In 1983, I had bought CALL OF CTHULHU 2nd edition made characters with sheets which I had then had my uncle make offset printed duplicates of just like he done for the yellow sheets. I think they are cardstock as well but I havent checked on them since 1985-ish. I also bought a pile of miniatures that I still have:
Both boxed sets and blisters (Spawn of Cthulhu, Tsathogghua, Nyarlathotep, deep ones, hunting horror, moon beast, Yig and a gug.)
I managed to GM a game and it turned into gangsters and flappers immediately when I introduced the Lovecraftian creepiness they looked like WTF and lost interest fast instead opting to explore the streets of New York like a James Cagney movie. I think that they wanted it to be less reading and more brain dead. I didn't like the fact that I had to condense the reading to skill checks or write something lengthy for them to figure. It didn't really fit the "whose turn is it?" mentality of an rpg. One guy was trying to figure out the mystery letter and the rest were like "we drive around town in our cars to look for supplies" all the while push "skill check buttons".
The next game was in an isolated mansion where they were all without transport for unknown reasons and it turned into a direct escape no one even bothering with "sitting dwon and finding answers" instead skill check;skill check;skill check;skill check non-stop.
I think it was 1984 when I got a module for it and I was elated called MASKS OF NYARLATHOTEP (which I still have). What a fucking dud. This what at first seemed like a boxed set adventure (a first?) jampacked with handout goodies slowly fizzled into a gold brick fast. This was an embarassing dragged out borefest which seemed like it was written by some relative of August Derleth's looking to write a nicer story but ending up doing a game. They never came out with anything better and when I finally got the gumption to "present this" (didn't feel like GMing) in late 1988 it crashed fast and I didn't even get up to the handouts. I did manage to get a gm screen at that time.
Later I tried to give the 5th edition a chance and picked up a field guide in the early ninties. it didn't happen.
In 2000, I perused the d20 thing and decided I wasted enough money on the official d20 crap I didn't need to give them anything after that Elric d20 nightmare.
Last Edit: Oct 22, 2012 8:48:07 GMT -5 by geneweigel
Thanks for the feedback, Gene. That's disappointing to hear. One of the players in my gaming group is planning on running a "Cthulhu Now" scenario, just for us to try something different. Since the game has won awards and is still in print after 30 years, I felt pretty hopeful.
This game seems to have a loyal following, and "Masks of Nyarlathotep" in particular seems to be considered a classic among classics. So, some people have fun with this game.
Why do you think this game was such a dud with your group? You seem to think that there was something worthwhile about it by trying to give it a few chances.
Maybe it just takes a certain kind of mindset. I understand the group that wants a 'brain dead' game. Hell, that's me sometimes!
I'm a big fan of H. P. Lovecraft, but I never understood how his fiction could be the basis of a great RPG. As much as I love his stories, I have to admit that for much of the time nothing really happens, and when it does, the protagonists don't have a lot of control over the outcome. At best, they escape some horrible fate -- often only a temporary escape, at that.
Last Edit: Oct 22, 2012 10:48:52 GMT -5 by GRWelsh
Mystery/suspense games always have the potential to be the greatest flops. Nothing is more frustrating than a mystery where the GM thinks the trail of clues is obvious and the players are stumped. In my experience players often come up with ideas -- ranging from ingenious to profoundly stupid -- that the GM never anticipates, and rarely do what the GM thinks "is obvious." So a game based on stages of "and when the players figure this out, and go here..." might be a grueling experience.
OTOH, you don't want to have the players just figure everything out by making skill checks.
Or, maybe you do...
Player 1: I have no idea what we are supposed to do here. Player 2: Neither do I. Player 3: Snore. GM: Of course not. But luckily, your characters are smarter and/or more awake than you are. Make a 'gather clues' check and a 'deduction' check. Player 1: I made mine! Player 2: So did I! Player 3: Snore. GM: Your characters figure out an evil cult is most likely behind the murders, and the trail of clues leads to a subterranean lair below an abandoned church. Player 1: Let's go to the lair! Player 2: I get my Tommy gun and a sawed off shotgun and five sticks of dynamite. I'm ready! Player 3: Whazzat, are we finally doing something now?
Last Edit: Oct 22, 2012 11:55:29 GMT -5 by GRWelsh
Post by geneweigel on Oct 22, 2012 12:10:01 GMT -5
the whole Thompson machine gun for the guys and Derringer pocket pistol for the ladies game of armed characters is the fad and just is not HPL in the slightest.
