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Archive => RPG Theory => Topic started by: b_bankhead on March 10, 2004, 05:28:55 PM



Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: b_bankhead on March 10, 2004, 05:28:55 PM
Note: This article is an extension of the threads, Drifting to R'lyeh  (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=8459)and Cthulhu's clues (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=8482).  It will be best understood by reading those posts

   One of the most nagging anomalies of Call of Cthulhu has been a certain hypocrisy about violence.  Hyposcrisy ? you may ask. Well yes, isn't it hypocrisy filling the Cthulhu Now supplements with lovingly rendered sketches of automatic weapons and then verbally spanking your hands for wanting to use them.  Isn't it hypocrisy to create a game where the only real form of accumulable effectivenss is your gun and then insulting you for noticing it.
Thats right.  That's the real Dark Secret of Call of Cthulhu: You are only as good as your gun. And getting a bigger one (and learning to shoot it) is generally the only way to really get better.

Yet the game promotes the idea of looking down on those who notice this. On long thread "Dealing with Rambo wannabees" on the
Yog-Sothoth.com site embodies this attitude. The bring up a lot of house rules mods designed specifically to castrate firearms. But then they are enamored of the ultraviolent 'Masks of Nyarlathotep' a scenario whose opening scene consists of encountering a group of cultists crouched over the mutilated corpse of an old friend. Perhaps they'll drop dead if you critically hit your Fast Talk roll and trick them into having heart attacks, yeah that's it....

   HP Lovecraft wasn't shy about putting guns in the hands of his heros. In 'Whisperer in Darkness' an entire colony of Mi-go is held off by an arsenal of firearms and guard dogs that Randy Weaver would have envied. In The Shunned House' in addittion to a bathtubs worth of concentrated acid they also pack a 'military flamethrower' and a Crookes tube, a real honest to Ghostbusters ,20's era particle accelerator.  

   I rather doubt the Federal Agents that raided Innsmouth were throwing noodles at the time, the cops that waded into the cultists in 'Call of Cthulhu, Certainly weren't.

Even the more intellectual Richard Upton Pickman, and Herber West weren't too good to pack heat when they needed to...why should anybody else playing the game?

   Let's take a typical situation from Cthululand.  A small colony of Deep Ones has slithered up into the cities sewer system , they are ensconced in some catacomb under an abandoned building and gathered  a cult about itself.  They are sacrificing ,street people, orphans, what have you to the foul creature.  The cult is growing,gaining, in magical power, and temporal influence. They have the potential, if things go on, to turn the place into another Innsmouth.

   Okay lets say the players have found all this out, whether they made their skill rolls or you just dropped a book in their laps which lays everything out in block letters.  (If they can't do the former you will probably end up doing the later,or it's equivalent.)

   Like any self-respecting group of Investigators, they want to put a stop to this.

   So, what exactly ARE they supposed to do about it?

   There are really only so many options.  The typical Cthulhu mythos cult makes Al-Quaida look like a model of probity and good fellowship, so you can be sure reasoning with them isn't going to make much headway.  In the aformentioned 'Shadow over Innsmouth' the narrator simply sicced the Feds on them.  An acceptable solution in a short story but damn de-protaganising in an rpg (besides in Cthulhu scenarios the authorities will almost certainly ignore or laugh off such a warning).

   So what's left?  Magic?  As the CoC rulebook states quite clearly: "An investigator rarely becomes an adept mage as the necessary knowledge and experience leads to madness first".
Indeed!   Reading mythos books costs SAN.  Casting mythos spells costs SAN. Getting close enough to a mythos monster to use a spell (can) costs SAN.  Using mythos magic items, costs SAN.  And since the whiff factor for magic (at least for Investigators)  is even worse than for mundane skills, all this throwing away of the hard to regenerate mental hit points known as SAN is likely to be futile anyway.

   So magic is unlikely to be useful given the way the CoC rules work. The Authorities wil be unhelpful.  Negotiation is likely to be worse than useless. The only real option is a violent one.

         CoC's hypocrisy about violence enter into the equation unfortunately.  CoC wants to be this cultured,thinking man's game, the rpg equivaltent of Frasier Crane, the opposite of the continuous mindless miniatures combat of D&D.  But  by and large it's in practice impossible to resolve most scenarios without violence of some kind.  As the rules clain, "Investigator's aren't fighting machines. The single extraordinary thing about most investigator's is what they come to know."   But as I pointed out in 'Drifting to R'lyeh' what you know really doesn't matter because if the Keeper doesn't want his game to die out in a welter of whiffed skill rolles in the Miskatonic U. reading room he'll tell you what you need to know anyway.

   But need to know to do what?

   Again how are you going the get that star spawn? Burning down the house merely means they set up shop elsewhere. This has the same problem as the various other 'nuke the site from orbit' options.  Explosives are often reccomended, however they have the same problems as throwing a molotov in the window, you don't really know what happened. (This ignores the fact that explosives can be as dangerous as any monster if you dont know what you're doing, it's interesting to note that CoC doesn not and has never had a Demolitions skill!) Was the threat neutralized? You won't find out until later and if it didn't work, the cult will be forewarned that somebody has got their number, and they'll be even more careful in the future (we are constantly told Cthulhu cultists are raving maniacs.  Unlike most raving maniacs seem unusually crafty.....). The problem with 'nuke the site from orbit is that you CAN'T be sure.  In CoC you can't be sure unless you watch it die, and sometimes not even then......

   So usually violence is the only choice you have.  And guns are good at violence.  Thats why the armies of the world dropped arrows and swords in favor of guns.  They are easily and cheaply acquired, (at least in the USA), eminently portable ,concealable, and can strike at a distance.  (Hundreds of yards, at least in theory...).  The kinds of places most CoC action scenes occur are places where the characters are within the point blank rule for firearms which DOUBLES your hit probability. (haunted houses,caves,sewers ,crypts ,catacombs ,etc...).

Stand and Deliver!:Riding shotgun on the mythos

Hell yes Call of Cthulhu is hypocritical about guns. The 'Theron Marks' article in the Cthulhu Companion (?) is virtually a pean to the shotgun. And well it might, shotguns are the best weapon in the book.  At the typical combat ranges their punch is enourmous .14 points for a median 12-guage hit. Shotguns are regulated at a far lower level than automatic weapons,when firing pellets they have no ballistic signature,they can be easily loaded with all kinds of imaginative ammunitions (I've use everthing in my games from rock salt to gigantic glaser rounds that do 8(d6+2) to soft targets), and furthermore they give your characters an excuse to slink around in cool looking,shotgun hiding, black dusters  in the middle of the night.

   One non-argument, is the 'the horrors of the mythos are invulverable to paltry human weapons" routine. I can only think those who belive this haven't looked at the monster stats in CoC very carefully. Sure Cthulhu and the major league 'big bads' are pretty much bulletproof,but most of the lesser servitor and independent races (the overwhelming majority of what will be encountered in any reasonable campaign) come apart pretty well under gunfire. To demostrate this I have compiled a list the number of median damage hits with a shotgun to kill a median hit point creature of the given type. Included are any modifier for armor and other types of damage resistance.

         
         median # hits
Byakhee          2   
Deep Ones         1
Dark Young of                   
Shub-Niggurath      5
Dimension Shamblers   2
Elder Things
Fire Vampires         *I
Formless Spawn of
Tsathoggua         *I
Ghasts         2
Ghouls         2      
Gnoph-Keh         6
Great Race of
Yith            6
Gugs            8
Hunting Horrors      6
Leng Spiders      4
Mi-Go            3
Moon Beasts         5
Nightgaunts         2
Sand Dwellers      
Serpent Men         1   
Shantaks         7

While a few of the critters on this chart are pretty stiff, most of these are also pretty hard to find, Gugs are almost all in the Dreamlands, You normally have to go back before the dinosaurs to encounter the great race, and knoph-keh are only found in the most godforsaken arctic wastelands.
Only a few are actually gun-proof, most of those that are are vulnerable to incediary attacks.
Fire Vampires are a real problem, but if you happen to be near a garden hose......

The lesson of this chart isn't that the horrors of the mythos are invulnerable to wankety ,wank ,wank , the lesson is 'Shoot early and often'.

There is another lesson too.  Call of Cthulhu talks and talks about the uselessness of violence, but creates a game where it's almost inevitable.  The lesson of this is simply don't necessarily believe what the designers of a game tell, you , they can be amazingly obtuse about the type of play their rules actually support.

I will end by paraphrasing the immortal words of John Dillinger 'You will get farther with an Orate roll and a gun ,than you will with just an Orate roll".....


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: Valamir on March 10, 2004, 06:22:40 PM
Preach it brother.
Call of Cthulhu survives as a game because people did Cthulhu and cultists and the Mythos.  The actual game mechanics, IMO, are unqualifiedly horrible.


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: Callan S. on March 10, 2004, 08:59:54 PM
Hmm, I wonder what Cthulhu's system design goals should actually be, in relation to genre material?

As stated, that genre material includes shooting cultists and the lesser puncths of Cthulhu.

Yet to add in a combat section is like that standard Mike rant, about sticking in combat sections even if your books about the best photographers in the world. And how crud that is.

I wonder if one goal might be that survival is basically formulated through current knowledge + gun skill + how big a barrel you got, all added to one roll and that's it (basically a conflict resolution rather than task resolution). What I mean by current knowledge is what stuff you've learnt from the adventure helps you avoid walking to close to the creatures grasp, which is pretty damn important, perhaps more so than having a big gun (crank your currennt knowledge modifier really high).

Sound legit?


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: Andrew Norris on March 10, 2004, 09:24:53 PM
I suppose this could be taken as an example of how Call of Cthulhu is incoherent, yes? It seems the desired mode for most groups playing it is Sim / Exploration of Setting or Color ("What would it be like to be inside a Lovecraft story?") but in fact the game rewards play that's either more Gamist ("look, it only takes one shotgun blast on average to kill a Serpent Man") or Sim in more of a "What if Cthulhu related events happened in the real world" (in which case the right answer really is to either go in with heavy automatic weapons, call the feds, or just turn around and pretend you didn't see anything.)

It's an interesting thought, because there are a number of games that focus on simulation of a cinematic reality, but not many that try to simulate a literary one. CoC is one of those games that knows what it wants to do, but tries to do it in a way similar to other games published around when it came out, and it doesn't really gel.


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: Ian Charvill on March 11, 2004, 12:39:19 AM
I think there's always been two strands of Cthulhu play - 'pulp cthulhu' and 'adventures in social history'.  From what I've seen of it, D20 Cthulhu drifted towards the former.

The "Theron Mark's Survival Manual" was bundled in with a couple of adventures and was full of advice about shotguns - I think twin sawn-offs is recommended at one point - explosives and flame throwers.  The adventures themselves were fairly pulpy.  I remember something about Aztec temples in South America, crocodile attacks and the like.

They were a lot of fun.

(Historically, I always found that the big problem with going in guns blazing all the time was that - as a strategy - it ignores the ablative effect of Sanity)


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: Itse on March 11, 2004, 05:25:43 AM
Noon:

Quote

Hmm, I wonder what Cthulhu's system design goals should actually be, in relation to genre material?

As stated, that genre material includes shooting cultists and the lesser puncths of Cthulhu.

Yet to add in a combat section is like that standard Mike rant, about sticking in combat sections even if your books about the best photographers in the world. And how crud that is.


I would say they have taken the easy way out. "We don't know how to design a combat system which would fit with the themes of the game, what to do? Tell them there shouldn't be one." Not that great. What CoC would need is a seriously thought out mechanic that would help flesh out the almost inevitable final violent confrontation with detail and atmosphere fitting to the genre. Actually, I don't even think it would be that hard.

This would be the perfect place for any and all rules about fear, desperation, panic and in general uncontrolled and unrational behaviour in combat. Being unable to make clear decisions in the face of the monsters would pretty much be a given. Putting a lot of heavy artillery in the hands of scared amateurs would make them almost as dangerous to each other and innocent bystanders (like captives of the cult) than to the enemy. I would love see the players create the most carefully thought out plans, only to see all tactics be forgotten in the face of the enemy, creating potentially disastrous situations. "Where's my cover fire?! Where's my gOD DAMNED FUCKING COVER, FRANK WHERE ARE YOU!... Who's that? Oh shit Jim, GET THE HELL OUT OF THERE, IT'S GONNA... *sound of explosion* ...oh god..."

You get the picture.


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: GreatWolf on March 11, 2004, 10:00:28 AM
Maybe I'm just not highbrow enough (grin), but whenever I ran CoC, firearms were always involved.  And I'm talking about the "play-in-the-basement-with-the-lights-out" kind of CoC.  However, the characters that we ran were rarely combat beasts.  Gunplay with the monsters tended to feel rather desperate.  Certainly the monsters weren't invulnerable (even the shoggoth that I once threw at a group), but they were enough to induce fear and panic among both characters and players.  So the gunplay and violence tended to increase the fear and desperation, not work against it.

And I say this as a fan of the game.

Seth Ben-Ezra
Great Wolf


Title: Re: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulh
Post by: John Kim on March 11, 2004, 04:26:16 PM
To bankhead:  I'm not convinced this is hypocrisy.  If some author publishes a CoC adventure which rewards gun use, and some internet poster on yog-sothoth.com says "Only munchkins use guns" -- then this is a clash of views, not hypocrisy.   The latter presumably prefers more non-violent adventures than the ones published.  

My impression from the CoC published books themselves is that they encourage gun use to a certain extent, but also suggest putting limits on it.  As a rule of thumb, shotguns and dynamite are fine and indeed expected -- but tanks and mounted machineguns are to be discouraged (with possible exceptions in the case of Delta Green).  The "Theron Mark's Survival Manual" is a good illustration.  It is absolutely not the case that the game wants PCs to be unarmed scholars who succeed through being smart and reading.  Indeed, the game tries to make investigation as dangerous and peril-ridden as combat (i.e. "Don't read that book!!!").


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: madelf on March 11, 2004, 08:41:53 PM
Strangely, the rant that opened this thread has made me (for the very first time) consider that Call of Cthulu might be a really fun game to play.

While the "high brow tone" of the game always put me off in the past, the idea of grabbing my trench coat and 12guage pump to go kick some ancient evil ass gives it just the contrast needed to give it a greater appeal.

Personally I couldn't imagine enjoying a game where I go quietly insane researching old gods in a gloomy library.

But going stark raving bonkers with a 45 in each hand, guns blazing and lighting up the sanity blasting visage of an old one like a staccato strobe light... that would be much more cool.

If I were actually presented with such a situtation in real life, I'd like to think I know which way I'd go out. Definitely with a bang.


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: Gordon C. Landis on March 12, 2004, 01:25:28 PM
Quote from: madelf
But going stark raving bonkers with a 45 in each hand, guns blazing and lighting up the sanity blasting visage of an old one like a staccato strobe light... that would be much more cool.

Isn't this the source of popularity for the Delta Green variant of CoC?  I confess, I've seen MUCH more Delta Green play than "real" 20's CoC . . .

Gordon


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: madelf on March 12, 2004, 02:50:56 PM
Quote from: Gordon C. Landis

Isn't this the source of popularity for the Delta Green variant of CoC?  I confess, I've seen MUCH more Delta Green play than "real" 20's CoC . . .
Gordon


Very likely, though I hadn't heard of Delta Green.
I may have to check it out now.


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: Ron Edwards on March 12, 2004, 03:04:52 PM
Hello,

Madelf, I also recommend the game Dread, by Rafael Chandler, which for my money captures exactly what you describe in the most effective, playable, and visceral way I've ever seen.

Best,
Ron


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: Trevis Martin on March 12, 2004, 03:27:50 PM
Just as a note, Dread seems to be currently unavailable.  According to the authors site  he has sold his entire print run.  The site makes no mention of an intention to print more books.

http://rafaelchandler.com

regards,

Trevis


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: Ole on March 13, 2004, 11:18:47 AM
Quote from: madelf

While the "high brow tone" of the game always put me off in the past, the idea of grabbing my trench coat and 12guage pump to go kick some ancient evil ass gives it just the contrast needed to give it a greater appeal.

