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View Full Version : Do you like Call of Cthulhu? Why?



Dalebert
2015-10-20, 10:50 PM
I felt like I'm in this amazing world filled with fascinating magic and creatures and... I'm playing a muggle. The worst game ever would be set in the amazing Harry Potter universe but all the PCs are muggles. That's what it felt like.

I was told that people die a lot but it's no big deal. You just make up another character whom you also don't care about because he's a muggle too. So there are no real stakes. It's like playing Papers and Paychecks where we're workers and students in an industrialized and technological society, except there's a good chance something will kill you.

I spent about an hour making a character. I was asked my profession. "Can it be random?" Nope. "Okay, student. Whatever." He got crit by a vampire after about an hour. I was at -3 hp after my first time getting hit and was getting ready to make another character and someone stabilized me and got me up to 2 hit points (crit on the first aid roll). So now I was back in the game but barely holding my guts in and useless so I got out my Kindle. Then someone finished off the vampire and the session was over fairly quickly. If I play next session, I need to make another character because this one will be in the hospital for a while because the game is realistic, almost like real life where if you get hurt bad you have to sit around in a hospital for a long time and you might be permanently impaired--a crippled muggle.

I play games to escape my boring reality. This game is just a worse reality than my real life. Am I missing something? I guess it's supposed to be scary and I like the idea of a horror game but for me to be scared I have to care about my character, but we're told up front they're basically disposable like tissues, and they're spectacularly ordinary to begin with and inherently hard to care about.

If I had to sum up this game to someone, I'd say "It's Paper and Paychecks where you play an ordinary person a lot like yourself, except you'll probably die soon."

BWR
2015-10-21, 12:54 AM
I've enjoyed the games I've played, and run a successful Laundry Files campaign (think CoC meets MIB, with extra bureaucracy), which all my players enjoyed even if they had to go through 2 or 3 characters each over the course of a year. To answer your question I think you are missing the point of the game.
Have you actually read any Lovecraft? Because that's the feel the game is going for. It isn't about heroes or supermen or larger than life characters or deep characterization; it's about normal people becoming involved in horrific situations, facing down mind-blowing alien things humanity was not meant to (and cannot) understand, and doing their best to survive or even stymie them a bit.
The characters aren't really the point, though making an interesting PC is always nice, and neither is heroic last stands or big battles or epic duels or clever rogues or witty banter; it's the investigation. Finding the hints of something unusual going on, investigating the incident and uncovering ever more disturbing clues and the increasing sense of wrongness about the whole situation. Finally, as the reveal appears, the feeling of horror, helplessness and the dread certainty that while you may not have a chance in hell of actually winning in the long run you might be able live a little longer if you do something than if you curl up and die. Sometimes PCs die. Sometimes they are crippled. Often they bear the mental scars of too much stress and inhuman monstrosities. Life sucks in the CoC setting. All happiness and joy is a result of the truth that ignorance is bliss.

Sometimes in a CoC story you win. you might defeat the cult, or repulse the aliens or put big C back to sleep for a while, but it's always a temporary thing. Sometimes you lose, because humans are squishy, frail and weak of mind, and the universe is older, stranger and more inhuman than we can possibly comprehend.

Knaight
2015-10-21, 01:04 AM
I'm not big on CoC, but that's mostly because Trail of Cthulhu is stronger. With that said, your specific criticisms only make sense in the context of wanting particular things from the game. If you find the characters hard to care about because they're ordinary, that pretty much kills it right there.

Earthwalker
2015-10-21, 04:22 AM
My experiance of CoC seems different to yours.
I am not a fan of the game but I have had some enjoyable times playing it.

It is horror and you are suppose to feel helpless and weak most of the time, you are not super heros just ordinary people.

I never had the I am just playing an ordinary joe problem you talk about, as I was always playing someone else in another place and time from what I am used to. (Normally 1930s New England).

Others have said its not about being a hero or the battles its about the investigation and the reveal. Its about surviving (something I was not good at).

It does seem like you have missed the point. Of course its perfectly reasonable if this game just isnt for you. Like I said not my favourite system or background either.

I think my biggest concern with CoC comes from how we play it in my group. Its always just picked up for a few sessions. So we end up creating new characters. They start investigating. Find out that the world is not what we thought and then we die or stop playing. To repeat again. I spend too much time not knowing what the world is.

Mastikator
2015-10-21, 04:28 AM
In horror the protagonist doesn't win, they can merely survive if they are very lucky. Not if they do the right things but if they're lucky. That is the cup of tea being served in CoC, you either like it or you don't.
I do, you don't.

Kalmageddon
2015-10-21, 04:45 AM
So if your characters don't have any special powers you are unable to care about them? I think this says more about your approach to roleplaying than it says about CoC.

Thrawn4
2015-10-21, 05:55 AM
I felt like I'm in this amazing world filled with fascinating magic and Harry Potter

I was told that people die a lot but it's no big deal So there are no real stakes.

"Okay, student. Whatever."
He got crit by a vampire after about an hour. I was at -3 hp after my first time getting hit and was barely holding my guts in and useless so I got out my Kindle.

Am I missing something?

The thing you are missing is that your expectations were completely off. Comparing Cthulhu to Harry Potter is like watching a horror movie and complaining about the lack of humour. Long story short, you are just looking for a different genre.
I also think that this is partly the fault of your GM. Saying that you basically shouldn't care about your character kind of ruins the idea of a horror game.
At least I hope so, because if you grabbed your kindle everytime your character is about to die, this would make you an awful player.
But as I said, probably just mismatched expectations.

NichG
2015-10-21, 06:37 AM
A game is among other things a tool to explore or induce certain kinds of feelings or experiences. Something like D&D is well-designed to create the experience of being powerful, important, world-shaking individuals.

In the original Call of Cthulhu literature, it was all about the fear of the unknown, but also the fear of insignificance. A large part of Lovecraft's works hinged on him feeling terrified that maybe humans weren't that important in the cosmos, that there could be big things moving out there that not only could humans not deal with or overcome, but they fundamentally could not ever really matter to. So, in principle, the game system based on that literature is centered around trying to give the players that kind of experience.

I would say there are two things going on here. One is that you just don't want that kind of experience - it's not what you're looking for. The other is that this kind of thing relies a lot more on your GM than a standard power fantasy (which you can provide most of yourself even if the GM isn't really pushing it). And it sounds like your GM didn't really sell it well - you weren't immersed to begin with, you dealt with things that you were mostly familiar with (e.g. you say you were critted by a vampire, but vampires are very familiar horror monsters and also very human, so they really don't hit either the fear-of-the-unknown or the fear-of-insignificance points).

A really well-run game of Call of Cthulhu should make you - the player - experience a bit of uncertainty about the world, like something you thought was really solid and that you had a lot of confidence in OOC just got nudged a bit, and now everything around you feels shaky. We deal with uncertainty all the time in life, but usually its uncertainty that we can put bounds on and deal with. If you're playing poker, you don't know what cards you're going to get, but you know what kinds of things generally happen in a poker game, what kinds of cards you could get, etc. You could also imagine the total unknown, where you just don't have any expectations or information.

Call of Cthulhu should be like playing poker, but suddenly one of the cards you receive in a draw is a tarot card. And the people you're playing with treat this like it's totally normal and par for the course. And you realize that either you're going crazy or something is going down and whatever you thought you knew about the situation is completely wrong.

Comet
2015-10-21, 07:35 AM
Do you like True Detective?

Do you like Twin Peaks?

Do you like Sherlock Holmes?

Sure, your character might not be a superhero or whatever, but that doesn't mean he has to be boring. Call of Cthulhu is a detective game where, yes, you are the underdog but that's just all the more reason to try your best. And besides, figuring out what the monster is and exorcising it or blowing it up is that much more satisfying precisely because you can't go to Diagon Alley and buy a magic wand to do it for you.

It sounds like the people that introduced Call of Cthulhu to you might not really get what makes this particular game fun for most people. It's supposed to be about solving a mystery and only fighting if you absolutely must, not throwing characters into a meatgrinder. To be fair, the Call of Cthulhu rulebook is not the best at explaining how it wants you to play, hence why some people end up having disappointing experiences with it. Do give it another shot and see if you'll have more fun focusing on solving mysteries and playing detective while trying to protect your character!

goto124
2015-10-21, 08:01 AM
Comparing Cthulhu to Harry Potter is like watching a horror movie and complaining about the lack of humour. Long story short, you are just looking for a different genre.

I probably won't like CoC for this reason. When I play games, I want to feel strong and in charge of the situation, not helpless and at the mercy of the entire world. Wrong game, wrong genre.

I wouldn't like VtM either.

Anonymouswizard
2015-10-21, 08:18 AM
Call of Cthulhu should be like playing poker, but suddenly one of the cards you receive in a draw is a tarot card. And the people you're playing with treat this like it's totally normal and par for the course. And you realize that either you're going crazy or something is going down and whatever you thought you knew about the situation is completely wrong.

I still haven't read the literature yet, but I'd aliken it more to sitting down to play poker, before discovering five hands in that it's actually Mao. I feel it might work better if the players don't realise it's Call of Cthulhu at first.

I also have never been able to actually play CoC (:smallfrown:), but I have had a joy in playing in a universe which is essentially 'Cthulhu, but with the Abrahamic mythos'. It involved different assumptions (we were professionals and so could take down small demons without the assault squads), but the focus was on investigating and finding out what was going on. Even then we came close to a TPK a few times, once because we had to argue down a player who didn't realise it wasn't D&D. This resulted in a hard fought battle which we only got to because we went in the Back door, and would have failed if the nun hadn't risked her life to get to a place where an angel feather was useful.

We were underdogs, but thankfully priority A was always 'stop the big horrible monster from being summoned'. It's not the style of CoC, but that's ONLY because we weren't average joes.

Dalebert
2015-10-21, 08:54 AM
TL;DR version: If the whole premise of the game is that humans, and thus the players, don't matter, then that's not a game. The story is 95% the DM and some mystery being slowly revealed, and we're just there for things to happen TO us. In a typical RPG setting, the players and DM are writing a story together. To do that the players actually have to matter and be able to have an influence and change things. CoC is a story to be read; not a game to be played in.


I also think that this is partly the fault of your GM. Saying that you basically shouldn't care about your character kind of ruins the idea of a horror game.

I'm not quoting him verbatim. He just spent time setting us up for this as almost an inevitability. It's just what happens when from the moment of creation, you are braced for the character's likely death.


At least I hope so, because if you grabbed your kindle everytime your character is about to die, this would make you an awful player.

No, I WAS dead, I thought for good, like DEAD dead, within an hour of creating my character. Once my character has gone from being almost irrelevant to completely irrelevant, what am I supposed to do? Someone brought me back with a first aid and I could hobble around so I put my Kindle back down and hobbled back to my room holding my guts in--the guts of this temporary character who I knew was now out of the game and may as well be dead anyway as far as the game goes because he'll be in a hospital for weeks and it's approaching its conclusion so I already have to make a new character. Sorry, I didn't explain that accurately. I did actually put down my kindle after I was back up at least for a while until I was sitting in my room holding my guts in and with my crossbow out in case the vampire came after me again, which seemed likely, in which case I would put my kindle down and roll a couple more times until I was dead. My character was physically confined to somewhere other than the action unless the action came to him. What was I supposed to do?


In the original Call of Cthulhu literature, it was all about the fear of the unknown, but also the fear of insignificance. A large part of Lovecraft's works hinged on him feeling terrified that maybe humans weren't that important in the cosmos, that there could be big things moving out there that not only could humans not deal with or overcome, but they fundamentally could not ever really matter to. So, in principle, the game system based on that literature is centered around trying to give the players that kind of experience.

All of Lovecraft's works are in my Kindle. I love reading it. I love watching horror movies. To be honest, not many truly manage to horrify me because it's just a movie and most of them now are lining characters up to be meat for a grinder. You can't be horrified for the characters until you care about them and most movies utterly fail at this. I'm also in a writer's group and we spend a fair amount of time on the subject of making believable characters that the reader will care about. I feel like this game is just a more tedious way of watching a horror movie that isn't scary for the same reasons. I'm just rolling dice with the odds stacked against me until I die. I don't know how to fix this in the game. It seems to be an inherent paradox by the game's nature. Humans don't matter is the whole point being conveyed--"Care about this character. Now go stand pointlessly on that conveyor belt that ends at the mouth of a giant human meat grinder."

If the game is trying to convey this sense that human beings (and thus my muggle character) are nearly irrelevant, then it has succeeded from the moment the game was described to me and then my impressions confirmed when I played my first game and died in an hour. That's not a game. It's just a horror story. JUst write the story down and I'll read it, probably in an hour or less, and maybe I'll enjoy it if it's written well. I just don't know what the point of me being here playing a character is. It's like 95% "horrific monsters that will probably kill you on the DM's side" and 5% "maybe you'll roll really lucky about 10 times in a row before the monsters roll well 3 times in a row" on all the player's sides.


A really well-run game of Call of Cthulhu should make you - the player - experience a bit of uncertainty about the world, like something you thought was really solid and that you had a lot of confidence in OOC just got nudged a bit, and now everything around you feels shaky. We deal with uncertainty all the time in life, but usually its uncertainty that we can put bounds on and deal with.

But I know what to expect. I've read the stories. My roll as a player is going to be to act surprised when the world is topsy-turvy. Act like I think I might have a chance to survive. Act like I think I might matter when as a player I know I don't. Seriously, the DM should just write the story down and I'll read it. Why do I need to be there? It's masochist.


Do you like True Detective?

Do you like Twin Peaks?

Do you like Sherlock Holmes?

I have enjoyed reading those things, yes. Believe me. It's quite challenging to write a good, compelling story. I don't blame DMs for this. I don't expect my DMs to compete with best-selling authors. Normally I just expect them to run the world while about 5 or 6 people come together to play their part in writing a story. It seems a problem inherent in the game. It feels like the DM is practically narrating a story to the players. It feels very scripted and the characters are just there for things to happen to them. There's just no way around it when the whole premise of the world is that humans, e.g. the player characters, don't matter and have little influence on the world and hence, the story.

Comet
2015-10-21, 09:13 AM
I have enjoyed reading those things, yes. Believe me. It's quite challenging to write a good, compelling story. I don't blame DMs for this. I don't expect my DMs to compete with best-selling authors. Normally I just expect them to run the world while about 5 or 6 people come together to play their part in writing a story. It seems a problem inherent in the game. It feels like the DM is practically narrating a story to the players. It feels very scripted and the characters are just there for things to happen to them. There's just no way around it when the whole premise of the world is that humans, e.g. the player characters, don't matter and have little influence on the world and hence, the story.

Fair enough, making the players feel impotent and helpless is certainly one way of playing Call of Cthulhu. I personally think it's a pretty bad way of playing it, though.

In my experience it's much more fruitful to have a game of Call of Cthulhu go something like this:

DM: "There's a murder, go and solve it!"

Players: "Okay, cool. We'll gather evidence and interview people and come to learn a lot of secrets about this environment we're in."

DM: "The horror! The secret behind it all is revealed to be a horror of tentacles from beyond the stars! Your characters are helpless and beaten, specks of dust before a great and violent wind!"

P: "Eff that, we gather as much arcane knowledge and as many allies as we can to steel ourselves against this cosmic entropy. Humanity makes its last stand!"

And then they either die or win or go insane. Either way, what they did mattered. Even if they can't shoot Cthulhu until it dies, they can still make meaningful connections with their fellow humans and come to certain empowering conclusions that give them psychological power even if they physically have close to none.

Of course, for some people Call of Cthulhu does just mean playing regular dudes and running into a vampire and the DM telling yoy "lol, u ded. Horror!"
I, too, find that incredibly boring.

Anonymouswizard
2015-10-21, 09:28 AM
I guess I must be wrong for actually wanting to play a game of Call of Cthulhu. It sounds like fun, I mean your objective is to help humanity survive for another day. You can't stop the gods, but you can slow then. Just be prepared to pay for it by fighting tooth and nail and working to uncover what's happening before it goes wrong. If you're lucky, you traded your sanity for humanity existing a little longer.

But I guess if you can't punch a ghouls head off it's not a game. I guess I should throw out my copy of Dark Heresy as well.

Knaight
2015-10-21, 09:54 AM
If the game is trying to convey this sense that human beings (and thus my muggle character) are nearly irrelevant, then it has succeeded from the moment the game was described to me and then my impressions confirmed when I played my first game and died in an hour. That's not a game. It's just a horror story. JUst write the story down and I'll read it, probably in an hour or less, and maybe I'll enjoy it if it's written well. I just don't know what the point of me being here playing a character is. It's like 95% "horrific monsters that will probably kill you on the DM's side" and 5% "maybe you'll roll really lucky about 10 times in a row before the monsters roll well 3 times in a row" on all the player's sides.


