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On Cults of Chaos

Posted by Shimmin Beg , in Keeping 26 February 2016 · 639 views

So, Chaosium have the Cult of Chaos going on, and it's a great idea. It's a thing people have done throughout the history of the hobby, and it's just better all round if there's active support for that from Chaosium.

 

I'm intrigued by the idea, partly because it seems like a way to meet people with compatible tastes. I moved recently, and currently have exactly zero friends within... several counties, and it's really freakin' hard to make friends when you're a working adult. And I mean, I like Call of Cthulhu. I've enjoyed introducing people to roleplaying games - okay, mostly. Almost always. There was that one time.

 

One of my friends pointed me at the recent announcement of A Time to Harvest, which looks pretty cool from, admittedly, the front cover and very little else. I think I could run it. Self-confidence and me have, shall we say, a rather distant relationship, but evidence is that I have previously run games that people enjoyed.

 

I'm still on the fence because I see a few downsides.

 

The big one is the unknown quantity. I imagine you could drop the campaign if it wasn't working out - which is undoubtedly more likely if you're running for new players, strangers, and without the chance to thoroughly evaluate the scenarios beforehand . But most people would be uncomfortable with that, we like to meet our commitments. Based purely on previous campaigns though, there are some I'd be reluctant to try running because I think I'd struggle with them. I don't know if this is one, because I haven't seen it - nobody outside Chaosium has (maybe some playtesters? dunno).

 

Off the top of my head:

  • Masks of Nyarlathotep is a meatgrinder. To my mind the lethality makes it unsuitable for classic Investigators; it also leads to increasing distance between replacement Investigators and the plot. Most chapters end with a massive set-piece which Investigators are not equipped to handle, a premise which I also find intrinsically confining. Some bits also feel dated in their attitudes and assumptions.
  • Orient Express is literally a railroad. It has some very cool moments, and some that are just odd. I have never been able to come to terms with the fact that the wisest course is for Investigators to decline the mission entirely, and the second is to expend all their energy working out how to break the game mechanics that are included just to force them to do the mission. You can save the odd life here or there, but it seems staggeringly short on player agency.
  • Tatters of the King seems cool and very thematic, but there are several points where sensible behaviour by Investigators should break the scenario entirely, and it doesn't address them at all. These include the rage-inducing classic "I refuse to disclose this information tonight but will get back to you after I've been inevitably murdered, no you can't use your enormous Persuade skill", another murder and kidnapping that investigators could easily prevent, and an assumption that after Investigators have spotted an NPC is a wanted murderer he'll somehow wander away scot-free even if they have just beaten him to a pulp.
  • Walker in the Wastes seems, as the Innsmouth House players found, weirdly disconnected.
  • Mountains of Madness is a big logistics exercise, and I don't particularly care for the treatment of the adversaries.
...in fact, I don't think there's any campaign I'd consider running in its original state, looking at that list. Certainly not for a group of strangers who haven't signed up to the campaign with full knowledge of its particular strengths and weaknesses - which they can't do if I don't know them myself.

 

Honestly, my other concern is that whole strangers business. While I've introduced people to roleplaying and to CoC before, it's been existing friends (with occasional plus-ones) in the comfort of someone's house. The idea of running a game for total strangers at some kind of FLGS (which I do actually have) is quite alarming.

 

I do wonder whether there are some cultural differences between the US and the UK, because I've never known of gaming actually happening in a shop - they always seem to be small spaces crammed to the gills with gaming resources. I've never run across the games-in-progress that seem to distinguish US FLGSs.

 

On the other hand, I've no idea where else you could run a game, nor how you'd arrange it. Observations of a wide range of other hobbies and social groups are very clear that if you want a space to do something in, you pay for it. I am definitely not up for paying to rent a room where I can run games for some strangers. I could, of course, invite them to my flat, where one of them could sit on the chair, two could sit on the settee, and anyone else could sprawl on the floor like some kind of dog. Also there is no way in heck I am inviting strangers to my flat under any circumstances, especially not if this involves posting my address in an FLGS and seeing who turns up. Gah. I feel paranoid just thinking about it.

 

I suppose it just feels like a very big commitment when I've no real way of evaluating just how much of a commitment that is.

 

There's also the issue that the Cult specifies being comfortable with "current editions", and while I have no actual issue with 7e, I also haven't had any reason to switch over to it. So I'd have to buy the rules and study up on the differences. Not a particularly big problem, but another small deterrent.

 

Probably what this all says is that I am not the sort of person who should sign up to the Cult of Chaos.