Tabletop RPG Review: Orpheum Lofts

Miguel Ribeiro has created a series of system neutral game supplements called Postmortem Giallo.  Orpheum Lofts is the first.  It does have stat-blocks for a game called (pardon my French) Actual Fucking Monsters, but you could easily plug-and-play this into whatever system you want.  I could see it working well in either Call of Cthulhu or Over the Edge as just two examples.

There is no specific story here, no direction you have to take.  It essentially presents a location and populates it with characters, fleshing out the relationships between them.  The idea seems to be for the players to take on the role of one of these characters, but I could also see making new characters who have just moved into the Orpheum.

The setting is meant to capture the vibe and essence of Giallo films, the sleazy, over-the-top crime cinema that came out of Italy in the 70s and early 80s.  The works of Mario Bava, Dario Argento, and Umberto Lenzi, among others.  There are ideas for keeping it purely in the crime genre, or for sliding it into the more weird, fantastical, and supernatural side of things.

There’s a lot to mine here, and I think that was really the point.  This isn’t meant to be a linear adventure to drag players through, from inciting incident to climactic finale.  This is a stage for your players to explore, allowing the story to form around them.  I’m reminded a bit of the scenario Jailbreak from the Unknown Armies book One Shots. While that had a bit more structure, it focused mostly on putting a bunch of wild and dangerous characters into a “locked room” and ramping up the tension until things got nuts.  But it really left a lot of that to the players, allowing them to drive the action.  Orpheum Lofts is definitely meant to allow the players to drive the story.

I have two complaints.  The first is a technical one.  I would very much have liked a map of some kind.  An isometric image of the Orpheum Lofts, a floor by floor guide…heck, I’d have even taken a picture of a building with arrows pointing to the various characters’ apartments.  Absolutely, I could make my own.  If I were going to use this in a game, I could make a map that best suited my play style.  But I don’t want to.  And I really wanted a sense of the geography of the place.  I wanted to see where John Flint lived in relation to James Wayne, for example.  Just reading their apartment numbers and floors didn’t really give me a sense of things.

My other complaint comes from the introduction and it’s so unnecessary that it put me in kind of a bad mood and didn’t really allow me to enjoy the rest of the book as much as I might have.  The last paragraph of section The Giallo Connection could have simply been a warning that the product contains dark, adult themes including sexuality and violence.  Instead it’s a flippant dismissal of anyone who might have concerns about such things, with the typical reference to “being canceled” and such.  There’s nothing wrong with dealing with strong and uncomfortable themes, but there’s also nothing wrong with making sure potential readers are aware of those themes, in case they’re not interested in exploring them.  Not everything is for everyone, and it doesn’t make someone weak or a ‘soy-boy’ to know what their limits are.  Anyway, I don’t think it was necessarily a malicious statement, and perhaps just meant to be for a laugh, but it hit me wrong, for sure.

Reading this made me want to revisit the films of Hélène Cattet & Bruno Forzani who in making homages to films of the era have created more entertaining films than 99% of the actual Giallo films that inspired them.

You can get Orpheum Lofts on DriveThru or on Lulu.  It is inexpensive and I imagine quite useful if you’re interested in running a Giallo themed RPG. 

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