Sure, combat tends to end really poorly for the PCs. On the other hand, that's not supposed to be a particularly large section of the game. As for not influencing the world, that doesn't mean that the PCs don't influence the story, as long as the story is about something narrower in scope than the world as a whole, such as the PCs.

GungHo
2015-10-21, 09:55 AM
It's the Yakov Smirnoff RPG. In Cthulhu RPG, monster murders you.

My issue with it is that I can easily turn a more "traditional" RPG on its head and make the monsters terrifying and dangerous. It's harder to make the player terrifying to the monsters in CoC.

Dalebert
2015-10-21, 10:10 AM
Fair enough, making the players feel impotent and helpless is certainly one way of playing Call of Cthulhu. I personally think it's a pretty bad way of playing it, though.

That is, in fact, the horror of Lovecraft. If you fail in that, it wasn't CoC. That's why I think this genre works as fiction that you read but not as a player, because the player doesn't really need to be there when he can't really have any significant impact on the story. Either the script goes in one direction toward achieving the goal or it goes in another, and someone dies or goes insane. It's heavily scripted and only doing some very specific things will turn the tide. That's also built into the nature of the game.

The characters are heavily random also. It's almost as if you showed up and someone handed you this mostly randomly generated character that you're now supposed to care about. Your choice is to care, the masochist choice, or to not care, the nihilist choice. I just can't draw a button with red magic marker and write "I care" and press it. Normally I develop an interesting character that I had a significant role in shaping and go into a game with a sense that I have a decent chance at surviving and where my choices will have some meaningful impact on the story. There are stakes and risks that cause me to become invested. It really can come down to missing one "spot hidden" and getting a crit and that's it. Not even bad luck because you're making these rolls all the time. Not having lucky rolls 10 times in a row is bad luck in this game. That's what your survival hinges on. Your decisions can't help but matter almost not at all.


Of course, for some people Call of Cthulhu does just mean playing regular dudes and running into a vampire and the DM telling yoy "lol, u ded. Horror!"
I, too, find that incredibly boring.

He's running a module. So then is the module poorly designed? If I manage to find a New York Times best-selling author to run a game or write a module, will it redeem this game? THese problems are inherent in the game. The horror being conveyed is that you're a weak, insignificant speck of dust in a universe filled with monsters who will kill you instantly if you don't roll lucky over and over, and eventually you definitely won't. The game has merely succeeded at convincing me that my only point in being there is to roll dice until I die. Again, this is a horror story that I'm there to witness. Just write the story down and I'll read it. I don't need to be there. My role and my choices are barely if at all significant.

NichG
2015-10-21, 10:22 AM
TL;DR version: If the whole premise of the game is that humans, and thus the players, don't matter, then that's not a game. The story is 95% the DM and some mystery being slowly revealed, and we're just there for things to happen TO us. In a typical RPG setting, the players and DM are writing a story together. To do that the players actually have to matter and be able to have an influence and change things. CoC is a story to be read; not a game to be played in.

The medium of a game happens to be somewhat useful, because it puts the stress on the player rather than on an abstract figure in a passive medium. That is, the player is forced to engage in order to try to survive, whereas in a book or a movie the viewer can engage or not, and the outcome is the same. There's also the psychological aspect of things happening as a result of a choice, even a false choice, compared to seeing someone else make that choice and suffer the consequences. E.g. seeing the village destroyed because of a wish you mentioned off-hand in the antiquities museum is psychologically different than reading a book about it.


But I know what to expect. I've read the stories.

This is the problem. If you've read the stories and I throw a Mi-Go or a Hound of Tindalos at you, I'm totally missing the point of CoC as the GM. They're known elements to you, so even if you can abstractly say 'yeah, its pretty scary that something could show up anywhere there's a corner and is hunting me across time', you've already come to terms with that. You're playing a game of poker and you got a bad hand - you know the hand is bad, but its not unexpected or 'weird', its a known quantity.

If I'm doing my job well, I should do something that you really wouldn't expect or even know how to deal with mentally as a player - something that gives you pause in real life, makes you try to figure out what just happened and what's going on. The 'game' part of the experience is that its entirely up to you to come to terms with whatever that surprise might be, even if everything you do that matters is only the things that happen entirely in your head as a player.

Now, even if I were to succeed in doing all that, it might not be an experience that you as a player would actually want to have.


My roll as a player is going to be to act surprised when the world is topsy-turvy. Act like I think I might have a chance to survive. Act like I think I might matter when as a player I know I don't. Seriously, the DM should just write the story down and I'll read it. Why do I need to be there? It's masochist.

There is a masochistic element, in the broad sense of horror and other similar genres focusing on 'negative' emotions and experiences. The thing is, being able to experience those strong negative emotions in a perfectly safe context is a positive thing for some people. Whether it's because of the masochistic side, or because it feels liberating, or just because it helps you explore a part of yourself that you don't normally get to.

caden_varn
2015-10-21, 10:34 AM
CoC, at least the way I play & run it, is about investigation, weirdness and discovery. Combat is not and should not be a big part of the game. If you are in combat with a vampire within an hour of the start of the game, sounds like something is wrong to me. Running CoC does require a slightly different mindset to D&D for example, and it can take people a bit of time to adjust.

I've played & DMed a fair bit of CoC, and character deaths in my games are pretty rare - more common than in other games, sure, but not every session or even game. Insanity is more common, btu at least somewhat curable. It helps to have players who know the games assumptions and actively attempt to avoid combat as much as possible while still dealing with the threat at hand.

As for influencing the game, you certainly should be able to do so, but generally not by going toe-to-toe with the big bad monster. You disrupt the ritual, perform a ritual or spell, hold them off while setting the house on fire, or even just survive until daybreak. Of course, most of this is in the hands of the GM to get the feel 'right'.

If you want to feel mighty & trade blows with Eldritch horrors on an equal basis, CoC is not really the right game. It is more about luring the eldritch horror out to where someone else can run it over with a truck (and pray that at least hurts it...)

Comet
2015-10-21, 10:53 AM
That is, in fact, the horror of Lovecraft. If you fail in that, it wasn't CoC. That's why I think this genre works as fiction that you read but not as a player, because the player doesn't really need to be there when he can't really have any significant impact on the story. Either the script goes in one direction toward achieving the goal or it goes in another, and someone dies or goes insane. It's heavily scripted and only doing some very specific things will turn the tide. That's also built into the nature of the game.

True, Lovecraft's stories make for pretty boring group play. Generally not worth it trying to mimic those, in my opinion, which does kind of pose the question of what the heck Call of Cthulhu is trying to mimic, then.


The characters are heavily random also. It's almost as if you showed up and someone handed you this mostly randomly generated character that you're now supposed to care about. Your choice is to care, the masochist choice, or to not care, the nihilist choice. I just can't draw a button with red magic marker and write "I care" and press it. Normally I develop an interesting character that I had a significant role in shaping and go into a game with a sense that I have a decent chance at surviving and where my choices will have some meaningful impact on the story. There are stakes and risks that cause me to become invested. It really can come down to missing one "spot hidden" and getting a crit and that's it. Not even bad luck because you're making these rolls all the time. Not having lucky rolls 10 times in a row is bad luck in this game. That's what your survival hinges on. Your decisions can't help but matter almost not at all.

This can certainly be the case, just by reading the book. A lot of ways to go around these problems, but those are up to the group, not the game system itself.


He's running a module. So then is the module poorly designed? If I manage to find a New York Times best-selling author to run a game or write a module, will it redeem this game? THese problems are inherent in the game. The horror being conveyed is that you're a weak, insignificant speck of dust in a universe filled with monsters who will kill you instantly if you don't roll lucky over and over, and eventually you definitely won't. The game has merely succeeded at convincing me that my only point in being there is to roll dice until I die. Again, this is a horror story that I'm there to witness. Just write the story down and I'll read it. I don't need to be there. My role and my choices are barely if at all significant.

Okay, you're right again. A lot (the majority) of those CoC modules are, in fact, pretty bad. They're don't feel like Lovecraft's stories and they are also just meatgrinders where death happens for its own sake.

And, you know what, now that I understand where you're coming from I find myself agreeing with you. Call of Cthulhu is not a great game. So much of what makes a game of Call of Cthulhu fun comes from knowledge and traditions that are not presented in the game book itself. Call of Cthulhu is basically just a bunch of rules that kind of try to simulate old timey detective stuff with the addition of some monsters and spells grabbed from a famous author's portfolio. Nothing in that book itself is particularly useful for horror, Lovecraftian atmosphere or any particular kind of fun that couldn't be achieved with other games.

So, yeah, Call of Cthulhu is not a great game by itself. It is a useful starting point for a lot of groups to find a vibe and fictional frame to set themselves in for everyone have fun. If your group's vision of what makes Call of Cthulhu fun isn't fun for you, the game system isn't going to help at all. Maybe take a look at Trail of Cthulhu or Dread or some other horror game or just skip the genre entirely because it might honestly just be too much trouble for what it's worth.

Dalebert
2015-10-21, 11:24 AM
I'm trying to put my finger on what's wrong with this. I like horror movies. I'm a Lovecraft fan. I even really enjoyed survival horror games like Resident Evil quite a lot which seems to imply I should like CoC. The Resident Evil games were HEAVILY scripted. It's really like you're watching a horror movie but it's more immersive where you feel like you're actually there. Sure, the order of things can shift around a little, but you're basically exploring this section, then another, you flip a switch that turns power on somewhere and now you can explore that. There's some slight variation in the chronology but it's fairly scripted and you just experience it in a much more immersive way than if you just watched a movie. Like CoC, it feels like there's very little at stake in the sense that if you die, you just restart the game from a save point.

It just falls short when you try to do the same thing in an RPG, like it's just not the best medium for that sort of thing. If I'm going to just experience a basically scripted horror movie in an immersive manner, a video game where I'm all alone in a dark room works for that. A table-top RPG is just a different medium where I don't think this works. It feels like a different experience for different mediums that is being forced into an RPG setting.

The Glyphstone
2015-10-21, 11:29 AM
Have you ever tried adding atmosphere to the game? Dim lights, creepy music playing at low volume in the background, that sort of thing? Good ambience is often a huge part of the best horror video games - done wrong in a live RPG it gets ridiculous fast, but done right it might help set the 'mood' properly.

Knaight
2015-10-21, 11:30 AM
It doesn't have to be scripted though. The setting is rigged against you, and the failure and death of the characters is pretty much inexorable, but there are a lot of different ways things can go, even if they do all pretty much have bad endings. That breadth is taking advantage of what RPGs can do, as other interactive mediums simply do not have that capability.

Comet
2015-10-21, 11:32 AM
I'm trying to put my finger on what's wrong with this. I like horror movies. I'm a Lovecraft fan. I even really enjoyed survival horror games like Resident Evil quite a lot which seems to imply I should like CoC. The Resident Evil games were HEAVILY scripted. It's really like you're watching a horror movie but it's more immersive where you feel like you're actually there. Sure, the order of things can shift around a little, but you're basically exploring this section, then another, you flip a switch that turns power on somewhere and now you can explore that. There's some slight variation in the chronology but it's fairly scripted and you just experience it in a much more immersive way than if you just watched a movie. Like CoC, it feels like there's very little at stake in the sense that if you die, you just restart the game from a save point.

It just falls short when you try to do the same thing in an RPG, like it's just not the best medium for that sort of thing. If I'm going to just experience a basically scripted horror movie in an immersive manner, a video game where I'm all alone in a dark room works for that. A table-top RPG is just a different medium where I don't think this works. It feels like a different experience for different mediums that is being forced into an RPG setting.

Yeah, tabletop roleplaing is all about making meaningful decisions through your character. If you aren't allowed to make those decisions or feel like your decisions don't really matter then it's all a bit of a wash, isn't it? That's why I find CoC works best when you don't ahdere too religiously to Lovecraft's storytelling, but focus on adapting his world as a starting point and letting things evolve from there in a different direction.

Sidenote, I really like the first Resident Evil game. Not only as a survival horror game, but as a dungeon crawl. It just nails that element of exploration, getting to know your environment and the best routes for backtracking and, indeed, meaningful decisions. Could be fun in CoC, a labyrinth like that, as basically a horror-themed Dungeons & Dragons scenario.

some guy
2015-10-21, 11:42 AM
I'm trying to put my finger on what's wrong with this. I like horror movies. I'm a Lovecraft fan. I even really enjoyed survival horror games like Resident Evil quite a lot which seems to imply I should like CoC. The Resident Evil games were HEAVILY scripted. It's really like you're watching a horror movie but it's more immersive where you feel like you're actually there. Sure, the order of things can shift around a little, but you're basically exploring this section, then another, you flip a switch that turns power on somewhere and now you can explore that. There's some slight variation in the chronology but it's fairly scripted and you just experience it in a much more immersive way than if you just watched a movie. Like CoC, it feels like there's very little at stake in the sense that if you die, you just restart the game from a save point.

It just falls short when you try to do the same thing in an RPG, like it's just not the best medium for that sort of thing. If I'm going to just experience a basically scripted horror movie in an immersive manner, a video game where I'm all alone in a dark room works for that. A table-top RPG is just a different medium where I don't think this works. It feels like a different experience for different mediums that is being forced into an RPG setting.

It really feels like tou got an unfavorable combination of module and gm. An hour for creating a character in CoC is extremely long, I can get an entire party of first-timers in half an hour. Your gm should let your profession be random, if you asked for it.

No game of CoC I played ever was scripted. The way you describe it, I would not enjoy it as well.

The way I play it, is that indeed humans are not powerful, but players should get every advantage they can get and use it.

When I run it, I also try get atmosphere as high as possible, I try to scare the players themselves. Of course it helps, if the players also want to be scared.

I would advise to try it again with a different group or gm.

NichG
2015-10-21, 11:47 AM
I'm trying to put my finger on what's wrong with this. I like horror movies. I'm a Lovecraft fan. I even really enjoyed survival horror games like Resident Evil quite a lot which seems to imply I should like CoC. The Resident Evil games were HEAVILY scripted. It's really like you're watching a horror movie but it's more immersive where you feel like you're actually there. Sure, the order of things can shift around a little, but you're basically exploring this section, then another, you flip a switch that turns power on somewhere and now you can explore that. There's some slight variation in the chronology but it's fairly scripted and you just experience it in a much more immersive way than if you just watched a movie. Like CoC, it feels like there's very little at stake in the sense that if you die, you just restart the game from a save point.

Well it sounds from your previous posts that you never got immersed in the tabletop CoC game in the first place. You were meh about your character, you were constantly going back to your Kindle during play, etc. If you played Resident Evil that way, you would probably find it pretty dull as well. Of course, you kind of can't play it that way I guess, because nothing happens without you pushing buttons, but in a tabletop game the GM and other players will keep things going even if you zone out. Maybe a better example would be if you put a Lets Play of it on in the background and glanced at it occasionally while otherwise enjoying your book. You just would never get that visceral experience.

It really has nothing at all to do with whether its 'scripted'. Its just immersion, and the table you were at didn't do a good job of it or you weren't in the right mindset to really get into it or whatever, so everything that followed had no impact to you. Several other posters have reported that it has in fact worked for them. The logical conclusion is that it can work for the right combination of player and GM, but it can also fail.

It might help if you played a CoC game where you're literally playing as yourself. That way you avoid some of what you found about being disconnected from your character and not caring what happens to them.

Ashtagon
2015-10-21, 12:47 PM
It seems you went into a CoC expecting to play at Fantasy Superheroes(tm), possibly updated to modern times as a some of Buffy the Vampire Slayer tribute. CoC is not that.

In CoC, if you're fighting anything that is not human, you're pretty much done for.

CoC is foremost a setting about investigating the mundane happening, discovering the horror behind that event, and then either running away, rallying the town, or competing to die in the most entertaining way possible. If that's not your style of game, that's cool. But the franchise has been quite successful enough (as RPGs go) that to say it's not a real game is to limit your concept of "game" to an unreasonable degree.

If any PC killed that vampire in your game, it wasn't CoC being run correctly. Depending on the circumstances, your party probably shouldn't even have known it was a vampire when they faced it. A good CoC GM would ensure they met it at least once in a non-combat situation before even realising the vampire was a) hostile, or b) an enemy.

Segev
2015-10-21, 01:07 PM
I cannot speak specifically to CoC.

I can, however, give some advice on horror as a genre. Horror, at its crux, is about betrayal. As others have hinted, it's not so much betrayal of the world against you, nor even of the GM towards you; it's about betrayal of your expectations.

