Review: The Were-Curse
Updated: Mar 4
I've been able to play some really fun TTRPGs as of late, and I love highlighting them here or on my Twitter account when I can! My latest obsession comes once more in the form of a Solo Journalling RPG.
The Were-Curse, put together by Orpheus Press, has the following synopsis:
"The Were-Curse is played solo as a journaling game chronicling your experience as a Hunter who has been afflicted by a curse, and in turn has become one of the Hunted.
You are a Hunter, one of the knowledgeable few who has dedicated their life to the discovery and extermination of the Were-cursed. You know how they hide themselves, what signs to look for, and how to kill them, swiftly and efficiently. You’ve put down countless beasts, but while hunting your latest quarry, something went horribly wrong.
The Hunter has become the Hunted, and their days are numbered. Make the most of the time you have, and leave your Legacy for those who follow."
As soon as I read the synopsis for this game I knew I had to get hold of it. I've always been a fan of classic monsters, and the transformation of were-beings (such as werewolves) I have always found super interesting as a concept! The stakes for the character are a little higher than in my last Solo Journalling RPG review pick, Apothecaria, but sometimes when I sit down to play these types of games I find myself in the mood for something a little...darker. I also thought that the cover art for this looked very well-designed and more often than not that is a good sign for a game!
CONCEPT: So having read the blurb, it is clear that the game itself has a pretty straightforward concept. You imagine the narrative voice of the 'hunter' in your mind and the way they may document a process that involves them transforming into a dangerous creature. Are they frightened and desperately looking for a cure? Have they accepted their fate and are purely focusing on survival? Or perhaps they are morbidly fascinated? Despite the darker themes and mild horror triggers, I have found that this journaling experience has been relaxing and easy to engage with. The thing I've loved most is the fact that it is not specific to a particular time period or setting - you could choose a Gothic Horror tone set in the Victorian era, or an Urban Fantasy 'Tumblr' blog as your vibe. It's totally up to you!
SET-UP: Before starting you will need a few things - a notebook to write your journal entries in, a pen to write with, 2d6, a set of tarot cards to draw from, split into Major and Minor arcana (these can be replaced with a standard deck of cards and there are rules to do so within the book) and the rulebook. The rules are very simple for this one and once you've read through the book a couple of times and written a couple of journal entries you will probably find that you rarely need to refer to it. My character spent their first day finding a place to shelter in the forest and figure out their situation, berating themselves for being foolish enough to get bitten by their most recent kill.
I chose the suggested late 19th Century time period for my setting. I rolled 1d6 and got a 3 which meant my character lived in a MODERATE TOWNSHIP. I then rolled 2d6 and rolled 4 and 5, discovering that the people of this world are very superstitious and that society is divided by inequality. After creating my PERSONA and RECORDS page, I began writing. I decided that my character dual wields axes to take down their quarry. They attempted to stealthily ambush the creature but were heard and a fight ensued. I rolled 1d6 and rolled a 4 to discover that I was BITTEN. I then spent the rest of the first 'day' deciding on my GOAL, which was to just survive unnoticed by the nearby town. "I was a fool and became too arrogant. I should have judged the wind's direction better. I shall have to return home and feign that I will be visiting relatives in the city, then return to this cave and figure out my next moves. Perhaps I can resist? Perhaps I can just live on the game within these woods? I hope Lucille never finds out what I will become..."
GAMEPLAY: Once you've established the above, you can begin the process of transforming. As you play, you must track your WILLPOWER (your ability to resist the curse), your SHROUD (how well you hide your transformation) and your HUMANITY (how detached from society you have become). Marking off five tally marks on any of these means that you lose a part of yourself and draw closer to your FINAL ENTRY. To begin, you roll 1d6 in order to work out how many days it has been since your previous journal entry. You then choose to either RESIST or EMBRACE the curse, and draw from the Major Arcana and mark off the appropriate WILLPOWER, depending on your choice. Once you have drawn from the Major Arcana and noted your physical changes, you then proceed to the REFLECTIONS stage and draw from the Minor Arcana if necessary.
I'll include an example round to demonstrate:
My next journal entry was 2 days after the previous one. I decided that my character would attempt to RESIST the curse and so marked off one tally point against WILLPOWER and drew two cards from the Major Arcana - The Empress and Strength - which caused my existing hair to thicken, and my muscles to develop. When proceeding to the REFLECTION stage I decided that these effects by themselves were not enough of a transformation to warrant a journal entry of their own and so I drew from the Minor Arcana and drew one card - the Knight Of Cups - which was an attempt at normalcy. I had my character travel to their hometown to collect some belongings, make their excuses, and say their goodbyes to loved ones without arousing suspicion. I decided that in an attempt to hide things from their sweetheart, they had at least aroused a little of her suspicion and so added a tally mark to SHROUD. I then reflected upon my overall goal - to survive as long as possible without harming those I love - and decided that by cutting myself off from the town, I had made a little progress towards this goal.
This is essentially repeated and reflected upon. Choosing to EMBRACE the curse has some slightly different effects and, if you draw the same card from the Major Arcana then there are developing effects - so in the example above the thickened hair becomes fur, and grows longer. The amount of variation within the transformation process, as well as the Minor Arcana EVENTS TABLE that you can draw from really gave me, as the player, the feeling that if I replayed then my experience would be completely different.
CONCLUSION: I loved this game a LOT. Being a Solo Journalling RPG, you only need the one player, which makes it very accessible! However, my favourite feature was the 'Legacy' system that allows for a more collaborative process by passing on your finished journal to a new player to refer to when they write their own. It's a super cool idea and one that could certainly be implemented in other Solo Journalling RPGs, as well as giving a LOT of replay-ability points if you just wanted to come up with a new character and play again!
Want to play The Were-Curse? Well then I thoroughly recommend checking out Orpheus Press's itch.io site where you can download the PDF and check out some of their other creations! These include more TTRPGs such as Apostle Of The Forgotten Gods (in which you pursue the unthinkable to reach your goal), or Super Detention Club (an 80s set game in which you are stuck in detention, but also needed to save the world). You can also check out their website if you wanted more information on the company and keep updated on their latest game project - Paper Dragons!
Have you ever played The Were-Curse? How did you find it? Let me know!