Lovecraft on the Tabletop
September 27, 2015 8:23 PM   Subscribe

 
"Petersen had no context for the book — no knowledge of the man or his times, no preconceptions whatsoever ...Lovecraft remains his favorite author to this day."

well, so much for context
posted by Earthtopus at 9:15 PM on September 27, 2015


Er, heh. Speaking of context, in the article, it's revealed that Petersen had no context when he first encountered Lovecraft's writing as a boy in the 1960s.
posted by JHarris at 9:43 PM on September 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


That's precisely what I was quoting; I quoted it because of the dissonance I got between that and the "Lovecraft remains his favorite author to this day [in spite of the nearly five decades in which he's had to build some context on that decision of favorite author ever]."
posted by Earthtopus at 9:50 PM on September 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


To this day, I have friends who understand when I lean over and say something like "I saw a clip of Kanye perfoming Yeezus. Lost a sanity point."
posted by BrunoLatourFanclub at 9:53 PM on September 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


Ok... a couple hours later and I'm just popping back in here to note that there's an interesting Infocom rabbit hole to lose yourself within on that blog.
posted by smcameron at 11:22 PM on September 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Call of Cthulhu has always had this dichotomy between a very specific retro period game (the 1920s and 1890s settings) and the fact that Lovecraft was writing about his own period. All the CoC I've played or run has been 1920s, but I'd love to do one that's modern, to put all the focus on the mythos. (The '20s does allow for a much different pace of investigation, and allows for some of the distinctly archaic elements of Lovecraft's fiction to come through.)

There are also two modes of play: one that sticks to methodical investigation followed by catastrophic confrontation, which is "classic," and one that takes a more two-fisted approach and tries to blow up the Mythos, which is "pulp Cthulhu." The game adapts surprisingly well to both modes. Lovecraft, after all, published in pulp magazines and had a touch of it himself.

It's worth noting that a few different takes are also out there. For instance, Trail of Cthulhu uses the GUMSHOE system, where you don't actually fail to get needed information when you fail a Library Use check, but have some complication added instead. And a series of '90s sourcebooks that added an X-Files type conspiracy/modern twist to CoC, Delta Green, is going to be its own game, I think coming out next year. And with Lovecraft's current popularity that's just the tip of the iceberg.

For me, though, Call of Cthulhu is perfect at what it does. I even stick to the 5th edition books I got in the '90s rather than going for newer copies because, well, why change it?
posted by graymouser at 3:54 AM on September 28, 2015 [6 favorites]


If an Investigator reads the article have them make a SAN check, if they fail they lose 1d6 SAN
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:54 AM on September 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


I think the SAN mechanic is absolutely a key to why CoC works. This is despite the fact that very few Lovecraft narrators go mad (unless you count fainting as temporary insanity). Olmstead, maybe. Armitage might fail but roll reasonably low SAN loss while reading Whateley's materials. There are a few others. The problem is that there are no "correlation of contents" rules, yet the whole thing works perfectly in the game. In some ways, it fails to capture Lovecraft at all, yet the SAN rules go a long way toward defining Lovecraft for 35 years of aficionados.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:49 AM on September 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


Worth noting is that the Laundry RPG (based on the supernatural/spy series of the same name by MeFi's Own Charles Stross) is based on the CoC system.

I was also struck by this: "he came upon a battered old paperback called The Dunwich Horror and Other Weird Tales. It was an Armed Forces edition of Lovecraft, one of many hundreds of titles printed cheaply on pulp paper and distributed for free among the soldiers and sailors fighting in World War II." Just imagine coming across something like that after, say, liberating a concentration camp.
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:57 AM on September 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


This is my JAM.
I've been playing CoC since 1981, when I bought the first edition boxed set right off the shelf.
I've been eagerly awaiting my shiny and new 7th Edition from Kickstarter for quite some time now.
And I'll keep waiting, because they finally seem to have gotten their shit together.

Next up?
The forthcoming Delta Green Kickstarter.