Part of what makes M. Night Shaymalan effective - when he is working well - is that his twists add to the horror of the situation. Sixth Sense is a scary movie (when it's scary) because of atmosphere, yes, but the most horrifying parts are the parts where betrayals lie at the heart of the ghosts' stories. The horrible ghost-girl who's vomiting constantly is scary...but the part that is most chilling is what she asked the boy to do to help her. And it wasn't because she was asking him to do something wrong: it's because the core of her death was truly, utterly horrifying.

Even the big twist at the end is horrible because it betrays your expectations, and yet that gnawing sense that something was wrong was there throughout.


Since I'll probably never run one, I'll share what I think would make a good horror game for tabletop RPG. Let's go with a highly lethal horror system like Call of Cthulhu. Starting off, you do try to make it horror by playing the usual tropes. You work with the atmosphere, you exploit the alien geometries, and you generally let the players take their characters through it, some going mad, others dying, etc.

One of the odd things may initially be mistaken for the GM screwing up: NPCs, particularly the more insane ones, seem to forget that a player's new character wasn't around for something; that was her old PC that died.

But it becomes...common. And the setting seems confused when the PC doesn't act on the player's meta-knowledge, and to accept - almost expect - it when he does.

The reveal, which should be done with a certain dawning realization, should be that there are forces outside the world which manipulate ordinary people into horrible situations, to do terrifying, terrible things. And it is left to the players and their PCs to realize that the PCs are afflicted by such entities...and those entities are the players.

Enixon
2015-10-21, 02:06 PM
Seems to me like a number of people here are getting tunnel vision regarding the power thing and dismissing him as some power gaming munchkin and missing the part where he's complying about being powerless AND utterly disposable, that the character was out of commission before he got a chance to do anything. How do you get invested in playing a character that is out of action before you even "play" them?


I find there's a difference between a Lovecraft story character losing their grip on reality throughout the book and inevitably giving in to madness and the nameless victim that gets offed in the cold open of an Episode of Supernatural.

So what if he's on a kindle? He's not contributing to the game, he's dead, or at least out of commission, is he supposed to just sit there bored while everyone else has fun? You could make an argument about paying attention I suppose, but if his character is not conscious then he's not going to be paying attention in character either, he's not going to know anything that happens until he comes too. I'd argue that makes things more immersive, since now he won't know anything his character doesn't know when or if he is revived.

Dalebert
2015-10-21, 02:22 PM
It seems you went into a CoC expecting to play at Fantasy Superheroes(tm), possibly updated to modern times as a some of Buffy the Vampire Slayer tribute. CoC is not that.

Not at all. In fact, I only joined this game after all my D&D games had fizzled and I was honestly kind of desperate for anything. From the moment the game was described to me, it sounded boring playing total muggles in a horror universe. I admit that I had trouble even trying to enjoy it.


If any PC killed that vampire in your game, it wasn't CoC being run correctly. Depending on the circumstances, your party probably shouldn't even have known it was a vampire when they faced it. A good CoC GM would ensure they met it at least once in a non-combat situation before even realising the vampire was a) hostile, or b) an enemy.

Yes, apparently it had been following the players for many sessions, almost from the beginning. I had just joined. And we didn't know what it was at first. I figured it out as a player but I was trying not to meta-game. In fact, I was trying throughout, even during the creation of my character, not to meta-game. I didn't pick skills that would necessarily be the best for the game, like a bunch of combat and stealth things, because I was supposed to be a regularly Joe and it felt like meta-gaming to do so.


Well it sounds from your previous posts that you never got immersed in the tabletop CoC game in the first place. You were meh about your character, you were constantly going back to your Kindle during play, etc.

OMG, I will repeat, I did not TOUCH my Kindle until my character was (I thought) completely DEAD within an hour of making him. When he was revived, barely, I put it down until I realized I was still unable to do anything because he was so debilitated. It was impossible for me to make any relevant contribution to the game. I was by myself in a room holding my guts in. I actually got a little frustrated when I was revived, because at least a new character would have been able to do something. I was out of the game for all practical purposes. Then someone else killed the vampire and that session was over.

It's true. I was meh about my character from the get-go, even before making him. It's a primary failing of the game from my personal point of view, that I don't see how one cares about such disposable characters. When someone said an hour is too long to make a character, that just makes them sound even more like disposable tissues to me and even harder to care about them.


It might help if you played a CoC game where you're literally playing as yourself. That way you avoid some of what you found about being disconnected from your character and not caring what happens to them.

Let's say that works and I get into my character. How do I continue to be interested after the first hour of the game when my "character" dies? There's just no way to feel invested in a you're-probably-gonna-die character. Even Resident Evil was doable if you played smartly. This one is so stacked against you that you it's nigh hopeless from the get-go.

It's like the game is screaming at you "Be afraid! Be very afraid!" but it's so fake. Even the insanity stuff is fake. I was told my character has seem some crazy stuff so I know this stuff is out there. How many times am I going to lose my mind because I saw a vampire? I roll some dice to see if my character goes nutz because he saw a vampire and fails to convince himself it was just a crazy guy who happened to turn into mist? Okay. *shrug* Whatever it was, yes, my character knows there are monsters in the world. My character going insane because he rolled over 40 on percentile does not equate to ME being freaked out by what's going on. I've seen hundreds of horror movies where the characters spend 15 to 30 minutes coming to terms with the fact that they're in a horror movie. It's cliche. Can we please accept it and move on with the story? You're not just mundane but you're so exceptionally mundane that you keep going crazy when anything happens. It's completely a roll of the dice, yet one more roll in a long line or rolls that I have to be lucky on or it's another way my character can become even more irrelevant. *sigh*

BeerMug Paladin
2015-10-21, 05:20 PM
Call of Cthulhu is all about the investigation aspect of the scenario. Your character isn't supposed to be interesting as much as the plot is supposed to be interesting. To achieve interactivity, there needs to be multiple routes (and potentially multiple connected plots) going on so the player can feel they have some agency in how the mystery unfolds. It's a hard task, and I think most of the times it's quite difficult to hit that level of interactivity. There needs to be something that catches the players' attention and holds it. And how they go about trying to figure out the mystery is where the fun is had.

Also, if the situation is too familiar to the players, then they will likely be able to guess at the eventual reveal and be less invested in uncovering more, since they already know a monster that fits the description. For this reason, when I run the game I usually end up inventing my own scenarios and situations. This seems like something that should probably be done in most cases where the game is run. It's probably less important if people aren't as familiar with the original material.

Reading a certain book creates a consciousness defect that causes physical distortions that could warp nearby objects in space (and potentially kill the infected person). If seen by others, the distortion had a chance to infect them with the same defect. Solvable by the players by murdering the infected individuals, anyone who might potentially be infected and burning the book. One of which is likely to be a player, because someone will likely read the infecting book at one point and understand too much.

Or a huge invisible thing which casts a miles wide shadow, and the surface of the shadow opens in places with big toothy, tentacled maws to drag people/animals in without any trace left. It drifts between Earth and the Sun now and then, but is completely intangible in every way other than its strange shadow. An apocalyptic cult could be worshipping this thing as the natural end of the world and are trying to redirect it to wipe out a city of unaware normals. This is solvable by slaying the cult members and redirecting the path of the thing via magic to be away from the city's population center. (And away from Earth as they can manage.)
Also, leaving notes behind for the players to discover of real-world anomalous (or at least strange) events can increase the level of connection to the story. There is absolutely no scenario in Call of Cthulhu where you should be in the same room as (let alone fighting) a vampire one hour into the game.

It seems to me that most people try running CoC to be a bit too much combat oriented.

mikeejimbo
2015-10-21, 05:39 PM
I'm confused about something...

I didn't think there were vampires in the Cthulhu Mythos.

The Glyphstone
2015-10-21, 05:43 PM
I'm confused about something...

I didn't think there were vampires in the Cthulhu Mythos.

They feature in a few published adventures, apparently. Plus, there are also the Star Vampires.

TheThan
2015-10-21, 06:15 PM
I think that The OPís Dm ruined the charm of Call of Cthulhu at the onset, prior to character generation.

He was told to expect his character to die. That immediately puts a player off, and gives him no reason to connect to his character since his character is going to die and thereís no point in trying to do anything with it. Itís no different than watching a slasher flick. You know that all those characters are going to die, so you donít get connected to any of them (in fact, some even go so far as to make the victims unlikeable), before they go down. Instead you watch a slasher flick to watch the creative deaths and blood splatter. Who these people were doesnít matter, all that matters is that weíre entertained by creative death scenes. I bet that if you were given the chance to get into character you would have enjoyed the game more, and been more torn up and still invested when he met his demise.

Another big problem is that he went in knowing that there was nothing he could do to affect the plot. So it sounded like he did nothing to affect the plot. It sounds like he resigned himself to be on the plot railroad and never bothered to see if he could do anything about what happened. Sure cosmic horror is happening, youíre supposed to be scared and all that, but if you know thereís nothing you can do, then you wonít try, if you wonít try then you canít be scared as attempt after attempt fail and you get that futile foreboding feeling of dread. If you thought you were capable of affecting the events going on in game, would you be more interested in the game? sure, anyone would be.


Judging by how he wrote his opening post, it really does sound like this is the case, his DM turned him off to the game before he even sat down to create a character. He was already checked out and didnít care enough to try to get invested in the game. His use of ďwordsĒ like muggle indicate his state of mind when he started out. He wasnít playing a hardboiled detective sent to solve a mysterious murder, or a paranormal investigator trying to puzzle out the meaning of the gibbering writing on the wall, or a doctor trying to figure out how that zombie got reanimated. Or some sort of Dr. Van Helsing type occult hunter trying to uncover and stop an evil cult. No he was just playing a muggle; just a muggle, nothing interesting or cool or exciting, just a muggle; no point in giving him a name really, heís just going to die soon.

See what I mean.
I say find a better Dm and give it another try; you might like it more if you can get invested in the character and the story. But from what I have read, you wonít get that from the Dm youíve got.

BeerMug Paladin
2015-10-21, 06:37 PM
I'm confused about something...

I didn't think there were vampires in the Cthulhu Mythos.

I recall reading a short story in one of those mythos compilations which featured a bloated vampire under the floorboards of a cabin. It's too bad I can't recall the name of the story. I think it was an August Derleth collaboration story.

JellyPooga
2015-10-21, 06:49 PM
@OP: It's this simple; you had a bad introduction to the game. In a nutshell, this is what you got;

GM: You're a nobody and you don't matter.
You: OK, what next.
GM: VAMPIRE! You die!
You: OK, I'm going home.

Here's what you should have been given;

GM: You're a dude. Not some superhero, just a guy trying to make a living. Trying to make a living doing something cool and setting appropriate. What do you want to be?
You: Uh, I dunno. A student?
GM: OK, groovy. What are you studying?
You: Umm, well I studied physics at uni myself, so I'll go with that.
GM: We can work with that. How about astronomy?
You: Yeah ok, I guess; I did some astro back in college.
GM: [laughs malevolently under his breath] *ahem* Cool. Whilst you were studying you discovered this [hands you a note with some Lore] and as a result have postponed your studies...[continues on to background introductions etc.]
...
- Game starts with something mundane (murder case, weird newspaper article, whatever).
- Investigate. Investigate. Investigate.
- You get some rumours about Vampires.
- Investigate. Investigate. Investigate.
- The rumours are slowly and unsettlingly confirmed.
- Investigate. Investigate. Investigate.
- You feel like a badass because your student is trumping up ALL the lore on Vampires.
- Investigate. Investigate. Investigate.
- There's a Vampire in the Old Manor House.
- The PC's all go tool up to kick some undead in the teeth.
- Crucifix? Check. Holy Water? Check. Wooden Stakes? Check.
- Aaargh! The Vamp must have known we were coming. His minions grabbed [ally] during the day. We should have seen it coming! That bar steward has got it coming for realz.
[that night]
- Everyone ready? Cool. Let's go.
- Hey this place is spooky. Where is everyone?
- What's that? An altar? Ooo, predictable bloodstains [everyone laughs at cliche's]
- What was this Vamp up to? None of our research turned up anything "cult-y" (OOC Note: this is the tie-in for the next adventure)
- "Aaargh! Vampire! Eat blessed buck-shot!" "[Ally2]; the Holy Wa-*glurk* Oh the huge-manatees! Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!"
- Fight Fight Fight
- Maybe win, maybe lose, maybe go nuts.
- Even chance of each because you did the research (makes you nuts) and prep (makes you win) to make it a winnable situation, but the Vamp is a tough son-of-a-gun (makes you die).
- Whichever way it went, everyone had a good time getting there, revealing the story as you went and through your own cunning and dedication to playing your character to the hilt, improved your odds of surviving an otherwise unsurvivable situation.

Think of it like an entire D&D campaign that runs from level 1 to 20, but in a single adventure. If you jump in trying to kill Ashardalon at level 1, you're doomed, but if you do the prep and research to find out everything you can and get yourself ready to fight him, by the time you're level 20 you've got a shot, but it's still going to be a hard fight.

NichG
2015-10-21, 08:13 PM
Not at all. In fact, I only joined this game after all my D&D games had fizzled and I was honestly kind of desperate for anything. From the moment the game was described to me, it sounded boring playing total muggles in a horror universe. I admit that I had trouble even trying to enjoy it..

Yeah, see, this is a problem. You had a bad CoC DM, but even if you had had a good one, its such a mood game that if you're not in the right mood for it, you aren't going to enjoy it. When you sit down to play Resident Evil its because that's the game you were excited about playing just then. If you play it just because 'well, I really wanted to play Final Fantasy, but for some reason I can only play Resident Evil or nothing' then its going to sour your experience.



Let's say that works and I get into my character. How do I continue to be interested after the first hour of the game when my "character" dies? There's just no way to feel invested in a you're-probably-gonna-die character. Even Resident Evil was doable if you played smartly. This one is so stacked against you that you it's nigh hopeless from the get-go.

Well first of all, you have to let go of your one bad experience with a bad GM. If you assume that everyone else will run the game the same as your one bad experience, then you just rendered yourself incapable of enjoying the game ever. Not because it can't be enjoyable, but because you're always stuck playing that one GM's version of it in your head.

Strigon
2015-10-21, 08:41 PM
It's very simple.
You like games that make you feel powerful, and as though you are one of the grand forces at work in the world.
Call of Cthulhu is all about not being powerful, and just trying to survive encountering one of the aforementioned great forces.

Some people like games like that, because people like to be challenged, and they like high-stakes, high-lethality games with a lot of risk - that's how they get invested in a character, and succeeding in those games is how they feel they've accomplished something. Not by doing anything particularly earth-shattering, but by doing something hard. They tend to view it as a Roleplaying Game by definition - it's a game, it's a challenge, and it has an interesting concept.
Call of Cthulhu works very well for those people.

Others like games where their character is powerful primarily for escapism. They want to be able to shape huge events, and dictate the course of the world.
Call of Cthulhu is not that type of game.

The Fury
2015-10-21, 09:37 PM
I feel like Call of Cthulhu encounters with monsters are more about escaping than they are about winning. This is a point that I think a lot of people overlook-- GMs and players alike.

Besides that though, there's cosmic horror elements that can make the game pretty engaging-- the idea that any "victory" you achieve is only delaying something inevitable and very horrible, the idea that any of the players might survive but end up in a psyche ward for the rest of their lives. Pyrrhic victories and any of the PCs living out the rest of their days knowing that eventually something is going to come for them. Personally, I've even had a character that wasn't able to live with what he'd done and took his own life.

This kind of game is definitely not for everyone. I like it, though it's also been noted that I have more self-hatred than most.

Earthwalker
2015-10-22, 05:35 AM
I feel alot of things that are being attributed to the game of CoC are in fact things that are in fact issues with the GM.

I could make a DnD game and tell the players.

Dont care about your characters I run a meat grinder game so you will be dead after an hour.
I do random rolls for stats and class.
I will be running a book senario, so you will have to follow the leads I give.

This seems to cover alot of the problems the OP has with CoC. It does not mean CoC is broken but the GM for the game is. (Or at least not running a game the OP wants)

goto124
2015-10-22, 06:18 AM
The GM seems to be reading out a script and asking the players to be the actors. That's not even a game.

How does one run a horror game that still gives enough agency to the player?

I think it'll be pretty close to a survival or post-apocalyptic world, where you have to be careful of basic needs but you still have just enough power to make a difference (even if only for yourself)?

Amazon
2015-10-22, 09:50 AM
It is like a Scooby doo episode.
You can't fight the monster, you just have to find the clues to find out what or who is the monster and try to stop him.

Only that you go mad in the end. But that is part of the fun.

Because fun can be a lot of things. Sure being godlike powerful is fun. But try games such as dark souls and dwarf fortress. You will see that: Losing is fun!