Personally I couldn't imagine enjoying a game where I go quietly insane researching old gods in a gloomy library.


A typical CoC adventure:
Somebody related to the characters gets abducted/killed, or they stumble upon the outer layer of a conspiracy trying to summon an old god, (ending the world as we know it), either way the players get a handout.
The players read the handout and underlines the parts that needs to be investigated.
The characters investigates, unveiling new handouts, clues and red herrings.
If the players get stuck the keeper points them in the right direction.
Low level opposition must be disposed of by force.
High level opposition must be disposed of either by killing their would-be summoners, or by exploiting their fatal weakness.

So basically you spend hours reading handouts and piecing together information, blast the cultists to kingdom come, steal a musty old-book, spend 3 months reading it (hopefully staying sane), use the information in the book to save the world.

Hypocrisy about violence? You betcha. The introductory material and rules commonly emphasise that this is a game about investigation, and violence will get you nowhere.
The big problem is when players actually buy into this, and create investigators without combat-skills. I`ve yet to see an adventure where violence isnt a necessity at some crucial point.
Detailed knowledge of Hyperborean culture and the ritual needed to send The Big Bad Old God back to Ix will get you nowhere when the Pathetic Minion of The Big Bad Old God is gnawing on your leg.

Shotguns are the weapon of choice for a number of reasons, versatility, high damage, availability, concealable. All investigators need proficiency in  its use. They have one flaw, rate of fire, there are occasions when you need more lead in the air. Personally I prefer the Tommy-gun, but since it was first manufactured in 1929 it may not always be available. Not all keepers know this, some of those that do still allow it in their campaigns. In lieu of this baby there are several machine guns that fit the bill.
I`ve seen a summoning disrupted by strafing fire from a Sopwith Camel, now theres something to tell your grandchildren about :), but I doubt it was what the designers of the adventure had in mind...


Title: tommygun
Post by: komradebob on March 13, 2004, 11:41:26 AM
Not to quibble, but I'm pretty sure the Tommygun went into production prior to 1929. If I recall corectly, it was designed to be marketed to the Allied governments for the anticipated 1919 campaigns, but the war ended before it went into production. Seem to recall that the tommygun in it's early form was used in both the Tan War and the Irish Civil War in the early '20s.  
 As for alternatives, I believe that France, Britain, and Germany all experimented with machine pistols/submachineguns, lightmachineguns and assault rifles for uses in the trenches. I'm pretty sure that the Browning automatic rifle (B.A.R) came out of those designs, as did the Lewisgun, two light, bipod equiped made by the americans and british respectively.
 IIRC, the tommygun, because it fired .45 pistol ammo, was classified as a pistol for legal purposes, and was available over the counter or by mail order in the U.S.(ie- unrestricted access to the public), leading to its popularity with criminal factions during the heyday of the bootlegger wars.
 Also remember that in the interwar years, the US had an incredibly laissez-faire attitude toward gun ownership. Critics of the current ease of gun ownership would blow a gasket if they suddenly found themselves in the 1920s. It would not be unbelievable that bookish, law abiding scholars would own some sort of handgun. OTOH, Miranda rights weren't in place at the time, and police had much broader powers, both on the books and in practice, to detain and abuse suspected criminals and malcontents of all stripes.


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: John Kim on March 13, 2004, 12:36:57 PM
Quote from: Ole
  So basically you spend hours reading handouts and piecing together information, blast the cultists to kingdom come, steal a musty old-book, spend 3 months reading it (hopefully staying sane), use the information in the book to save the world.

Hypocrisy about violence? You betcha. The introductory material and rules commonly emphasise that this is a game about investigation, and violence will get you nowhere.
The big problem is when players actually buy into this, and create investigators without combat-skills. I`ve yet to see an adventure where violence isnt a necessity at some crucial point.  

OK, I've re-read the Call of Cthulhu main book.  While I can see where you (and bankhead) get that, I think you are projecting too much into it.  Consider that most gamers are used to the model of D&D and other heroic games where you immediately meet a monster and kill it.  There is an "Expectations & Play" section in the introduction, which says the following:
Quote
Call of Cthulhu differs in feel and motivation from other roleplaying games.  In many such games, player-characters can directly confront and attempt to destroy obstacles and opponents.  This strategy typically leads to disaster in Cthulhu scenarios.  The majority of other-world monstrosities are so terrible and often so invulnerable that choosing open combat almost guarantees a gruesome end for an investigator.
...
Different Investigators
Are any investigators specialists?  One handy sort is the wise old professor who knows foreign languages, reads arcane manuscripts, and pieces together Sanity-blasting spells able to send the Elder Horrors back whence they came.  He or she is typically little use if a fight develops, and generally has low Sanity points, due to intensive study of the Mythos.
   An opposite sort is the tough operator able to fight well with fists or guns.  He or she should leave the eldritch aspects of the Mythos to others and remain a bodyguard and scout.  He or she can be helpful with police and gangsters.
...
Avoid Gunfights
Every group of players has its own feel and customs.  If gangsters and foreign spies are common features in a campaign, all the investigators probably carry concealed weapons for self-defense.  The number of devastating weapons floating about in the 1990s practically demands sidearms.
...
By all means have lots of firearms.  But do not rely on firearms.  

I don't consider this to be hypocritical.  I think it is simply trying to paint exactly the picture you (Ole) paint of adventures: some investigation and some gunplay.  The point of this is to distinguish CoC from games like D&D or Feng Shui.


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: Ole on March 13, 2004, 01:42:51 PM
komradebob: You are right about the T-gun. It might be that the version in CoC is the 1929-modell, or it might be that I`m confusing it with another gun.

Quote from: John Kim

OK, I've re-read the Call of Cthulhu main book.  While I can see where you (and bankhead) get that, I think you are projecting too much into it.  Consider that most gamers are used to the model of D&D and other heroic games where you immediately meet a monster and kill it.  There is an "Expectations & Play" section in the introduction, which says the following:
Quote
Call of Cthulhu differs in feel and motivation from other roleplaying games.  In many such games, player-characters can directly confront and attempt to destroy obstacles and opponents.  This strategy typically leads to disaster in Cthulhu scenarios.  The majority of other-world monstrosities are so terrible and often so invulnerable that choosing open combat almost guarantees a gruesome end for an investigator.


Actually, what typically leads to disaster is lack of martial skills. For a few, but very important, entities, another approach is needed.

Quote
Different Investigators
Are any investigators specialists?  One handy sort is the wise old professor who knows foreign languages, reads arcane manuscripts, and pieces together Sanity-blasting spells able to send the Elder Horrors back whence they came.  He or she is typically little use if a fight develops, and generally has low Sanity points, due to intensive study of the Mythos.
   An opposite sort is the tough operator able to fight well with fists or guns.  He or she should leave the eldritch aspects of the Mythos to others and remain a bodyguard and scout.  He or she can be helpful with police and gangsters.


...notice how it omits monsters? Such a character would be really helpful against 95% of the monsters encountered. Why dont they tell us that?

Quote
Avoid Gunfights
Every group of players has its own feel and customs.  If gangsters and foreign spies are common features in a campaign, all the investigators probably carry concealed weapons for self-defense.  The number of devastating weapons floating about in the 1990s practically demands sidearms.
...
By all means have lots of firearms.  But do not rely on firearms.


Avoid gunfights? Yet most adventures requires violence, sometimes lots of it. Its more like:

Combat is lethal. Carry and use firearms, but do not rely solely on them (sometimes you need explosives or a musty old book).

Quote
I don't consider this to be hypocritical.  I think it is simply trying to paint exactly the picture you (Ole) paint of adventures: some investigation and some gunplay.  The point of this is to distinguish CoC from games like D&D or Feng Shui.


If the point of all this is to differentiate CoC from DnD, the designers obviously think exaggeration is the best method.


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: Halzebier on March 13, 2004, 02:12:30 PM
While I can see where people are coming from, I think that the accusations of hypocrisy are unfounded.

The very first scenario in my 5th-edition copy of CoC, entitled "The Edge of Darkness" and being nine pages long, does not require guns or violence at all.

SPOILER WARNING for "The Edge of Darkness"

Instance of violence come down to the following in this 'haunted house' scenario:

(1) A scared hobo tries to flee the cellar when the investigators stumble upon him. He is using an old table leg for a single attack and then tries to escape. He will fight if his escape route is blocked, but there is no harm in letting him go (i.e., he takes no crucial clues with him) and subduing him should be easy even for unarmed bookish types.

(2) The first investigator to take a look into the attic has a fair chance of getting his head torn off. However, the characters can only withdraw as the lurker in the attic cannot be hurt by physical weapons (and the investigators are specifically not assumed to have any spells).

(3) Two animated corpses try to lure the investigators out of the house or eventually threaten to fight their way in. However, the investigators are perfectly safe inside.

SPOILER ENDING

That's it. No need for guns. Not even a single attack roll is required.

Obviously, there are other types of scenarios, but this one fits the CoC stereotype - mythos monsters are invincible, player characters are investigators rather than commandoes - nicely. And as John has pointed out, CoC doesn't really subscribe to the stereotypes about itself.

Regards,

Hal


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: komradebob on March 13, 2004, 02:32:37 PM
One of the things I've noticed about CoC ( and other Realworldish setting that use firearms) is just how accurate weapons fire is. To be honest, amateurs with guns should not hit as often as they do. Like, put their chance tohit in the single digit percentages excxept under optimal circumstances. And when I say amateur, I mean everyone short of a well seasoned soldier, with both training and hard won experience, plus natural talent.

OTOH single bullets from weapons also seem less deadly than they really should be. It is hard for me to imagine a game designer that doesn't consider that a single bullet should well be capable of killing even an execeedingly strong and healthy human being. Perhaps the chance is small, but it should be there.

As for hypocrisy, well maybe.

Perhaps what is missing is repurcussions for one's actions. I mentioned in an earlier post that guns were readily accessible in the US in the interwar years. Consider, however, that their use has repurcussions. Cops or military personnel acting under orders might well be able to get away with destroying a Deep One horde and infested town.  A bunch of college professors and a couple of low-class PIs wasting a nice old eccentric and his psychic medium friend is just bucking for a visit with Ol' Sparky.  If the pcs are miners that blew up a shaft to "stop a monster", get ready to do a Sacco and Vanzetti sequel. Hey, nobody likes anarchist terrorists anyway, especially not juries loaded with upstanding middle-class citizens.


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: Ole on March 13, 2004, 03:29:36 PM
Quote from: Halzebier
While I can see where people are coming from, I think that the accusations of hypocrisy are unfounded.

The very first scenario in my 5th-edition copy of CoC, entitled "The Edge of Darkness" and being nine pages long, does not require guns or violence at all.

Obviously, there are other types of scenarios, but this one fits the CoC stereotype - mythos monsters are invincible, player characters are investigators rather than commandoes - nicely. And as John has pointed out, CoC doesn't really subscribe to the stereotypes about itself.


Yes there are other types of scenarios as well, for example there are three other introductory scenarios in 5th ed. CoC. Two of them has violent climatic  endings, the last one has a good probability of it.


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: Valamir on March 14, 2004, 07:49:33 AM
Geeze louise.

Its amazing the depths that people will go to avoid discussing a topic by nitpicking the appropriateness of a single world to death.

Fine.  There are people, even a sizeable number, who do not consider the situation Chris describes to be hypocritical.  Others do.  Fine, big whoop.

Can we try discussing the actual issue he brought forward regarding the nature of CoC actual play that is encouraged by the BRP rules, and whether that really reflects the nature and mood of Mythos stories as well as it should.  

To me the BRP system doesn't do anything at all to reflect the nature and mood of the Mythos stories.  The game designers expect the players to already be fully aware of the mythos and simply mimick the stories in play regardless of what the rules suggest the best course of action is.

The stories suggest a character in the mythos should investigate occult arcana, willingly searching for the knowledge that man was not meant to know.  The rules, however, make it clear that this is a bad idea.  So, players desireing to mimic the mythos must voluntarily do something which they know the game will punish them for...and to make matters have even less of a mythos feel, they know pretty much exactly how and when they're going to be punished also.

There is very little built into the rules to support mythos play.  And by support I mean someone whose never read a mythos story, heard about them, or even heard the name of Cthulhu before, could sit down, play a couple of games, and after getting over the learning curve of the rules come away from the table with a pretty good idea what a Mythos story looks like.

That's the point of Chris's three threads on the subject.  That is what I would find much more interesting to discuss.


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: Halzebier on March 14, 2004, 08:34:55 AM
Quote from: Valamir
Geeze louise.

Its amazing the depths that people will go to avoid discussing a topic by nitpicking the appropriateness of a single world to death.


Well, it's a negative term, so some people are bound to take exception to its use.

And might I point out that in my opinion your deliberate or continued use of negative terms (e.g. calling immersive play 'selfish') has sometimes had the same effect, i.e. hindered discussion.

Quote
Can we try discussing the actual issue he brought forward regarding the nature of CoC actual play that is encouraged by the BRP rules, and whether that really reflects the nature and mood of Mythos stories as well as it should.


Okay, first of all we need to distinguish at least two types of mythos stories, I think.

The distinction isn't always clear-cut, but I'll try to start a list of key features:

Type 1: detective work in libraries, starring bookish types
Type 2: detective work in the field, starring hard-boiled types

I'd place "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward" in the first category and "The Shadow over Innsmouth" in the second.

As far as I can tell, the CoC-as-written tries to cater to both types, which might be asking for trouble...

*-*-*

Regarding Type 1, there is the introductory scenario "The Edge of Darkness" which requires no violence and is solved by reading the right books.

From a system perspective, the skill "Library Use" suggests to the reader that poring over musty tomes is an important part of play.

(As has been pointed out in a previous thread, detective work may be a red herring, but that's another topic.)

My suggestion for improving CoC for this type of play? Use a very simple, karma-based combat system - or better yet, have no special sub-system at all. This would suggest to the reader that combat is rare and even luck won't help you againt a mythos creature.

*-*-*

Regarding Type 2, there is the famous campaign "The Masks of Nyarlathotep" which has plenty of shoot-outs with mad cultists (or so I've heard).

From a system perspective, detailed rules for firearms seem to suggest to the reader that guns are important.

My suggestion for improving CoC for this type of play? Dunno. Use a pulpish combat system a la Feng Shui, perhaps.

*-*-*

(Note how both examples merely suggest the importance of a certain aspect to the reader. Neither necessarily supports the associated type of play. Detailed rules for firearms do not guarantee satisfying pulp-style play, for instance.)


Regards,

Hal


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: Halzebier on March 14, 2004, 08:46:18 AM
Quote from: Halzebier
And might I point out that in my opinion your deliberate or continued use of negative terms (e.g. calling immersive play 'selfish') has sometimes had the same effect, i.e. hindered discussion.


I apologize - this comes across as harsher than intended.

My point is this: Provocation and a bit of polemic can be a great, not to mention fun, way of stirring up a lively discussion. But it's the nature of the beast that a discussion thus started will to some extent be emotional, defensive, or polemical - in short, not overly suited for making constructive progress.

Regards,

Hal


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: John Kim on March 14, 2004, 11:07:03 AM
Quote from: Valamir
There is very little built into the rules to support mythos play.  And by support I mean someone whose never read a mythos story, heard about them, or even heard the name of Cthulhu before, could sit down, play a couple of games, and after getting over the learning curve of the rules come away from the table with a pretty good idea what a Mythos story looks like.

That's the point of Chris's three threads on the subject.  That is what I would find much more interesting to discuss.

Er, OK.  I thought this topic was more specifically about violence and gunplay rather than about genre emulation in general.  (Chris?  Were we going off-topic?)  If the question is about genre emulation: sure, I agree.  The CoC game isn't designed to reproduce Lovecraft stories.  Its adventures form a distinct subgenre from the subgenre of HPL stories, with (for example) amateur but dedicated investigators who are semi-continuous from one adventure to the next.  Violence plays a greater part, which IMO is natural since within a campaign the PCs are soon aware of horrors and actively seeking to stop them.  (i.e. closer to Hal's #2.)