True story: When I lived in San Francisco from 1987 to 1995, I met Tadashi Erhada when we both were applying for the same admin job at some nameless, Borg-like firm down in the Embarcadero. And yes, I did fanboy a bit, but tried to keep it under control.
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 5:09 AM on September 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


About once a month I tempt fate and try to play Arkham Horror with all the expansions included.

It never ends well.
posted by Pendragon at 5:14 AM on September 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


I attended a talk about the history of Lovecraftian roleplaying at this year's NecroNomicon and it basically covered the same ground as this article. The panel was mostly a good one - Petersen, Ken Hite, and Adam Scott Glancy (Delta Green) all had interesting things to say. The other two dudes on the panel were a there to fill out the numbers and only one of them (a graphic designer) seemed to know that. The other dude, an Elder Gamer of Clan That Guy, kept talking over other people to tell the audience about his, uh, history in Vietnam and early college days. Glancy was getting annoyed and would shoot him down a few times, but That Guys never recognize signals to be quiet.

That said, I would like to see a more Playing At The World approach to the history here. Documentation - letters, early drafts, zines, and all that. I've learned to distrust 30-odd year old memories from people who have a stake in building up their own legend.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:20 AM on September 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


About once a month I tempt fate and try to play Arkham Horror with all the expansions included.

It never ends well.


There. Fixed!
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:33 AM on September 28, 2015 [8 favorites]


To be slightly less jokey, what you need is Eldritch Horror, which expands Arkham Horror while being much quicker to play. Although they added a map to it, so who knows in 5 years....
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:34 AM on September 28, 2015


It came to be because the stars were right.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:01 AM on September 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


Did we slashdot the page? I cannot get the sucker to load.
posted by bukvich at 6:02 AM on September 28, 2015


I just finished as the GM to nearly year long campaign of the Masks of Nyarlathotep. Though I converted it to Savage Worlds. Although I love DnD, especially 3.5, I think Savage Worlds is actually the game more people want to play. It worked especially well for A Cthultu campaign as the threat of death (or worst) is easily present in Savage Worlds. A sanity stat is in there, as a derived stat from Spirit.
posted by lowtide at 6:11 AM on September 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


That said, I would like to see a more Playing At The World approach to the history here. Documentation - letters, early drafts, zines, and all that. I've learned to distrust 30-odd year old memories from people who have a stake in building up their own legend.

Playing at the World's methodology was about something far more shrouded in legend than the creation of either Basic Roleplaying or Call of Cthulhu. BRP grew directly out of D&D; you can read old issues of Alarums & Excursions or the first All the World's Monsters book and see the "Perrin conventions" where Steve Perrin's combat rules, which grew into the heart of Runequest, were published. And CoC was a straightforward adaptation of BRP with hit locations removed and the Mythos elements added in (Sanity, Cthulhu Mythos, the summoning spells etc).

PatW was deliberately a history of fantasy and wargaming, and how they led to Dungeons & Dragons. Jon Peterson touched on a lot of the interesting dynamics in LA and the Bay Area that led to the "California" side of roleplaying – the SCA and the experimental games he goes into, and once D&D is out, the Chaosium, Hargrave's Arduin, the Cal Tech Warlock (aka "Dungeons & Beavers"), Alarums & Excursions as an APA institution, and so on. You could probably extend that to 1981-82 and Call of Cthulhu but it would probably not generate as much insight as Playing at the World did, simply because the history of the time is much better known.
posted by graymouser at 6:25 AM on September 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'm thinking more of the scope of Jon's later articles where he focuses down on a particular thing or event. Given that the history of Lovecraft gaming can pretty much be summed up with "Whatever Sandy says happened, happened," I'd like the fact check. There were a couple moments in the panel I saw where it felt like some facts or events were being glossed over.

(Also, selfish reasons - given that I did some of the illustrations for PatW and currently do Mythos based carvings, that might be a nice way to get some of my stuff out there)
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:42 AM on September 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure PatW needs an excuse to be more huge.

