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Penny Dreadful Cthulhu

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#1 Dstack1776

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Posted 15 September 2016 - 01:47 PM

My group has been discussing a Cthulhu game for the fall. We've settled on a pulp style - probably the middle of the road using the Pulp Cthulhu rules.

 

My comment that we could conceivably do a "Penny Dreadful Cthulhu" using the same rules - something of a crossover between a Cthulhu by Gaslight and a Pulp Cthulhu game. 

 

I don't think it'd be a massive challenge - from a variety of sources I'm pretty well equipped for London of the 1890s and many 1920s scenarios can be done with little change. I am curious if anyone out there has participated or run such a campaign and if they've any tips, things to look out for, etc.

 

My own worry is one I have for Pulp Cthulhu in general - I want the investigators to be bad-ass but I still want the horrors of the Mythos to evoke a feeling of dread, characters dreading acquiring magic items and learning spells, etc. I think the Pulp Cthulhu rules are well designed for that but we'll have to take them for a spin. I look at settings like Deadlands and Buffy the Vampire Slayer for examples of tough characters who still must deal with some pretty horrifying opponents that are orders of magnitude beyond the heroes.




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#2 DAR

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Posted 16 September 2016 - 02:44 AM

My group has been discussing a Cthulhu game for the fall. We've settled on a pulp style - probably the middle of the road using the Pulp Cthulhu rules.

 

My comment that we could conceivably do a "Penny Dreadful Cthulhu" using the same rules - something of a crossover between a Cthulhu by Gaslight and a Pulp Cthulhu game. 

 

I don't think it'd be a massive challenge - from a variety of sources I'm pretty well equipped for London of the 1890s and many 1920s scenarios can be done with little change. I am curious if anyone out there has participated or run such a campaign and if they've any tips, things to look out for, etc.

 

My own worry is one I have for Pulp Cthulhu in general - I want the investigators to be bad-ass but I still want the horrors of the Mythos to evoke a feeling of dread, characters dreading acquiring magic items and learning spells, etc. I think the Pulp Cthulhu rules are well designed for that but we'll have to take them for a spin. I look at settings like Deadlands and Buffy the Vampire Slayer for examples of tough characters who still must deal with some pretty horrifying opponents that are orders of magnitude beyond the heroes.

 

I'm running Pulp Cthulhu in the Classic Era with a significant nod to Penny Dreadful, with my own rules for reduced Sanity loss, and more Pulp talents than the rules suggest - and my players are still feeling plenty of dread, there have still been more than a handful of Bouts of Madness, and we've had one character who would have died if they hadn't blown all their luck to survive. While the pulp rules give some significant advantages to Investigators it really doesn't make them invincible, and atmosphere really has nothing to do with how hit points they have...

 

I still need to update my blog here with the last session... time! I need more time!

 

D.



#3 Dstack1776

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Posted 16 September 2016 - 02:33 PM

DAR - 

 

That was my impression from a reading of the rules - the investigators have an edge they didn't have but it's not inexhaustible. What I sense is an Investigator's Luck may begin resembling Sanity in a classic game - watching the character slowly lose luck and finding his or her buffer against certain death diminishing as the stakes get higher.

 

And thanks to one of my players I've begun watching Ripper Street.



#4 prof_abercrombie

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Posted 18 September 2016 - 04:18 PM

My group has been discussing a Cthulhu game for the fall. We've settled on a pulp style - probably the middle of the road using the Pulp Cthulhu rules.

My comment that we could conceivably do a "Penny Dreadful Cthulhu" using the same rules - something of a crossover between a Cthulhu by Gaslight and a Pulp Cthulhu game.


This is something that intrigues me because I was thinking of converting Pulp Cthulhu for a DREAMLANDS campaign - so as to better emulate the swashbuckling Edgar Rice Burroughs-meets-the-Mythos that Lovecraft himself seemed to be going for with "Dream Quest To Unknown Kadath". I'm curious to see what other "hacks" people apply to a pulp game.

#5 DAR

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 04:08 AM

DAR - 

 

That was my impression from a reading of the rules - the investigators have an edge they didn't have but it's not inexhaustible. What I sense is an Investigator's Luck may begin resembling Sanity in a classic game - watching the character slowly lose luck and finding his or her buffer against certain death diminishing as the stakes get higher.

 

And thanks to one of my players I've begun watching Ripper Street.

 

I will say that Luck is a far more resilient characteristic than Sanity - you get 1d10 back at the end of every session. I didn't actually understand that and my players got a surprise boost when I figured that out (hap[ily it coincided with the end of The Haunting and a month break). I'm not even sure how much of an edge it gives players, honestly if you are determined to play a "classic" CoC scenario where everyone is dead or insane by the end, it is still pretty easy to do even with the Pulp rules.

 

What keeps Investigators alive is the thematic style of the campaign, not Luck or Hit Points.

 

D.



#6 Deodanth

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Posted 26 September 2016 - 08:06 AM

What keeps Investigators alive is the thematic style of the campaign, not Luck or Hit Points.

 

And just as in Penny Dreadful, some characters are scripted to survive to the next season, whereas others die horribly for our entertainment!



#7 DAR

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Posted 26 September 2016 - 03:25 PM

This is something that intrigues me because I was thinking of converting Pulp Cthulhu for a DREAMLANDS campaign - so as to better emulate the swashbuckling Edgar Rice Burroughs-meets-the-Mythos that Lovecraft himself seemed to be going for with "Dream Quest To Unknown Kadath". I'm curious to see what other "hacks" people apply to a pulp game.


If you go to the blog listed on my profile I have my modified list of Pulp traits posted in the last ten or so posts (I haven't been very posty lately), I also have listed my very simple rules for San reduction, and I also have the characters from the current campaign with some (but not all) pertinent details listed on their own page. Feel free to ping me there or here if you have any questions. I think the Pulp rules would be excellent for what you are thinking.

D.

#8 DAR

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Posted 26 September 2016 - 03:31 PM

And just as in Penny Dreadful, some characters are scripted to survive to the next season, whereas others die horribly for our entertainment!

 

LOL! Yes! Or rather, some characters are scripted for horrific reveals at some point in the future - the handyman's player is slowly figuring out that his character is probably not what he thinks he is, the medium has a very deep and dark secret that is actively hunting her, and the poor antiquarian is now infected with dimensional stalker ichor and is slowly being transformed (at least partially) into something else...

 

The most normal character is the mafia hitman, his big secret (which I'm trying to figure out how to reveal) is that he's a Dreamer - with a swashbuckling life of a hero in the Dreamlands! I thought that was quite amusing given @prof_abercrombie's post above.

 

D.   



#9 yronimoswhateley

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Posted 26 September 2016 - 07:30 PM

It's probably pretty common knowledge, but, just in case:  the original "penny dreadfuls" were extremely cheap mass-market fiction magazines that were the Gaslight Era fore-runners of the "pulps".

 

They were similar in spirit to such spiritual successors as early comic books, radio and film serials, direct-to-video horror movies in the 1980s, exploitation films in the 1970s, low-budget "B" movies in the 1950s, and that sort of thing: generally a lot of rubbish, but with some real gems hidden inside as well:  "Penny dreadfuls" would have helped to popularize the work of Edgar Allen Poe, Robert Lewis Stephenson, Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and of course Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker; Lovecraft wrote about some of the best that the penny dreadfuls had to offer in his essay "Supernatural Horror in Literature".

 

I'd say it's perfectly fair to think of the penny dreadfuls in terms of being Pulp Cthulhu by Gaslight....


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