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Author Topic: Hot Lead and Hypocrisy: a rant on guns in Call of Cthulhu  (Read 43728 times)
CPXB
Member

Posts: 139


« Reply #75 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
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-- Chris!
Callan S.
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Posts: 3588


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« Reply #76 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?
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Philosopher Gamer
<meaning></meaning>
Castellanus
Member

Posts: 4


« Reply #77 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
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ChefKyle
Member

Posts: 26


« Reply #78 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.
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Cheers,
Kyle
Goshu Otaku
d4-d4
CPXB
Member

Posts: 139


« Reply #79 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.
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-- Chris!
M. J. Young
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Posts: 2198


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« Reply #80 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
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