I was giving some more thought to what would make a horror genre game Lovecraftian:
- Protagonists are usually normal people or even those more fragile and sensitive than normal. - Needs a dynamic tension between wanting to learn more yet being afraid to learn more. - Horror isn't about killing characters, but scaring the players (building tension/atmosphere/dread). - The climax of horror in Lovecraft stories often comes about from some revelation at the end. - Mind transfer is a frequently used theme. - An obsession with New England architecture should figure into the games somehow (PC/NPC). - An obsession with 17th, 18th, and 19th century New England should figure in also (PC/NPC). - Dreams are a frequent theme often related to lost youth, idealized past and/or other world. - Old age is often related to something sinister or otherworldly/monstrous. - Lovecraft's repulsion at miscegenation gets filtered in as human/monster hybrids. - What may be perceived as insanity may in fact be revelation or enlightenment.
I'm reposting something I wrote in the Marvel Super Heroes RPG thread here, for my own reference:
In the super hero game there has to be some provision for overcoming a weakness or limitation, since that is so central to the archetype. Facing and overcoming your weakness is an important part of the hero's journey. And from a meta-gaming standpoint, a weakness is like throwing the GM a bone to give him more personalized details to work with in coming up with a scenario. So, that is a must-have.
In CALL OF CTHULHU it is a bit more difficult, since Lovecraft's stories are often more about creating an atmosphere of dread and eerieness than they are about the protagonists actively driving the plot along... There a few exceptions, like in "The Dunwich Horror" "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward," "The Lurking Fear," or "The Shunned House." But for the most part his protagonists are the neurotic dreamers or sensitive artists or fainting scholars who end up fleeing for their lives ("The Festival," "The Whisperer in Darkness," "At the Mountains of Madness"), getting destroyed ("Dagon," "The Haunter in the Dark," "The Temple"), or finding out they themselves are monsters or otherwise disappearing from the earthly realm ("The Outsider," "Rats in the Walls," "Shadow Over Innsmouth," "The Silver Key"). A lot of times his protagonists merely uncover a story or observe events without making any difference ("The Call of Cthulhu," "Pickman's Model," "The Shadow Out of Time"). So, I think it is inherently challenging to have a game that stays true to Lovecraft, yet also allows the players to be active participants who can make some kind of difference. A way to handle the skill button pusher problem is simply tell the players they cannot ask to use a skill, they must describe what they do and you as the GM will tell them when a skill check is required. So, the game can end up being more about what the player does, how he investigates, where and how he looks for details, making logical connections, etc. than about his character successfully making skill checks.
So, it is should be about immersion in the atmosphere and seeking knowledge ("I want to find out but I'm afraid of what it might be"), not a focus on rules mechanics, skills, big guns, etc.
Last Edit: Apr 28, 2018 14:30:55 GMT -5 by GRWelsh
I’ve cooled a lot on my criticism of the CoC skill mechanic. It’s still something of a bore, but, if used sparingly it is okay. With a big enough group, it at least is a way of deciding who gets to complete the fire drill, and the jams that result from failures are sometimes interesting (force creative solutions) and sometimes funny.
But, I’m also a lot less concerned with the CoC game being particularly Lovecraftian (New England, etc.), let alone the jokey/populist take that Gene encapsulated. I just like the basic setup of, Let’s go see what’s “really” under the Pyramids, or on Easter Island, or in the sewers of New York City. And the flavor can be whatever.
“A man may do both. For not we but those who come after will make the legends of our time. The green earth, say you? That is a mighty matter of legend, though you tread it under the light of day!” —J.R.R. Tolkien