EDIT:
http://dwarffortresswiki.org/images/4/40/FunComic.png

Dalebert
2015-10-22, 10:17 AM
.When you sit down to play Resident Evil its because that's the game you were excited about playing just then. If you play it just because 'well, I really wanted to play Final Fantasy, but for some reason I can only play Resident Evil or nothing' then its going to sour your experience.

Actually, you just described my experience with Resident Evil pretty well. I played it when it was already kind of old and the graphics were subpar for the time and I started with extremely low expectations which stayed low for the first ten or fifteen minutes. I guess I toughed it out long enough for it to grab me and then I was hooked.


It's very simple.
You like games that make you feel powerful, and as though you are one of the grand forces at work in the world.

I feel like this is a strawman. I said I need to feel relevant. In most RPGs I've played, the GM and players are all contributing to writing a story. It doesn't have to be world-shaking (never said that). It can be 1st level characters fighting goblins, but what the characters do affects the outcome of the story. That story is maybe 50% GM-written and 10% written by each player. CoC feels something 95% GM (or the module) and 1% each player.


I feel like Call of Cthulhu encounters with monsters are more about escaping than they are about winning. This is a point that I think a lot of people overlook-- GMs and players alike.

Resident Evil is exactly that--survival horror, and I loved it. It succeeded where I feel CoC has failed by design.


Some people like games like that, because people like to be challenged, and they like high-stakes, high-lethality games with a lot of risk - that's how they get invested in a character, and succeeding in those games is how they feel they've accomplished something.

The math of the game is broken. This is not my GM or the module. If almost anything you encounter has a roughly 15% chance to crit (maybe conservative), which will almost certainly remove you from the game either by death or maiming, then success or failure comes down to lucky streaks on the dice or not. And that's just one example without even going into more math about whether you go insane because you rolled bad and so on. There's no sense of satisfaction if you succeed on a lot of die rolls and no sense of my actions mattering if I simply failed on a streak of die rolls. That's just one example. The point is at any point in time, you have to roll well several times in a row or be seriously debilitated in some way.

Math is not scary or creepy or setting the mood of horror. I feel like my knowledge of math and understanding odds keeps me from being able to immerse myself. Maybe the other players go in thinking "My decisions matter and I have a chance if I play smartly," but I know better. The game started with them all talking about how many characters they've gone through. The DM was just being honest with me when he said the characters will likely die, because he knows math also. He said that way back before they started this game and I opted out at the time because knowing that going in makes it feel futile for me to even show up. And when he said we just make new characters, often some NPC on the scene suddenly becomes a PC and we play them, it felt to me like the way to "win" was to fill up a shotgun with characters and just fire them at the monsters until we figure out what one single thing can stop some apocolyptic event, a ritual or whatever.


Besides that though, there's cosmic horror elements that can make the game pretty engaging-- the idea that any "victory" you achieve is only delaying something inevitable and very horrible, the idea that any of the players might survive but end up in a psyche ward for the rest of their lives. Pyrrhic victories and any of the PCs living out the rest of their days knowing that eventually something is going to come for them. Personally, I've even had a character that wasn't able to live with what he'd done and took his own life.

That's not the problem with the game. Again, comparing to Resident Evil, you're all alone in a scary house full of monsters and you're just hoping to survive, but you have a decent chance of that. The math of the game is not such that most characters will likely die no matter what you do. Math is math. It's undeniable. It's not creepy. You're just telling me to go gamble at a casino with horrible odds and where they give you chips when you run out but the chips are ultimately worthless. If you're using this system and you don't kill a lot of PCs, likely every single one of them over a period of time, you're fudging die rolls or contriving the situations and the motivations of the baddies to be less deadly. Is that my DM's failing? That he didn't fudge the die roll--that after the the nth time I was attacked by the vampire and after a lucky streak of n rolls that kept me from being hit even once up to that point, it OF COURSE finally critted. Before he even rolled damage he said "You're probably dead", because he knows math. Really? What the fudge-sickle, CoC?

I don't need to feel powerful. I just need to feel relevant.

Segev
2015-10-22, 10:33 AM
I know CoC isn't my style of game, personally. I hate futility. I do like to play to feel powerful, competent, and accomplished.

That said, I probably would go nuts in the first hour or so of a CoC game, because I'm more likely to play somebody seeking to be the power-mongering cult-controlling ritualist than anybody horrified by the very nature of it. My personal, RL mindset is such that I find the Lovecraftian notion that there are things man was not meant to know to be abhorrent. Knowledge is power, because it lets you act to deal with things as they are and find things to optimize and exploit. So I'd seek knowledge and understanding, and to heck with having to give up a comforting but useless worldview: I'll take what I learn and use it to optimize how we interact with reality for maximal personal and societal benefit! Bwahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!

NichG
2015-10-22, 10:43 AM
The math of the game is broken. This is not my GM or the module. If almost anything you encounter has a roughly 15% chance to crit (maybe conservative), which will almost certainly remove you from the game either by death or maiming, then success or failure comes down to lucky streaks on the dice or not.

I'm curious, what if I told you about a game that, among other things, had the following rule:

"... if any enemy moves adjacent to you and takes an action to attack you, it has a 100% chance of killing your character outright with no defense ..."

Would you have the same complaint? How would you behave in such a game?

Barstro
2015-10-22, 10:46 AM
Here's what you should have been given;

Bla Bla Bal


That is spot on. If you would not like JellyPooga's version of what SHOULD have happened, then you just wouldn't like the game.

CoC is not DnD, it's a tabletop version of Twilight Zone. There's no character ability growth, it's how mundane people interact in a Lovecraftian encounter and their personal growth (or death).

I enjoyed the games I played, but I had a GM whose personality is perfect for these games (horrible for DnD for the same reason). But in the end, I never felt I accomplished anything and would never seek out another game of it.

EDIT:
CoC is actually a perfect tabletop representation of what could be made for live roleplaying in your town. With only a few limitations, you could get a group of friends and 20 actors to do one of these over a long weekend.

Knaight
2015-10-22, 11:10 AM
The math of the game is broken. This is not my GM or the module. If almost anything you encounter has a roughly 15% chance to crit (maybe conservative), which will almost certainly remove you from the game either by death or maiming, then success or failure comes down to lucky streaks on the dice or not. And that's just one example without even going into more math about whether you go insane because you rolled bad and so on. There's no sense of satisfaction if you succeed on a lot of die rolls and no sense of my actions mattering if I simply failed on a streak of die rolls. That's just one example. The point is at any point in time, you have to roll well several times in a row or be seriously debilitated in some way.

That's only if you're running into combat with any frequency though. Yes, any combat scene has a good chance of killing the characters, that's why they try to avoid them.

Dalebert
2015-10-22, 11:21 AM
That's only if you're running into combat with any frequency though. Yes, any combat scene has a good chance of killing the characters, that's why they try to avoid them.

A 15% chance of the end of your character for all practical purposes for EVERY ATTACK by a monster is huge even if you rarely get attacked. There's no getting around it. This was an unusually combat-heavy encounter per the DM, but that's why my character was taken out in one hour of one session. With rare combat, the math alone still makes the odds of your character's death likely over a span of sessions. That's still broken. Often times, when an attack does happen, it's a sneak attack where you can't even choose to dodge because you failed your "spot hidden", and that's still not even venturing into how many times you have to make sanity checks just because you saw something weird.


I'm curious, what if I told you about a game that, among other things, had the following rule:

"... if any enemy moves adjacent to you and takes an action to attack you, it has a 100% chance of killing your character outright with no defense ..."

Would you have the same complaint? How would you behave in such a game?

Exactly the same as I did--
I would be disinclined to play it at all.
If I gave in and gave it a shot, I would avoid encounters with such creatures if at all possible.
If an encounter was unavoidable, I'd do two things--try to kill it as quickly as possible from range and use any means possible to keep it away from me.

In the vampire encounter, it misted into our room on a moving train to attack us. I shot it with my crossbow which was an effective attack (wood). It misted back out waiting for a better opportunity to catch us off-guard.
We couldn't escape (on a train). I asked if we could moisten towels and block the gap under the door. The DM said there were too many crevices, keyholes, etc. So the other party members said garlic seemed to keep it away in previous sessions. We decided to make a mad dash for the dining car to get some. The vampire attacked me on the way. It would have gotten a sneak attack because I failed my spot hidden so I used some luck to make it. That saved me from one attack because I was able to dodge. Then I shot at it and missed and it critted me and put me at -3. I got a critical success first aid roll on me and was at 2 but "holding my guts in" per the DM. I hobbled over to a chair in the corner of the car with my back to the corner and my crossbow out. It made a beeline for me as the primary threat with wooden weapons. I shot. Missed. DM said I have to spend an action reloading. Other players finally find the garlic and throw it at the vampire in desperation. It saved me but not really because he's still effectively out of the game from his wounds.

Took an hour to make the character. Out of the game in one hour.
So yes, I would have done everything exactly the same and would feel like that was a system that largely relied on me being lucky or the DM contriving the situations to make my survival reasonably possible with good decisions.

TheThan
2015-10-22, 11:57 AM
The math of the game is broken. This is not my GM or the module. If almost anything you encounter has a roughly 15% chance to crit (maybe conservative), which will almost certainly remove you from the game either by death or maiming, then success or failure comes down to lucky streaks on the dice or not. And that's just one example without even going into more math about whether you go insane because you rolled bad and so on. There's no sense of satisfaction if you succeed on a lot of die rolls and no sense of my actions mattering if I simply failed on a streak of die rolls. That's just one example. The point is at any point in time, you have to roll well several times in a row or be seriously debilitated in some way.

So youíre saying that a 75% chance of surviving an encounter with a creature thatís far more powerful than you is not fair and thereís no point in playing because thereís no sense of satisfaction. Have you ever looked into casino games? Those games are designed to take a players money. They pay out just enough to keep a player interested, but in the long term he loses money (and the casino gains money).


If this was a DnD session instead of a CoC would you still be so upset over it? Exact same scenario, a vampire in DnD can do the same thing. Mist into a room, become solid and attack you, he scores a critical hit dealing enough damage to knock you to negative 3. How would you react to it? would you still be so upset over it?

Segev
2015-10-22, 12:28 PM
So youíre saying that a 75% chance of surviving an encounter with a creature thatís far more powerful than you is not fair and thereís no point in playing because thereís no sense of satisfaction.There wasn't a chance to avoid the encounter. Would you play a game where the DM made you roll a d4 after the first hour, and told you you had to sit out the rest of the game if you got a "1?"


If this was a DnD session instead of a CoC would you still be so upset over it? Exact same scenario, a vampire in DnD can do the same thing. Mist into a room, become solid and attack you, he scores a critical hit dealing enough damage to knock you to negative 3. How would you react to it? would you still be so upset over it?In CoC, this is a TYPICAL encounter (or, if atypical, only because they couldn't successfully avoid it). In D&D, this would be an atypical encounter, since things so far out of your CR just aren't the norm.


CoC is high lethality. His stated responses to it are what it's meant to achieve. It is, however, frustrating when you're forced into the no-win situation. When you don't have the options to TRY to play.

He hit at an awkward session, it sounds like, since he got the rare combat encounter right away. Most of the players probably had several sessions of non-combat before this one, and it was their choices that put them here, in this unavoidable situation.


You bring up casino games; note that they do not amount to "play one game; if you lose, we make you sit and watch other people play for the next 3 hours, and consider you extremely rude if you leave, read something, play a video game, or do anything but watch the others have fun without you."

Dalebert
2015-10-22, 12:38 PM
So youíre saying that a 75% chance of surviving an encounter with a creature thatís far more powerful than you is not fair and thereís no point in playing because thereís no sense of satisfaction.

If you're saying it's realistic, I concede. I don't think realism makes for a good game. Realism and drama and story-telling don't mix well. Is it realistic that such a world would chew up human beings one after another in slash-horror movie style? Yes. That's why I said I would be glad to read a short story like that but I don't feel the need to show up just to play meat for the grinder.


Have you ever looked into casino games? Those games are designed to take a players money. They pay out just enough to keep a player interested, but in the long term he loses money (and the casino gains money).

Exactly. I understand the math and that's why I don't play casino games.


If this was a DnD session instead of a CoC would you still be so upset over it? Exact same scenario, a vampire in DnD can do the same thing. Mist into a room, become solid and attack you, he scores a critical hit dealing enough damage to knock you to negative 3. How would you react to it? would you still be so upset over it?

Of course, if what you're saying is the DM sent a monster out to kill us with similar odds as CoC. That said D&D math isn't broken like CoC. You'd have to be a ridiculously low level against a CR 13 monster and I would be pretty annoyed at a DM who sent a monster that's an average encounter for a party of level 13 characters against first level characters hell-bent on killing them. That would be a highly unusual choice and certainly not recommended by the books; much less commonplace as it is in CoC.

TheThan
2015-10-22, 01:23 PM
You bring up casino games; note that they do not amount to "play one game; if you lose, we make you sit and watch other people play for the next 3 hours, and consider you extremely rude if you leave, read something, play a video game, or do anything but watch the others have fun without you."

WaaaaaÖ hold on let me emphasize that better. Waaaaaaaaaaaaa

Nobody steps up to a craps table and complains that the odds favor the house. Of course they do, thatís why the casino runs that game. (if they donít like those odds, they donít play)

Dalbert admits that he doesn't like this sort of game. Then he jumps into a CoC game for no other reason than heís jonesing for a game. He fully expects to die, doesnít put any thought into making his character interesting and does not get invested in the game or his character. Then when he goes down in this highly lethal game, and immediately goes and messes about on his tablet. Doesnít bother to start rolling up a new character and continue the adventure. Doesnít attempt to give advice, research or anything from his now bed ridden character or pay attention to the rest of session. He instead just checks out and gets on his tablet. Heís not invested or even interested in the game at all.

Heís checked out from the start, it doesnít sound like he had any fun at all through the entire session. Itís not a surprise heís upset about it since he didnít even give it a fair shake, even if the Dm isnít very good or this scenario is not usual for the game. His experience was doomed to be poor from the onset.


If you're saying it's realistic, I concede. I don't think realism makes for a good game. Realism and drama and story-telling don't mix well. Is it realistic that such a world would chew up human beings one after another in slash-horror movie style? Yes. That's why I said I would be glad to read a short story like that but I don't feel the need to show up just to play meat for the grinder.

The point is that youíre pissing and moaning about the odds, when they are actually fairly stacked in your favor. Yeah you can go down to that 15%, but thatís part of the game. If you donít like it donít play and move on.



Of course, if what you're saying is the DM sent a monster out to kill us with similar odds as CoC. That said D&D math isn't broken like CoC. You'd have to be a ridiculously low level against a CR 13 monster and I would be pretty annoyed at a DM who sent a monster that's an average encounter for a party of level 13 characters against first level characters hell-bent on killing them. That would be a highly unusual choice and certainly not recommended by the books; much less commonplace as it is in CoC.

Not necessarily. Itís totally plausible that the pcs have just gone through a few tough encounters and now they face this level appropriate vampire, a crit could still take out a low HP character like a wizard without too much effort. Maybe the Pcs make a boneheaded move and antagonize a vampire they werenít supposed to fight yet. Pcs do that sort of stuff after all. The situation leading up to the encounter isnít that important. Whatís important is the reaction of the player to such an encounter.

obryn
2015-10-22, 01:38 PM
In the original Call of Cthulhu literature, it was all about the fear of the unknown, but also the fear of insignificance.
Also, racism. :smallbiggrin:

...anyway, in answer to the OP, I ran a fairly long Call of Cthulhu campaign that ended up being one of my best and most memorable ever. You pretty much have to take your D&D assumptions and leave them at the door, though. Encounters with mythos creatures should be rare, and engaging with them is likely to be deadly. I think the issue might have been the Keeper, and it was almost certainly also your expectations.

Your investigators must be relevant. CoC is all about the small differences your investigators can make in the world immediately around them, even if it may ultimately all be meaningless. Player agency is important in all RPGs, and CoC may have a different approach than many others do, but it nevertheless holds true. It's about facing impossible odds and ... well, not winning, but not exactly losing, either. If the DM is focusing on all the negatives - how you'll all die, inevitably go insane, how none of it matters, etc. - then it's not really how I understand Call of Cthulhu. (Then again, I might not be the best guy to ask because I tend to enjoy at least somewhat pulpy Mythos gaming. Remember that in The Call of Cthulhu, they won the day by hitting the Great Old One with a boat.)