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: Ian Charvill on March 15, 2004, 12:36:31 AM
Quote from: Valamir
There is very little built into the rules to support mythos play.  And by support I mean someone whose never read a mythos story, heard about them, or even heard the name of Cthulhu before, could sit down, play a couple of games, and after getting over the learning curve of the rules come away from the table with a pretty good idea what a Mythos story looks like.


To speak from the point of view of someone who had run dozens of sessions of CoC before reading Lovecraft - yes and no.  From the supportive text, yes I'd gotten a fair idea of what a Lovecraft story would read like, in very general terms.  Nothing had prepared me for the prose - but then I'm not sure anything could prepare someone for prose that bad.

But yeah, what John said.  At best they represent a sub-genre of Mythos writing - or explicitely Sandy Peterson's take on a subset of Mythos writing as seen through the filter of Chaosium's house system.

Which brings up one of the things missing from this discussion - time depth.  Call fo Cthulhu was written in the early eighties and based on a system from the 70s (1st ed - if I'm remembering right - had all the percentage modifiers to Agility, Manipulation, Knowledge, etc, skills that you'd see in RQ).

The other thing is people seem to be comparing CoC to some kind of platonic ideal of what a genre-emulative game based on Lovecraft's Mythos stoty might be based on modern roleplaying theory.  I think for the critisism to be meaningful the comparisons have to be to other games of the period.

Chill, for example, good game, similar genre, similar period.  The ad copy used to carry a recommendation from Stephen King.   Why was CoC more successful than Chill?

Ignoring horror - what from the period was emulating genre better?

If the argument re CoC is just genre emulation and you can't point at anything from the period which is doing a better job of emulation - then what is the argument: that Cthulhu's gotten old?


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: simon_hibbs on March 15, 2004, 07:51:24 AM
I think Hypocrisy is a very strong word, and is a long way from neing justified in this case.

It is true that some of CoC's supporters can be a bit hyperbolic in their praise of the game and the 'ideal' play style, but the actual game itself is very practical and down to earth about these issues. As the poster states Lovecraft's stories contain ample examples of people taking on the Mythos with firepower, often successfuly. Some threats aren't amenable to this kind of attack though, and this too is mentioned in the game and supported in the rules. I think the game matches what you'd expect from a reading of the stories very well in this regard.

Sometimes fireams work, sometimes they don't. There's nothing contradictory in saying that.

I disagree with the way magic is being characterised, and here I will depart a little from the recommendations in the game text. Sometimes magic is either the best, or sometimes even the only solution to a problem. In those cases, the magic you require exacts a terrible price. Again this is very well supported in the rules. Having a character go nuts, or even losing the character through injury or SAN loss is one thing. Actualy choosing to weaken or destroy your character, often in horrible ways, for the greater good is quite another and being put in a possition to have to make those choices and balance those risks IMHO is one of the great experiences roleplaying games have to offer. And all this 20 years ago!


Simon Hibbs


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: Mike Holmes on March 15, 2004, 10:57:43 AM
To agree with Simon, and with Ralph simultaneously, I think that Hypocrisy is just a term that he's using to charge the issue. What he really means is that the game doesn't do well what it's supposed to do, given the game "technology" that exists today. That is, for 20 years ago, they probably did the best that they could, and I laud the attempt to hammer such difficult subject matter into the form of what RPGs were seen to be at the time. Yes it's problematic, but nobody could have done better at the time.

So, saying that CoC doesn't play better is akin to saying that cars in the seventies should have had airbags. Well, sure, but who knew? So, yes, your old car from the seventies isn't as good as an up to date car. So what?

Ralph is right that the overall subject of these threads is how well CoC supports what it intends to support (and in this one how guns affect that). But my question to Brian is why he's bothering to shoot fish in a barrel? Let's postulate that he's correct - then what? You can't even be proscriptive and point out what not to do, because most of what's in the game is outmoded by the intervening 25 years, and isn't used by other systems.

It all comes down to a big fat example of "System Does Matter." Well, not really new news there. And we can debate until the cows come home just how bad or good it is, but I don't think that's going to change anyone's mind on the matter, if they're fans of the game - likely they're not reading the essays. In any case, I think that what the players of CoC like are the subject matter, and the ways in which they've come to cope with the problems of the system. So there's really nothing to "cure" anyhow.

Mike


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: John Kim on March 15, 2004, 11:57:07 AM
Quote from: Mike Holmes
  So, saying that CoC doesn't play better is akin to saying that cars in the seventies should have had airbags. Well, sure, but who knew? So, yes, your old car from the seventies isn't as good as an up to date car. So what?    

OK, this is something of a rant of mine -- against the idea that later art is "better".  I guess this is because most of my favorite games are 80s games (Champions, James Bond, Ars Magica).  IMO, RPGs are not technology; they are art.  The "advances" you are talking about are changes in fashion or style.  I survey the games of 2003 and I see Orpheus, Red Dwarf, Savage Worlds, Soap, Tri-Stat DX, D&D 3.5, Marvel Universe, and various others.  They look quite different from Call of Cthulhu -- but are they more "advanced"???  I don't mean to disparage these games at all, but I don't think there is anything backwards or reactionary in wanting to play Call of Cthulhu rather than them -- any more than there is something wrong with someone who likes 60's music more than 2000's music.

Quote from: Mike Holmes
It all comes down to a big fat example of "System Does Matter." Well, not really new news there. And we can debate until the cows come home just how bad or good it is, but I don't think that's going to change anyone's mind on the matter, if they're fans of the game - likely they're not reading the essays. In any case, I think that what the players of CoC like are the subject matter, and the ways in which they've come to cope with the problems of the system. So there's really nothing to "cure" anyhow.

I agree that there isn't anything to cure, but I'm not sure I get your point about changing people's minds.  To some degree, I agree with you.  I've played a number of Call of Cthulhu games and had a lot of fun doing so, so I'm naturally skeptical of those who cite it as being broken and problem-ridden.  But I am open to debate on the subject.  I agree 100% with the principle that System Does Matter -- but that doesn't mean "old system is bad" or more specifically "you have to put in meta-game genre emulation rules for a game to be good".


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: Andrew Norris on March 15, 2004, 12:03:01 PM
Instead of hypocritical, could we say that it's incoherent? That was my initial reading of this thread, that CoC wants to simulate one thing but the rules encourage a different type of behavior.

I'm not sure if this is exactly the meaning of incoherent in GNS terminology but it seems like less of a loaded term. (Then again, 'hypocritical' in terms of 'says one thing, does another' doesn't really strike me as offensive to begin with when applied to a text rather than a person.)


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: John Kim on March 15, 2004, 12:34:40 PM
Quote from: Andrew Norris
Instead of hypocritical, could we say that it's incoherent? That was my initial reading of this thread, that CoC wants to simulate one thing but the rules encourage a different type of behavior.

I'm not sure if this is exactly the meaning of incoherent in GNS terminology but it seems like less of a loaded term. (Then again, 'hypocritical' in terms of 'says one thing, does another' doesn't really strike me as offensive to begin with when applied to a text rather than a person.)

I don't think that would help.  I agree with you that "hypocritical" is fine for the behavior described (says one thing, encourages another).  And "incoherent" has a more specific meaning within GNS that wasn't part of the initial point (I think).  

Just to review my position:  As far as I can tell, Call of Cthulhu is not trying to claim that it exactly reproduces the genre of Lovecraft stories with its adventures.   The overwhelming difference is having very different protagonists: a group of investigators who are continuous from one horror encounter to the next.  This is entirely intentional.  The PCs expect horrors and try to deal with them.  Based on this, the game text expects and indeed encourages a certain level of violence -- including firearms.  

Channeling Ron for a moment, I suspect that there is some degree of synecdoche going on here.  i.e. The name is "Call of Cthulhu", so therefore the game should correctly emulate a particular genre and/or be more literary and/or be Narrativist....  But I don't see this in the actual game.


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: simon_hibbs on March 16, 2004, 04:22:22 AM
Quote from: John Kim

Just to review my position:  As far as I can tell, Call of Cthulhu is not trying to claim that it exactly reproduces the genre of Lovecraft stories with its adventures.   The overwhelming difference is having very different protagonists: a group of investigators who are continuous from one horror encounter to the next.


There are a number of examples of recurring characters in Mythos fiction, though not many in Lovecraft's own stories (Randolph Carter). Still, the game draws on more than just Lovecraft.

Quote
This is entirely intentional.  The PCs expect horrors and try to deal with them.  Based on this, the game text expects and indeed encourages a certain level of violence -- including firearms.  


But not just for gamist resons. As has been pointed out, there are many examples even in Lovecraft's own stories, where gunplay is very effective.


Quote
Channeling Ron for a moment, I suspect that there is some degree of synecdoche going on here.  i.e. The name is "Call of Cthulhu", so therefore the game should correctly emulate a particular genre and/or be more literary and/or be Narrativist....  But I don't see this in the actual game.


I do. It's true that the game often isn't run in a way that is pure and true to Lovecraft a his best, but then neither is Lovecraft himself at all times. Look beyond Lovecraft's own stories, as the game does, and there's ample justification for it's take on the genre.


Simon Hibbs


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: pete_darby on March 16, 2004, 05:28:29 AM
Hmm... I know I'm projecting, but I get the feeling that Chaosium acquired the license, then very lightly altered BRP (essentially with the SAN mechanism, and an attempt to reduce the utility of guns against certain creatures) to attempt to sim 1920's reality with Lovecraft monsters on top, in preference to going back to scratch. Hence the perceived incoherence.

Also, John, I think the available techniques / deisgns comment really was that: was there anyone in commercial RPG design in 1982 thinking in terms of what we would recognise as narrative design, or rule systems that wholesale went for genre emulation above real-world simulation?

(this is, of course, an enormous tease, as I know about one off the top of my head, and he's not entirely unconnected with CoC...)

But there's a whole 'nother thread about to start there, and I'll start it when I'm not grossly extending my lunch...


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: simon_hibbs on March 16, 2004, 06:16:55 AM
Quote from: pete_darby
Hmm... I know I'm projecting, but I get the feeling that Chaosium acquired the license, then very lightly altered BRP (essentially with the SAN mechanism, and an attempt to reduce the utility of guns against certain creatures) to attempt to sim 1920's reality with Lovecraft monsters on top, in preference to going back to scratch. Hence the perceived incoherence.


The project wasn't orriginaly given to Sandy. I don't know much about the first draft, but apparently it was a pretty poor effort based more closely on RQ2. It had a 'Graveyard Encounter Table'. Whoever was doing it wasn't realy getting anywhere, and when Sandy found out about it he offered to have a go. At that stage he's done the Gateway Bestiary for RQ and perhaps one or two other little things here and there, so they gave him a shot. That's what he told me, anyway.

Quote
Also, John, I think the available techniques / deisgns comment really was that: was there anyone in commercial RPG design in 1982 thinking in terms of what we would recognise as narrative design, or rule systems that wholesale went for genre emulation above real-world simulation?


I think that's what Sandy thought he was doing. IMHO the point of game such as RQ and CoC was to experience swords and sorcery, and Lovecraftian stories in first person mode through roleplaying. World simulation was simply the best/only tool available to achieve that. I don't think 'narative design' in terms of game rules was realy recognised though. Eric probably had some ideas along these line, which eventualy lead to the creation of the Amber Diceless RPG.

Some games were more specificaly game rather than fiction oriented. D&D came form wargaming, and so has always had a more gamist ethos.

Quote
(this is, of course, an enormous tease, as I know about one off the top of my head, and he's not entirely unconnected with CoC...)


Sorry, don't know who you mean.


Simon Hibbs


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: pete_darby on March 16, 2004, 07:13:44 AM
Okay, I'll give... Greg Stafford, who put out Prince Valiant, but my research-fu was weak, and it turns out PV was 7 years later... but that kind of re-inforces my point, that AFAIK no-one was thinking in terms of subtracting what wasn't needed for the game, or rethinking the basic form of RPG's in order to better emulate the source material in 1982.

I'm really calling down the lightning here, aren't I? There's bound to be one big exception to this that I've missed...


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: Mike Holmes on March 16, 2004, 09:56:21 AM
No, I think you're precisely right, Pete. I think they had a vision that they just couldn't accomplish with the sorts of rules they had at the time. I think it's patent from the text. That's not to say that people don't play the resulting game in ways that they enjoy, just that, typically, it requires some drift like ignoring some of the rules that you point out.

Mike


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: John Kim on March 16, 2004, 11:06:53 AM
Quote from: pete_darby
Also, John, I think the available techniques / deisgns comment really was that: was there anyone in commercial RPG design in 1982 thinking in terms of what we would recognise as narrative design, or rule systems that wholesale went for genre emulation above real-world simulation?

(this is, of course, an enormous tease, as I know about one off the top of my head, and he's not entirely unconnected with CoC...)

Well, as far as "narrative design" -- I guess you're talking about GNS Narrativism as Ron defines it?  If so, then no, his first example is 1989's Prince Valiant.  For genre emulation, ideas were just starting to appear.  The most notable example was 1981's Champions.  It had player-defined conflicts and relationships (Hunteds and DNPCs), the superheroic equipment rule, and supporting bits like Instant Change and others.  None of that is real-world simulation or even simulation of what-if-there-were-superpowers -- it is genre emulation of the comics.  Soon following were games like James Bond 007 (1983) and Toon (1984) and Pendragon (1985).  

Quote from: Mike Holmes
I think they had a vision that they just couldn't accomplish with the sorts of rules they had at the time. I think it's patent from the text. That's not to say that people don't play the resulting game in ways that they enjoy, just that, typically, it requires some drift like ignoring some of the rules that you point out.

Well, I don't really know anything about the designers directly, but I don't get the impression that they were very disappointed.  The game has gone through quite a few editions with various reorganization and rewriting, but the core rules have changed very little.  Most other long-lived games have had much more major changes with new editions.  If the designers were disappointed and really wanted more "modern" rules that they just hadn't thought of, surely something would appear in later editions -- or at least in articles or supplements.

For the latter part, I guess I missed something.  What rules are you saying people ignore in CoC?


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: Mike Holmes on March 16, 2004, 02:32:05 PM
Quote
Quote from: Mike Holmes
I think they had a vision that they just couldn't accomplish with the sorts of rules they had at the time. I think it's patent from the text. That's not to say that people don't play the resulting game in ways that they enjoy, just that, typically, it requires some drift like ignoring some of the rules that you point out.

Well, I don't really know anything about the designers directly, but I don't get the impression that they were very disappointed.  
Neither do I. I never said that. In fact, I'm sure that they were delighted that they got to play out Mythos related adventures.

Like I said, it's a technology issue. How can you miss a cell phone if you've never seen one. Once you've seen one, however, it can become a very in-demand item. They couldn't put die pools in their game because die pools had not yet been invented. Never mind that it might not have been an improvement to the game, it wasn't an option. Like die pools every innovation in gaming that came later wasn't available to these designers.

Quote
The game has gone through quite a few editions with various reorganization and rewriting, but the core rules have changed very little.  Most other long-lived games have had much more major changes with new editions.  If the designers were disappointed and really wanted more "modern" rules that they just hadn't thought of, surely something would appear in later editions -- or at least in articles or supplements.
I disagree. I can't think of a single game that has undergone serious revision between editions, actually. But this is an identity problem. When Tweet was asked why he didn't revise D&D more for the third edition he said that he would have, but he was told that if he changed it more, that it would no longer be recognizable as D&D, and therefore might lose players who were used to the rules.

Which is to say that they specifically avoided improvements because they were afraid of alienating their fan base. Which is a fine decision - these people are all playing happily then why fix what's not broken? Still, that doesn't mean that there weren't improvements that could be made in an objective sense - the designer thinks there were.

Quote
For the latter part, I guess I missed something.  What rules are you saying people ignore in CoC?
Well, to get back to the thread topic, the gun rules for instance. That is, they either try to follow the text which tells them that the game isn't all about carrying arsenals, and ignore the fact that this is the best way to "win." Or they ignore the text. There's a contradiction, and something has to give.