Hit points don't work for this civilized genre and skills were simply a way to steal the D&D franchise without much thought. It just doesn't work in D&D and it doesn't work here at all. I mentioned a while ago that you would have to build a game up from total scratch to get the Lovecraft feel. The game builds up sanity and breaks it down. Thats too homogenized it needs baited rewards to push the character into being into the cult. Then the expression of cult power in words would be cool instead of the crappy insanity system.
So this is what they need regular classes ala D&D or something more "elementally singular" like classes that kill all that skill shit. Something involving penchant for magic or weird things would be an awesome replacement for the stupid 1920's twenty-three-skidoo bull shit that the skilled game engenders.
I watched an interview with Sandy Peterson, the guy who designed the original editions of the Call of Cthulhu game, and he said that it wasn't really important that the game be set in the 1920's, but that Chaosium insisted upon it. Sandy made a good point that Lovecraft made lots of references to the latest science and developments in his stories to make them as modern as possible, and that if Lovecraft were writing today he'd most likely set his stories in the present. There was that whole contrast of modern rationality and the latest in human science against the infinite gulfs of the unknown which dwarfed anything humanity could ever do or understand.
I actually like the idea of playing in the 1920's, because that is when the stories are set. I like the "gangsters/flappers/private eye/crazy professor in search of lost worlds/archaeologist swinging on a bull-whip" pulp atmosphere. But our GM is setting it in the modern era, and I am fine with that too.
I don't know if there really is 'magic' in the Cthulhu Mythos. Or is there just weird science and psychic powers?
Last Edit: Oct 22, 2012 14:16:39 GMT -5 by GRWelsh
Post by geneweigel on Oct 22, 2012 12:44:36 GMT -5
Magic that isn't Vancian but a new magic that would be the reason that they say the words as if they have to. That's the only madness that we see is a gravitation towards worship by those who gravitate towards the weird. The whole "Peterson crackpot D&D to make a buck feeding off the HOST A MYSTERY fetish schlockery" just irks the shit out of me though....
Post by geneweigel on Oct 22, 2012 13:05:05 GMT -5
Basically a real Cthulhu game needs a game that make you sound crazy but there is an in-game reason that this happens. The "classes" could be something like "descendant" or "inheritor" to kill all the gun bull shit.
Another thing that Sandy Petersen said which I agree with was that in a horror genre game the players have to feel vulnerable. In such a game, you're playing normal people for the most part, not armed-to-the-teeth monster-hunters. You should be playing, like you said, a descendant or heir or some other normal guy who gets pulled into this weird story.
In horror stories that do have heavily armed people who are competent at fighting, like the marines in Aliens, the reason they are there is only to show how ineffective they are against the monsters.
If the players can just hack and slash their way through, or outpower the monsters, then it's not a horror game it's more like D&D or some tactical combat.
So, in a game like Call of Cthulhu, having access to and relying on big guns shouldn't work in most cases. Or at least when it matters most.
Last Edit: Oct 22, 2012 15:43:45 GMT -5 by GRWelsh
Post by geneweigel on Oct 22, 2012 16:02:13 GMT -5
Exactly, it turns into the mob. It doesn't have to involve any in-game mafia or cosa nostra the way CoC is designed its instant mob style play which is ludicrous.
I think Chaosium wanted Indiana Jones from Day One and they don't want to change their mind on it. Indiana Jones meets Cthulhu has to cross a giant void. The movie Hellboy featured Cthulhu-esque meets superheroes and even that was a royal non-Lovecraft mess.
In Lovecraft, there never was an elder sign for good it was just like "heil Hitler" to show your allegiance in SHADOW OVER INNSMOUTH and DREAM QUEST OF UNKNOWN KADATH.
The entire Peterson failure runs on the concept of guns and elder signs save the day but watch the loss of SP!
Characters in a Lovecraft game have to be bookish antiquarians as a default not as an option then it has to furthered. They all have to be born weird in some way. They all have to be the type who keep diaries as well. Players who cannot pay attention to Lovecraft type information are not people who can play characters in a Lovecraft game. Thats why CoC fails it can decorate the entire interior with quotes and passages and whole cloth sections adapted from Lovecraft but in the end it doesn't get it.
Straight Gygax D&D is the only current vehicle that nears Lovecraft style because there is room enough for allegiance on class lines not that the standard DM would ever allow the "non-balanced team" but thats for "Basics". In Advanced, the old players have come together on class lines before without a blink. So perhaps all magic-users as clerics would just ruin it.
“Masks” sucks. Skills suck. Nothing feels like actual Lovecraft. Now, I have no problem with taking the non-Lovecraftian feel and running with it — shooting monsters with tommy guns is fun. But it’s worth investigating why AD&D module G3 captured the Lovecraft feel better than Call of Cthulhu. Didn’t it?