Dalebert
2015-10-22, 05:07 PM
WaaaaaÖ hold on let me emphasize that better. Waaaaaaaaaaaaa

That's the best argument for how this game doesn't suck so far. :smallconfused:


Nobody steps up to a craps table and complains that the odds favor the house. Of course they do, thatís why the casino runs that game. (if they donít like those odds, they donít play)

And yet those odds are still astronomically higher than having your character survive several sessions of CoC without the DM fudging rolls or contriving the scene.


He fully expects to die,

Because I understand math and so does my DM and it's an accurate expectation. In fact it anecdotally turned out to be perfectly accurate.


doesnít put any thought into making his character interesting and does not get invested in the game or his character.

I spent an hour on him and have been told by several people in this thread that was too much effort and time.


Then when he goes down in this highly lethal game, and immediately goes and messes about on his tablet. Doesnít bother to start rolling up a new character and continue the adventure.

I wasn't presented with that option. The session was nearly over. It barely lasted over an hour. My character wasn't dead, technically, just rendered borderline paraplegic.


Doesnít attempt to give advice, research or anything from his now bed ridden character or pay attention to the rest of session.

THat would be meta-gaming. I wasn't even with the other characters. And research? Seriously? You're suggesting that's suddenly going to get me engaged in the game?
Me: "I want to research vampires" (as noises of fighting echo in the hall, literally in the moments that a combat takes, I'm pulling out a dusty old tome that every so conveniently was in my room and has info about vampires after being told research takes days and only one of our books is in English)
DM: "Roll percentile"
Me: "I rolled a critical success!"
DM: <Something maybe useful about vampires>
Me: <Repeat what the DM said about vampires in a loud voice and hope the characters can hear me two train cars away where the fight is happening.>


He instead just checks out and gets on his tablet. Heís not invested or even interested in the game at all.

For completely rational reasons due to poor game design, my point of creating this thread.


Heís checked out from the start, it doesnít sound like he had any fun at all through the entire session. Itís not a surprise heís upset about it since he didnít even give it a fair shake, even if the Dm isnít very good or this scenario is not usual for the game. His experience was doomed to be poor from the onset.

I feel like I really did give it a fair shake. I gave it more time than I was willing to give Resident Evil and RE grabbed me and didn't let go.


The point is that youíre pissing and moaning about the odds, when they are actually fairly stacked in your favor. Yeah you can go down to that 15%, but thatís part of the game. If you donít like it donít play and move on.

I don't like it and I can share my opinion based on objective criteria. The point is there is an inherent design problem about making you feel invested in a disposable character that was largely randomly-generated and for whom the odds have been mathematically and objectively stacked against such that he will likely die in a matter of sessions no matter what you do.


Itís totally plausible that the pcs have just gone through a few tough encounters and now they face this level appropriate vampire, a crit could still take out a low HP character like a wizard without too much effort. Maybe the Pcs make a boneheaded move and antagonize a vampire they werenít supposed to fight yet. Pcs do that sort of stuff after all. The situation leading up to the encounter isnít that important. Whatís important is the reaction of the player to such an encounter.

Yes, of course! A D&D game where death is nigh impossible would feel boring and not very challenging. There's a balance you try to achieve where death is always a possibility and sometimes a character will die. Sometimes there will be a TPK. CoC failed miserably in that balance. It is simply non-existent. Your death is likely and largely beyond your control. There are very specific things you have to do to "win" and you either figure those out and do them before you die or not. It's scripted and railroady. Your character is largely irrelevant. It's built into the design of the game that you just make a new character quickly, mostly randomly, and continue trying to accomplish the objective in a very binary fashion. This is a poorly designed game IMHO and I feel like I've presented good evidence for that opinion. If you are invested in that inherently disposable character, you're being irrational.

TheThan
2015-10-22, 06:23 PM
And yet those odds are still astronomically higher than having your character survive several sessions of CoC without the DM fudging rolls or contriving the scene.

Because I understand math and so does my DM and it's an accurate expectation. In fact it anecdotally turned out to be perfectly accurate.


So I say again, you know the score, you go in with low expectations and you get a bad experience with it. sounds like youíre validating everything Iíve said thus far.



I spent an hour on him and have been told by several people in this thread that was too much effort and time.

Fair enough, but your use of the word muggle (a derogatory term for a normal person) suggests that you didnít care for your character after spending an hour on him. What would you have preferred to play instead? Also why do you write up characters you donít enjoy playing?



I wasn't presented with that option. The session was nearly over. It barely lasted over an hour. My character wasn't dead, technically, just rendered borderline paraplegic.

You have to be prompted to try a new character? Really? No ďwell this character is done with for now, let me roll up another while you guys get down to businessĒ or anything similar? Ok. That also tells me you were checked out right then and there.


THat would be meta-gaming. I wasn't even with the other characters. And research? Seriously? You're suggesting that's suddenly going to get me engaged in the game?

Iíve never ever, ever, ever had a DM get bent out of shape for players giving tactical advice during a fight. Even when said playerís character is down. Thatís part of any RPG with combat in it. If a Dm didnít let players talk to one another about what they ought to do in a battle, then they wouldnít get anywhere, it would be a series of one on one duels plus all the players might as well be wearing gags. So I donít buy this argument at all. Thereís every incentive to stay interested in the fight, after all if the enemy wipes the floor with the rest of the group, your characters next. So you have a vested interest in helping your team mates OOC. But since you had already given up on it, you had no interest in trying to lend a hand. After all, that charactersí expendable isnít he.

Besides you were playing a student I believe, donít students study? Or was he on a football scholarship or something. If I had a student character that was nearly killed by a vampire, the first thing I would do would be to do research on them so I know how not to die from one. That might make things easier the next time you come across one and it makes the other players think youíre really smart for doing research and learning how to deal with threats better.


I don't like it and I can share my opinion based on objective criteria. The point is there is an inherent design problem about making you feel invested in a disposable character that was largely randomly-generated and for whom the odds have been mathematically and objectively stacked against such that he will likely die in a matter of sessions no matter what you do.

Fine, but you come off as a whiner that canít stand losing (even though you won despite being taken out of the fight). Iíve died in games Iíve encountered games I donít like but I donít piss and moan about it over the internet.



Yes, of course! A D&D game where death is nigh impossible would feel boring and not very challenging. There's a balance you try to achieve where death is always a possibility and sometimes a character will die. Sometimes there will be a TPK. CoC failed miserably in that balance. It is simply non-existent. Your death is likely and largely beyond your control. There are very specific things you have to do to "win" and you either figure those out and do them before you die or not. It's scripted and railroady. Your character is largely irrelevant. It's built into the design of the game that you just make a new character quickly, mostly randomly, and continue trying to accomplish the objective in a very binary fashion. This is a poorly designed game IMHO and I feel like I've presented good evidence for that opinion. If you are invested in that inherently disposable character, you're being irrational.

I can run scripted, railroady games stacked against the players regardless of what system or setting Iím DMing. That sort of game is not unique to CoC, sure it might be encouraged; it could also even be built into the game. But the Dm ultimately has control of the game; heís the in charge of how rules work if heís allowing that sort of game, itís on his head; no-one else is to blame. You knew what you were signing up for; and you played it anyway. That is on no-one elseís head but you. So stop whining about it and man up. If you donít like it, donít play it.

The idiotic thing is that you won. Your group defeated the vampire, everyone survived (at least to my understanding), despite grievous injury and you're whining about it? OK you know what, I'm done wasting my typing on this thread. I don't have the patience for it.

Raimun
2015-10-22, 07:06 PM
I felt like I'm in this amazing world filled with fascinating magic and creatures and... I'm playing a muggle. The worst game ever would be set in the amazing Harry Potter universe but all the PCs are muggles. That's what it felt like.

I was told that people die a lot but it's no big deal. You just make up another character whom you also don't care about because he's a muggle too. So there are no real stakes. It's like playing Papers and Paychecks where we're workers and students in an industrialized and technological society, except there's a good chance something will kill you.

I spent about an hour making a character. I was asked my profession. "Can it be random?" Nope. "Okay, student. Whatever." He got crit by a vampire after about an hour. I was at -3 hp after my first time getting hit and was getting ready to make another character and someone stabilized me and got me up to 2 hit points (crit on the first aid roll). So now I was back in the game but barely holding my guts in and useless so I got out my Kindle. Then someone finished off the vampire and the session was over fairly quickly. If I play next session, I need to make another character because this one will be in the hospital for a while because the game is realistic, almost like real life where if you get hurt bad you have to sit around in a hospital for a long time and you might be permanently impaired--a crippled muggle.

I play games to escape my boring reality. This game is just a worse reality than my real life. Am I missing something? I guess it's supposed to be scary and I like the idea of a horror game but for me to be scared I have to care about my character, but we're told up front they're basically disposable like tissues, and they're spectacularly ordinary to begin with and inherently hard to care about.

If I had to sum up this game to someone, I'd say "It's Paper and Paychecks where you play an ordinary person a lot like yourself, except you'll probably die soon."

I think you make fair points and I agree with them. I don't really like to play Call of Cthulhu either, even though I've played it many times. If given the choice, I would also rather play a game where I'm not a horror story victim. My reason for that is basically the same as yours: I think the setting works better as a story that you read than as a game you play. Of course, I haven't read that much Lovecraft but what I did read was interesting. However, I wouldn't call myself a Cthulhu-fan.

There is no rule that says you have to like every RPG you play. However, if you do play a game, you should show respect for the effort the others give for the game. The best way to do this is to make the best out of the experience. It's always possible to make an interesting character for yourself, even if you are playing Cthulhu.

The first time I played CoC, I made as a character a regular and dreadfully average academic type fellow. Thought it would be apropos for the setting. Truth be told, the game wasn't that well DMd either. Before we could even find any clues, cultists kidnapped me and I spent the rest of the session as a helpless prisoner. At the end, I was told I'm dead. That's right, I died off screen.

That character was a mistake.

After the game, I realized you could make realistic extraordinary people and that's what I've been doing ever since I've played Cthulhu. The key to this is to think about real life people/professions that would sound extraordinary on the paper. Some of the characters I've made include:

- Ex-army EOD combat veteran.
- Dilettante with more freetime and money than common sense.
- "Real life" "Cowboy Cop" police detective.

Being the police detective was especially fun. I had law enforcement powers, combat skills and I could carry a gun around. I also had valuable investigative skills and a valid, satisfactory and above all, realistic in character-motivation to investigate the strange happenings (which included a murder). That was probably the best thing, because I often struggle to find a good motivation for my character in games of Cthulhu. Besides, I got to be a loose cannon and that made me a force to be reckoned with. :smallcool:

I'd also look at the player characters of Arkham Horror (http://www.arkhamhorrorwiki.com/Investigator) (Cthulhu board game) for character ideas. Pretty much each one of them is a pulp hero.

Edit: I'd like to reiterate what other people have already said: Games of CoC (and horror in general) are hard for the GM to get right.

Edit2: You should also read the story about Old Man Henderson for... inspiration. Don't take it too far, though. :smalltongue:

The Fury
2015-10-22, 08:48 PM
That's not the problem with the game. Again, comparing to Resident Evil, you're all alone in a scary house full of monsters and you're just hoping to survive, but you have a decent chance of that. The math of the game is not such that most characters will likely die no matter what you do. Math is math. It's undeniable. It's not creepy. You're just telling me to go gamble at a casino with horrible odds and where they give you chips when you run out but the chips are ultimately worthless. If you're using this system and you don't kill a lot of PCs, likely every single one of them over a period of time, you're fudging die rolls or contriving the situations and the motivations of the baddies to be less deadly. Is that my DM's failing? That he didn't fudge the die roll--that after the the nth time I was attacked by the vampire and after a lucky streak of n rolls that kept me from being hit even once up to that point, it OF COURSE finally critted. Before he even rolled damage he said "You're probably dead", because he knows math. Really? What the fudge-sickle, CoC?

I don't need to feel powerful. I just need to feel relevant.

I don't think your DM necessarily needed to fudge anything. The problem to me sounds more like one of pacing. Something like a vampire should be something central to the plot, built up and not something that the player characters just stumble across randomly.

In most Call of Cthulhu games I've played there's usually a session or two just devoted to investigating strange happenings and invariably meeting some folks that would like you to stop snooping around. Taking the vampire from the game you were in as an example, to give the typical Lovecraftian sort of flair to the scenario: In a small coastal town, bodies mysteriously start showing up drained of blood. Local authorities uncover more bodies, these ones dead for much longer, in the woods near the area. However all investigations conducted by the local police have ceased and they won't say why. Afterward maybe the player characters come across some armed locals and have a shootout with them and further hints of the town hiding something, which against rational thought seems like it might be supernatural in nature. The player characters discover a hidden basement that seems at the center of this whole mess-- do they go in? Yes? Then you find the vampire.



And yet those odds are still astronomically higher than having your character survive several sessions of CoC without the DM fudging rolls or contriving the scene.


I know how this sounds since I said that I actually like them game, but what the hay? Call of Cthulhu is a game I can play for a few sessions, not really several. In my group, occasionally someone will say: "Hey, I'm a little tired of D&D. How about doing Call of Cthulhu for a few weeks?"
And it's usually fine. For the very reasons you mentioned, the game just doesn't lend itself to long-form stories very well.

Quertus
2015-10-22, 09:58 PM
Call of Cthulhu: cool(ish) setting, in which you are ultimately unimportant utterly insignificant.

Imagine playing D&D, except you will never reach level 2. In fact, you will never reach level 1. No, you're not even a commoner - you're more like a larva. With about equal "if you try to affect the world, you will get squished".

Sure, you can investigate what is going on (and, unlike Dark Heresy, you can have more than a 30% chance of success stats that look better than a 70% chance of fail (and that's on the stuff you're good at)), as long as you don't plan on being able to actually do anything about it.

If you like playing the wise old owl who knows what's going on, and knows better than to do anything about it, Call of Cthulhu is for you.

It's not for me - and I've played that "wise old owl" character in other games.

At least, that what everyone I've gotten face-to-face accounts of Call of Cthulhu has led me to believe.

Raimun
2015-10-22, 10:51 PM
Call of Cthulhu: cool(ish) setting, in which you are ultimately unimportant utterly insignificant.

Imagine playing D&D, except you will never reach level 2. In fact, you will never reach level 1. No, you're not even a commoner - you're more like a larva. With about equal "if you try to affect the world, you will get squished".

Sure, you can investigate what is going on (and, unlike Dark Heresy, you can have more than a 30% chance of success stats that look better than a 70% chance of fail (and that's on the stuff you're good at)), as long as you don't plan on being able to actually do anything about it.

If you like playing the wise old owl who knows what's going on, and knows better than to do anything about it, Call of Cthulhu is for you.

It's not for me - and I've played that "wise old owl" character in other games.

At least, that what everyone I've gotten face-to-face accounts of Call of Cthulhu has led me to believe.

It depends. Sometimes you do get curb stomped for unimaginative narrative reasons. Sometimes you do manage to stop the dark ritual to open a portal by defeating the cultists and a few minor eldritch monsters by taking advantage of their only weakness: bullets and liberal application of violence.

I mean, sometimes you are able to play a "level 1 warrior" in Cthulhu.

Zale
2015-10-22, 10:59 PM
The point is that youíre pissing and moaning about the odds, when they are actually fairly stacked in your favor. Yeah you can go down to that 15%, but thatís part of the game. If you donít like it donít play and move on.

Dude, I understand you feel strongly about this, but you don't need to be so rude. Just because someone has a problem with the way things are happening doesn't mean they're "pissing and moaning".

This whole thread feels really hostile, in fact. Different people look for different things in games- just because someone doesn't enjoy playing a CoC style game doesn't make them a bad person. :\

I mean, I feel like any sort of CoC game shouldn't have combat as a main focus- it should be a climatic thing that gets built up to, something that happens after the tension has built and the story has progressed.

Not, lol here's a vampire first session no warning no provocation.

If someone dies in combat, it should probably be because they went into a situation that was dangerous while knowing there was a risk of danger- if someone decides to just stay home and not go out into the woods where the glowing lights are, they should be fine..

.. of course, that would bring to question why they're characters in CoC.

Raimun
2015-10-22, 11:18 PM
Dude, I understand you feel strongly about this, but you don't need to be so rude. Just because someone has a problem with the way things are happening doesn't mean they're "pissing and moaning".

This whole thread feels really hostile, in fact. Different people look for different things in games- just because someone doesn't enjoy playing a CoC style game doesn't make them a bad person. :\

I mean, I feel like any sort of CoC game shouldn't have combat as a main focus- it should be a climatic thing that gets built up to, something that happens after the tension has built and the story has progressed.

Not, lol here's a vampire first session no warning no provocation.

If someone dies in combat, it should probably be because they went into a situation that was dangerous while knowing there was a risk of danger- if someone decides to just stay home and not go out into the woods where the glowing lights are, they should be fine..

