[CoC7e] A Paradigm Shift, or, "You got Pulp in my Modern Cthulhu!"

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Harl Quinn

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Spoiler: Apologies and Background
I'm not up to speed on the debate regarding Lovecraft vs. Derleth, how each tried to define their version of the Cthulhu mythos and the paradigms of their writing. :sweat: I've heard Derleth gets a bad rap for bringing Christianity into it along with his own stylized version of the Elder Sign (the pentagram with the blazing eye). At any rate, being a Christian, I'm taking some of my cues from Derleth - namely the "elder gods" and "great old ones" being subject to the Creator and not taking either side in Lucifer's rebellion, incurring their own respective exiles of sorts in addition to responding negatively to Christian exorcism and the like. My apologies to any Lovecraft purists who might incur loss of SAN or generally be offended or outraged by this choice as well as my lack of knowledge regarding the debate. :wink:

So, I'm running Call of Cthulhu 7th edition, set in modern-day Arkham with the investigators being members of the Theron Marks Society. We left off in the midst of our first adventure on a bit of a cliffhanger note, the overall consensus being "We need bigger guns" in a sense. The players have decided their investigators are going to seek out more experienced members of the Society for assistance on this case, despite the fact that they took on (and beat) an insane (and dessicated) wizard and a werewolf in two separate convention scenarios.

Seeing as how I've grown beyond the Y2K/X-Files/Delta Green vibe that brought me into CoC and gone on to embrace a bit more of a pop occult influence (ala Buffy, Angel, and The Dresden Files), I've turned my eye to Pulp Cthulhu and by extension, some of the mechanics in Delta Green (namely the Breaking Point mechanic). At the same time, I'm looking at changing the metaphysical/magic paradigm of Lovecraft's mythos a bit (see below).

Here's what I'm looking at part-by-part:

Experienced Characters, Heroes, and Mundanes: This is the biggest issue I'm wrestling with right now. Traditionally, CoC has been all about mundane people facing the threat of unspeakable horrors in the course of their mundane existence. Pulp Cthulhu kind of turns that on its head by making the characters a bit larger than life - kind of like Buffy and Angel are heroes as compared to the rest of their respective crews. I think what I'm going to do here is maybe have a sliding scale of heroism in my game:

Spoiler: The Sliding Scale (Slippery Slope?) of Heroism
  • Investigators: Mundane characters generated using the base CoC7 rules.
  • Experienced Investigators: Characters generated using the base CoC7 rules but with 100 more skill points per the Pulp Cthulhu rules.
  • Veteran Investigators: Generated as Experienced Investigators above, but they receive one talent per the Pulp Cthulhu rules.
  • Heroes: Generated as a regular Pulp Cthulhu character but without the archetype and only one talent.
  • Experienced Heroes: Characters generated using the full Pulp Cthulhu rules.

Delta Green's "Breaking Point":
The Delta Green RPG brings us a nifty little trick called the "Breaking Point" to determine when a character incurs a phobia or other mental illness. Roughly, a character's BP is 1/5 their current Sanity score and the BP changes as they lose Sanity. I may or may not use this, but I still find it to be an interesting interpretation.

Psychic Powers: The existence of psychic powers in my CoC game was never a question for me. The question is which system do I use. I have the rules in Pulp Cthulhu, an article on spiritualism, possession and psychic powers in CoC from Dragon Magazine, and an article from the Chaosium Digest. I'm leaning hard toward either the rules in Pulp Cthulhu or the Dragon article.

Mythos and non-Mythos Magic: I have Enlightened Sorcery for BRP and I'm sorely tempted to create a divide between "known magic" from Western occult traditions and the "alien" magic of the Cthulhu mythos. The question is this: I don't want to give the investigators an easy crutch to lean on by simply putting Enlightened Magic into play. At this stage, I think I'm going to read through Enlightened Magic and see how different it is from magic in the paradigm of CoC. I'm already getting a Light Side/Dark Side vibe from it. I'm thinking strongly about using the optional rules for deadly casting and miscasts from Pulp Cthulhu to further emphasize the "alien/other" nature of Mythos magic in addition to the idea of karma from Enlightened Magic.

