Starchaser
 member, 662 posts
Thu 24 Oct 2019
at 10:27
The existance of H.P. Lovecraft in Call of Cthulhu games.
O.K. So I've decided to run a Call of Cthuhu game again, and whilst it hasn't had its first IC post yet I've been considering the question of whether or not include Lovecraft himself in the game setting. What I mean by this is the game is set in present day and during the course of running these sorts of games before Mr. Lovecraft's name has come up a few times IC. Usually I just shrug, allow it and move on but was wondering about other people's thoughts on this.

You see, to my mind there is the potential for the horror to be dilated when the author is mentioned. As an example if the investigators come across a group of cultists chanting 'Ia Yog Sothoth', one of them may say "Hey didn't I read about Yog Sothoth in a book somewhere? That's right, it was a horror story." (cue everyone running off to get a copy of Lovecraft's work).

Now I could just write him out of history entirely, but the thing is the man had such a heavy influence on modern horror writing that doing this could prove very very difficult.

My gut instinct is to take a leaf out of Charles Stross' book and do what he does in The Laundry Files series. In other words, Lovecraft does exist, did write about the mythos, but was widely wrong and inaccurate on several points. This, of course, requires work to make the mythos beastiary different enough to surprise the players without detracting from the cosmic horror, nilhillistic view of the universe that Lovecraft wrote so well about.

So I was wondering, what do you guys do in your own games and what are your thoughts on this?
engine
 member, 748 posts
 There's a brain alright
 but it's made out of meat
Thu 24 Oct 2019
at 13:36
The existance of H.P. Lovecraft in Call of Cthulhu games.
Talk to your players about it. Your focus seems to be on them experiencing surprise and you seem concerned that if they say "Oh, this is out of a fiction story, and not even a particularly good one," they might not be as scared.

People will only allow themselves to be as scared by their entertainment as they want to be. Talk to your players and find out how scared they want to be and whether the existence of Lovecraft as a fiction writer, or anything else, would turn into a release valve for them.
Der Rot Konig
 member, 218 posts
 Educated Pirate
Thu 24 Oct 2019
at 16:40
The existance of H.P. Lovecraft in Call of Cthulhu games.
Nothing wrong with the idea at all.  To be fair, there exists a number of people, both past and present, that believe the reason his works were so gripping was because he wrote about something that was real.  That he actually had knowledge of all these things (or was being fed it in his dreams) and was compelled to put it to paper.  I mean, there are people that believe an actual Necronomicon exists as accurately as the man described.
Starchaser
 member, 663 posts
Thu 24 Oct 2019
at 17:16
The existance of H.P. Lovecraft in Call of Cthulhu games.
Yeah. I agree that maybe things should be left for the players to decide.

On a side note - Does anyone find it wierd that in the rules Frazier's "The Golden Bough" causes 1D6 san loss if read, even though this is a REAL book? I mean I've read it and I'm 100% sane. Just ask my ten foot invisible rabbit friend if you don't believe me ;)
engine
 member, 749 posts
 There's a brain alright
 but it's made out of meat
Thu 24 Oct 2019
at 17:21
Re: The existance of H.P. Lovecraft in Call of Cthulhu games.
Starchaser:
Yeah. I agree that maybe things should be left for the players to decide.

On a side note - Does anyone find it wierd that in the rules Frazier's "The Golden Bough" causes 1D6 san loss if read, even though this is a REAL book? I mean I've read it and I'm 100% sane. Just ask my ten foot invisible rabbit friend if you don't believe me ;)

I don't think the rules go into this, but Lovecraft implies that we're all only as sane as we are because we don't see enough of the picture to make the connections that would drive us insane. One could assume that an investigator has seen or heard just enough that certain passages or oblique references in "The Golden Bough," or even just "Winnie the Pooh" or "The Dynamics of an Asteroid," link up just enough to unsettle them, whereas any other person is blessedly oblivious.
tibiotarsus
 member, 82 posts
 Hopepunk with a shovel
Thu 24 Oct 2019
at 20:00
Re: The existance of H.P. Lovecraft in Call of Cthulhu games.
Starchaser:
You see, to my mind there is the potential for the horror to be dilated when the author is mentioned. As an example if the investigators come across a group of cultists chanting 'Ia Yog Sothoth', one of them may say "Hey didn't I read about Yog Sothoth in a book somewhere? That's right, it was a horror story." (cue everyone running off to get a copy of Lovecraft's work).


Presuming you mean 'diluted' there...I'd say there's nothing in the scenario that makes it less horrific: an Investigator who's actually read the books relaxes, saying "Don't worry guys, this is a LARP, there's nothing to-" and then you drop a shoggoth on them (or, in a darker game, play it as though the talky Investigator could be right and allow them to let the "LARPers" drag their victim to the altar and do nothing because it's all pretend...until the knife comes down and oh no you're all witnesses to murder, in here with a bunch of murderers. oops). Even terrible monsters from terrible films are probably not something you'd want to run into in real life, and Lovecraft's works are a lot less detailed than the rulebooks, so honestly wouldn't be any practical help.

I don't do Modern, but in general I make the Mythos more mysterious and horrific via flipping the viewpoint rather than leaving it swept under the rug: same thing, same stats, but not using the answers provided from the POV of a virulent racist. Answer the questions brought up by the stories in a new way: e.g. Q: why do Deep Ones want intermarriage, if they're not trying to outbreed the "pure stock"? A: There is an apocalypse on the horizon they can pick up with their inhuman-science-based predictions/is part of their religion, and they're trying to save the families of those allied to them. Also, they hate non-allied humans because of the raids on Innsmouth, which're pretty much yesterday to immortal minds. Instead of something that wants to hurt you because it is Not Like Us, you get something that has good (if tragic) reason to want you to suffer like a hybrid locked in an asylum would suffer, i.e. a lot. You still can't reason with it, but that's not because it's a brute, but because you never had the chance to learn that language, and your ancestors broke the trust of those that could so badly they can't be reached. A single Deep One is no longer the monster buddy of some cultists, it is living, breathing Vengeance called up to defend the faithful.

Other questions: Why are Mi-Go so secretive and unwilling to let contacts loose in the wild, if they're not illuminati? If reverse evoloution isn't a thing, what on earth (or off it) did that to the de la Poers? What is the most compelling attraction in joining a Mythos cult, even if that means murder, if people of poor/nonspecific ethnic background aren't Just Like That? Why does Ithaca demand "brides" if he(?) has a basic grasp of relative scale and biology?

If you have those answers as your game's canon while the investigators try to follow dear Uncle Lovecraft's opus uncritically like a handbook, they'll misstep, get lost, and get themselves into terrible situations that make you look clever because they assumed Motive A was important when in fact it's almost irrelevant. Ironically, the way to make Lovecraftian fiction more Lovecraftian - incomprehensable and sanity-threatening to the mere mortals caught up in it - is to knock out the framework for comprehending it set up by Lovecraft.
soulsight
 member, 284 posts
 Reality is 10% perception
 and 90% interpretation.
Fri 25 Oct 2019
at 00:24
Re: The existance of H.P. Lovecraft in Call of Cthulhu games.
Let it go, and insure some NPC overhears the mention of the name and says, "what? You mean that discredited scientist?"