July 17th, 2008


You'd Think British Game Nerds Would Be Cooler

In preparation for cosmic horror fun, I tootled around the internet a bit until I found Yog-Sothoth.com, which is a website theoretically devoted to Lovecraft but in actuality devoted to CoC. This site is liberally peppered with interesting reviews and a few fluffy articles, but mostly seems to have audio recordings of game sessions featuring a gaming group that consists to two pairs of married archaeologists (!) plus a GM, all of whom are from the north of England. The net result is that it sounds like Tony Slattery running a game for Jim Broadbent, Christopher Eccleston, Emma Thompson putting on a northern accent, and, well, another Emma Thompson putting on a northern accent.

I've listened to two of these. The first I won't link to because it's a scenario I have in mind to run myself; the second is Dead Man Stomp, a 1920s Chicagoland jazz-oriented scenario in the CoC rulebook which is a neat story but is riddled with plot holes and very difficult to fit a typical party of pasty white CoC investigators into. [1]

So far, it's seemed like largely an exercise in frustration, leading me to wonder what, other than the classical British love for a rotten evening, is leading them to continue. Both scenarios, one an hour long and the other two hours long, have lurched stop-start-stop as the GM fumbles along reading straight out of the book, the players search desperately for a plot that seems to keep trying to kick them out, and then all hell breaks loose at the end and everybody dies. Believe it or not, there's also a recording of the complete Masks of Nyarlathotep campaign in an amazing 26 two-and-a-half hour episodes. I don't know if that's the same group, but honestly I'm not sure I can subject myself to it.

(The only reason I would, really, is that Masks of Nyarlathotep is generally hailed by fans and haters alike as being more or less the pinnacle of Call of Cthulhu, but is currently out of print and either costs $200+ from collector-gougers, or can be bought as a PDF from Chaosium for $25. That's ... pretty steep for a PDF. 0.o So I think it's gonna be a while before I can get ahold of a copy. But 65 hours of wandering around trying to find the storyline? Oh, honey, I dunno...)

Still, I suppose it's comforting to know that gamers across the pond are geeks as well.

-The Gneech

[1] I found myself biting my tongue to avoid crying out at work when the players identified Louis Armstrong as the guy who played Baloo in The Jungle Book. Then they decided that he couldn't have played Baloo, so he must have played King Louie, which is only slightly less horribly wrong. In retrospect, it kinda fits the situation the characters were in, tho.

The Sanity Clause (You Don't Believe Insanity Clause?)

Per kesh's recommendation, I checked out the 4E Disease Track rules today for possible adaptation as a sanity mechanic. While I can see what they were going for, and it looks like a good mechanic, it doesn't really capture the kind of experience I'm looking for. But it did lead me to think about other possibilities for a sanity mechanic, and here's what I've come up with:

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What Do YOU Think?

Which Sanity Mechanic Should Gneech Use?

Classic OGL (CoC-style) Sanity
Sanity as Mental Hit Points
Sanity as Wisdom Damage
Sanity as Skill Check
Other (I'll describe below...)
Ia! Cthulhu fthagn!

-The Gneech
NIMH Scariest Icon

Sanity as Skill / Sanity Track Combination

As a followup to my earlier post, what do you think of this, LJ braintrust? It's sort of a mashup of the "Sanity as Skill / Sanity Track" method, designed to have a similar flow to the classic CoC model.

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Good points: This incorporates the downward spiral, players rolling the dice for their sanity checks, some granularity of effect, and consistency with the SWSE mechanics.

Bad points: Counting track steps, particularly for persistent steps, may be a bit clunky. Also, instead of the slow, inevitable trickle of CoC-style, this system tends to lose fairly big whacks of Sanity at a time. (1 point of a 1-20 scale is like 5 points of a 1-100 scale.)

What do you think, sirs? I'm open to questions, comments, criticisms, or suggestions!

-The Gneech