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[CoC] Disappointed

Started by Rustin, December 10, 2007, 08:50:29 PM

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I ran a Call of Cthulhu (5th ed) adventure this weekend and it did not turn out well.

I'm reflecting on things that happened, trying to figure out why.
I'm sort of convinced that immersing myself in indie game rules has sort of given me some quirky problems and behaviors when it comes to working with traditional games and players. 

I wrote using the Afraid monster creation mechanics. This group of players has not taken to various indie games (tried and rejected). It was understood that they wanted a standard CoC adventure.  I though I could do it with the Afraid mechanics.  I thought wrong.

I found, only during play, with the monster I wrote I could not pressure the party without really frustrating them.  I think this is the core of the problem. I didn't flesh out the strategy of the monster well enough in terms of balancing with the CoC mechanics. (Does CoC have balancing?)

I realize now I should have given out more back story information earlier on. But even once I did, the group did not feel like they had the power to do anything about the monster and the network of slaves and acolytes and victims he was amassing.

I should have somehow empowered the PC's more... but the mechanic did not favor them.  In Afraid you've got the power of setting intentions.  Here, the group was expecting a CoC game where basically the GM just sort of does their illusionism thing. I didn't and I think frustration resulted.

Here's another thing that happened.
One player rolled an INT of 5 during character creation.  And he proceeded to role-play slow and stupid.  Often he's say," Well, my character wouldn't realize X and Y means Z, so he's just going to continue fixing the carriage." (He had a high mechanical repair).  How do you do anything with that, as a GM?

All in all they delayed the victimization of the main victim. They cut the monster's access off from him by breaking some of the connections, beating up some slaves and then reporting everything to the police-- so the monster just paused and hid and I ended the game since time was up anyhow.

Eero Tuovinen

As a matter of GMing methodology, in my experience a player who honestly prefers to play a dim character as dim is either dodging the responsibilities of active play or genuinely enjoys causal simulationism. The latter is a fine form of play (I've had some great experiences with it), while the former is a wexing problem I don't have a general solution for, except to provide the passive entertainment he seeks. Either way, not much to be done except to raise the matter with the player himself and ask which it is, and then act accordingly:

  • If it's causal simulationism (that is, he likes seeing the outcomes of events in the fictional world), just throw in a relevant consequence of the character being passive. Done well enough, the player will enjoy his character getting eaten, if that's what should happen to a character like that. We've played several sessions of a Finnish fantasy adventure game exactly like this, and I find it rather entertaining to send a half-competent drunkard into the dungeon and seeing what happens to him.
  • If it's just that he wants the GM to entertain him, then the intelligence thing is just a crutch, and you will benefit from knowing that this is the case. Plan accordingly.
Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.


When playing Coc, there is very often a dilemma between playing in character and playing for problem solving. I usually find that it works best if in character stuff like catatonia and low intelligence is limited to a few colour scenes and then ignored for the rest of the game in favour of a players vs. the GM's puzzle approach. But this has to be a meta game agreement and has caused me quite some frustration in the past as well.
Frederik J. Jensen

Callan S.

Hi Rustin,

This playtest of Afraid would be good to read - seems to be a bit in parralel (Ron's comments might help you):

I'm not familiar with Afraids mechanics. When it comes down to the monster attacking players, does it just list how the monster attacks (like 'roll these dice against this difficulty') or does it list how to attack and how long to keep attacking? Like 'roll these dice against this difficulty, and keep doing so until every present PC's life points are gone'?
Philosopher Gamer


Callan, thanks for the link. That discussion cleared up my issues with the game session. Ron's comments in particular clued me into some ideas that I was not aware of.

The monster creation of Afraid is fun. However, it needs even more tweaking than I realized, for it to work in a standard CoC game. t its core I simply revealed that "the game" in this case specifically making a monster with motivations to victimize, grow in power and take over the world,"simply does not handle failure/inaction in a consequential way."

As predicted by Ron, during play it happened. The "they play badly/not-at-all, but you are the one who takes the social and creative heat for saying "OK you all die."" happened.  At the end one player literally crumpled a paper and threw it at me, more in jest than anything, but still--- I took the heat.  In this case they played OK, but I still took the heat for letting the situation fizzle.

David Artman

Quote from: Rustin on December 12, 2007, 05:37:34 PMThe "they play badly/not-at-all, but you are the one who takes the social and creative heat for saying "OK you all die."" happened.  At the end one player literally crumpled a paper and threw it at me, more in jest than anything, but still--- I took the heat.  In this case they played OK, but I still took the heat for letting the situation fizzle.
Begging the question: "Are they willing to lose; or do they want illusionism and railroading to guarantee eventual victory?"

You might just be playing the wrong Game with this group, regardless of system (rules). Perhaps an honest OOC/OOG discussion about The Point of Play for your game and group is in order?
Designer - GLASS, Icehouse Games
Editor - Perfect, Passages

Callan S.

Hi Rustin,

Yeah, I think you really grasped the problem that was outlined. But in terms of 'tweaking' it, that's probably falling into the same trap - you'll take the creative heat for your tweaks as well.

You'll need the group to agree there's some sort of problem with the game, then see if they want to make some change/tweak. Again I think that'll be a prob, as they have associated the problem with you, not the game (you got the crunched up paper, not the book).

I could only speculate on how to talk about that. Perhaps outline that the only way a character could die is for you as GM to just say they get chomped, and since they all think that sucks, the reality is they cannot get comped. Then ask them 'Do you want to keep playing like that?'

Perhaps Ron will swing by and give some feedback?
Philosopher Gamer