Or cyclopean, even.
posted by Artw at 6:57 AM on September 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


To build on my SAN comment above, something that I ind pretty interesting about Call of Cthulhu is how it really makes concrete Derleth's idea of a consistent "Cthulhu Universe" at the expense of nearly everything that underlies Lovecraft's fiction.

Now, don't get me wrong; I love CoC, and playing it was a major turning point in my RPG life. However, the focus on team play, ongoing serial narratives, a consistent, understandable (or at least mappable) game universe with defined relations between monsters, cultists, gods, etc, and a strong tendency to take its cues from pulp adventure stories rather than horror makes most CoC games, while tremendously entertaining, less a reflection of weird fiction in general and Lovecraft in specific than the more adventure-focused stories of, say, Brian Lumley. There is nothing wrong with this kind of play, as I said above, I love it, but it isn't very Lovecraftian.

Trail of Cthulhu (and the Ken Writes About Stuff monster editions) handle things a bit better by giving multiple variations and explanations for things that can be woven together to make every adventure a bit different and uncertain (the collaborative narrative model of The Armitage Files and The Dracula Dossier and the "mix-n-match vampire creation rules of Night's Black Agents play up the ideas that the world is always different and unknown and also encourages unexplained mystery because so many voices are influencing the narrative that there will almost certainly be dropped plotlines and details that are not fully explained. The Esoterrorists, which I find more compelling than Delta Green for possibly unfair reasons, explicitly makes the monsters and villains incomprehensible on various levels. The players should never really understand the rules of the universe.

Lest I seem like only a Pelgrane booster (although I would argue they are doing some of the absolute best RPG stuff around, and the Gumshoe system is a huge boon for investigative roleplaying ), I just got done running a session of tremulus, a Lovecraftian RPG built on the Apocalypse World system, which, while it didn't work perfectly (my players really wanted a "Notice" ability, and the community-centered elements of AW are (by necessity) absent), had a sort of "group-consensus" narrative-building element that really helped with the mystery (although I gave in at the end a desire to over-explain, partly to get the game to an end (it had sprawled out over too many sessions and too many weeks because reasons).

So I would like to see horror game designs where the ellipses in the explanations were central to the game, where something like SAN loss occurs, but only when you gather information and "correlate the contents," where fear arises from bewilderment with the alien rather than jump scares and mostly physical (and physicalized) danger. That may be a tall order.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:43 AM on September 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


Old school CoC is *very* Detlethian, but it's very easy to strip that back. And you get to something like Delta Green and its bleak cosmic hopelessness all the way.
posted by Artw at 7:53 AM on September 28, 2015


GenjiandProust, I understand where you're coming from in that the rulebook is undeniably Derlethian in its tendencies, because, well, Derleth is easier for building narratives from. But the degree to which this is true in the game is entirely up to the Keeper. For instance, you could readily do a campaign very much in CoC's wheelhouse where The King in Yellow (both the play and the entity), as it shows up in Chambers's book, is pretty much the only Mythos element present. None of the Derleth revisions making the KiY an avatar of Hastur even needs to be imported.
posted by graymouser at 7:58 AM on September 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


The article mentioned several games based on the Lovecraft Mythos/CoC, but left off one of the best implementations of sanity in a video game ever: Eternal Darkness.

When I was first getting into tabletop RPGs, the way CoC was explained to me was "your investigators are dead or insane. Create new ones." Well, that and Cthulhu eats 1d6 investigators a round. Reading this article is actually making me sad that I'm going to miss the CoC one shot that my group is playing around Halloween.
posted by Hactar at 8:43 AM on September 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


As the first full-fledged RPG to do so, however, it was also unique. With combat so lethal and as often as not pointless, other skills came to the fore. Call of Cthulhu became the first and quite possibly still the only RPG where “Library Use” is one of the most valuable skills one can have.
A weird thing about a lot of role-playing games is that they aspire to be more than combat. That's why they have secondary skills, nonweapon proficiencies, feats, and what have you. Often pages and pages and pages of them. But combat is always more rewarding than any other form of interaction, and usually, the rules for resolving it far more robust than for, say, haggling or "intimidating." So they fade into the background when the rubber hits the road.