You say that your reading, that it's Mythos with guns, is the "proper" reading, but it seems to me to be a compromise position that's neither supported by the text or the rules. Which is not to say it wouldn't work, just to say that it's a classic example of what I'm talking about, people drifting the game to make it what they need it to be to be functional for how they want to play.

I've played dozens of games of CoC. And there are many different styles that people play in. They're all fun, but all come about by some adjustment of the rules to get functional play.

Mike


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: GB Steve on March 17, 2004, 01:30:56 AM
With others, I don't think CoC was ever designed to support a particular style of play. Incoherence cannot be applied because design golas were different.

I've played it in many different ways from gamist dungeon bash where SAN replaces HPs (not my favourite way at all) through to intense psycho-drama, all with the same rules.

The rules didn't do anything in particular to support the style of play, although they do perhaps favour the dungeon bash.

I've used other rules for running Mythos games, from diceless funny Over The Edge through to Pulpy d20 and with the right groups they've all worked pretty well. Personally, I don't like BRP but it's easy to use and understand and is no worse than many other systems for running Cthulhu games.


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: John Kim on March 17, 2004, 09:06:50 AM
Quote from: Mike Holmes
  Like I said, it's a technology issue. How can you miss a cell phone if you've never seen one. Once you've seen one, however, it can become a very in-demand item. They couldn't put die pools in their game because die pools had not yet been invented. Never mind that it might not have been an improvement to the game, it wasn't an option. Like die pools every innovation in gaming that came later wasn't available to these designers.  

Wow.  I consider this totally wrong and in fact destructive to game design.  It's like pitying the makers Casablanca because they didn't have the color film and special effects to properly realize their film's vision.  I'm saying that's crap.  The makers of Casablanca weren't held back by the limitations of their technology -- they made a great film within the bounds of the film technology they had.  

I think there are a lot of lessons to be learned from classic game design like Call of Cthulhu -- which consistently holds its own against the latest fashions of RPG design.  It isn't the place to look for the latest ways to roll dice, but within its set of techniques there is a lot of artistry.  But unfortunately, many people ignore this.  They ignore older games because they figure those poor backwards designers didn't know any better.  With no perspective, they design their games based only on the latest fashions -- like using dice pools simply because dice pools are the more "modern" and "advanced" way of doing things.  

But really, there is a simple way to prove this.  Point out or design the game which does what Call of Cthulhu does better.  If they try it, everyone will go to it because it is objectively better and more advanced.


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: Ron Edwards on March 17, 2004, 09:27:51 AM
Hello,

That's an interesting point, John. I agree with it halfway and disagree with it halfway.

I agree with it in terms of older games per se. As you know, I think a lot of them were and are brilliant. As I've said before, I'm still a big fan of Champions, especially the 2nd-to-3rd edition phase, and I still think Tunnels & Trolls and Marvel Super Heroes are pinnacles of design and presentation. And these are just some of my faves, not by any means a good representation of pre-1983 diversity of play/design. And I do think that Call of Cthulhu represents some seriously functional and powerful game design, of a particular sort (people have probably noted that I don't jump in with all sorts of critique in this series of threads; that's because I'm not especially seeing flaws in the game given how its parts operate among one another).

On the other hand, I think that you might be asking a bit too much of the market as it stands to expect it to reflect "play quality" of games, at least not solely. I think that such a trend does exist to a great extent, when one steps back far enough (e.g. Marvel Super Heroes is played consistently to date despite its utter absence in the commercial environment) ... but also that games' success can also arise from subcultural identification and product loyalty. White Wolf games seem to me to be excellent examples, and I think that Cthulhu-esque fandom and fanfic are sufficiently linked to Call of Cthulhu the role-playing game as to be nearly identical. So actual play, and success thereof, may not be the single overriding variable involved.

So I'm hopping in to suggest that perhaps what this thread needs is a little focus about just what's being debated. When I start half-agreeing and half-disagreeing with various posts (and John's is just one), it's a sign that I, at least, am getting confused about that.

Best,
Ron


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: Valamir on March 17, 2004, 09:34:32 AM
I don't entirely disagree with your main point above John, but I do think that reality is somewhere in between.  You say that the Casablanca film makers weren't held back because the film wasn't in color...but I'm willing to bet that if color had been an option, they would have leapt at it.  Further we know for a fact that Lucas felt held back by the level of technology he had to work with with Star Wars, because he did go back and rework it once new technology became available.

In fact, I'd say this:
Quote
they made a great film within the bounds of the film technology they had.
is pretty much exactly the same thing Mike just said, and that you're not disagreeing with him at all.


Quote
If they try it, everyone will go to it because it is objectively better and more advanced.


But this is simply an impossible standard.  Its never been true of any product line let alone RPGs.  I reject any attempt to apply it as a yard stick of quality.


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: John Kim on March 17, 2004, 10:36:18 AM
Quote from: Valamir
You say that the Casablanca film makers weren't held back because the film wasn't in color...but I'm willing to bet that if color had been an option, they would have leapt at it.  Further we know for a fact that Lucas felt held back by the level of technology he had to work with with Star Wars, because he did go back and rework it once new technology became available.

While that's true about the behavior of most film-makers (who have commercial interests) -- I would ask: did the advanced technology make Star Wars a better film?  In my opinion, no, it made it worse.  In fact, I think the changes demonstrate exactly my worry:  that new technology makes things worse because people insist on using it even where it is inappropriate.  

So while one should be aware of new technology, I don't think too much should be made of it.  I wouldn't want to particularly glorify the early 80s.  Most other games from 1981 were quite rightly forgotten, like Crimefighters and Universe and Wild West.  But I think that games like Champions and Call of Cthulhu (both from 1981) have proven themselves, and I think it is a horrible idea to dismiss them as failures caused by designer ignorance.  

Quote from: Valamir
Quote from: John Kim
If they try it, everyone will go to it because it is objectively better and more advanced.

But this is simply an impossible standard.  Its never been true of any product line let alone RPGs.  I reject any attempt to apply it as a yard stick of quality.

Well, OK.  As I phrased it, this was over the top.  However, the lack of an objective yardstick is exactly my point.  Games are not technology, and you are never going to be able to say that one is objectively more "advanced".  Like any other art form, opinions will differ.  There are, of course, real differences in quality -- but there is no objective yardstick.


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: ChefKyle on March 22, 2004, 09:04:29 PM
Quote from: John Kim

I would ask: did the advanced technology make Star Wars a better film?  In my opinion, no, it made it worse.  In fact, I think the changes demonstrate exactly my worry:  that new technology makes things worse because people insist on using it even where it is inappropriate.


I think that's a profound insight into all media (lumping rpgs in with "media" for the moment). The first "talkies", you go back and watch them and they're a veritable cacophany. "We have sound! Let's use it!" Similarly with colour film. Wizard of Oz is a classic example - so colourful it's garish.

I honestly got the impression with the Matrix movies that they didn't have a story to tell, and then applied the CGI to it, but that they had the CGI, and made up a story for it. "Okay, we can make people do things they enver could in the real world, only in a virtual world. So, what's our excuse for having them do such things? Hey! Maybe the whole world could be a virtual world!"

Each new technology in media has been like that. Rather than have something to say, a story to tell, and using the technology as a tool to tell that story, they shaped the story around the tool, to use the tool as much as they could. It took a decade or two for film-makers using sound to realise the virtue of silence; it took a similar period for film-makers using colour to realise the virtue of drab colours to tell certain stories.

And at times, someone will create something as a reaction against all that. I mean, Saving Private Ryan may as well have been in black and white.

I think it's a similar story with things such as dice pools, or glossy chainmail bikini pictures. Once someone achieves it, everyone else wants to use it, and they go a bit crazy with it. Then someone else reacts against it, and does the opposite. So, about the same time dice pools came about and people were rolling great handfuls of dice, along comes Diceless Gaming. Nowadays, at the same time as we've got the Great Glossy Hundred Dollar Book Chainmail Bikini Pics games, we've also got huge numbers of free games online, and cheapie games in shops, printed on someone's photocopier.

I suspect the anti-gun speech in CoC was a reaction against the dungeon crawling that was so popular at the time. Perhaps it wasn't even intended completely sincerely. It may have been, "the players are going to want to blow everything up. If I tell them they can not blow anything up, they still will, but it'll pull them from their extreme into a sensible middle ground."


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: Ole on March 23, 2004, 02:39:26 AM
Quote from: ChefKyle
I suspect the anti-gun speech in CoC was a reaction against the dungeon crawling that was so popular at the time. Perhaps it wasn't even intended completely sincerely. It may have been, "the players are going to want to blow everything up. If I tell them they can not blow anything up, they still will, but it'll pull them from their extreme into a sensible middle ground."

Last time I checked CoC was in its fifth edition, and dungeon crawls were going out of fashion around the 2nd. So if it were correct, why would they still cling to this attitude? Why they havent bothered to make any significant changes to a rather poor system is another question.


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: ChefKyle on March 23, 2004, 04:26:38 PM
Quote from: Ole

Last time I checked CoC was in its fifth edition, and dungeon crawls were going out of fashion around the 2nd. So if it were correct, why would they still cling to this attitude? Why they havent bothered to make any significant changes to a rather poor system is another question.


When, precisely, did dungeon-crawls go out of fashion? D&D and Hackmaster are still selling like mad. Every roleplaying club I know of has at least one dungeon-crawl-type game going on. They have other games, but always there's a bunch of guys playing and counting hit points.

I think there was a brief period in the early 90s when traditional dungeon-crawls got replaced for a summer or two by a bit of Vampire angst, but then the rest of the World of Darkness came along, and if you can't do a dungeon-crawl with Werewolf I don't know what you can do it with.

But this is all perception of game styles. My perceptions, my memories of the sequence of fashionable games and styles may be right out of whack with everyone else's. I don't know. But thinking of why the writer kept the text in, we can always consider his perceptions. Did he think that dungeon-crawls were still a "danger"? Or that they might be a "danger" to CoC sometime in the life of the books going out?

Also remember that when you write a book, it's not just for today - especially a roleplaying book. Someone might still be playing with that copy ten or twenty years from now. So, when you write a roleplaying book, you're thinking not just of people's reactions today, but of their reactions years hence. So the writer might have thought, "okay, dungeon crawls ain't so fashionable today, but they might pop up again in a few years. So better keep that section in."

The other element to consider is, I'm sure the publishing types here have a more common term, I'll call it "reprint inertia." This is the tendency of people when doing a reprint, or new edition, to change as little as possible. This is for reasons of laziness, finance, that sort of thing. So, you get the same illustrations in 2nd Edition as in 1st. The same text, etc. Just one or two changes. Whack out a paragraph, and you have to reformat that page, and maybe a dozen other pages. That's a few hours work, at least. "This paragraph isn't great, but is it worth the work of reformatting the other pages? Do we have another illustration to slot in to fill the space? What? The artist wants another hundred bucks? Naw, leave the paragraph in."

As to their doing the rules, this has already been answered for you. You alter the rules too much, you alienate your fanbase. You might get new fans, but you will definitely piss off the old fans. Given that publishing game systems is a business affair, it's too much of a risk to take just because someone doesn't like hit points or whatever.

A rewrite of the system also entails a rewrite of the supplements already printed for that system. That's a lot of work, which may or may not give you good financial results. It also, as I noted, annoys the current fans, who say, "what, I have to buy all those books again? You money-grabbing swine!"

I'd also note that CoC has sold well all these years. If it's selling well, the owners don't care if people are complaining. Their yardstick of whether to change things, of the level of satisfaction, is sales figures. If it's selling, then it ain't broke, so don't fix it.

If it's not selling, then the writers go broke, and can't fix anything:)


Title: Call of Cthulu
Post by: Russell Impagliazzo on March 23, 2004, 04:44:39 PM
I haven't played all that often, but from the few times I have, it seems to me
that criticism of this game as being incoherrent are based on some false
premises.  

When I have played CoC, always as a one-shot, the game fit the paradigm
of Narrativist/Dramatist pretty well.  One question that's been asked is:
Why does the game claim to reward investigation when violence is more
effective?    Actually, playing CoC made clear to me exactly what a
discrepancy there is in the term `reward''.  The system does NOT
reward characters at all.   The best thing for a character to ACTUALLY
do in any situation is to run  or hide while pretending to themselves it is
all a bad dream.  The system rewards players with the experiences of
(if you're immersive) or opportunity to portray in an unrestrained way
(if you take the actor stance)  a character in a nightmarish situation
beyond comprehension.   The tone of the game can range from
terror and disgust to comedy, depending on how deep you get into
character.  

All seeming success in CoC is either a holding action or driving
your characters further on to greater horrors.  If your gangster
character evades the cops, he'll soon realize that he'd have been
better off in prison.  If your researcher finds clues to where the
kidnap victim was taken, he regrets it when the victim transforms
into a demon-possessed creature.    They're right when they
say you can't win through violence.  It's just that characters
can't win, period.  

The times I played it, all the players thought the point
of the game was to suffer horror in character, and add dramatic
elements to the story.    Some characters react to panic by violence,
others by curling into a fetal position,  still others by espousing the
darkness.  All of these methods are equally valid and effective,
i.e., they all eventually lead to destruction.  The rules were just
about what the system
required.    They made some distinctions between the characters,
giving each character spotlight time,
but didn't slow down the descent into horror.  I think the success
of CoC is that it really is a very rules-light system, where the
rules are easy to learn and don't interfere in the storytelling, with a few
twists that enhanced the mood.


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: Ole on March 24, 2004, 04:39:30 AM
Quote from: ChefKyle
Quote from: Ole

Last time I checked CoC was in its fifth edition, and dungeon crawls were going out of fashion around the 2nd. So if it were correct, why would they still cling to this attitude? Why they havent bothered to make any significant changes to a rather poor system is another question.


When, precisely, did dungeon-crawls go out of fashion? D&D and Hackmaster are still selling like mad. Every roleplaying club I know of has at least one dungeon-crawl-type game going on. They have other games, but always there's a bunch of guys playing and counting hit points.


Well, it was you that said:
Quote from: ChefKyle

I suspect the anti-gun speech in CoC was a reaction against the dungeon crawling that was so popular at the time. Perhaps it wasn't even intended completely sincerely. It may have been, "the players are going to want to blow everything up. If I tell them they can not blow anything up, they still will, but it'll pull them from their extreme into a sensible middle ground."


When CoC was developed, around 78-80 I imagine, one could assume that a large majority of players came from a dungeon crawling background, and didnt even know there was any alternative. Today I`d estimate that about a quarter of all players do dungeon crawls, or todays equivalent, but most of them know that there are other styles of play.
So why the anti-gun speach, especially when violence plays a crucial role in most scenarios?

Quote

Also remember that when you write a book, it's not just for today - especially a roleplaying book. Someone might still be playing with that copy ten or twenty years from now. So, when you write a roleplaying book, you're thinking not just of people's reactions today, but of their reactions years hence. So the writer might have thought, "okay, dungeon crawls ain't so fashionable today, but they might pop up again in a few years. So better keep that section in."


I browsed quickly through the 4th ed. rulebook, but I couldnt find that passage there. The focus on the non-combatitive aspects of the game is still there though.

Quote
As to their doing the rules, this has already been answered for you. You alter the rules too much, you alienate your fanbase. You might get new fans, but you will definitely piss off the old fans. Given that publishing game systems is a business affair, it's too much of a risk to take just because someone doesn't like hit points or whatever.

It explains it, but it doesnt excuse it.


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: John Kim on March 24, 2004, 08:53:14 AM
Quote from: Ole
  When CoC was developed, around 78-80 I imagine, one could assume that a large majority of players came from a dungeon crawling background, and didnt even know there was any alternative. Today I`d estimate that about a quarter of all players do dungeon crawls, or todays equivalent, but most of them know that there are other styles of play.
So why the anti-gun speach, especially when violence plays a crucial role in most scenarios?  

