Analepsis and Presage


Unlike tales that predominately feature social-political intrigue with supernaturally gifted characters, stories of personal and psychological horror typically feature human protagonists as victims of mystery, vulnerability, and limited agency. Yet, collaborative role-playing games also tend to do best when narrative power is shared amongst players and the Storyteller. Although players’ primary degree of narrative power is determining their own characters’ direct actions and thereby the indirect effects of those actions, there is merit to allowing players a measure of additional influence over the setting and story. Whereas the game has previously utilized the Anticipation and Declarations house-rules from Blood & Bourbon, it will now use a similar set of mechanics that are more thematically appropriate to Witiko Falls and a chronicle intended to focus on personal and psychological horror with primarily mortal characters. These new player-narrative options are Analepsis and Presage.

Analepsis (Flashbacks)


One of the classic twists is the revelation that a character has anticipated a misfortune and already planned for it —indeed, perhaps even made the disaster part of their larger plan. Playing smart characters is tricky because typically, you’ve got to be out ahead of things, and anticipating complicated circumstances in the campaign actually requires the player be as smart as his character, and as invested in long-term planning in the game. So, to better discriminate player versus character intelligence and involvement as well as to provide a way to create player-driven dramatic shifts, this chronicle will utilize Analepsis.

Analepsis is similar to B&B’s Anticipation that gives players a mechanic to retcon events that have already happened in the campaign, casting them in a new light and revealing actions or preparations taken in a brief descriptive flashback. However, the Analepsis mechanic actually takes the narrative flow and initiates a player-driven flashback to a point in time and place pursuant to some player objective in the ‘present’ timeline. In other words, Analepsis is about affecting the present plot by further developing the character’s past.

How do you actually do this? Analepesis is something a player can call for once per week (in real, out of character time) for free. Additional uses of this ability cost a point of Willpower —and even then are limited to once per scene.

The Analepsis roll is based typically on a Attribute and a Skill, modified as circumstances dictate. The player declares roughly what element they wish to add to their character’s past that might help them in the present context. The Storyteller can impose additional penalties if the element/past event is really stretching credibility. Once the dice pool and desired element are established, the player rolls.

Rolling It

Dice Pool: Attribute + Skill.

Action: Instant

Cost: First is free during each week of out of game time; each one after costs a point of Willpower, with only one Analepsis per scene.

Roll Results

Dramatic Failure: No flashback occurs, and the present timeline continues as currently constituted. Moreover, the character’s past so inadequately prepares the character for the present circumstances that the Storyteller adds a new unfortunate twist to the character’s past. As a result, the character faces a breaking point (and all of its attendant circumstances).

Failure: No flashback occurs, and the present timeline continues as currently constituted.

Success: The present plotline pauses as a player-initiated flashback begins at a prior time and place potentially conducive to the player’s goal in the present plotline. The flashback lasts for one scene. Results from the flashback may help or hinder the player’s goals, depending on their actions and rolls, but will never create results that contradict previously established facts. Once the flashback scene ends, the plot returns to the timeline and plot interrupted by the flashback.

Exceptional Success: Same as with a success. Additionally, the character’s past is exceptionally likely to prepare the character for the present circumstances, granting the character the Inspired Condition on all rolls during the flashback scene. Also, the character takes a Beat and regains a point of Willpower.

Example 1 Brook Barnes wishes to defuse an escalating fight between his friend Daniel and his rival Nelson. Brook’s player says he wants to use Analepsis to do a flashback where he obtains blackmail on Nelson that he can use in the present timeline to Intimidate Nelson into leaving his friends alone. Brook’s player rolls Wits + Stealth which is the pool the Storyteller and the player agreed made sense since the latter wanted to stumble upon the ‘blackmail’ rather than intentionally seek it (in which case, the roll might have been Int + Investigation). Brook’s player rolls, and gets two successes.

Consequently, the Storyteller sets up a flashback scene of Brook tracking a rabid animal behind the Swiner where he may (depending on his actions and rolls) potentially find Nelson engaging in a sexually scandalous act with a fellow football player. Depending on Brook’s actions and rolls, his voyeurism might remain undetected or not. For example, Brook might botch a Dex + Stealth roll to remain undetected which might potentially result in a physical fight with the jocks and loss of any photographic evidence.

Regardless, once the scene is over, the Storyteller ends the flashback and returns the story back to the fight between Nelson and Daniel in the ‘present’, where Brook’s now more developed past might make it easier to diffuse the fight (e.g., because he has scandalous photos which will grant a bonus to any Intimidate rolls) or escalate it (e.g., because the jocks are itching to beat him up again, granting a penalty to his Intimidate rolls).