This is how you make things other than combat matter. I only played Call of Cthulhu once, and it was in high school, at the height of my munchkinry, but the game – and the keeper – impressed upon me that A) what we really wanted to do was figure out what was going on and B) we were no better at fighting than the NPCs who had been killed horrifically. So we talked to people and went to places and searched and got spooked.

Eventually, we found a dead guy who had summoned a horrific winged thing. (Later found out it was a Lesser Byakhee.) I did shoot it once with my shotgun, but it didn't matter. I was mounted and disemboweled. I think maybe one guy got away? Minus SAN, of course.

Went back to – and enjoyed – 2E AD&D after that, but that CoC games was one of the best RPG experiences of my life.
posted by ignignokt at 8:47 AM on September 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


For instance, you could readily do a campaign very much in CoC's wheelhouse where The King in Yellow (both the play and the entity), as it shows up in Chambers's book, is pretty much the only Mythos element present.

Oh, I agree. Adam Gauntlet's really fascinating "Soldiers of Pen and Ink," which is a Trail of Cthulhu scenario set during the Spanish Civil War does sort of this, where most of the character's productive efforts are directed not at fighting the Mythos but trying to counteract its despair but by appealing to human urges rather than the alien siren song (it's kind of a propaganda war against the Mythos). I've been working on a campaign taking the very clever but very flawed CoC campaign "The Tatters of the King" and trying to grind it down to the most mysterious and oblique "hooks" that can get the players wondering (but never really knowing) what has happened, what might happen, and what has been hallucinations.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:15 AM on September 28, 2015


And you get to something like Delta Green and its bleak cosmic hopelessness all the way.

OK, sell me on Delta Green. My impression of it from reading scenarios and listening to podcasts and actual plays is that it's kind of like CoC but for people who like fetishizing over military hardware rather than rare books catalogs, and the scenarios tend to run heavily toward "haha, you're screwed." (The latter being definitely Lovecraftian, but hard to sell to players.) Part of this may be that, every time I hear Adam Scott Glancy say anything, my Antipathy score increases by 1d6, so I may be being unfair. Tell me why I am!
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:23 AM on September 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


They mentioned the actual first published Lovecraft RPG, the Lovecraft Variant for Tunnels & Trolls published in Sorcerer's Apprentice magazine! Now that is a well-researched article. (CoC was the first stand-alone published Lovecraft RPG.) As a fan of Tunnels & Trolls from way back I appreciate that.

While we're talking about more recent Lovecraft RPGs, let me recommend Graham Walmesley's minimalist Cthulhu Dark (it would have been called "Cthulhu Lite but that's a contradiction in terms, isn't it?). Despite being a tiny rules set it still makes Sanity and the loss thereof a key point. Graham has written several Lovecraftian adventures for Pelgrane as well as the Cyclopean Stealing Cthulhu, which is about going back to the original Lovecraft stories for inspiration and ideas for RPG scenarios.
posted by edheil at 9:26 AM on September 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


MetaFilter: I was mounted and disemboweled
posted by prize bull octorok at 9:44 AM on September 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


OK, sell me on Delta Green. My impression of it from reading scenarios and listening to podcasts and actual plays is that it's kind of like CoC but for people who like fetishizing over military hardware rather than rare books catalogs

Well, there are only so many times your weird old uncle can pass away leaving you his mysterious collection, only so many aunts you can head out to visit on tramp steamer, and only so many professors who go missing requiring their grad students locate them. The Delta Green setting is useful because it allows you to set the characters in motion, provides in-story resources, and even new cannon fodder when a character inevitably succumbs. In a way, it lets the characters in on the joke that the players know all too well - it's a CoC game and life will be nasty, madness, and short. I used to set up my CoC games the same way before I ever picked up a copy of DG - it was faster to get things going by saying "you are a Fed of ____ flavor. Your boss says, "Go there" and so here you are."