.. of course, that would bring to question why they're characters in CoC.

In my experience, most fights are against "the cultists" (or other people who act weird because of all the strangeness) and they can happen at pretty random. You investigate a clue and dig too deep. Some weird people notice this. They get agitated, you try to talk things out and suddenly things get violent. Normal humans aren't an impossible fight. You only see monsters close to the end. This is par for the course since the days of The Call of Cthulhu, the story story, which culminated to...

... ramming speed by a boat, right to the Cthulhu's face. It worked. Earlier in the story, there was a depiction of a fight against human cultists.

So yeah, random vampire attacks aren't the best way to start a game of Cthulhu.

NichG
2015-10-23, 12:11 AM
This whole thread feels really hostile, in fact. Different people look for different things in games- just because someone doesn't enjoy playing a CoC style game doesn't make them a bad person. :\

At the very start of the thread, most people just said 'you know, its a matter of taste; I like it, but maybe its not for you', but the response to that was 'no, its an objectively bad game, how can you possibly like this?'. I think the hostility in part comes from frustration with having that overture of understanding not met with equal regard in the other direction.

goto124
2015-10-23, 02:50 AM
To the OP: You were under a horrible GM, who made you fight monster battles barely one hour into the game. I hope you find a good GM soon (doesn't have to be CoC. It can be DnD 5e or Dungeon World or insert newbie-friendly game here.).

It Sat Rap
2015-10-23, 05:01 AM
I have played CoC only once in a con session. At the end, our group got crushed by the monster in a horrible way, but still we enjoyed the game a lot. Why? Well, we were mundane people against something overly powerful, but still it feeled like it was our fault that the group got slaughtered, and not the fault of the adventure or the DM. Yes, we might be mundane, but we are not nobodys. Maybe the monsters think we are nobodys, but they are wrong. With teamwork, cunning and a good plan even weak characters can accomplish something great. Yes, we were all killed, but it feeled right. Our mistakes have been punished merciless, better luck next time!

From my point of view CoC is a much harder piece of work for the GM then other games. You need a deeper atmosphere, better roleplaying and you still have to give your players a chance against the overpowered evil, but it shouldn't feel like Gm fiat. Luckely, we had a very good GM, he was also an author who published CoC-adventures, and we played one of his own adventures. Here is a list of things the GM did right, your GM should take a look on these:

-Our characters were all in the same bad situation from the beginning. We didn't know each other, but we realised we have to work together to get out of this.

-We had a deadline. We have to do something or else we are dead in 3 days! Time pressure is important, it adds a lot of tense to the game. (Evil GMs might surprise the characters if the monster shows up earlier then expected, hehe.)

-The monster was a mistery. It was always in the shadow, only revealed it's true nature at the final, we had very little information about what it was and had no clue why it wants to kill us (Only revealed to us at the end). Horror originates in the mind. A vampire that attacks you might be good enough for thrilling combat, but that's not horror. Horror is about the unknown, about the thinking what that weird thing could be.

-Our characters had a goal to work for. We were not told by the GM "Your characters will die anyway". We tried to survive at all costs!

-Strange things were happening to confuse us. They were not really important to the conclusion of the game, but they added a lot to the atmosphere. How are we supposed to know what is real and what is fake in this world?

-We had a chance to escape. It might be hard, it might be unlikely, but it was not impossible.

-It was a culminating process. Not some fight in the first hour of gameplay and we are all dead. The whole thing was a build-up to the final encounter at the end.

-Our characters were mundane, but not useless. We solved problems with thinking, not with dice rolls.

-The GM was a good performer. He yelled, screamed, howled, whispered, jiggled the table, etc. Unfortunatly, we didn't had music and couldn't change the light because it was a game on a con.

-The monster didn't kill us just for fun. The revelation at the end was mind-blowing. It made sense, in a strange way, that the monster was after us. It gives the players a feel of "My character is important to the story", because it was all about us. Other people were killed before, but it the end the only reason for the monster to show up was to kill us, not somebody else.

Well, it was one of the best adventures I have played so far. But it might not be the right game for everybody. I also like playing Pathfinder and being super powerful, but that's not how CoC is meant to be played. The only complain I have about CoC is that it has too much dull investigation in old, dusty librarys. You can give the players clues in other, more entertaining ways.

Dalebert
2015-10-23, 11:50 AM
At the very start of the thread, most people just said 'you know, its a matter of taste; I like it, but maybe its not for you', but the response to that was 'no, its an objectively bad game, how can you possibly like this?'. I think the hostility in part comes from frustration with having that overture of understanding not met with equal regard in the other direction.

Of course everyone can play what they want. I also think a good DM can "rescue" a game from any poorly-designed system and still make a fun game from it. My feeling is this DM is not spectacularly creative in that way but he's also not a bad DM. He's decent. He's just running a module and he has said he doesn't have time to spend a lot of time prepping a completely original campaign. That's beyond his control. He has a job and a regular girlfriend that leave only so much time for game stuff.

I started this thread because I wanted to have a discussion about a game, and have determined through it that my beef is with the mechanics of the game system. Disagreement on that subject doesn't call for such visceral anger. I'm not angry with anyone for liking it and enjoying it. That would be quite silly.

I don't have a beef about the premise. I'll repeat again that I'm a fan of survival horror. I'm a fan of the Lovecraft universe and his fiction. I don't think this system is designed well for that purpose and I've made fairly objective arguments about the system. You don't have to defend your tastes. Tastes are subjective. It's just frustrating when I make points and people are just angry at me and then making completely subjective statements in response, e.g. "Well I had fun and I liked it so *)_$ you! It's just not your type of game so don't play!" But that's not an argument that's relevant to whether the system is designed poorly.

My points, which I have given fairly objective arguments for, boil down to--
* The system is overly deadly mathematically such that you should expect most characters to die within a few sessions, max.
* If you reasonably expect your character to die in a short time, it's inherently difficult to feel invested and to care about them.
* A character who is almost completely random in generation and intended to be generated in a very short time (probably because it expects you to die a lot or otherwise be rendered completely irrelevant like going insane) also does not lend to me feeling invested.
* If you feel doomed, because you understand math, this also lends to your character and his actions feeling irrelevant. Ex: If you can expect to go from max health to dead in one shot with a 15%+ chance with each hit from practically any monster. You can take all sorts of precautions to avoid monsters (as I did), but when those run out, all you can hope for is an incredible streak of lucky rolls. Dice and math are not creepy and scary. It's a cop-out at best to try to scare me by just raising the odds of my death to obscene levels. A really good and expressive DM combined with a great story that sets the mood--these are certainly things that can make a game work but these are unrelated to the system, which is where my beef lies. You can accomplish all of those things with a better system and end up with a better game than using this system, IMHO. Just give me a reasonable chance of having my character's choices and actions matter.
* If only very specific things can change the course of events, like a specific ritual in a specific place, this makes the game feel railroady and again makes the character's actions feel fairly irrelevant. There are basically (this is over-simplified, I admit) two paths--success and failure. This is one point that is not particularly system-related so I have no suggestions off the top of my head for addressing it.


To the OP: You were under a horrible GM, who made you fight monster battles barely one hour into the game. I hope you find a good GM soon (doesn't have to be CoC. It can be DnD 5e or Dungeon World or insert newbie-friendly game here.).

For the Nth time, I joined the game very late. The campaign is almost over. The vampire has been tailing the group and sort of using them to accomplish its goals. They've had encounters with it when it wasn't just hellbent on slaughtering everyone. Now that the party has gathered some items it wants, it showed up and said "hand them over or die". I feel like folks are scapegoating the DM and maybe the particular adventure but that seems to be due to refusing to hear things I've pointed out about this game and my experience with it.

BTW, if it seems my argument has been changing, it's because talking about this and having back and forth with folks has been helpful in me clarifying in my own mind what bothers me about this game system. Even realizing that it's a problem with the system and not the premise or setting of the game is something I've figured out from this thread. So I thank everyone for their feedback, even those who disagree strongly.

NichG
2015-10-23, 01:10 PM
Of course everyone can play what they want. I also think a good DM can "rescue" a game from any poorly-designed system and still make a fun game from it. My feeling is this DM is not spectacularly creative in that way but he's also not a bad DM. He's decent. He's just running a module and he has said he doesn't have time to spend a lot of time prepping a completely original campaign. That's beyond his control. He has a job and a regular girlfriend that leave only so much time for game stuff.

I started this thread because I wanted to have a discussion about a game, and have determined through it that my beef is with the mechanics of the game system. Disagreement on that subject doesn't call for such visceral anger. I'm not angry with anyone for liking it and enjoying it. That would be quite silly.

I don't have a beef about the premise. I'll repeat again that I'm a fan of survival horror. I'm a fan of the Lovecraft universe and his fiction. I don't think this system is designed well for that purpose and I've made fairly objective arguments about the system. You don't have to defend your tastes. Tastes are subjective. It's just frustrating when I make points and people are just angry at me and then making completely subjective statements in response, e.g. "Well I had fun and I liked it so *)_$ you! It's just not your type of game so don't play!" But that's not an argument that's relevant to whether the system is designed poorly.

The problem is the following kind of interaction.

Original post: "Here's my personal experience and why I didn't have fun with Call of Cthulhu in this one game. Here are the details. Do you like Call of Cthulhu, why?"
Other posters: "Okay, thanks for sharing, here's my own experience where I did enjoy it, and why."

So far so good, but the premise of this doesn't look like 'lets debate whether its a good system', it looks like you're legitimately trying to query a larger pool of experiences to understand things more broadly.

But that sets up the expectation that the standard of discussion is about the subjective experiences and different points of view. It gets weird when you turn around and start to make arguments about objective points, including things like 'if you get attached to your character, you're being irrational'. It feels like a betrayal of the initial premise under which people shared their experiences, and its very easy to read as 'no, your subjective experience is less correct than mine', which is a kind of attack.

If we drop all that, and just talk about this from a game design point of view, we need certain scaffolding which was not in place when the conversation started. That is, we need to explicitly recognize the intended audience and experience that we're trying to design the system to evoke. Disagreement on the goals at that stage is subjective disagreement, and falls under a matter of taste. Once that has been pinned down, then its possible to objectively debate how to most effectively achieve that end.

To propose such a set of design goals in accordance with what I see CoC as trying to achieve, I would say:

- The target is for the players to experience real feelings of mystery, curiosity, uncertainty, dread, and hopelessness/futility, and to explore how they themselves can cope with those experiences and find positive things within them.

The clear design challenge give that goal is how to induce a feeling of hopelessness without instead inducing a feeling of frustration. E.g. how to communicate that the player is 'supposed' to feel hopeless, rather than to feel frustrated that they cannot abate that situation. In your critique you mention feeling doomed; I would say, the question then is how to teach the player how to derive enjoyment from the experience of feeling (and, in fact, being) doomed.

In terms of useful material to achieve this, I'd say look at what happens with people who have terminal illnesses. Some people when they know they're doomed use it as an excuse to do things that are very risky or damaging to them or represent a disproportionate sacrifice, because they know they won't have to pay the cost. That's the place we want help encourage players to go, rather into the 'I can't do anything to not be doomed, so I just won't do anything' state.

Magic Myrmidon
2015-10-23, 03:00 PM
I know CoC isn't my style of game, personally. I hate futility. I do like to play to feel powerful, competent, and accomplished.

That said, I probably would go nuts in the first hour or so of a CoC game, because I'm more likely to play somebody seeking to be the power-mongering cult-controlling ritualist than anybody horrified by the very nature of it. My personal, RL mindset is such that I find the Lovecraftian notion that there are things man was not meant to know to be abhorrent. Knowledge is power.

Yeah, same here. I haven't played CoC, but I'm pretty sure I'd never want to, mainly because I don't like Lovecraft. I really hate the fact that it preaches "Ignorance is bliss". It just goes against some of my deeper moral beliefs. Furthermore, I just can't buy into the idea that there is some knowledge that human beings simply couldn't handle. I find it pretty ridiculous that knowing about giant tentacle creatures drive someone insane. And, of course, I hate futility, in any story. If there's no hope in a situation, I find it pretty impossible to get invested, because there's nothing to stay invested for. I simply don't get any enjoyment out of a character's pointless death or insanity.

If the point was "Sure, YOU may die, but your efforts may pave the way for others to finally overcome this danger", I'd be fine. But when the whole point is "It's inevitable, everyone will die, it will be miserable, and humans are just tiny amoeba on the face of blahblah", I just can't stomach it. Mainly because, as time goes on, humanity has overcome bigger and bigger problems, and I'm pretty confident that trend will continue.

Dalebert
2015-10-23, 04:12 PM
Original post: "Here's my personal experience and why I didn't have fun with Call of Cthulhu in this one game. Here are the details. Do you like Call of Cthulhu, why?"

Maybe read it again. I think from the get-go I was addressing things about the nature of the game itself and why I think it's prone to problems. I didn't say "I died fast so this game sucks." It was only later that I really got into the details of my particular session.


Other posters: "Okay, thanks for sharing, here's my own experience where I did enjoy it, and why."

That seems kind. If you look again, I think you'll see a lot of dismissiveness about me like I missed the point or I don't like games where I don't have amazing powers and so on. I had to spend a fair amount of time debunking strawmans of my points and defending my DM and the module being used as scapegoats which I don't think are the problem at all. I particularly don't think so the more I've explored it and after I got familiar with the math and mechanics of the game.


It gets weird when you turn around and start to make arguments about objective points, including things like 'if you get attached to your character, you're being irrational'. It feels like a betrayal of the initial premise under which people shared their experiences, and its very easy to read as 'no, your subjective experience is less correct than mine', which is a kind of attack.

I addressed the game mechanics very early on, to some extent in the very first post, about why I think the game system contributes to difficulty feeling invested or caring about your character. I've presented what I think are strong arguments that the mechanics contribute to that. I don't think I've been disingenuous at any point or suddenly changed gears. I feel like I've asked some very valid questions and I've tried to put substance behind why I feel that way--How do you rationally get invested in or feel attachment to a character whom you know is 1) set up to die quickly 2) Has minimal impact on the story 3) is randomly and quickly generated (possibly due to 1)? Those are all factors inherent in the game mechanics that I feel make it very challenging at best.


The clear design challenge give that goal is how to induce a feeling of hopelessness without instead inducing a feeling of frustration. E.g. how to communicate that the player is 'supposed' to feel hopeless, rather than to feel frustrated that they cannot abate that situation. In your critique you mention feeling doomed; I would say, the question then is how to teach the player how to derive enjoyment from the experience of feeling (and, in fact, being) doomed.

Is that the question? I don't feel it is. I think the question is whether the system is poorly designed and whether CoC might be redeemable played under a better system. That's just how I feel and that's the case I've been making. However, if you want to present that question and some discussion around it as possibly addressing any problems with the system, you can certainly make that case.

JellyPooga
2015-10-23, 05:47 PM
* The system is overly deadly mathematically such that you should expect most characters to die within a few sessions, max.

This, you first point in the list, is where your conception/perception needs to change to enjoy CoC.

The system is deadly, yes. This is a feature of both the system and the setting. If you get shot, expect it to put you down, if not kill you. If you fight a ghoul, expect his superhuman strength to tear you to shreds and for him to feast on your remains. If you so much as look at some things, expect your mind to shatter.

If you, as a Player Character, choose to go around encountering situations in which you're under fire, fighting ghouls or beholding Great Cthulhu himself, yeah, expect to be dead within a session or two. This game system is not designed for that style of play. You actively avoid those situations, if you can possibly help it. It's about making the choices that keep you alive. It's survival horror, with more emphasis on the survival bit.

I've played several sessions in a row, before, in which there wasn't a single fight or encounter with a mythos creature; we spent time in the library, at the newspaper office, down the police station and talking to witnesses. We knew that we could have fast-tracked, gone straight to the "action site" and encountered whatever grisly fate lay in store for us there...but we chose to do our homework first. As as result of that homework (which took two or three very enjoyable roleplaying sessions, as I mentioned), when it came to crunch-time, every one of the five of us survived. Every one. Sure there were some close calls and no-one came out unscathed (whether mentally, physically or both), but our characters lived to see another adventure.

If that style of campaign or game is not up your alley, then CoC is not for you. From what you said in the OP, however, it just sounds like you weren't given the gaming experience CoC is designed for. You were given a D&D style gaming experience with a system that simply isn't suited to that style of play.

As for not feeling any connection or inclination to feel connected to your character; if the randomness is bothering you (and it's no more random a method than, say, D&D), use the optional point-buy character generation. If the short-lived nature of your character is bothering you (because of the maths), play the game to its strength; avoid fights, run away if you have to, plead, no beg, for your life if it comes to it.