Example 2 Casey Sullivan finds himself handcuffed with his arms behind his back while he’s being threatened by a geist-possessed human trafficker with a gun. His player wants to use Analepsis to say he keeps a lock-pick taped to the inside of his belt. Casey’s player rolls Wits + Larceny and rolls a Botch. As a consequence, no flashback occurs, and the Storyteller describes how Casey reaches down to the inside of his belt, but finds the lockpick is gone. Perhaps it fell out or perhaps the criminal took it. Either way, the unexpected loss and heightened sense of imprisonment potentially rattles Casey, requiring his player to roll against a breaking point.

Presage (Foreshadowing)


Whereas Analepsis affects the present plot by further developing the character’s past, Presage affects the character’s future by adding an element to the present plot. Similar to the literary technique of foreshadowing, Presage is a dramatic mechanic in which an important plot-point is added in the story by the player and will return in a more significant way that will likely be ether beneficial to the player’s character or detrimental to their foes. As with Analepsis, the first use of Presage is free during each week of out of game time; each one after that costs a point of Willpower, with only one Presage per scene.

What Presage Can Do Foreshadow elements about Storyteller characters, small groups, organizations, or settings.

What Presage Can’t Do Redefine a player’s character without her permission. Contradict previously established facts. Make sweeping statements about whole populations rather than small groups or individuals.

What Do I Roll?

Presage rolls include a Mental Attribute + Skill. For observation or prediction, roll Wits; for remembering something that will become relevant, roll Intelligence. But which Skill to use? With Presage, you can use any Skill that relates to the situation or the facts you intended to foreshadow. Foreshadowing a Storyteller character is a big drinker who will soon have problems with alcohol might be a Wits + Socialize or Int + Medicine, depending on the context and characters involved. Foreshadowing a criminal’s gun with a particular modification is prone to jamming could be Intelligence + Firearms.

Rolling It

Dice Pool: Intelligence or Wits + relevant Skill

Action: Instant

Cost: First is free during each week of out of game time; each one after costs a point of Willpower, with only one Presage per scene.

Roll Results

Dramatic Failure: The character notices or remembers some element that appears like foreshadowing and… it’s completely irrelevant. Worse, it’s dangerously misleading: a red herring. When the portent proves false by the end of the scene, the character must roll for a breaking point due to shattering of their expectations and wound to the way their perceive others or the world as working.

Failure: No player-created foreshadowing occurs via Presage.

Success: The player adds some foreshadowing element to the current situation that their character notices or recalls. During the next scene in which this element would prove applicable, the foreshadowed element actualizes —although the exact moment it manifests remains a mystery to both the character and the player. The number of successes rolled then grants either a one-time bonus to the player’s character or an equal penalty to a particular Storyteller character.

Exceptional Success: As above, except that the foreshadowed element manifests in the current scene. Also, the character takes a Beat and regains a point of Willpower.

Example 1 Kurt’s player wishes to foreshadow Amy and Rick having relationship troubles. He and the Storyteller determine he needs to roll Wits + Empathy. He rolls 3 successes. The Storyteller describes how Kurt hears Amy complaining to their mother about Rick’s obsession with work. During the next scene that features Amy, the Storyteller describes how Amy gets a call from Rick and they subsequently get into a nasty verbal fight over their conflicting priorities. During that scene, Kurt gains a +3 bonus to any roll to convince Amy that Rick is no good for her, that someone else might make her happier, etc.

Example 2 Hazel’s player wishes to foreshadow a blizzard that will help her escape from her abductors. Her player and the Storyteller determine she needs to roll Int + Survival. She rolls 6 successes. The Storyteller describes how Hazel recalls hearing about the forecasted blizzard that’s supposed to start within the hour. During the current scene, the Storyteller describes how the blizzard hits fast and furiously, creating white-out conditions. When Hazel makes a run for the woods, her player decides to roll his Dex + Athletics with a +6 bonus to outrun her pursuers (she alternatively could have decided to give an equal penalty to her pursuers’ roll).

The Storyteller’s Prerogative

Sometimes, a proposed Analepsis or Presage might contradict things the Storyteller has already plotted out, planned, or built into the backstory or personality of a significant one of his characters or plot-lines. A Storyteller can always decline a Presage or Analepsis by saying it is contradictory. This itself gives the player some useful information —there’s something there to be uncovered! Some secret to be wheedled out! But further, the player gets to make another Presage instead of the declined one, so it all remains equitable.

Analepsis and Presage

Witiko Falls: Disillusion Parasomniac Parasomniac