Guns is a CoC game have always been a bit of a junk-stat. You can tell how important they are when GMs are pretty much of the "take as many as you want" opinion.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:41 AM on September 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh, now you're making me miss my old gaming group! In one final memorable CoC session, our lead investigator successfully summoned an Elder God (can't remember which one), but lost his final SAN check in the process. The player was allowed one last act before his character sheet was taken away from him, so he asked the Elder God for some chocolate-chip ice cream.

I reasoned that all mortal concerns are equally trivial to an Elder God, so it duly delivered the ice cream, was released from its bindings and ate New York.
posted by Mogur at 12:33 PM on September 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


I hope it was Mint Chocolate Chip, because I love that stuff.
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 12:50 PM on September 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


Other than the insanity mechanic, there really isn't anything about the Cthulhu Mythos that you couldn't easily wrap around any of the widely popular rpg systems, is there? And even the insanity mechanic could be house ruled if necessary. Both GURPS and HERO Systems would do fine with a Cthulhu setting. Note, I have not played CoC, so maybe I'm horribly wrong about this. If so, maybe a CoC fan can explain why.

Secondly, I'd love to hear recommendations for Cthulhu source material (of the pulp variety) beyond (obviously) the stories written by HPL.
posted by Beholder at 1:12 PM on September 28, 2015


Ice cream is very Lovecraftian. Also cats.
posted by Artw at 1:12 PM on September 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also another thing.
posted by Artw at 1:14 PM on September 28, 2015


Other than the insanity mechanic, there really isn't anything about the Cthulhu Mythos that you couldn't easily wrap around any of the widely popular rpg systems, is there?

Call of Cthulhu has been ported to the D20 Modern setting, which uses the engine of D&D 3E. There are problems with it (investigators still gain levels and their concomitant hit points), but it's pretty much CoC in the D20 system. But it's notable that the book made it a point to introduce the original D% Sanity mechanic in a sidebar and suggesting that players use it anyway. But for more on why D&D-derived systems aren't appropriate to Call of Cthulhu, see the original article.

I for one actually really like Call of Cthulhu's BRP/Runequest-derived system. The skill system is the best RPG skill system I've ever seen, mostly because it's both damn simple and wonderfully flexible. RPGs should get their mechanics out of your way and let you focus on the game, which is something that really bugs me about D&D combat, how it's practically its own board game. And I think it does guns better than anyone -- guns are lethal against human beings, but against the Great Old Ones, not as much.
posted by JHarris at 1:55 PM on September 28, 2015


Other than the insanity mechanic, there really isn't anything about the Cthulhu Mythos that you couldn't easily wrap around any of the widely popular rpg systems, is there? And even the insanity mechanic could be house ruled if necessary. Both GURPS and HERO Systems would do fine with a Cthulhu setting. Note, I have not played CoC, so maybe I'm horribly wrong about this. If so, maybe a CoC fan can explain why.

You could do the Cthulhu Mythos pretty well with a lot of systems. CoC's version of Basic Roleplaying (which is a generic system much like GURPS or HERO or FATE or Savage Worlds) has the advantage of relatively quick character generation. Much like older versions of D&D, characters are pretty much expendable and you can't go agonizing over point-buy options like GURPS or HERO pretty much encourage. It's actually fairly cool, in my opinion, that CoC encouraged PCs who weren't Big Damn Heroes. They're just average people with a bit of education who happen to get in the middle of cosmic horror. Most RPGs tend to do wish fulfillment, which means being Big Damn Heroes. CoC is an outlier in that regard.

Mechanically, Call of Cthulhu's Mythos mechanics work with basically four numeric values, which are interrelated. You have a stat called POW (Power), which is rolled on 3d6. POW equals magic points, and SAN (Sanity) equals POWx5. There is a Cthulhu Mythos skill (percentile, like all BRP skills). Your SAN can never be higher than 99 - your Cthulhu Mythos score. Casting spells, encountering Mythos entities and reading Mythos tomes moves these numbers around. So a spell might cost a certain number of SAN points, and a certain number of magic points. It's a pretty neatly meshed system, and moving it away from BRP requires you to redesign them.
posted by graymouser at 2:04 PM on September 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


But to follow up....