While non-dungeon-crawl styles exist, it is still true that virtually all RPGs are about action-adventure -- where the PCs are adventurers who are far beyond normal folk or (more likely) actually superhuman.  Call of Cthulhu remains pretty rare in just how normal and vulnerable the PCs are, particularly compared to their expected opposition.  Even if the players are used to playing popular "horror" RPGs like Vampire or Werewolf, they might be pretty shocked if they play the same way they are used to and their PCs drop like flies.  Given this expected background, I think it makes sense to urge caution and planning to the players.


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: Mike Holmes on March 24, 2004, 12:33:23 PM
Quote
But I think that games like Champions and Call of Cthulhu (both from 1981) have proven themselves, and I think it is a horrible idea to dismiss them as failures caused by designer ignorance.


Did somebody call them failures? I certainly didn't. I've been talking about how successful they've been despite any problems they may have had. I think that Brian (who I wish would rejoin his thread) is over the top in displaying his dismay at the problems. It's precisely my argument that he's arguing that the game has no cell-phones when it was designed before cell-phones were invented. I'm saying that his arguments about it's problems are problematic themselves because they fail to take the design into historical context. He wants the games to work like games today work when they were invented waybackwhen.

So, while I can understand his complaints in the form of "this game isn't for me" all I think that gives us is his opinion.

And I do think that there have been better adaptations of CoC since then - at the very least ones that don't have the incoherence problems that CoC has. Again, remember that incoherence doesn't make a game unplayable, it just means that all play that's coherent is drifted from what the text suggests. And I'll stand by that statement, having played as much Cthulhu or more than the next guy.

Mike


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: John Kim on March 24, 2004, 12:58:10 PM
Quote from: Mike Holmes
  And I do think that there have been better adaptations of CoC since then - at the very least ones that don't have the incoherence problems that CoC has. Again, remember that incoherence doesn't make a game unplayable, it just means that all play that's coherent is drifted from what the text suggests. And I'll stand by that statement, having played as much Cthulhu or more than the next guy.  

Maybe a comparison would help.  So what are the better adaptations of CoC, and more specifically, how do they approach the question of violence?


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: James Holloway on March 24, 2004, 02:26:33 PM
Quote from: Ole

I'd also note that CoC has sold well all these years. If it's selling well, the owners don't care if people are complaining. Their yardstick of whether to change things, of the level of satisfaction, is sales figures. If it's selling, then it ain't broke, so don't fix it.

If it's not selling, then the writers go broke, and can't fix anything:)

The only thing I have to add is that I get the distinct impression that CoC does not sell terribly well. I mean, clearly it's sold well enough to stay in print all these years, but new releases are a trickle. The game is definitely very popular among its fans (like me) but I wouldn't say it sells a lot these days.


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: JDJarvis on March 24, 2004, 02:51:53 PM
Haven't played or GMd CoC in a long time but i can see how folks can think guns are going to let them win all the time even if it really will not work that way in every adventure.

Folks just don't have a lot of hp in CoC compared to the weapon damages, most folks even crazed cultists might think about sneaking and running since they want to live to see another day.

One doesn't have to bust up a ring of cultists with a shotgun, one can use a camera instead and develop the film later to figure out who the cultists were and follow up on the leads that creates, the cultists are just as warned as they would be by a flurry of shotgun fire but the GM and players are left with something to work from afterwards. You can't follow a corpse about for days and keep track of who it talks to and where it goes (not usually).

For the players a lot of fights should be avoidable by getting the heck out of dodge or just never getting noticed. GMs should profit by encouraging/allowing the success of this, a GM has to develop far fewer npcs if they (the npcs) aren't all that  likely to get thier heads blown off.


Title: Unknown Armies and CoC
Post by: DannyK on March 24, 2004, 07:11:03 PM
In a way I see Unknown Armies as the heir to CoC -- it's got a greatly improved Sanity mechanic, it's got a rough division between crazy magic-users and tough guys, it's got a greatly improved combat system that keeps some of the same flavor -- combat is a highly effective problem-solving technique, but is also highly lethal.

Has anyone tried running Cthulhu scenarios using UA rules?  One big advantage I can see right off is that you'd get a more flexible Sanity mechanic, and that combat could cause madness just like Mythos encounters can.

Also, chargen would be so much easier!  A few months ago, I had to create a UA and a CoC character simultaneously for two separate games.  For the CoC character, I downloaded the freeware program Byakhee and worked on it for a couple of hours.  

For the UA game, it took about 25 minutes and I had a much better sense of who the character was after figuring out the names of his skills, rage stimuli, etc.  


I've also heard of folks adapting the Adventure! ruleset to really amp up the pulpiness in Masks of Nyarlathotep.

DannyK


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: M. J. Young on March 24, 2004, 10:35:25 PM
Quote from: Ole
Quote
As to their doing the rules, this has already been answered for you. You alter the rules too much, you alienate your fanbase. You might get new fans, but you will definitely piss off the old fans. Given that publishing game systems is a business affair, it's too much of a risk to take just because someone doesn't like hit points or whatever.

It explains it, but it doesnt excuse it.

Are you sure?

Any fix they make to CoC is going to be "wrong" for a sizable chunk of their fan base; and their fan base is not all that large as it is.

One of the promises we made in the text of Multiverser is that if there are any future editions, they will be fully compatible with anything that has been published before. Many games publish what they call new "editions" that are really new games that require you to rewrite any setting/scenario material you've already got, redo or discard your old characters, and rethink your entire approach to play.

I own every OAD&D hardcover in print (except Legends & Lore, but I own a couple copies of Deities & Demigods). I own a couple of AD&D2 books and supplements that I have either shoehorned into the OAD&D system or dumped in a drawer somewhere to be forgotten. I own the two core books for 3E because they were given to me, and I find them so completely incompatible with anything I've done with D&D in the past that I'm not even wasting my time reading them all the way through. I had long hoped for an edition of D&D that would bring everything together, not one that would splinter it further apart. Now, a lot of people like 3E; but a lot of the old players, like me, won't drop a dime on it, because too many things have been changed.

I don't think that CoC should rewrite Call of Cthulu to a new, modern, system. I think they should think about how to tweak what they've got in very small ways, to fine tune it without alienating their fan base, or they should stick with the current version, or they should stop publishing it altogether.

It may well be that there's a place for a new Cthulu game, but it should have a new name and clearly be a different game. That way people who like the old game don't feel like their game has been ruined, and people who want something different from their Lovecraftian horror can try the new approach.

--M. J. Young


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: Ole on March 25, 2004, 01:24:07 AM
Quote from: James Holloway
Quote from: Ole

I'd also note that CoC has sold well all these years. If it's selling well, the owners don't care if people are complaining. Their yardstick of whether to change things, of the level of satisfaction, is sales figures. If it's selling, then it ain't broke, so don't fix it.

If it's not selling, then the writers go broke, and can't fix anything:)


I didnt write that.


Title: chargen and guns
Post by: komradebob on March 25, 2004, 06:49:05 AM
Okay, it has been a while since i played CoC, so I am not as familiar with later editions of the game. In the older edition that i played, I seem to recall that gun usage was encouraged by chargen.

Huh?

Basically, CoC only has 4 types of gun skills: pistol, rifle, shotgun and smg. I recall a similar number of melee type skills.

Inotherwords, to be very good with commonly available weapons, a player need only spend a few points on one or two skills.

By comparison, an investigative oriented character must spread a limited number of points over a wide variety of skills. Usually I've seen this done as a group effort, leading to groups consisting oof things like a smg toting librarian, a pistolero linguist, a shotgun-happy biochemist, and huntsman/tracker type.

As a rules tweak, one might either further differentiate weapon types ( frex, pcs don't bump up their pistol skill, they bump up their .45 automatic skill or their Luger skill) OR, start lumping together investigative type skills ( Instead of Read/write French, R/w Latin, Speak Swahili, the characters get something like R/W ancient languages, Speak Regional Languages: Western European).

Optionally, one might differentiate groups of skills based on character type/profession. I recall that CoC already does this to some extent, but it could go a bit further, perhaps having higher minimum skill scores for profession ( Perhaps allowing PCs to add their EDU score as percentage points to all skills related to their profession at the beginning of play).

Robert


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: Mike Holmes on March 25, 2004, 09:12:47 AM
Quote from: John Kim
Maybe a comparison would help.  So what are the better adaptations of CoC, and more specifically, how do they approach the question of violence?


Cthonian comes to mind:
http://zaknet.tripod.com/hmouse/games/chthonian.html

It handles violence as just another form of conflict. In not priviliging combat, it makes it just another potential means to success. Meaning that players will be influenced by the subject matter, and not by the system in trying to determine how to proceed.

In fact, wasn't it Zak who reported a lot of success with D20 Cthulhu? Also, didn't Jared do something Cthulhu-esque at some point?

In any case, consider this - what makes CoC's system better for play than, say, Hero System? Or GURPs (which does also have some Chthulhu stuff)? Is it just the sanity system? Or is there something about that combat system that makes BRP better for Lovecraftian horror than other systems? Or is it merely "adequate"?

Mike


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: James Holloway on March 25, 2004, 02:19:37 PM
Quote from: Ole
Quote from: James Holloway
Quote from: Ole

I'd also note that CoC has sold well all these years. If it's selling well, the owners don't care if people are complaining. Their yardstick of whether to change things, of the level of satisfaction, is sales figures. If it's selling, then it ain't broke, so don't fix it.

If it's not selling, then the writers go broke, and can't fix anything:)


I didnt write that.

d'oh. Sorry Ole.


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: Mike Holmes on March 25, 2004, 02:37:05 PM
Following up on the post above, I've been reminded that indeed, yes, Jared has written two supplements for Cthulhu...one for Inspectres, and one for Squeam. Either of which sound like a hoot.

Mike


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: John Kim on March 25, 2004, 02:46:55 PM
Quote from: Mike Holmes
Quote from: John Kim
Maybe a comparison would help.  So what are the better adaptations of CoC, and more specifically, how do they approach the question of violence?

Cthonian comes to mind:  http://zaknet.tripod.com/hmouse/games/chthonian.html

It handles violence as just another form of conflict. In not priviliging combat, it makes it just another potential means to success. Meaning that players will be influenced by the subject matter, and not by the system in trying to determine how to proceed.

Thanks for the pointer.  I was vaguely aware of Cthonian from putting it on my list, but I'll take a closer look at it.  I disagree about your system comment though.  The system always has an influence.  There is no such thing as the "natural" or "neutral" choice for system which automatically represents any subject matter.  Rather, the system has to be chosen to match the subject matter.  In this case, it's not clear to me that treating non-violent resolution as equal and indeed identical is best for a horror game.  But I should look over Cthonian some more to decide.  

Quote from: Mike Holmes
In any case, consider this - what makes CoC's system better for play than, say, Hero System? Or GURPs (which does also have some Chthulhu stuff)? Is it just the sanity system? Or is there something about that combat system that makes BRP better for Lovecraftian horror than other systems? Or is it merely "adequate"?

Well, in my opinion, there are a whole lot of things.

1) BRP character creation emphasizes the mundanity and similarity of characters.  All characters have all skills; and individuals do not have special mechanical distinctions like talents, feats, or advantages.  This is reinforced in flavor by the simple verb skills like "Climb" and "Hide".  

2) Character creation also emphasizes the characters more as products of the real world, by basing skill on "Education" and requiring a normal occupation.  HERO and GURPS tend to produce distinctive heroes or even freaks.  CoC at most produces eccentrics.  

3) The combat system is far more lethal than the HERO combat system, and is also procedurally quicker and simpler.  It does not have flashy maneuver choices like "Haymaker" or "Martial Throw".  This makes the combat more gritty and less cinematic.  There is a big impact from a fast-resolved instant death.  

4) The percentile system is relatively high-variance compared to skill.  So there is usually a fair chance of failure.  Characters are less likely to be sure of themselves with, say, an 75% skill vs a 16- on 3d6 (which is 98.1%).  Uncertainly is good for horror, and not good for confident heroes.


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: Mike Holmes on March 25, 2004, 03:58:19 PM
Quote from: John Kim
I was vaguely aware of Cthonian from putting it on my list, but I'll take a closer look at it.  I disagree about your system comment though.  The system always has an influence.  There is no such thing as the "natural" or "neutral" choice for system which automatically represents any subject matter.  Rather, the system has to be chosen to match the subject matter.
Well, of course. The point here is that combat is not really specifically supported in the literature nor even by the Cthulhu rules as an ideal means to resolution. So, a system that doesn't promote it specifically matches the design goal well. Or, rather, by having as extensive a combat system as CoC has, it puts an undue mechanical emphasis on that subject matter. So you're making my point for me.

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In this case, it's not clear to me that treating non-violent resolution as equal and indeed identical is best for a horror game.  But I should look over Cthonian some more to decide.  
Gads you read in things that aren't there. I'm not saying that there is something in Chthonian that supports anything specifically well in the area of combat, just that it avoids making the error of privileging combat. So you're not going to see much in the way of anything so much as a lack of something problematic.

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1) BRP character creation emphasizes the mundanity and similarity of characters.  All characters have all skills; and individuals do not have special mechanical distinctions like talents, feats, or advantages.  This is reinforced in flavor by the simple verb skills like "Climb" and "Hide".  
Well, we were talking about combat, but while we're at it, how is this different from the skill lists of in the other games that both include Climb and Stealth? Hero including them as common man abilities and GURPS in most templates?

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2) Character creation also emphasizes the characters more as products of the real world, by basing skill on "Education" and requiring a normal occupation.  HERO and GURPS tend to produce distinctive heroes or even freaks.  CoC at most produces eccentrics.
I'd agree that CoC has more structure here, but as generic games that's what you'd expect. If your only argument was that CoC was better because it's not generic, then I'd agree with you. Still, with templates from a CoC sourcebook, I'm sure GUPRS characters end up being just as "normal," and it's certainly doable in Hero as well. In any case, with the random rolls, I always end up with the guy with the eigth-grade education, meaning he's a thug or good for nothing. Just what I wanted. Actually with my rolling they usually end up being bad at combat as well. The vageries of the system do not produce viable characters, nor characters that players want to play all that often. Hence why the vast majority of play that I've seen has resorted to pregenerated characters. A very standard drift of CoC.

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3) The combat system is far more lethal than the HERO combat system, and is also procedurally quicker and simpler.
Same lethality. A sword in Hero does about 1d6 Body against 10 Body for a normal human. Very similar to CoC. In fact the ranges are very similar overall. With stronger creatures, actually, Hero becomes the more lethal. Especially because of Stun damage which can incapacitate in the short run, and effect not seen in Cthulhu (Do "impales" have some similar effect?). I not that you don't mention GURPS because we all know just how "gritty" the damage is in that system - though interestingly a sword or small handgun does about the same damage against the same ten average hits.

As for speed, Hero does have the speed system which can slow things slightly, and some more advanced math in terms of determining your target to hit. But with normal humans this all ends up being relatively simple. In any case, GURPS is almost identical in terms of handling time - determine skill level, modify for range, etc, roll to hit, roll damage, apply damage. Very straightforward. I don't see any particular advantage in terms of speed over these systems.

In any case, there are much quicker systems, and grittier, if that's what's sought.

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It does not have flashy maneuver choices like "Haymaker" or "Martial Throw".  This makes the combat more gritty and less cinematic.  There is a big impact from a fast-resolved instant death.  
Martial Throw is only available to a martial artist - probably not allowed in most  CoC games (though it's nice to have it there when you need it, no?). Haymaker is a very gritty maneuver, and just represents taking extra time to off somebody. Perfect for that cultist about to stab a downed investigator - which never seems to resolve right in the normal CoC rules.

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4) The percentile system is relatively high-variance compared to skill.  So there is usually a fair chance of failure.  Characters are less likely to be sure of themselves with, say, an 75% skill vs a 16- on 3d6 (which is 98.1%).  Uncertainly is good for horror, and not good for confident heroes.
Well, sure, but I suppose that depends on how you model things in terms of modifiers. The "professional" 16 or less in GURPS is intended to represent a fairly routine task. As such, it's supposed to get negative modifiers to represent less than routine tasks. This makes the system capable of handling a much more reasonable range of actions. In BRP modifiers are potentially very problematic when they go out of range. In any case, Hero takes much the same approach as CoC in terms of skills, and normals tend to have levels like 13-. Which puts them at about the same certaintly level that you want - but still allows for more interesting modifier ranges.

