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December 10th, 2007

Yog-Sothothery

For all my wryly smiling interest in Yog-Sothothery, I've never actually played Call of Cthulhu. The closest I came was a Justice, Inc. mini-campaign run by satyrblade, c. 1989 or so, which took the trappings of a CoC story and filed the serial numbers off, so that we wouldn't be able to point at the thing rising up out of the Chesapeake and go, "Oh, it's a Deep One! Page 287." or whatever. For that game I played Professor Gregory Mannington, Ph.D., one of my all-time favorite characters, who was based partially on Dr. Hall, leader of the VCU honors program at the time (and may still be for all I know, but I suspect he's long retired).

Professor Mannington was in his 50s, pudgy, bald on top, dressed in tweed, cheerfully eccentric ... hardly a typical RPG hero. But he had knowledge skills on just about every subject under the sun, managed to hold his own (briefly) in a fight against a cultist, and had a lot of charming details and quirks that I enjoyed playing up. One particular item that sticks in my head was his pet, a beagle/basset crossbreed named Nyarlathotep (the Thing That Should Not Be). In many ways, I was glad it was Justice, Inc. and not CoC -- I would have hated to see Prof. Mannington succumb to gibbering madness or eaten by a horror from beyond space and time. Just sorta seems out of character for him.

All this is leading up to something that I've been thinking about re: gaming lately, and that is how much I miss the "storytelling" style of gaming. I don't know if it's just the quirks of this group, or the limitations of the game systems we've been using, or what, but I sometimes feel like we tend to be summarizing the game instead of actually playing it. I also feel a bit like we're stuck in dungeon crawling mode, which is a limitation of time as much as anything. Coming up with good narrative adventures tends to be time-consuming, as you never know where the players are going to go and have to do at least cursory prep for as many different possibilities as you can. A dungeon, on the other hand, you can just pick up off the shelf and there you have it.

I try to inject some of these missing elements into the game whenever I can; when I'm the GM, I try to build or choose adventures that have a more engaging plot than "kill monsters and take their stuff," and I play up the personalities of NPCs and foes as much as I can manage. When I'm a player, I try to give each character a unique flavor (Celedras is flighty but wise, the eternal ancient child; Arshan is irritable and throws his weight around, etc.) -- and again, I try to talk to every NPC I meet. Whompin' the badguys is fun and an essential part of the game -- but I'm actually much more interested in the "downtime" activities of chatting up NPCs, exploring towns, or beholding strange new wonders.

Thus, in some ways, CoC would probably be an excellent game for me. Interaction and investigation are what CoC is all about -- usually in that game, if you have to pull out a weapon, you've already lost. The only caveat is that I would much rather play in the Howardian mode of the Mythos -- where there is actually a chance to prevail or at least escape at the end -- than the Lovecraftian mode. As I say, meeting a horrible end would be terribly out-of-character for Professor Mannington, who despite his battling the occult on a semi-regular basis, is essentially an optimistic character.

-The Gneech

PS: In honor of the post's title...

Here Comes Yog-Sothoth
(by Terence Chua, to the tune of "Here Comes Santa Claus")

Here comes Yog-Sothoth!
Here comes Yog-Sothoth!
Quick, let's try to hide!
God, he's huge! Those iridescent
globes are six miles wide!

He's just turned Dunwich into goo
and had it for a snack
He's gonna visit your home town
so run and don't look back!

Dance Clubs!

The glowiest!

-The Gneech

PS: I found three easter eggs! How many did you?

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