Guns is a CoC game have always been a bit of a junk-stat.

This is not precisely true. The CoC rules outright state that gunfights are signs of bad decisions, but sometimes bad decisions end up getting made.

I've read through probably more than 75% of classic Chaosium CoC adventures, and here's something that's nearly always true of cultist characters presented there: they have lousy firearms stats. It is a rare cultist indeed with any gun at 50%.

20-30% is by far the most common. Note that, for handguns, a single shot is unlikely to be directly lethal unless it impales, which requires rolling one-fifth or less of your skill. Meaning, at a skill of 30, rolling 6 or less on D100. Impales triple damage, which can easily destroy a character. If it doesn't impale but it still hits then if it does more than half the player's HP in damage the player must roll CON x 5 or less to remain conscious -- and getting knocked to 2 HP or less is automatic unconsciousness until the character gets back up to 3 or more. If you hit 0 hit points or less, you can still survive if someone else manages to successfully use First Aid on you within one combat round.

So, cultists are not generally good shooters, but it's very easy for one to get lucky, and the more cultists you're up against the more likely they are to get in lucky hits. But consider, shooting a cultist can kill, and unless they're very good at covering their tracks the police will get involved, and then the players will need to prove self defense. I think one of the most glaring lacks in the Chaosium CoC rules is a unified system for handling non-story legal issues. It's something we glossed over in our game with Credit Rating losses, but a system using Law rolls and the organized gathering of evidence would fit in well with the rest of it, of making shooting another human being into a social danger without having to devote whole sessions to the investigators having to defend their characters in court.

Hm. Maybe this is a case where I need to be the one to design the system....
posted by JHarris at 2:53 PM on September 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


If I can blow Trail of Cthulhu/Gumshoe's horn again, I like the system vastly better than CoC or d20. There are not stats; everything is goverened by abilities, of which there are two types:

Investigative Abilities: These are the abilities you use to find things out, and are divided into things like academic abilities, technical abilities, and interpersonal abilities, more for grouping them than any game reason. They have no rolls; if a clue is critical to advancing the plot (a Core Clue), you get it automatically if a character has any score in that ability and uses it. If a player wants to expend a point of an ability, the Keeper can choose to accept the spend and give them something good (another clue or some other advantage, either immediately or in the future). The Keeper can also offer ("anyone want to spend a point of Art History?") for the same sort of reward. The points generally don't recover during a session, so there is a definite "economy of competence" that the GM and players have to play to to make the game work. There is never a chance for the characters to miss a critical "way forward," it's just a question of narrating how that happens. Not finding the central clues is not suspenseful; it's boring.

It sounds a little mechanical in the telling, but a group of players gets pretty good at "reading the scene" and saying "ooh, I'm a Doctor; can I Reassure the injured man and gain his confidence?"

General Abilities: These are the abilities you use when the outcome is equally interesting if the character succeeds or fails (if you make your Athletics roll, you get over the wall and away from the dogs; if you fail, you will have to fight the dogs before you can try again). Again, you have limited pools of points (with the opportunity for refreshing abilities if you get to rest), so there is a sort of "resource management" effect -- do you fight the cultists or save your combat pools for the fight with the Boss? Combat is pretty quick and surprisingly lethal.

Health (HP) and Stability/Sanity are General Abilities with slightly different rules. Stability measures how mentally functional your character is -- shocks of any sort may render them less able to act effectively. Sanity is how rooted they are in the mundane world -- as they encounter the Mythos, this erodes. So reading blasphemous tomes is more likely to eat away at your Sanity while not affecting your stability, while getting shot at for the first time in your life may reduce you to a gibbering wreck, but it hasn't shaken your belief in the material world.