All this said, I put out Hero and GURPS as two games that I would agree don't handle CoC all that well. In not being able to explain to my satisfaction why BRP is substantially better in the combat area, you only more strongly make me feel that CoC is less than optimum in terms of the system.

Again, that doesn't mean that people don't play it and have fun - I do all the time myself. All I'm saying is that to get it to be fun you have to do one of several things with Cthulhu:

1. Just let it be a "game," instead of what I think most people want it to be. Gamist CoC is a drag because you really can't win or even do well.
2. Ignore the combat rules and play the game as the text suggests.

And this is just in regards to the combat - Bryan (who ought to post, damnit) has brought up a number of other problem areas. The thing is that every one of these problems could be addressed by techniques that have come up with since then. Again, all my point has been is that to point out that a car from the 1970s doesn't incporporate any features from today is a rather pointless statement.

Or, rather, if your point, John, is that he should create a better system or shut up with the criticism, then I completely agree. I think the problems that CoC has are pretty clear to those who have them, and that solutions to the problems would be better than just harping on them. Til then, the rest of us will still have fun playing our drifted versions.

Mike


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: John Kim on March 25, 2004, 10:42:45 PM
I started to answer this point-by-point, but I suspect this may be one of these agree-to-disagree points.  Really, I'm not trying to convince you to personally like Call of Cthulhu -- I'm not a particular fan of it myself.  However, I don't accept that it is objectively bad and outdated by the technologically superior new RPGs.  This isn't pure relativism on my part.  For example, I'm willing to argue at length that many games are indeed objectively bad -- like the Lord of the Ring RPG.  But I can see in other people just how well Call of Cthulhu works exactly as written.  

I'll try to sum up my main disagreements.  As I see it, there are a few persistant false assumptions in the debate here:

1) The point of CoC is to create stories in the genre of Lovecraft

This is false, IMO.  CoC is a game inspired by Lovecraft, not emulation for emulation's sake.  Notably, CoC deliberately chose to center on a group of amateur investigators who are continuous from adventure to adventure.  This is an huge huge huge huge difference from Lovecraft's stories -- a fundamental shift in genre, which also changes how the horror dramatically operates.  It also naturally leads to violence -- see #2 below.  

So any argument of "X isn't in Lovecraft, therefore X is wrong" is overly simplistic.  There can and should be differences.  

2) CoC PCs are expected to be totally non-violent

Get real.  These are fucking horrors from beyond.  Negotiation and harsh language just don't cut it for dealing with them.  Nor does simply thinking hard about the problem give one a nice neat formula for disposing of them non-violently.  No one who actually starts playing CoC actually thinks that violence isn't going to be necessary -- nor do the rules advice such.  Players understand that the horrors are there and real and they will take messy and dangerous means to dispose of.  

To Mike -- I agree with your rant #3 that RPGs do not need combat systems.  For example, I never made up combat rules for my Water-Uphill campaign, and combat never happened.  There are many genres where I think that social and other sorts of problem-solving should be encouraged more.  However, CoC as designed isn't one of them.  It makes use of and benefits from its combat system, in my opinion.  

3) CoC combat is just like other combat systems such as HERO

Well, first of all, I'd like to address a technical error:  
Quote from: Mike Holmes
Quote from: John Kim
3) The combat system is far more lethal than the HERO combat system, and is also procedurally quicker and simpler.
Same lethality. A sword in Hero does about 1d6 Body against 10 Body for a normal human. Very similar to CoC. In fact the ranges are very similar overall.

I agree with what you say, but you are ignoring what damage means.  If you hit zero BODY in HERO, it means that, while still possibly conscious, you are starting to bleed.  You start to lose 1 body per turn (i.e. 12 seconds and several phases of actions).  If you hit negative your original BODY, then you die.  But in CoC, if you hit zero hit points, you are dead that round.  So CoC is roughly twice as lethal as HERO.  

As for complexity -- the CoC combat system is 4 pages long.  While there is some meat to it, there is a big difference between it and something like full GURPS combat which over 30 pages describing dozens of maneuvers and modifiers.  In a system like GURPS or HERO, the handling time is dominated by modifiers and especially by the maneuvers.  

-----------------------

Now, how to proceed with debate?
Quote from: Mike Holmes
  Or, rather, if your point, John, is that he should create a better system or shut up with the criticism, then I completely agree. I think the problems that CoC has are pretty clear to those who have them, and that solutions to the problems would be better than just harping on them. Til then, the rest of us will still have fun playing our drifted versions.  

No, not at all.  I don't mean to tell anyone to shut up.  I do disagree with his (Bryan's) criticism in this case -- but I think it is good to criticize.  I feel criticism and discussion of earlier designs is important to design, especially classics like Call of Cthulhu.    So as long as we're not just rehashing the same points, then I'm fine with continuing.  Although the thread is getting long, I think (surprisingly) we are still roughly on the original topic.


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: komradebob on March 26, 2004, 06:59:24 AM
I think folks are forgetting that the main time period for CoC adventures is the early to mid '20s. Many people in this time period have access to weaponry, and have experience using it to kill other human beings. Perhaps folks are looking at this the wrong way. I would say that gun usage for the period is actually very in character for the period.

For games set in the modern era, gun usage might actually go down. The atomic age sees a huge drop in the accessibilty of weaponry to civillians, as well as a drop in the number of people experienced with infantry warfare, at least in the US and Western Europe. Further, police investigative techniques improve, as does the public's attitude toward the police as the only really legitimate wielders of lethal force in those societies.

What seems to be missing from this discussion is the thought of after effects of gun usage in a modern setting. Several people have mentioned that they use Cthulhu as one shots, and I've had this experience myself. Gun usage is really legitimated when players are aware that they are participating in a one-shot, especially with premade characters. Further, I have never seen any RPG where players were NOT encouraged to make a new character and continue playing if their original pc was taken out of the adventure for some reason. Again, this ability validates the use of guns and explosives or other extreme measures to stop the badguys.

Robert


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: Storn on March 26, 2004, 07:55:55 AM
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For games set in the modern era, gun usage might actually go down. The atomic age sees a huge drop in the accessibilty of weaponry to civillians,


Really?  Access to military equipment perhaps... if you made a comparison to buying a Thompson SMG in Sears/Roebuck in 1920 to buying a FULLY automatic M-4, which isn't possible.  

That ignores the conversion kits for a civilian m-16 or m-14 or ak-47 sold in many magazines and catalogs.  Full Rock n' Roll is NOT hard to obtain in this country... its illegal... but it can be done.

But gun proliferation in this country is insane.  Something like 3 firearms for every man, woman and child in the country.  Guns are easier and come in more varieties than ever... and that assumes Non-blackmarket items.  Ammo is more lethal.  Starlight goggles, bullet proof vests, listening equipment... all easily optained.... heck, there is a corporate espionage store called the Spy Store just 2 miles from my house in Southfield, MI.

Now, your assertion of infantry training (and more important, combat experience) being more widespread in yesteryear... again... maybe.  US forces in WWI were really small.  WWII, the actual combat fighting has been shown to be as low as 3% of the actual number of men in uniform.  The rest is support.

Now, looking at Europe, yeah... a lot of men saw combat in WWI.  

So your point that yesteryear had men more likely to kill and more likely trained to do so... so this is viable option in CoC?  I think that arguement is a lot more nuanced than you suggested.

I would put forward that police training and mercenary camps and Nat'l Guard makes training, if you want it, today... is a much different kettle of fish.  SWAT teams of today would make police squads of the 20s look like total amateurs when it comes to guns.

Can you rest the 1920s on the cowboy mystic of 1870-1890?  Again, maybe... the dying embers of gun will travel... Certainly marksemenship has always been quite important to the gun mystic of America (and Europe in certain classes).

I guess my point is that Gun usage and a proclivity to violence neither supports or detracts from the assertion that guns in CoC stretches THAT specific genre's convention.


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: Mike Holmes on March 26, 2004, 08:19:04 AM
Quote from: John Kim
I started to answer this point-by-point, but I suspect this may be one of these agree-to-disagree points.  Really, I'm not trying to convince you to personally like Call of Cthulhu -- I'm not a particular fan of it myself.  However, I don't accept that it is objectively bad and outdated by the technologically superior new RPGs.  This isn't pure relativism on my part.  For example, I'm willing to argue at length that many games are indeed objectively bad -- like the Lord of the Ring RPG.  But I can see in other people just how well Call of Cthulhu works exactly as written.  
The irony is that you don't have to convince me to like it because I already do like playing CoC. But playing as much as I have, I'm convinced that very little play is conducted with the game system as written. And I think that I have a broad view of play as I frequently play with the folks from "Rogue Chthulhu" and "What the Puck Productions" at cons, who, I think have a pretty widespread effect on CoC play given their proclivity. I'm also rather familiar with the different schools of scenario design from the standard published stuff, to things like Gareth Hanrahan's LARP materials (adopted those for a CoC game I ran for the group including Josh Neff here a while back).

I think where we mostly disagree is in whether the game is actually used as written, or even if it can be used as written. My first experiences with CoC were with my good friend Jim running the game, and it played a lot like D&D in that there was no attempt to get the PCs to the end of the game, just get them to the "dungeon" and let them loose and see what happens. I believe we never successfully solved any of the scenarios presented that way, or, more importantly, ever got to any climatic situations (we often survived because we just couldn't figure out what was going on). Enough so that after several runs certain players - rather gamist players - decided that it wasn't a game worth playing at all. This represents play from about '83 to '92. Does this sound like "CoC as written" to you?

With the con gamers and most other play I've seen, from about '87 on, there's this entirely different CA where the characters are pregenerated, often are integrated into the scenarios closely, and where failing to get to the end isn't likely because things are rigged to ensure that you get there. This play is very fun, but again is it CoC as written?

Look at the published scenarios. They are written like the former play style - where success is so unlikely as to be ludicrous. In play of this sort, I've seen whole groups get wiped out in the first scene. One in particular sticks out in my mind: we were sent to the face of a glacier to inspect some strange symbols that had been exposed by the glacier breaking off into the sea. Basically, my character as the linguist was up on a line making notes about the symbols. I failed a preliminary roll, and playing by what was in the book I'm sure, the GM announced that the glacier was beginning to make sounds of breaking apart. So the decision that we were given was to stay and make another roll, and risk the collapse, or to flee then and there. Well, my thoughts were that, having nothing, what would be the point of fleeing? I mean, the adventure would be over then and there. So I asked to stay. My second roll was bad, and I could see the GM looking at the scenario and that things were going to be bad for us. So he pretty obviously fudged things and said something like, "Well, you have some small amount of information." So, dissatisfied, but informed that I was pushing my luck, I had my character start back down to the ship. Playing dilligently, the GM continued to roll for the glacier, and just as I was reaching the ship, the glacier collapsed killing us all. Again, obviously per the book. The GM was disgusted with the result, but he felt that he'd done his duty and presented the adventure as it was intended to be presented.

(Anybody know the adventure? I can't remember which supplement it was from - I think that the GM wouldn't let us see the cover.)

We died in the first scene. This pointless sort of death is just not functional for most people. The GM asked if we wanted to play the same scenario again. But nobody took him up on it. Why, to die in the second scene if we were lucky in the first? Don't even get me started on the script that is encoded in "At the Mountains of Madness". I'm guessing that, played "straight" that the odds of getting to the end (where the PCs are all but assured to die), would be on the order of ten million to one or so. I'm not exaggerating in the slightest. Possibly an order of magnitude less if the players are playing in a very "tactical D&D" style.

So, I completely understand the drift from this mode to the mode that I've seen prevalent since then. Is the previous mode how CoC is "supposed" to work? Is the heavily drifted mode what the writers intended?

With the right group, with the right mindset, either mode is enjoyable. In the first, we carry dynamite, and check for traps every ten feet. In the second, the GM plays illusionist to ensure that the game gets to some of the better moments later on. I don't think that either of these modes are what the designers intend - even if I have no idea really what the designers hoped would happen. Because the first is so far from Lovecraft to not even be "inspired" by it - more to the point, the text says it's not what's intended. And the second is very far from what the game text indicates, and is only the result of experienced GMs figuring out a way to make it all "work".

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So any argument of "X isn't in Lovecraft, therefore X is wrong" is overly simplistic.  There can and should be differences.  
You always bring this up, and it's still a straw man. The game espouses a particular feel. I agree that it's only inspired by Lovecraft. The mechanics don't deliver that espoused feel. That is, your argument seems to be that the system delivers exactly what the designers wanted it to deliver. But I think that play of the system delivers something different. In any case, I think that you don't know any better than I what the designers intend. So, absent of us knowing, we can only look at what is produced. And since D&D Lovecraft is so bizzare a result in play, I can only conclude that it can't be what they were going for - I think that they went for something more with the only tools that they had available, which resulted in D&D Lovecraft by accident. Again, not unviable, just very odd, and, given the tendency to drift to other forms, not something that many people want to play.

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2) CoC PCs are expected to be totally non-violent

Get real.
Yes, please do. Who said this? Once again, you overstate the argument to shoot it down. Nobody is saying that investigators shouldn't go after horrors with guns when appropriate. It's just that, as designed, players end up looking like mercenaries rather than investigators. That is, things just get silly in play, and one loses any potential for horror at all as it just becomes a tactical excercise. The text that talks against this is precisely trying to say that this is not the intended feel. It's in there because I believe that the designers knew that the system they'd chosen would precipitate this sort of play without putting in a word about it (and it does despite that - I remember my friend Ben's mild mannered reporter turning into a shotgun wielding action hero after the first session he survived).  

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I agree with what you say, but you are ignoring what damage means.  If you hit zero BODY in HERO, it means that, while still possibly conscious, you are starting to bleed.  You start to lose 1 body per turn (i.e. 12 seconds and several phases of actions).  If you hit negative your original BODY, then you die.  But in CoC, if you hit zero hit points, you are dead that round.  So CoC is roughly twice as lethal as HERO.  
That's an interesting statistcal analysis, "roughly twice." If all the PCs go to zero, who's going to revive them? If a PC at zero is left behind with the monster, who's going to revive them? HERO is plenty lethal. But, again, you're ignoring my point. HERO is also not optimum. Even if you did convince me that it was slightly worse, none of what you point out make the combat system good for CoC. Monsters are lethal? Fine, all the better reason to carry more dynamite.

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No, not at all.  I don't mean to tell anyone to shut up.  I do disagree with his (Bryan's) criticism in this case -- but I think it is good to criticize.  I feel criticism and discussion of earlier designs is important to design, especially classics like Call of Cthulhu.    So as long as we're not just rehashing the same points, then I'm fine with continuing.  Although the thread is getting long, I think (surprisingly) we are still roughly on the original topic.
Ok, fine.

The problem at this point is that we're devolving into annecdotal evidence. You say that people play the game as written all the time, and have all sorts of fun with it. I say that I've never once seen anything that looked like a recognizable aesthetic produces by the game using the rules as written. Nor has Bryan, apparently. So where do we go from there? We've given you the mechanical analysis that supports where the problems come from. Your response has merely been to say, "Well, it works anyhow." I don't know how we can refute that, so at this point I think that you're correct above where you say that we'll have to agree to disagree. Correct me if I'm wrong.

Mike


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: Halzebier on March 26, 2004, 09:31:25 AM
Quote
But playing as much as I have, I'm convinced that very little play is conducted with the game system as written.


The question is whether this is the fault of the system (i.e., Is it incoherent or otherwise contradictory?) or the fault of many of those gamers (e.g. Do many gamers resent the setting's bleak outlook, frequent character death etc. and react by drifting the game?).

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I think where we mostly disagree is in whether the game is actually used as written, or even if it can be used as written.


I agree with another of your points, namely that anecdotes won't help us.

So...let's just take a look at the mechanics. I'll try my hand at analysing a single aspect.

*-*-*

First of all, I posit that "Humans are fragile" is a tenet of both Lovecraft's stories and CoC's take on this genre.