EDIT: One more thing...
Miskatonic Alumni: Characters who are Miskatonic University alumni receive a certain number of points toward Cthulhu Mythos skill depending on how many years they attended:
# of Years @ Miskatonic (Cthulhu Mythos %)
1-2 undergraduate (2%)
3-4 undergraduate (4%)
5 undergraduate (5%)
6-8 (undergraduate + avg. master's) (8%)
9-11 (undergraduate + ext. master's) (11%)
12-13 (undergrad + master's + Ph.D) (15%)

I think that covers what I'm looking to do in this game. Thoughts? Questions? Ideas?
 
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Voros

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Sounds cool, I wouldn't include the notion of Enlightened magic myself in a CoC setting as I think the 'use magic to win but pay for it with loss of sanity' is central to the feel of the game but that's just me. I've never played a pulp cthulhu style game.
 

Harl Quinn

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Sounds cool, I wouldn't include the notion of Enlightened magic myself in a CoC setting as I think the 'use magic to win but pay for it with loss of sanity' is central to the feel of the game but that's just me. I've never played a pulp cthulhu style game.
Well, with regard to Enlightened Magic, the whole tenor seems to be that magic in the Western occult traditions is subtle and founded on karma. Do harm to someone else via magic and you'll incur some form of punishment - maybe not loss of sanity, but definitely something bad. Conversely, use magic to benefit someone else and you will get a blessing. Mythos magic, on the other hand, seems much more seductive - a faster route to power but the caster incurs a severe cost along with any "blessings" the magic brings.

One thing I didn't note above is the idea of techno-magic. The adventure I'm running is a precursor to a similar adventure in the anthology/campaign book The Stars Are Right. In fact, I've made notes connecting the two, but I digress. The adventures and associated articles from Challenge Magazine, the 1990s Handbook, and the Chaosium Digest can easily tie into some spells found in Enlightened Magic, but I don't think I'm going to give my players a chance to dive down that rabbit hole... :hehe:
 

Voros

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Well, with regard to Enlightened Magic, the whole tenor seems to be that magic in the Western occult traditions is subtle and founded on karma. Do harm to someone else via magic and you'll incur some form of punishment - maybe not loss of sanity, but definitely something bad. Conversely, use magic to benefit someone else and you will get a blessing. Mythos magic, on the other hand, seems much more seductive - a faster route to power but the caster incurs a severe cost along with any "blessings" the magic brings.

One thing I didn't note above is the idea of techno-magic. The adventure I'm running is a precursor to a similar adventure in the anthology/campaign book The Stars Are Right. In fact, I've made notes connecting the two, but I digress. The adventures and associated articles from Challenge Magazine, the 1990s Handbook, and the Chaosium Digest can easily tie into some spells found in Enlightened Magic, but I don't think I'm going to give my players a chance to dive down that rabbit hole... :hehe:

I do like the idea of have the psychic powers and occultism that was prominent at the turn of the century and through the 20s and 30s featured in the game. Lots of great sources to draw on for that. For a good history on modern occultism I'd recommend Gary Lachman who does a great job of being historically responsible and balanced when writing about the subject.
 

The Butcher

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I like my CoC pre-7 and closer to baseline but it's always intriguing to read a different take on it.
 

OHT

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A little question if i may that isn't quite on topic - do you need CoC 7 to play the Pulp Cthulhu book? I like the look of the Two Headed Serpent too.
 

under_score

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A little question if i may that isn't quite on topic - do you need CoC 7 to play the Pulp Cthulhu book? I like the look of the Two Headed Serpent too.
Yes, Pulp Cthulhu is very much incomplete.

I'm running THS right now, about 3/4 through it and we've been full pulp flavor. Weird science, psychic powers, and nearly every chapter ends with the investigators jumping out of an exploding building. It's been fun, although I'm kind of tiring of it and wanting to return to a more classic game.

Edit: Apparently when the site turned green my previous posts got deleted. Weird.
 
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