezekiel murdering Sister Abigail...” No. What if the PCs reconcile Brother Ezekiel and Sister Abigail? You’ve wasted your time. Worse, what if, because you’ve invested your time, you don’t let the PCs reconcile them? You’ve robbed the players of the game.

If he writes down the questions instead he declares he's not gonna write an answer, it's gonna come from the game.

I'm quoting from AW now:

Leave yourself things to wonder about. You’ll know it when it happens. A player will say something and you’ll be like, hey wait, there are fish swimming down there. So you’ll ask, and the player will answer, but you’ll be like …I don’t think that’s the fish I’m after. I think the fish I’m after is still down there, deeper than I thought, and bigger than I thought too. Sometimes it’ll happen with one of your own NPCs. You’ll be talking along, and you’ll suddenly be like, *hold on, this guy Scrimp is kind of a weasely f***, but he isn’t afraid of Marie at all. How can that be?* You don’t need an explanation right now! Don’t look too deep, this is just session 1. Nod to yourself and back away, fixing the spot in your memory. (Which means to note it down on your worksheet under “I wonder.”) Don’t explain everything, but do…
• Look for where they’re not in control. If yours are like mine, they’ll want to be in control of everything, all tidy and secure. Of course they can’t be. What’s on their perimeter, on their borders, their horizon? What reaches into their little slice of world, what passes through it? What does it depend upon? Who do they need, and who else needs what they have? “I wonder what they’ll do when their neighbors get hungry.” “I wonder what they’ll do when the weather goes wrong.” “I wonder what they’d do to protect their well.”


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