Examples for counter-productive mechanics would be fate points, a damage system favoring incapacitation over death and readily available healing magic, to name a few things.

CoC provides none of these, so one might say that it supports the tenet to some extent.

However, the dodge skill offers quite a bit of protection from harm. I think the tenet would be better served if the highly trained navy seal died just as easily as the old professor. He does, in terms of the capability to take damage, yet his survivability is much higher.

(The ability to dish out damage is beside the point in discussing the tenet.)

So, in conclusion & for this particular tenet only, I'd say that the CoC mechanics are a decent, but not perfect match.

Regards,

Hal


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: Mike Holmes on March 26, 2004, 09:39:40 AM
Quote from: Halzebier
First of all, I posit that "Humans are fragile" is a tenet of both Lovecraft's stories and CoC's take on this genre.
I agree. I think that the game should encourage players to accept their character's deaths to an extent. But instead it seems to be largely (in terms of system) about player tactics in keeping them alive.

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Examples for counter-productive mechanics would be fate points, a damage system favoring incapacitation over death and readily available healing magic, to name a few things.

CoC provides none of these, so one might say that it supports the tenet to some extent.
CoC also does not have a rule that when anyone says the word Cthulhu that everyone gets up at dances the Cha-Cha. There are an infinite number of things that it could do worse, but they're not worth discussing. We can really only talk about what it does to promote the desired style of play.

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However, the dodge skill offers quite a bit of protection from harm. I think the tenet would be better served if the highly trained navy seal died just as easily as the old professor. He does, in terms of the capability to take damage, yet his survivability is much higher.

(The ability to dish out damage is beside the point in discussing the tenet.)

So, in conclusion & for this particular tenet only, I'd say that the CoC mechanics are a decent, but not perfect match.
Exactly my point above. In fact, I think the game would be substantively improved by just saying that when the PCs encounter a horror without having gained the upper hand in some way that they just run or die. I think that would up the tension some. Not a perfect solution, but better than a system that forces the player to think in terms of which particular firearms deal more damage than others, or whether or not a high Dodge skill is an asset.

Mike


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: komradebob on March 26, 2004, 10:01:50 PM
Storn;
I'm not sure were actually disagreeing, so I'm not sure how to approach this.

My point was just that lots of folks in the 1920s have guns, have experience with using them, and have access to them.

Relatively small US forrces in WW1? True, not as big as European forces, but not small in terms of actual numbers either. Secondly, you seem to be forgetting about the Europeans themselves, as well as all the folks that interact with them.

The old west influence? Well yes, but also the colonial influence. The US wasn't the only place were the "violent frontier" experience existed. Pretty much huge chunks of the world were considered "frontier" by the Europeans/Americans. Then of course you might want to account for the polulations these white guys were coming into conflict with...

Related to this are all of the smaller wars that precede and follow WW1. Russo-Japanese War, Sino-Japanese War, the Plains Wars, Moro Rebellion, various British, French and German military adventures, The BoerWar, The Tan War, Boxer Rebellion, Spanish Civil War, Russian Revolution, Spartacist revolt, Balkan War of '12, etcetcetcetcetcetc.

Then there is the internal violence, usually related to labor unrest and other political violence. Wobblies, anarchists, Pinkertons, secret police, Palmer Raids, and so forth. Add a nice dose of ethnic and religious violence, too. Probably organized crime violence is actually the most minor source of armed violence for the period.

As to modern weaponry, you're right. Technology has given us some very serious upgrades in personal firepower. I would still argue that firepower is easier to come by in the '20s, however.

As to stretching the genre: strong maybe. I certainly picked up on the game because I wanted to try something where smart, normalish humans did amazing stuff to save the world. That already suggests a certain drift of mindset away from the horror aspect from step one.

I've always thought that the In Media Res scenario by pagan publishing was one of the better HORROR scenarios for CoC. Off the top of my head, I'd be hard pressed to name too may other published CoC adventures that I felt were really horror...

Robert


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: John Kim on March 26, 2004, 10:39:36 PM
Quote from: Mike Holmes
  Look at the published scenarios. They are written like the former play style - where success is so unlikely as to be ludicrous. In play of this sort, I've seen whole groups get wiped out in the first scene.
...
With the con gamers and most other play I've seen, from about '87 on, there's this entirely different CA where the characters are pregenerated, often are integrated into the scenarios closely, and where failing to get to the end isn't likely because things are rigged to ensure that you get there. This play is very fun, but again is it CoC as written?
...
So, I completely understand the drift from this mode to the mode that I've seen prevalent since then. Is the previous mode how CoC is "supposed" to work? Is the heavily drifted mode what the writers intended?  

With the right group, with the right mindset, either mode is enjoyable. In the first, we carry dynamite, and check for traps every ten feet. In the second, the GM plays illusionist to ensure that the game gets to some of the better moments later on. I don't think that either of these modes are what the designers intend - even if I have no idea really what the designers hoped would happen.  

Er, isn't the answer clear?!?  The convention scenario designers you mention don't follow the rules as written -- particularly for character creation.  Their scenarios do not resemble the CoC scenarios published by the designers, and their style of play isn't as strongly supported by the rules.  Now, they may have made some very cool things using CoC, but it's not part of the original design.  i.e. The second is clearly the variant, as opposed to the original.  Incidentally, "Cthulhu Live" was designed more with the convention scene in mind -- and it is markedly different from the original in many respects.  

So in my opinion, the original CoC is closer to your first case.  And yes, it involves PCs using guns and dynamite.  The game text clearly expect such from the PCs, and the advice simply recommends a degree of caution and limits on the use of guns.  That said, your particular adventures may not have gone as the designer's intended.  Published adventures can have flaws, GMs can make mistakes, players can be in the wrong frame of mind, etc.  Personally, I am also dismayed at the glaring flaws in some (but by no means all) of the published scenarios -- including high chance of Total Party Kill.  On the other hand, as far as I've seen virtually all published scenarios suck -- and relatively speaking CoC ones are among the best.  Moreover, even if the rules objectively worked as intended, you might not like it while another person does.  Maybe something else would have worked better for you.  

Quote from: Mike Holmes
Quote
2) CoC PCs are expected to be totally non-violent

Get real.
Yes, please do. Who said this? Once again, you overstate the argument to shoot it down. Nobody is saying that investigators shouldn't go after horrors with guns when appropriate. It's just that, as designed, players end up looking like mercenaries rather than investigators. That is, things just get silly in play, and one loses any potential for horror at all as it just becomes a tactical excercise.  
...
I remember my friend Ben's mild mannered reporter turning into a shotgun wielding action hero after the first session he survived

So what do you think appropriate behavior is?  I mean, after surviving horrors and going back in to deal with more, should he poke around in basements with a pencil and camera?  I wouldn't think so.  Now, the more standard horror trope is for the protagonist to be unaware of the horrors.  But once you have continuing characters in horror, then you're stuck.  They can't casually wander into danger, because then they just seem stupid.   This is exactly the same phenomenon you see in many horror films.  In sequels with continuing protagonists like Evil Dead II or Phantasm II, the protagonists become war-hardened.  You see this happen between the first and second halves of "Dawn of the Dead".  Having encountered horrors, protagonists will quite reasonably arm themselves with shotguns and chainsaws.  This doesn't destroy horror, I think, but it does change the flavor.  

So you're right that the flavor of the more standard horror story is lost.  But I'm not sure what the alternative is other than giving up on continuing PCs.  At least for me personally, I certainly lose all patience and feeling of horror when the protagonists blithely wander into danger after knowing what they are facing.  I would note that Unknown Armies took up whole hog the idea of gun-toting PCs.  What do you think of it, by the way?  

Quote from: Mike Holmes
  The problem at this point is that we're devolving into annecdotal evidence. You say that people play the game as written all the time, and have all sorts of fun with it. I say that I've never once seen anything that looked like a recognizable aesthetic produces by the game using the rules as written. Nor has Bryan, apparently. So where do we go from there? We've given you the mechanical analysis that supports where the problems come from. Your response has merely been to say, "Well, it works anyhow." I don't know how we can refute that, so at this point I think that you're correct above where you say that we'll have to agree to disagree. Correct me if I'm wrong.  

Yeah, I think we're getting to the agree-to-disagree stage.  The thing is, I don't see that we differ that much on what the rules produce.  I agree that it is a shotgun-toting kind of game as written -- and you agree that PCs should carry firearms "when appropriate".  We agree that it is a derivative work rather than an attempt to reproduce Lovecraft stories.  For example, it is similar to later non-Lovecraft stories in its approach to the "Mythos".   You even seem to acknowledge that people have fun playing by the rules using at least some published scenarios (though I agree that some are just broken as written).


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: Mike Holmes on March 30, 2004, 12:47:53 PM
Sigh, this is going to sound like I'm trying to get the last word in, but I wrote the response before the outage (during actually, somehow), and I forgot to post it until now. But heregoes...

Quote from: John Kim
Er, isn't the answer clear?!?  The convention scenario designers you mention don't follow the rules as written -- particularly for character creation.
Yes, that was my point, we don't have to belabor that.

Quote
So in my opinion, the original CoC is closer to your first case.  And yes, it involves PCs using guns and dynamite.  The game text clearly expect such from the PCs, and the advice simply recommends a degree of caution and limits on the use of guns.
The guns caveat is just one issue. To be clear, Bryan and those on our side of that point are saying that the caveat isn't just that guns are only so lethal, but that they are stylistically inappropriate - it seems to be arguing against D&D play to us. In any case, if it's saying that guns aren't effective, then it's incorrect as Bryan points out. The system promotes "winning" via guns. Yes, that's theoretically functional, but then why the high lethality in other areas? Why is it that characters in CoC games I play tend to get killed off far more often by shutters blowing in the wind, and their own fumbles with dynamite than by the "monsters."

Even from a D&D style perspective it's just silly.

Quote
That said, your particular adventures may not have gone as the designer's intended.
Every single time? When playing this mode, in at least a dozen adventures we never once solved the mystery. And that's with players in some cases "cheating" by using OOC knowledge, for example. There was this one adventure I remember where the "solution" was that there was some evil spirit locked in the oaken mantel of a fireplace. I recieved a dream at one point that there were these guys in robes with sacrificial daggers and other acoutrement. With my OOC knowlede, I postulated that this all would indicate that they were druids. We'd gotten all the relevant information from hunting around that we could possibly get, and, dead-ended, I started thinking about persuing the druid angle. Sure it was OOC, but I wanted to give us a shot at winning. Still, it was to no avail, and we ended up just walking away from the haunted house.

The GM told us afterwards that my speculation about the druids was accurate, and that, somehow, we were supposed to put together that because of this it was the oaken mantle (as opposed to the much more sinister ebony mantle that was a red herring) that was the source of the trouble. But we'd missed too many die rolls, and too many pieces of the puzzle were missing.

Maybe our group (which has since produced several masters degree graduates) was just too dense? Or is it that the D&D mode only works as a model when you put the monsters in front of the party. Think about it. In D&D, if you miss the bejeweled dagger hidden under the flagstone because of a bad roll, the players just don't get as large a reward, the whole adventure doesn't fall apart.  

But in CoC, even by the most Gamist interpretation in which the characters pay is the reward or something, we never got paid because we could never figure out what was going on. Sure, occasionally we'd encounter some creature and blow it away, but that's never the entire story. So from no POV was our play ever successful. Not because we didn't win, but because I believe that it was impossible to win in many of these circumstances, and the game made you feel that you couldn't win, that there was nothing to do to better your chances. I mean, where's the gamism in making or failing your Library Use die roll? How is that a tactical challenge for the player? Usually the need to go to the Library was so obvious that, after several scenarios it became a perfunctory stop ("Hmmm, I can't think of what to do - let's hit the library in town.")

The level of pawn stance which this drives one to is neither effective, nor fun. So I can't believe that it was the designers intent.

Quote
Published adventures can have flaws, GMs can make mistakes, players can be in the wrong frame of mind, etc.  
Hey, we're not perfect. But on the whole I think we played as well or better than most groups. The published adventure has to take into account the players imperfect nature to be well designed.

If you're positing that we just "did it wrong" I'd ask you to explain what it was that we weren't doing right.

Quote
Personally, I am also dismayed at the glaring flaws in some (but by no means all) of the published scenarios -- including high chance of Total Party Kill.
Can you point me to one that is functional as writtten in terms of a Gamist crawl? I've played through so many that I really think that they don't exist. I think that to make any of them functional that you have to drift at least a little to the Illusionist. That is, to say, "fudge".

Quote
On the other hand, as far as I've seen virtually all published scenarios suck -- and relatively speaking CoC ones are among the best.  
I found that for D&D play all the D&D modules produced by TSR worked just fine. Yeah, Tomb of Horrors was silly, but it presented an entirely different sort of challenge (we'd just keep playing it over and over until after about 50 times we did it right). But in general they provided functional play.

Quote
Moreover, even if the rules objectively worked as intended, you might not like it while another person does.  Maybe something else would have worked better for you.  
Look, I was into dungeon crawls at the time. I wanted to "win" the scenarios and figure out what was going on so my character would get paid. It's not the Gamism that I didn't like, it was that you couldn't do anything to do "better" except carry the largest ordinace available. That's not even a source of Gamism. Often the only Gamism that we'd experience would be trying to figure out how to Calvinball the GM so that he'd have to give us Thompsons or something more powerful.

Quote
So what do you think appropriate behavior is?  I mean, after surviving horrors and going back in to deal with more, should he poke around in basements with a pencil and camera?  I wouldn't think so.
Why do you persist in painting me an idiot? What's "appropriate" is something in-character. I don't think that the pawn stance that the game engendered as written was intentional. I don't think that after three brushes with the dark that people would be running around with dynamite saying, "Gotta have this stuff more to get rid of the bodies when we're done than to fight the monsters."

The "appropriate" thing would be for the "investigators" to retire, or, more likely to find some place to hide. But that wouldn't allow continued play. So, instead we get inhuman play, where the investigators keep coming back for more. Soley in order to perpetuate play. Makes "black robed guy in a tavern" party play look very viable by comparison. At least in D&D the characters have a decent chance of survival.

Quote
So you're right that the flavor of the more standard horror story is lost.  But I'm not sure what the alternative is other than giving up on continuing PCs.  At least for me personally, I certainly lose all patience and feeling of horror when the protagonists blithely wander into danger after knowing what they are facing.
As would I. But, what about when they "sniff" something mythos? Do they do the "sane" thing and run for the hills, or do they say, "Bah, can't be like last time." No, the player just says, "Well, that's why we're playing CoC," and heads out loaded for bear, knowing that he'll probably die from reading a book.

Quote
I would note that Unknown Armies took up whole hog the idea of gun-toting PCs.  What do you think of it, by the way?  
I think that it's much more functional for many reasons. First, the aesthetic is built from the ground up with violence as part of the experience. That said, the system doesn't promote being a combat monster as the only way to solve things. The focus on magic tends to ensure that play meets the focus well.

That's in only three sessions of play, mind you. I'm no UA expert. But from the rules, I think that the play I experienced was well supported by the rules. As Bryan says, Madness meters being about personality as opposed to the hit point effect of Sanity.

Quote
Yeah, I think we're getting to the agree-to-disagree stage.  The thing is, I don't see that we differ that much on what the rules produce.  I agree that it is a shotgun-toting kind of game as written -- and you agree that PCs should carry firearms "when appropriate".
Yes, but they don't. I've seen players just ignore potential entanglements with the law because they knew that wasn't what the game was about. Knowing instead that keeping that tommy gun under your arm, even when walking about Bumble, Massachusetts, was the most sensible thing to do in terms of winning.

Yeah, maybe my group just never "got it to work" like it was supposed to work, and that was just accident. But I think that the drift to the aforementioned "convention" form of the game is evidence that it blows so badly in that form for so many, that few play it that way. Do you play it that way? Do you know groups that do? Without complaint or changing the game?

Mike


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: John Kim on March 30, 2004, 02:29:49 PM
Quote from: Mike Holmes
Yeah, maybe my group just never "got it to work" like it was supposed to work, and that was just accident. But I think that the drift to the aforementioned "convention" form of the game is evidence that it blows so badly in that form for so many, that few play it that way. Do you play it that way? Do you know groups that do? Without complaint or changing the game?