You're only human in this game. Act like one. That's where the connection is; you're not some mighty hero or alien race, you're not some cybered-up killing machine that can wade through a hail of bullets to punch you assailant in the face, or a Wizard that can command the eldritch majesty of his arcane might. You're just a dude; a far-fetched and/or caricatured dude, perhaps, but you're still only a man or woman, with all the frailties and flaws that entails. You know how your character feels because it's how you might feel in that situation. That guy charging in at the eldritch horror that leaped out at you because "we must be supposed to fight it (and be able to win) because the GM wouldn't put it in the adventure otherwise"? That guy's a moron. What would you really do? Run? Scream? Faint? The eldritch horror might be there as a combat encounter, sure, but then it might also be there to stop you investigating that area at that time or to chase you to a particular locale or even just to rob you of some sanity. Second guessing the GM in other systems might work, but it's practically suicidal to do it in CoC.

You can have your escapism by playing a hot-shot pilot or a hard-boiled gumshoe detective or a suave, sophisticated femme fatale, or whatever, but don't think of it as an action film, where the protagonists are larger than life, plot-armoured heroes. This is more like a noir film, where the protagonists are interesting in the way only a written character can be, but they're still just people; if you jump off a building into a dumpster, expect to break a leg (or at least the risk of it).

RadioDask
2015-10-23, 05:56 PM
* The system is overly deadly mathematically such that you should expect most characters to die within a few sessions, max.
* If you reasonably expect your character to die in a short time, it's inherently difficult to feel invested and to care about them.
* A character who is almost completely random in generation and intended to be generated in a very short time (probably because it expects you to die a lot or otherwise be rendered completely irrelevant like going insane) also does not lend to me feeling invested.
* If you feel doomed, because you understand math, this also lends to your character and his actions feeling irrelevant. Ex: If you can expect to go from max health to dead in one shot with a 15%+ chance with each hit from practically any monster. You can take all sorts of precautions to avoid monsters (as I did), but when those run out, all you can hope for is an incredible streak of lucky rolls. Dice and math are not creepy and scary. It's a cop-out at best to try to scare me by just raising the odds of my death to obscene levels. A really good and expressive DM combined with a great story that sets the mood--these are certainly things that can make a game work but these are unrelated to the system, which is where my beef lies. You can accomplish all of those things with a better system and end up with a better game than using this system, IMHO. Just give me a reasonable chance of having my character's choices and actions matter.

I think, while what you've said above is certainly true, that the experience you've had, while, again, confirming the above, is not in line with the way most CoC players experience the game.

The reason combat is deadly and ineffective is to encourage other tactics to deal with situations. Players should be investigating, discovering information, and using other tools at their disposal to handle the situation (namely spells, traps, explosives, and intricate planning). Combat should not look like;
1. A vampire appears out of thin air.
2. You all act scared.
3. Vampire bites and instantly downs you for the count.
4. People fire crappy .38 pistols ineffectually
5. Vampire runs off for now leaving you useless.

But;
1. You scout out the mansion.
2. You discover a vampire, it injures you.
3. Party runs for the hills with you after treating you with first Aid.
4. Plan, wait a week for you to recover.
5. Come back to the mansion with better planning and knowledge.
6. Blow the foundations out from under the house with blasting caps.
7. End anything that crawls from the wreckage with machine gun fire and wooden stakes. OR organize a mob of villagers to take out the vampire OR cast a spell to find its coffin and infiltrate the house during the day with holy water and garlic to protect you. Etc, etc.

Combat should require a superior tactics and extensive knowledge and planning. Players are meant to out-think the monsters and combat ancient evils with no effective tools other than their wits.

Sometimes, the goal isn't to kill the thing; it may be just to escape with your life. If you know you can fight a monster one on one with some guns and decent aim, why would you be scared by it in the first place?

Mr. Mask
2015-10-23, 06:40 PM
Knaight: What is Trail of Cthulhu like?



Fighting Monsters: I feel evading monsters works out much better. Instead of working out a one room encounter, work out more of a stealth game. If the vampire is asleep, great, you kill them and leave. If not... you hide, try to escape, and try to not breathe if it's passing by. You might want combat to feature a stunning mechanic and favour surprise, so if the vampire is reaching around under the desks to see if you're there, you can stake its hand to the floor and have a chance to run away (proceed to vampire grabbing at your coat with its other hand, rolling to undo coat and scramble free, attempts to reunite with your better-armed colleagues, and possible twist with more vampire monsters).

Chipping away at the monster in such a more-tense atmosphere with more chance for flight is simply more interesting. I assumed the way CoC worked is that combat is so hard that it's more an exercise in, "escape in as few rounds as possible, and try to slow the monster down or injure it enough to make it leave." Though I guess it doesn't have the mechanical depth for that.

Hawkstar
2015-10-23, 06:49 PM
Call of Cthulhu: cool(ish) setting, in which you are ultimately unimportant utterly insignificant.

Imagine playing D&D, except you will never reach level 2. In fact, you will never reach level 1. No, you're not even a commoner - you're more like a larva. With about equal "if you try to affect the world, you will get squished".

Sure, you can investigate what is going on (and, unlike Dark Heresy, you can have more than a 30% chance of success stats that look better than a 70% chance of fail (and that's on the stuff you're good at)), as long as you don't plan on being able to actually do anything about it.

If you like playing the wise old owl who knows what's going on, and knows better than to do anything about it, Call of Cthulhu is for you.

It's not for me - and I've played that "wise old owl" character in other games.

At least, that what everyone I've gotten face-to-face accounts of Call of Cthulhu has led me to believe.I think you're trying to overstate the helplessness of the characters. More like "Imagine playing D&D, but only E3, and none of the nonhuman monsters are below CR 11."

Hawkstar
2015-10-23, 08:03 PM
My points, which I have given fairly objective arguments for, boil down to--None of these are objective.

* The system is overly deadly mathematically such that you should expect most characters to die within a few sessions, max.Or you can use your knowledge that the odds are against you in dangerous situations to avoid those situations.


* If you reasonably expect your character to die in a short time, it's inherently difficult to feel invested and to care about them.This is entirely subjective on all levels.

* A character who is almost completely random in generation and intended to be generated in a very short time (probably because it expects you to die a lot or otherwise be rendered completely irrelevant like going insane) also does not lend to me feeling invested.Sounds like a personal, subjective problem. The system doesn't expect you to die a lot as an individual - but it does expect someone in the party to die at some point. Or maybe even several someones at several points.

* If you feel doomed, because you understand math, this also lends to your character and his actions feeling irrelevant. Ex: If you can expect to go from max health to dead in one shot with a 15%+ chance with each hit from practically any monster. You can take all sorts of precautions to avoid monsters (as I did), but when those run out, all you can hope for is an incredible streak of lucky rolls. Dice and math are not creepy and scary. It's a cop-out at best to try to scare me by just raising the odds of my death to obscene levels. A really good and expressive DM combined with a great story that sets the mood--these are certainly things that can make a game work but these are unrelated to the system, which is where my beef lies. You can accomplish all of those things with a better system and end up with a better game than using this system, IMHO. Just give me a reasonable chance of having my character's choices and actions matter.If those run out, you done goofed somewhere, or the stakes are such that the risk must be taken. That said - the system is about the group, not the individual. Sometimes a player's character will die - sucks to be them, but it's needed to maintain the tone. That's why getting back into the game needs to be fast. Take one for the team when your turn comes up, then reroll.


* If only very specific things can change the course of events, like a specific ritual in a specific place, this makes the game feel railroady and again makes the character's actions feel fairly irrelevant. There are basically (this is over-simplified, I admit) two paths--success and failure. This is one point that is not particularly system-related so I have no suggestions off the top of my head for addressing it.Not railroady. Just train-stationy. The challenge is ensuring that you get to the ritual in a specific place. Yes, there are only two outcomes, success and failure, but, unless it's at the "Game Over, win or lose" point in the campaign, both should have the game keep going, but with different parameters. (Note to DMs - Never threaten anything you're unwilling to break)


For the Nth time, I joined the game very late. The campaign is almost over. The vampire has been tailing the group and sort of using them to accomplish its goals. They've had encounters with it when it wasn't just hellbent on slaughtering everyone. Now that the party has gathered some items it wants, it showed up and said "hand them over or die". I feel like folks are scapegoating the DM and maybe the particular adventure but that seems to be due to refusing to hear things I've pointed out about this game and my experience with it.The problem here is you were never invested in the game. You joined at a bad point, and didn't have time to get involved with what was going on. You weren't invested in the group, so you only cared about your character, who ended up being a horror victim extra because of it.

NichG
2015-10-23, 08:49 PM
I addressed the game mechanics very early on, to some extent in the very first post, about why I think the game system contributes to difficulty feeling invested or caring about your character. I've presented what I think are strong arguments that the mechanics contribute to that. I don't think I've been disingenuous at any point or suddenly changed gears. I feel like I've asked some very valid questions and I've tried to put substance behind why I feel that way--How do you rationally get invested in or feel attachment to a character whom you know is 1) set up to die quickly 2) Has minimal impact on the story 3) is randomly and quickly generated (possibly due to 1)? Those are all factors inherent in the game mechanics that I feel make it very challenging at best.


Along the lines of the discussion further down, I feel like I need to ask: what are you looking for in this part of debate. Do you actually want me to share subjective experiences about how I would make myself get invested, or is this just a rhetorical point?

From the point of view of rationality, if the objective function is 'have fun', and you come up with a chain of logic that results in convincing you that you should take a stance which prevents you from being able to have fun, there's an error somewhere in your chain of logic or you're dealing with something that isn't really about being rational in the first place.


Is that the question? I don't feel it is. I think the question is whether the system is poorly designed and whether CoC might be redeemable played under a better system. That's just how I feel and that's the case I've been making. However, if you want to present that question and some discussion around it as possibly addressing any problems with the system, you can certainly make that case.

My point in focusing it along these lines is that judging 'is CoC a good system?' isn't particularly useful. If you imagine that everyone had just said 'yeah I agree, CoC sucks, thread over', it wouldn't really have helped you or them get anywhere new that you would enjoy. If you say 'CoC promises a certain kind of experience that I want, but did not receive, how do I get it?' then that's more productive because it moves towards actually resolving your discontent; that's more along the lines of people sharing their own subjective experiences and explaining how they did successfully enjoy CoC for whatever reasons. So that's also what you've said you don't really want to do.

So leaving that out, I think 'lets design a system to do what CoC tries to do, but better' is a lot more useful of a question to consider than 'is the system poorly designed?'. It also is an intrinsically much more objective topic - you can think that CoC is well-designed or poorly-designed or whatever for purely subjective reasons, and trying to mix that with objective argument just leads to people feeling that their tastes and opinions are being dismissed. But once you've defined the goal carefully, you can have a much more objective discussion on how to bring that goal about.

huttj509
2015-10-24, 12:39 AM
It also depends a LOT on the module. I've seen a lot of badly designed modules over the years (D&D 3.5, levels 4-6, to even enter the dungeon required dispel magic which is generally not available until level 5, for example).

A badly written module, with a GM who doesn't know how to account for it, can easily kill the enthusiasm in a system such as CoC.

For a parallel example, I'm in a 3.5 running of Expedition to Castle Ravenloft. Now, I love Ravenloft, but this module, as we've experienced it, is simply playing it as a meatgrinder.

Ravenloft, at its best, is similar in feel to CoC. The monsters are tough, but can be overcome with research and preparation (think gothic horror such as Bram Stoker's Dracula, or Frankenstein, or The Island of Dr. Moreau, or The Fall of the House of Usher). Meanwhile, in this module, we have NO avenues for research, and no option to retreat, so we need to just keep flinging ourselves at the castle over and over (The vistani were against us due to chance).

As an example, we were sent to the town of Ravenloft. Fine. We get there, and it's being attacked by zombies. We literally can do nothing until the zombie scourge is ended, and it seems to be coming from the church. We're level 5 or so. In the basement, we find a monster with a +hit of "yes" (I think he'd miss on a roll of 4 or lower), and if the person he hits isn't evil, that person is automatically stunned for a round (no save). Our cleric was simply stunlocked to death while we tried to hurt the thing and deal with the other stuff in the basement. Retreat wasn't an option because the zombies would keep coming.

It's exhausting, and not in a fun way. I could make a character who wasn't trying to be a cheesy combat monster, but my reward would be getting to make a new character.

Dalebert
2015-10-24, 10:38 AM
This thread has actually convinced me to give the game another chance. I was definitely on the fence and leaning toward not making another character and rejoining the party. I feared I would just bring a bunch of negativity to the game and I didn't want to spoil it for the others if they're able to push the "I believe" button or the "I care" button or whatever and I just couldn't find a way to do that.


The problem here is you were never invested in the game. You joined at a bad point, and didn't have time to get involved with what was going on. You weren't invested in the group, so you only cared about your character, who ended up being a horror victim extra because of it.

I think this may be true. One thing people keep repeating in this thread--that because combat is so deadly, you should avoid it at all costs and explore every possible option--was told to me before the campaign even started (and I chose not to play then), and then repeated again before this session when I decided to join and give it a try. The DM said after that this was an unusual stage of the campaign where the monster is relentlessly pursuing you and combat is unavoidable and that's the game where I ended up joining. It left a really horrible first impression on me. It was also a bizarre coincidence that I decided my character was into archery as a hobby and wooden weapons (the crossbow bolts) were a serious vulnerability. This was a mixed blessing because it also made my character the primary threat to the vampire and it focused it's attacks on me and/or the crossbow itself.

The reason I chose not to play in the first place was because the way the game was described sounded hard to get invested in. I was warned characters very much can and do die a lot and that you just make a new character rapidly and rejoin, often the new character being some NPC who just happened to be there at the time. Maybe I took that the wrong way, but that sure sounds to me like these are particularly uninteresting characters. It's not just that you're mundane, but it seemed to encourage you making exceptionally mundane and unexceptional and unsuited for the game type characters. I have loved Arkham Horror the boardgame, also very deadly and you play "technically" mundanes, but at least the characters seemed suited in some way for this horrific world. I felt like making a character like that was a form of meta-gaming, i.e. acting on knowledge that I'm not supposed to have being a random person on the scene who doesn't even know these horrors exist. So why would I be particularly trained or prepared for that? Maybe I was mistaken or given the wrong impression. When he asked my profession and I said "whatever", that wasn't me not caring. I was trying not to meta-game.


This is entirely subjective on all levels.
Sounds like a personal, subjective problem. The system doesn't expect you to die a lot as an individual - but it does expect someone in the party to die at some point. Or maybe even several someones at several points.

Not a single person in the party is still playing their first character. My first (possibly skewed) experience of being removed from the game after an hour of play seemed validated by this fact even though previous sessions presumably had few cases of combat being unavoidable. They'd all been made aware of the deadliness of direct confrontation before the campaign and yet they'd all died, some more than once.

Given my first personal experience and the fact that the other players seem to be cycling through characters, I hope you'll forgive my impression that this game just chews characters up and spits them out.


For a parallel example, I'm in a 3.5 running of Expedition to Castle Ravenloft. Now, I love Ravenloft, but this module, as we've experienced it, is simply playing it as a meatgrinder.

I'm running a 5e version of that for several groups as a Halloween one-shot and I've had similar concerns that it's set up as a player-killer. I feel like I can run it such that it won't be. Funny thing is I'm telling the players the same advice that seems to commonly precede CoC games--"If you don't play smartly and just run in, guns ablazing, you gonna die!"

In the basement, we find a monster with a +hit of "yes" (I think he'd miss on a roll of 4 or lower), and if the person he hits isn't evil, that person is automatically stunned for a round (no save). Our cleric was simply stunlocked to death while we tried to hurt the thing and deal with the other stuff in the basement. Retreat wasn't an option because the zombies would keep coming.

Wow, really? I don't know what encounter you're referring to or even the location where it takes place. I scoured both the 1e and 5e versions and didn't see anything like that. Funny thing is I did actually did create that location for my games and put a minor flavor encounter there but no new monsters.


Along the lines of the discussion further down, I feel like I need to ask: what are you looking for in this part of debate. Do you actually want me to share subjective experiences about how I would make myself get invested, or is this just a rhetorical point?

Considering that I've been persuaded to give this game another chance (as open-minded as possible and definitely trying hard to suppress any negativity that would spoil everyone else's fun) I guess I would like some advice on making a character that is acceptable, as far as not meta-gaming, and also well-suited and interesting. I have some notions but I don't know if they're okay to do.


From the point of view of rationality, if the objective function is 'have fun', and you come up with a chain of logic that results in convincing you that you should take a stance which prevents you from being able to have fun, there's an error somewhere in your chain of logic or you're dealing with something that isn't really about being rational in the first place.