Another nice thing about the system is that no ability score means anything specific in the fictional world. Credit Rating corresponds roughly to wealth, but when you use it up, you are exhausting your ability to affect the narrative that way, not necessarily eroding your cash reserves or good name. Similarly, a high health score could mean that you are a huge bruiser or it could mean that you are lucky or determined or some other reason that you can take some injury without being "taken out." It allows two characters with very similar ratings to be presented and played very differently.

Also, the adventures that Pelgrane has put out have been generally very clever and a number of them have been brilliant ("Soldiers of Pen and Ink," which I mentioned above, is one of the most original scenarios I've seen, and there is another where a group of four players play Robert and Virginia Heinlein, Phillip Dick, and Anthony Boucher trying to find out what really happened to Jack Parsons....
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:00 PM on September 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


OK, sell me on Delta Green. My impression of it from reading scenarios and listening to podcasts and actual plays is that it's kind of like CoC but for people who like fetishizing over military hardware rather than rare books catalogs

It's more CoC for people who liked Kill List or the first half of True Detective.

and the scenarios tend to run heavily toward "haha, you're screwed."

There you might have a point.
posted by Artw at 3:19 PM on September 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


I can't hear about CoC without thinking of Old Man Henderson.
posted by chaosys at 3:38 PM on September 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


Now that sounds like a Delta Green character.
posted by Artw at 3:45 PM on September 28, 2015


You know what's awesome is that Sandy Peterson was the "other" (non John Romero) level designer for the original DOOM.
posted by atoxyl at 4:42 PM on September 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


My impression of it from reading scenarios and listening to podcasts and actual plays is that it's kind of like CoC but for people who like fetishizing over military hardware rather than rare books catalogs, and the scenarios tend to run heavily toward "haha, you're screwed."

It's more like, fetishizing the Kafka horror of federal bureaucracy and nameless agencies that will out-of-bodily rendition you
posted by Apocryphon at 5:59 PM on September 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


In high school, my friends and I each had a game that we were the showrunners for. Like, one of my friends was the Dungeon Master whenever we played D&D, another was Game Master when we played Cyberpunk, etc. I was the Keeper for Call of Chtulhu. I first became interested in the game because it was so cool to have something set in the 1920's: gangsters and prohibition and all that, although the game turned out not to be much about flappers and speakeasies.

I had the 4th edition rule book. I didn't think too much of the actual game system, other than the genius of the Sanity stat. What made it a great game was the setting and the tone of the story, far more than the actual rules. Designing my own scenario was a lot more work than I'd expected, so I mostly ran campaigns from off the shelf store bought scenarios. It always took the new players some getting used to. Typically, lack of genre-savvy meant that everyone's first character had a lot of fighting skills. Fortunately, these characters tended to get killed quickly, and my player's subsequent characters tended to be more in the spirit of the game.

Also, I do remember noticing Sandy Peterson's name in the credits to Doom. I suppose that earned him far more money than Call of Cthulhu.
posted by Loudmax at 6:13 PM on September 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


In other Call of C'thulhu related news, the previously mentioned (by me) Kickstarter for Delta Green funded in about FIVE HOURS.

Here it is, if you're interested in getting in on the action.
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 12:45 PM on September 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


Hells yes.

And THE FALL OF DELTA GREEN will be an add on.
posted by Artw at 12:52 PM on September 29, 2015


My gaming group had several goes at CoC, but most of them just didn't work. In the longest running, I played possibly my favorite character ever, a cowardly lawyer whose main client was a trust fund dilettante who kept paying him to come over for consultations whenever he started getting involved in Mythos-related shenanigans. Shenanigans that the lawyer wanted nothing to do with, but he needed the dilettante's money very badly.

Things culminated when the cowardly lawyer attempted to flee only to have the dilettante (whose sanity had been rapidly deteriorating, naturally) shoot up his car. In the aftermath of that adventure, the lawyer got the dilettante committed to an asylum with the lawyer given legal responsibility for administering his estate.

Bizarrely, even though the lawyer had ended up having to learn a few spells (always a Very Bad Idea in CoC), he ended up with less sanity loss than any of the other characters who survived.
posted by Four Ds at 3:05 PM on September 29, 2015


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