“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
I think the "nail in the coffin" event for me with CoC was being in a comic book store in 1993 and watching a large group playing. It just made me realize how bad it was at least as bad or worse than BEYOND THE SUPERNATURAL which I had just been sucked into by that RIFTS stalker i mentioned sometime back (the guy who constantly called me until I changed my number!)
Last Edit: Oct 23, 2012 8:25:49 GMT -5 by geneweigel
Sorry to hear that, Falconer, that's two votes in the "sucks" column from the Doomsdayers.
Ah well, a friend of mine is going to be running it, and I'll do my best to help make it work. I was just trying to get a sense of what to expect. I think he's going to run "Cthulhu Now" which is set in modern times, so it won't have any of the Indiana Jones and gangsters stuff. I am wondering if it will have more of an X-Files feel to it.
Yes, the Temple of the Eye in G3 captures the Lovecraftian flavor very well. So does the Wall of Tentacles, sort of.
I like skill systems, but I've seen many GMs kill the game because they couldn't find the right balance with the rolls. Players having to make three skill rolls to walk up a normal flight of steps. Trying three times to cross a simple brook, falling down twice, and breaking a leg in the process, etc. I have faith in our GM. He's run skill-based before and a good time was had by all.
I've only played in one game that Ray ran, it was Fantasy Warhammer back around 1995. I enjoyed it, but we only played one or two sessions for some reason. I can't remember if that was a skill-based game or not.
It is. A very simple reolution skill based system. It can get more complex once you've developed characters and start on certain career paths and skills trees, etc. I on;y have very basic experience with it too.
The second nail in the coffin I just remembered was going to a convention. What a nightmare day that was! I'll have to leave in some personal details to paint the whole day.
It was the COUNCIL OF FIVE NATIONS in Schenectady, NY which I rebelliously attended instead of going to my (once a sweet girl then had just turned cold snob) cousin's wedding in Albany and calling my girlfriend to tell her that I wasnt going to be able to make it to this bitch's wedding after all... KABOOM!!! (Typical female social faux pas BS which she would later regret see below*) You don't know how much I wish to this day that I had stayed at that convention. But anyway deep buried inside the madness of that day I was trying to figure out what game to attend and went through list that had Cthulhu openings but they were all werewolf and vampire gothic sounding which as I was reluctant and ended up foolishly making that explosive call home. I ended up staying as long as I could and watched a CoC game that seemed more Scooby Doo than anything. If you ever read Lovecraft's essay on the Supernatural Horror in Literature (I had already years prior in a biography on Lovecraft I believe) it was like this hit all the things Lovecraft said was tired and not weird fiction seeming at all. Not even remotely WEIRD TALES contemporary seeming just flat monster movie detritus with a tentacle or two for comic relief. Bleh!
The thing that struck me was that I could picture these clowns all seeing themselves wearing fedora hats but I couldn't see even a remote shadow of a foundation based on Poe anywhere which I think was a chief factor in Lovecraft. 1920's-30's but with Poe's scope of that era somewhat in mind at all times.
Characters have up to date equipment in Lovecraft's Mythos sure but they aren't so comfortable with them. Its almost as if Lovecraft's protagonists all hail from an earlier era's style and are not hip in any way whatsoever. D&D is from a wargame but CoC is from D&D and Lovecraft. Thats why its unseeming. What is the (war)game of H.P. Lovecraft? Information and disclosure of it. The life and death struggle of D&D treats information and disclosure of it as exceptional only on a case by case basis sometimes not all. This should be the reverse of importance in a Lovecraft game. This should perhaps be played as if you don't shout "FLGH MGHHUI HASTUR!" right now then the game is over for you. Then using a gun is redundant and perhaps unnecessary except in the most extreme circumstances sending "Big Nicky" and "Sammy Bags" back downtown where they belong...
(((* As an aside, in regards to the crappy details of that day well, this is funny...NOW... anyway here it is...my snob Aunt, Uncle and cousin had told us about how they were having a swank after the wedding reception party that is why me, my brother, my brother-in-law and my friend (Taylor) absolutely needed to rent tuxedos for the wedding. We got there and they started giving us chores at the church to hold doors, give flowers, etc and there was no "after party" except a pack of teenagers (I was in my mid-20's) having sex in attached hotel rooms. I was fit to be tied. )))
I have to admit, since I've been reading up on Call of Cthulhu I've been getting interested in the idea of a 1920's era game and I've been listening to music from that time. I found this link which I really like: a mix of 1920's jazz and ambient sound effects.