Eesh. That's begging the question. I've conceded a great DM can rescue a game from a poor system but this simply assumes my premise is false--that it may in fact be a poorly designed system. I'm holding off on that judgement a bit longer myself but I'm not willing to jump to the conclusion that it's always my fault and never the game itself if I'm not having fun.


My point in focusing it along these lines is that judging 'is CoC a good system?' isn't particularly useful. If you imagine that everyone had just said 'yeah I agree, CoC sucks, thread over', it wouldn't really have helped you or them get anywhere new that you would enjoy.

If that's what I got, it would probably have pushed me over to the side of the fence I was already leaning toward--not playing again, and maybe that would have been the right decision. We'll see. If I end up going anyway and hating it, I will feel like I've wasted my time and just gotten yet more enraged at this game and possibly failing to suppress my negativity in a way that spoils the fun the others are managing to have. That would not be good! These are good friends. If I'm going to hate it and it's going to spoil their fun, then I definitely don't want that. I'm going to give it a shot and try to enjoy it. If not, I'll just constantly remind myself to at least tough it out and not spoil the fun for others.


If you say 'CoC promises a certain kind of experience that I want, but did not receive, how do I get it?' then that's more productive because it moves towards actually resolving your discontent; that's more along the lines of people sharing their own subjective experiences and explaining how they did successfully enjoy CoC for whatever reasons. So that's also what you've said you don't really want to do.


But that's essentially what's happened. I've concluded that maybe my conclusions are heavily colored by some unfortunate coincidences.


So leaving that out, I think 'lets design a system to do what CoC tries to do, but better' is a lot more useful of a question to consider than 'is the system poorly designed?'.

I don't really think that's necessary. I'm actually running a D&D game that's heavily inspired by Lovecraft. It's essentially CoC in a D&D world with D&D characters. I feel pretty good about achieving that same horrifying atmosphere and sense of impending doom. I warned the players that there are times they will need to run away. Don't assume that because it's there, you can just charge in with guns a blazing and take it. The very first couple of sessions set this mood. I didn't need an inherently deadly system. I just needed to put things that were clearly out of their league that forced them to be smart about how they deal with them. The math was effectively the same. If they charged in against high CR creatures, they were doomed.

I still feel that the idea that every time you see anything supernatural, you have to roll for madness seems forced to me. If anything, it trivializes it. In a recent D&D game, there are certain events that can cause players to save against madness but it's not every single thing that you might encounter of a supernatural nature so the effect isn't diluted. In the game I was in, something truly horrific occurred and when the DM said we had to make wisdom saves against madness, I didn't feel like scoffing. It was done well and I was sold.

NichG
2015-10-24, 11:55 AM
This thread has actually convinced me to give the game another chance. I was definitely on the fence and leaning toward not making another character and rejoining the party. I feared I would just bring a bunch of negativity to the game and I didn't want to spoil it for the others if they're able to push the "I believe" button or the "I care" button or whatever and I just couldn't find a way to do that.

Considering that I've been persuaded to give this game another chance (as open-minded as possible and definitely trying hard to suppress any negativity that would spoil everyone else's fun) I guess I would like some advice on making a character that is acceptable, as far as not meta-gaming, and also well-suited and interesting. I have some notions but I don't know if they're okay to do.

Given what you've told us, what I might try in this situation is to figure out something I can hold on to as a player across character death and replacement. For example, I might decide to take some aspect of my morality or beliefs or tendencies and try to create characters that explore different facets of that question, using the backdrop of the events of the game as a crucible to put those things to the test. For example, I might make characters with different kinds of strong beliefs that are different than my real-life ones, to explore how those beliefs break down or stand up on exposure to stressful situations. How does a very religious character deal with it? How does a pacifist deal with it? How does a scientist deal with it? How does an utter utilitarian pragmatist deal with it? How about someone who is secretly a bit suicidal, but whose survival instincts keep kicking in? Do some of them bear up better against the desolation than others? What 'makes sense' in my mind as I follow them through their breaking?

So if a character dies, I have the next idea ready, but its not like I lost whatever I discovered from the previous character - each different character is adding to a central theme which I'm exploring.



Eesh. That's begging the question. I've conceded a great DM can rescue a game from a poor system but this simply assumes my premise is false--that it may in fact be a poorly designed system. I'm holding off on that judgement a bit longer myself but I'm not willing to jump to the conclusion that it's always my fault and never the game itself if I'm not having fun.


Its not really about fault, more a philosophical point about self-optimization I guess. Anyhow, I'm not sure this is relevant to the discussion anymore.


I still feel that the idea that every time you see anything supernatural, you have to roll for madness seems forced to me. If anything, it trivializes it. In a recent D&D game, there are certain events that can cause players to save against madness but it's not every single thing that you might encounter of a supernatural nature so the effect isn't diluted. In the game I was in, something truly horrific occurred and when the DM said we had to make wisdom saves against madness, I didn't feel like scoffing. It was done well and I was sold.

I'm kinda meh about it. On the one hand, death spirals are pretty effective generators of tension. On the other hand, the fact of the matter is that Lovecraft's sense of mental stability just hasn't kept up with the times. If you use the default chart as written, the entire thing does feel a bit ridiculous because it doesn't really take context into account (random person suddenly finding a corpse in their house, sure, nervous breakdown; cop seeing a corpse on a murder scene when he was mentally prepared for it in advance, should be a totally different matter), and Lovecraft generally thought things were mind-breaking that by modern standards aren't so difficult to wrap one's head around. On the other hand, one fix there is to use the rolls sparingly and make sure never to use them as a crutch to 'make' the players find something scary that isn't really.

I was in a game where there were various 'taints' you could get points of on a 0 to 10 scale, some good, some bad. At one point, I got a single point of a taint that we hadn't encountered before and had no idea what it did. However, what was very effective at creeping me out (and actually inducing me to make some rather drastic decisions) was the fact that that particular taint grew at a rate of 10% per game. This was D&D based but heavily modified, and I spent the next 10 games or so trying to find a way to deal with the exponential growth. Eventually I found a method which involved permanently burning away all my MaxHP from levels (so I just had HP from Con), which would stop the growth but not get rid of the taint. Objectively its a pretty crappy deal when you figure that I had maybe 30-40 games before the taint maxed out its growth, which is a good chunk of a campaign, but I was creeped out enough to immediately take that deal and do it.

Knaight
2015-10-24, 11:58 AM
Knaight: What is Trail of Cthulhu like?


It's a GUMSHOE game, which means that it does two things well. One is that it is built from the ground up for investigation games, where investigating things is a major point of what's going on. So it has a more robust clue system, investigation is a whole category of skills that are usable for digging for additional information, etc. The other big thing it does is model resources ever dwindling (at least over the course of an arc), where the players have to be careful about how they spend their time before the trail goes cold and time's up.

Dalebert
2015-10-24, 12:51 PM
If you use the default chart as written, the entire thing does feel a bit ridiculous because it doesn't really take context into account (random person suddenly finding a corpse in their house, sure, nervous breakdown; cop seeing a corpse on a murder scene when he was mentally prepared for it in advance, should be a totally different matter), and Lovecraft generally thought things were mind-breaking that by modern standards aren't so difficult to wrap one's head around. On the other hand, one fix there is to use the rolls sparingly and make sure never to use them as a crutch to 'make' the players find something scary that isn't really.

So it's a chart and not something attached to a monster? I guess my DM was using it fairly bluntly. He had described me as someone who had experienced some weird stuff and knew supernatural things were going on in the world. It's why my professor sent me to help this team. When I saw a vampire, I failed to rationalize it away. I guess I made my intelligence roll or something instead of failing it. And therefore I lost sanity points. Why would I even be trying to rationalize it away when I'm on a mission that I know to be of a supernatural nature?

Yeah, it definitely felt forced. Maybe some more contextual application of that could help. It's like this game is screaming at me, "You're fraigile! Do you hear me? FRAGILE!" Okay, okay. Geebers. :)

Oh, and BTW, at the risk of taking this thread in a very different direction, what do you think this says about people who believe in the supernatural and even seem to revel in it? What about the ghost-facers and the psychics and witches who believe they're casting spells. These folks are downright eager to come face-to-face with a ghost or faeries or maybe even a vampire, or claim they already have. Heck. Maybe they did (I don't think so but I don't claim to have a monopoly on truth). Such things would be incredibly validating to their belief systems. Seems like this premise is suggesting that absolutely not. Why? Because you're not in an insane asylum.

mephnick
2015-10-24, 01:14 PM
If you're in combat you've already lost the game, your DM shouldn't just throw vampires at you.

Any combat should be the result of totally messing up at the wrong time, or a last ditch ever at the climax to eek out a "victory". You can easily win a CoC adventure, but it's all going to be done through investigation and roleplaying, almost never through combat. Deaths shouldn't be expected in short arcs until the end, but in a longer arc, part of the fun of CoC is getting as much done with one character, then picking up where they left off (sometimes years down the line) with another character.

I will say CoC is the most DM dependent game I've ever played, because you do have to craft a good story with a good investigative element. You can't just go "oh crap, didn't expect that.....fight these things for a bit!" like you can with D&D.

Hawkstar
2015-10-24, 03:28 PM
So it's a chart and not something attached to a monster? I guess my DM was using it fairly bluntly. He had described me as someone who had experienced some weird stuff and knew supernatural things were going on in the world. It's why my professor sent me to help this team. When I saw a vampire, I failed to rationalize it away. I guess I made my intelligence roll or something instead of failing it. And therefore I lost sanity points. Why would I even be trying to rationalize it away when I'm on a mission that I know to be of a supernatural nature?

Yeah, it definitely felt forced. Maybe some more contextual application of that could help. It's like this game is screaming at me, "You're fraigile! Do you hear me? FRAGILE!" Okay, okay. Geebers. :)

Oh, and BTW, at the risk of taking this thread in a very different direction, what do you think this says about people who believe in the supernatural and even seem to revel in it? What about the ghost-facers and the psychics and witches who believe they're casting spells. These folks are downright eager to come face-to-face with a ghost or faeries or maybe even a vampire, or claim they already have. Heck. Maybe they did (I don't think so but I don't claim to have a monopoly on truth). Such things would be incredibly validating to their belief systems. Seems like this premise is suggesting that absolutely not. Why? Because you're not in an insane asylum.Those people, in CoC, are already near SAN 0, and validation of those beliefs puts them over. Sanity, in Cthulhu, is one's ability to cling to the comfortable lie of normal existence. Actually believing in the supernatural is a form of insanity. (That said, I do think CoC handles insanity weirdly, by trying to use it to stick unrelated mental issues with it. I'm sorry, but at the point you're shouting about vampires eating everyone, shooting up a church because you thought it was full of evil cultists, stealing a helicopter and dropping it on a millionaire's mansion because you think he's some sort of unrealistic monster and lead cultist, and blowing up a Stadium because you think it's being used as a summoning point for the end of the world, your ****ing insane!

The insane people, according to Lovecraft, are the ones who have the most accurate worldview. If you believe in the supernatural, you're crazy. The supernatural isn't real.


If you're in combat you've already lost the game, your DM shouldn't just throw vampires at you.

Any combat should be the result of totally messing up at the wrong time, or a last ditch ever at the climax to eek out a "victory". You can easily win a CoC adventure, but it's all going to be done through investigation and roleplaying, almost never through combat. Deaths shouldn't be expected in short arcs until the end, but in a longer arc, part of the fun of CoC is getting as much done with one character, then picking up where they left off (sometimes years down the line) with another character. This was what the vampire was doing. He joined just in time for the climactic confrontation.

Raimun
2015-10-25, 08:41 AM
If you're in combat you've already lost the game, your DM shouldn't just throw vampires at you.

Any combat should be the result of totally messing up at the wrong time, or a last ditch ever at the climax to eek out a "victory". You can easily win a CoC adventure, but it's all going to be done through investigation and roleplaying, almost never through combat.


Objection. We once encountered some... thingies, ie. monsters in a basement. We tried to shoot them but to no avail. They wounded one of us gravely. The rest of us did the sensible thing and ran away, leaving the wounded for the monsters. Except for me. I threw down my empty gun and ran towards the nearest monster. I was planning to go down in a blaze of glory because it was the principle of the thing. I was well aware that these things are immune to bullets... but not so much to fists. I beat both of them to death with my bare hands.

After that, we wrapped up the session and I still don't know to this day what exactly I punched dead.

NichG
2015-10-25, 09:12 AM
So it's a chart and not something attached to a monster? I guess my DM was using it fairly bluntly. He had described me as someone who had experienced some weird stuff and knew supernatural things were going on in the world. It's why my professor sent me to help this team. When I saw a vampire, I failed to rationalize it away. I guess I made my intelligence roll or something instead of failing it. And therefore I lost sanity points. Why would I even be trying to rationalize it away when I'm on a mission that I know to be of a supernatural nature?

IIRC, there's a chart for non-specific stuff like seeing a corpse or a supernatural omen or whatnot. On top of that, each monster has a San-loss rating like 1d8/1, which means lose 1d8 on a failed check, lose 1 on a successful check.

One of the more sensible optional adjustments you can make is to say that any one particular source can only induce a sanity check once. So a coroner has inevitably lost a little sanity from working with human corpses all day, but he's stable. If you're a vampire hunter, the 30th vampire doesn't make you any more crazy. Etc.

1337 b4k4
2015-10-25, 02:51 PM
So it's a chart and not something attached to a monster? I guess my DM was using it fairly bluntly. He had described me as someone who had experienced some weird stuff and knew supernatural things were going on in the world. It's why my professor sent me to help this team. When I saw a vampire, I failed to rationalize it away. I guess I made my intelligence roll or something instead of failing it. And therefore I lost sanity points. Why would I even be trying to rationalize it away when I'm on a mission that I know to be of a supernatural nature?


So CoC has two parts to sanity, your actual SAN points (decreasing until you go completely insane and become an NPC) and "insanities" or traumas. When you lose a certain amount of SAN in a short period of time (5 in a game hour I believe), you have to roll an idea check. If you pass, you gain a temporary insanity, if you fail, you continue on as normal. The idea here is that by failing the check, you've somehow avoided processing the full horror of what you're experiencing or looking at. That's not really a vampire, that's just a crazy homeless dude with a cape fetish. That's wasn't really a ghost, just a trick of the light. Aliens don't exist, that was just swamp gas reflecting off Venus. Etc.

If you pass your check though, you understand completely what's going on and that's why you get your temporary insanity (and ideally the temp should be related to what is going on). So if you pass, holy crap that's really a blood sucking monster that just tore your friend in half, and now the sight of blood puts you in a panic because holy crap vampires! Ghosts are real?! They're everywhere because there are so many dead people! The only safe place is locked in a room away from them, you have to get out of here NOW! That sort of thing.

Either way you lose sanity, the rationalization is for whether or not that loss causes you further problems. It also means the smarter your character is, the harder you take the crazy things going on around you.

I agree with what I've seen many groups do however which is that any given source of insanity is only impactful to a point. Cops don't lose insanity coming up upon and ordinary murder scene (as a reporter might) but they certainly do when they come upon 6 bodies skinned from head to toe and arranged in a circle.

Knaight
2015-10-25, 09:52 PM
I agree with what I've seen many groups do however which is that any given source of insanity is only impactful to a point. Cops don't lose insanity coming up upon and ordinary murder scene (as a reporter might) but they certainly do when they come upon 6 bodies skinned from head to toe and arranged in a circle.

This sort of thing is why I vastly prefer Nemesis's psychological damage. As you witness horrors, you either get a "hardened" notch or a "traumatized" one, and if you have enough hardened notches you can completely shrug off low level things. You can also start with them.

Granted, once you get too many hardened notches, things are generally non-ideal, but there's a resilience that it models that works quite well.

Mr. Mask
2015-10-26, 12:07 AM
Objection. We once encountered some... thingies, ie. monsters in a basement. We tried to shoot them but to no avail. They wounded one of us gravely. The rest of us did the sensible thing and ran away, leaving the wounded for the monsters. Except for me. I threw down my empty gun and ran towards the nearest monster. I was planning to go down in a blaze of glory because it was the principle of the thing. I was well aware that these things are immune to bullets... but not so much to fists. I beat both of them to death with my bare hands.

After that, we wrapped up the session and I still don't know to this day what exactly I punched dead. And the fact this happened in CoC makes this so much more awesome.

Raimun
2015-10-26, 01:09 PM
And the fact this happened in CoC makes this so much more awesome.

Heh, yeah, thanks. I am kind of proud of that myself.

Of course, I had a character who knew how to fight and I was lucky with dice rolls, both hitting them and avoiding their attacks.

Still, it always does feel good to beat Cthulhu-monsters to death with bare hands, even if they are minor ones.