Your games sound different than the ones which I have been in as far as tone and player behavior.  FWIW, I've never run straight CoC as GM.  I've played in a long variant campaign, and maybe 8 to 10 single adventures -- maybe half of them at conventions, the other half with friends taking at most three sessions.  So I can't say anything about long-term campaigns really.  

In the games I played, the players generally enjoyed playing nervous and screwed-up types.  There was typically a lot of discord among the PCs, with people splitting up at various times.  However, this was generally fine with the players.  Some PCs went for guns, and they had a higher survival rate (though they often died too), and there were also plenty who did without guns and died horrible deaths.  

My stereotypical picture of classic CoC is a bunch of PCs running around in a house, when the shit hits the fan somehow.  A few run out; a few try to shoot it out inside.  There is general chaos and several PCs die, but being split up not everyone does.  The PCs rarely got the whole picture of what was going on, but got enough to piece at least a small fraction together.  Sometimes we would chat with the GM afterwards over what we missed.  The players viewed it as a romp rather than a competitive tactical exercise, and dying horribly was generally applauded and enjoyed.


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: Mike Holmes on March 30, 2004, 03:10:04 PM
Quote from: John Kim
The PCs rarely got the whole picture of what was going on, but got enough to piece at least a small fraction together.  Sometimes we would chat with the GM afterwards over what we missed.  The players viewed it as a romp rather than a competitive tactical exercise, and dying horribly was generally applauded and enjoyed.
Sounds very much like my experiences. I think what happens is that people learn to love the lash, and eventually wonder why they worried about carrying the big guns in the first place. That's when you start to get the drift to the other form.

In any case, I think that the difference between the "trying" gun-toters, and the "in-character" skittish types is precisely a Gamism/Simulationism incoherency. I've noted a lot of games where the one type of player loathes the other.

Mike


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: JDJarvis on April 01, 2004, 09:38:17 AM
Quote from: Storn

But gun proliferation in this country is insane.  Something like 3 firearms for every man, woman and child in the country.  Guns are easier and come in more varieties than ever...


The numbers are accurately more like one gun per person in the U.S. , still a lot of guns, no reason to stretch the numbers to make that point.
They also aren't easier to come by; You could mail order pistols legally with no problems a generation or so ago, can't do that now.



Howe guns can be limited in CoC-  
Characters exsist in a world where folks get nervous and jumpy when they see a bunch of freaks carrying dynamite, submahcineguns and a couple of shotguns walk into a neighboring house.

Have the badguys attack the most dangerous looking person first, those guys will not last long.  Who'd you chomp  first if your brain was infested by brain worms from saturn- the guy cringing in the corner or the psycho charging you blazing away with a shotgun?


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: Castellanus on April 02, 2004, 07:25:21 AM
Mike Holmes wrote:
"Yeah, maybe my group just never "got it to work" like it was supposed to work, and that was just accident. But I think that the drift to the aforementioned "convention" form of the game is evidence that it blows so badly in that form for so many, that few play it that way. Do you play it that way? Do you know groups that do? Without complaint or changing the game?"

My experience with playing CoC does not mirror yours in any way.  At the risk of responding anecdotally (and I don't intend to dis you as a player -- you had different expectations of play and CoC did not fulfil them), if the scenario included a 'rumbling glacier' I would expect players to make a quick sketch of the signs and retire quickly to their cabin on board ship where they could study them at leisure (no 'combat pressure' to require a skill roll, or perhaps better many chances to make skill rolls as characters) .  If a character received a dream with people in it costumes he did not (in character) recognize, I would expect him to mention it to others in the group and then have a massive 'let's go to the library and look all this stuff up' scene.  If a group of investigators didn't 'get' the clues the first time through a scene, I'd expect them to do some research based on what they had found and come back to try again (It took my bunch 3 trips to get the thing in the oak mantlepiece).  And yes I'd expect players to run through multiple investigator characters as they became variously old, decrepit, or insane -- one player in the game I ran from 90-93 was on her third and that one mentally very fragile when I moved and had to stop running that game.

And yes, when the monsters were finally confronted it was very often to try to shoot them down -- but the characters relied as much on calling in the cops or military as they did on their own weapons.  And against the greates of evils the guns were useless -- heroes gave their sanity to cast the spells that could disrupt the summoning of Great Cthulhu and others of that ilk.

CoC is intended to present a role-playing opportunity that evokes the tone and feel of the Cthulhu mythos.  It doesn't do that perfectly (no game is perfect), but as an inveterate tinkerer I tinkered with it (4th and 5th ed. when I ran a game) the least of all the game systems I've used.

I can buy that its not a game you particularly like; It seems as if you and your group expected a straight ahead adventure session and Coc is noth that at all.  What I cant buy into is the peremise that started this thread -- CoC is not 'hypocritical' in its treatment of combat.  In the long run, amost every other skill set is far more important to the investigators.

Ed


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: contracycle on April 02, 2004, 08:23:32 AM
I have not played CoC much - exactly 2 games.  But one of the long term players remarked - while we were setting a fire to burn down a haunted house - that you can follow a group of CoC characters by the trail of burned-out buildings.  And while it may be argued that these guys did not 'get' it, they were smart people, enjoyed themselves, read lovecraft, and clearly thought they were playing the right way.

Again, I played the two games I played with this group; the first was really a dinner party/locked room murder which was only intended as an intro to the setting, and the other was a published adventure.  The former was great, a joy, one of my Favourite Games Of All Time, and the latter was like a hopeless bug-hunt.

Having only a cursory interest in Lovecraft, and that only for RPG purposes, I've only read a couple of short stories... but it seems to me that this is one of those games in which there is likely to be a GM with a very clear, Loveraft-informed view of how play is suposed to go, and a number of players who are totally unfamiliar with the work, have no intention of ever becomeing familiar with it, and have little idea of the 'appropriate lovecraftian response' to some sort of horror.  Therefore they respond with stock RPG behaviour: if it moves, shoot it; if it doesn't move, put it in the bag of holding; if you can't bag it, make camp and memorise spells.


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: CPXB on April 04, 2004, 07:26:00 AM
I like Call of Cthulhu and have been running it for about eighteen years, off and on.  I'll be running some COC sessions this summer, in fact, largely because one of my players has never experienced horror gaming (tho' my love of the game plays a large role, too).  I have always taken the injunctions against violence in COC to largely be curative for the way that most games run.

For instance, in the D&D game I am in, we see a monster, we attack.  Usually, we win, and thus far -- in something like twenty sessions -- we have never gotten into a fight we haven't won; in some sessions there were as many three fights.  This is, I think, typical of many gamer's experiences.  

Go ahead, try that in Call of Cthulhu.  Not only would you very, very likely die but all your SAN would be gone even if you managed to live.

(Indeed, IME, non-COC gamers who play COC go through identifiable stages.  Stage one: they create a character as they would for any other RPG -- good at stuff like shooting and driving.  Then that character dies.  Stage two: they decide the problem was that their character was insufficiently skilled at overwhelming violence -- so instead of Pistol they get MACHINE GUN as skills.  Well, that character dies.  Then they either leave the game or go to stage three, which involves building a character with a greater emphasis on investigation and research than violence -- though they generally have a combat skill or two, which suits me fine.)

So, yeah, I don't see COC's injunctions against violence to be hypocritical but curative for mindset that is possessed by the majority of games played.

And at the risk of sounding arrogant, I have also seen a lot of COC played pretty badly in terms of plot.  While I recognize the place of railroading, it does very much happen in COC games that if the investigators fail their skill rolls or whatever that the GM will basically drop the information into their laps, anyway.  I, personally, prefer killing them all for failing to get the appropriate information.  I turn to them and say, "Well, it is a horror game."  :D


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: Callan S. on April 04, 2004, 09:54:08 PM
As far as a critical analysis goes, an observable rule is being forgotten.

That is, almost ALL RPG's can be played and fun had from them. The important thing to realise from this is that A: You might have to bend and twist the system to do it B: Not take it seriously or some other way that the writer didn't intend when designing it C: Aim for different goals than the author, when it comes to play (often guessing as you go as to which would be good).

In other words, groups can snake, twist and turn until the damn thing works. This makes the following problematic
'Oh, it was awful, it didn't support that style of play'
'No, it was wonderful, we enjoyed it immensly'

We have NO idea of how much snaking and twisting makers of these statements have done. Often groups can be unaware of just how much the RPG their using is making them dance a jig just to have fun with it...their used to jigging to get things to work. So you can't even ask, as they'll say 'we just played it normally', which they did indeed, as jigging is normal for them.

To further complicate things, just about every RPG requires some snaking and twisting to work, as everyone buys off the rack so to speak (not customised). So this gives the impression that if some snaking and twisting has to happen, then X amount of snaking and twisting is okay. This leads to 'oh, it worked great as is...didn't need to change much at all' sort of stuff, since we hand wave Y amount, we can hand wave X amount. Further complicated that is that with some group, you can indeed hand wave X amount.

Personally I'd suggest looking at a piece at a time, rather than trying to handle the whole thing at once, in addition to asking exactly what the book gives the group who uses it. For example, what does failing a library use roll give the group? Careful, the question isn't about what you as a user do, but what the book gives you group from that rule/failed roll. Other questions are, what is the design goal of CoC and how does this particular rule live up to it.

CoC has a simple system (so I'm told), so stuff like its skill rolls and other high use rules can be picked out piece by piece and examined to give a good idea of what they (NOT the group) adds to the play groups session.

BTW, what does a failed library check add to the game, by itself before
 users assistance is applied?


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: Castellanus on April 05, 2004, 09:09:49 AM
Quote from: Noon

"As far as a critical analysis goes, an observable rule is being forgotten.

[snippage]

...groups can snake, twist and turn until the damn thing works. This makes the following problematic
'Oh, it was awful, it didn't support that style of play'
'No, it was wonderful, we enjoyed it immensly'

We have NO idea of how much snaking and twisting makers of these statements have done. "



A very good observation.  What I was trying to highlight in my earlier post is perhaps more accurately stated as:

   Point 1: The gun rules in CoC do not require any more jiggery than any other part of the rules, therefore the rules stated treatment of the gun rules as not the be all and end all of the game is correct and non-hypocritical.

  Point 2: The incidence of using guns successfully to solve the problem and bull through to a solution (as opposed to doing investigation and such) is quite low.  Therefore the rules stated treatment of the gun rules as not the be all and end all of the game is correct and non-hypocritical.

Exactly how much jiggery needs to go on in CoC is a different question thqan whther or not its treatment of guns is hypocritical, though maybe this thread has migrated to the asking of it.


[Noon again]:

"Personally I'd suggest looking at a piece at a time, rather than trying to handle the whole thing at once, in addition to asking exactly what the book gives the group who uses it. For example, what does failing a library use roll give the group? Careful, the question isn't about what you as a user do, but what the book gives you group from that rule/failed roll. Other questions are, what is the design goal of CoC and how does this particular rule live up to it.

[snip]

BTW, what does a failed library check add to the game, by itself before
 users assistance is applied?

[/quote]


Well, lets look at the various possibilities inherent in success or failure.  I see three, but maybe there are more:

1) Players find the clues as laid out in the scenario (whether actually visiting of a library is done or not).  They find the monster or mystery and have a suitable experience of Lovecraftian horror, again whether they actually succeed in stopping the monster or not, and whether they die or go insane in the attempt (the latter is independent of 'success')

2) Players do not get the clues as laid out in the 'scenario' and resort to alternate methods involving library research or perhaps other skills.  If they succeed, they have discovered 'book x' or met 'NPC y' or done whatever and come to the realization that the horror they encounter during the scenario has deeper and wider implications.  As a result, the sense that horrors wait all around us in in the game universe increases, and the point of the game -- to experience Lovecraftian horror using an RPG vehicle -- is enhanced.

3) The players don't get the clues and fail in the research (whether via Library use or negotiation or whatever).  In this instance the players realize that the world is largely ignorant of the horrors that inhabit it, and when the monsters rise to deal death and insanity, their experience of Lovecraftian horror is sharpened by that realization.

The main point being that the purpose of the game is to experience horror in the style of Lovecraft and his followers/collaborators, not necessarily to 'win' in a gamist sense or even tell a coherent story in in a narrativist sense (read almost anything by Lovecraft to to verify the latter :-)

Now you can say that the rules don't support the way a particular group wants to play its games, and you can say that most gaming groups dont play the game as intended.  A lot of GMs have trouble accepting and applying the third result in particular, which inevitably leads to railroading and fudging results.  But I don't believe you can say that the rules don't support the enunciated purpose of the game.

Getting various gaming groups to accept and play by that purpose is another thing, of course --but if I understand correctly the distinctions made on this site, it would be more the province of 'Social Contract' (setting expectations) than system.

Ed


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: ChefKyle on April 05, 2004, 04:50:52 PM
I do think that traditional CoC has the problem that success in the scenario requires successful skill rolls all the way. You either pass the Library Use roll, or Spot Hidden roll; or you don't. It can become like one of those annoying CPRG where if you don't jump on the exact right spot then you fall into the river, back into the old cavern, then have to climb up the stairs for another go.

Or, worse that one failed roll dooms you. The GM has to either kill your character, or just drop the whole key to the adventure in your lap. Neither's really that satisfying.

This is why introducing some concept of degrees of success in a skill roll is good. So if the player fails their Library Use roll, but only by 8 points, well, maybe you give them half the information they need. Enough to keep them going.

It's also an argument for better scenario design. If a scenario is structured as "do this, and your have succeeded in the Goal," then there ought to be serveral paths to the same goal. It shouldn't all devolve onto one die roll. You all fail? "Aha! That's horror!" No: a horror story is one in which the characters realise the Evil That Awaits In The Dark, they try to defeat or escape it, and some of them fail and die. The others survive, with or without victory, but changed by their experience.

"Haha, you're all dead." That's not horror. "Haha, you all failed your Library Use roll, you know nothing," that's not horror, that's just inactivity, which players can manage without game books, dice, and paper.

So, some mechanic by which there are degrees of success is very useful in conducting a CoC game, I think.


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: CPXB on April 05, 2004, 07:27:51 PM
Quote from: ChefKyle

It's also an argument for better scenario design. If a scenario is structured as "do this, and your have succeeded in the Goal," then there ought to be serveral paths to the same goal. It shouldn't all devolve onto one die roll. You all fail? "Aha! That's horror!" No: a horror story is one in which the characters realise the Evil That Awaits In The Dark, they try to defeat or escape it, and some of them fail and die. The others survive, with or without victory, but changed by their experience.

"Haha, you're all dead." That's not horror. "Haha, you all failed your Library Use roll, you know nothing," that's not horror, that's just inactivity, which players can manage without game books, dice, and paper.

So, some mechanic by which there are degrees of success is very useful in conducting a CoC game, I think.


Actually, I think that horror stories are several different things.  One sort of horror story is definitely one where the players and characters realize that "the Evil That Awaits in The Dark" is out there and sharpening its knives.  

Without getting too far into it, horror comes from (generally) a feeling of helplessness, hopelessness, being startled or, frankly, the gross-out factor.  There are, I am sure, others -- but those four cover most "horror" situations.  To say that horror is either this or that is not something, I think, that can be demonstrated in any way.  Horror is complex.

I do think that a mechanism for relative success and failure would be useful; in my own games I very nearly do that.


Title: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu
Post by: M. J. Young on April 05, 2004, 10:07:59 PM
Quote from: ChefKyle
This is why introducing some concept of degrees of success in a skill roll is good. So if the player fails their Library Use roll, but only by 8 points, well, maybe you give them half the information they need. Enough to keep them going.

Actually, we do that in Multiverser; but what you describe we call relative failure. Relative success is when the roll is successful and you decide how successful based on the strength of the roll; relative failure is when the roll is failed but you decide how close it was to successful based on the roll.

In general, relative success means that the character got at least the minimum necessary, and relative failure means that he didn't, but he got something useful.

--M. J. Young