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How lethal is ToC/how much does it force PCs to be "normal"


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#1 Harndon

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Posted 28 June 2017 - 02:54 PM

I've read some accounts of games run with ToC, and two things jump out at me:

 

1. the rulebook suggests that combat is especially lethal. However, the in-game accounts don't make it sound very lethal. How does combat generally run? For me, an ideal system would be one where human enemies (thugs or cultists or whatever) aren't especially lethal, but monsters are. Dying to a random cultist with a revolver is lame; but being able to trounce monsters that are supposed to be mind-shattering monstrosities is also lame. 

 

2. CoC awards SAN for successes in-game, and RPGs tend to reward players for building "wandering adventurer" characters. The experience I have had in CoC has been of big campaigns (MoN, etc) with PCs going from one location to another, not returning back home in between (wherever that is), and relying on SAN awards at the end of each location or whatever to keep PCs more or less afloat. My campaigns have tended towards pulpy, globetrotting, high-adventure antics. I'm not complaining - it's fun. 

 

ToC looks like the rules for sources of stability and such both force PCs to spend time at home between adventures, and make them vulnerable by having there be families and friends and such the bad guys can kill or whatever. It seems to make the vulnerability even across the party - as opposed to the loner hobo being immune to that, more or less, while the aristocrat is the opposite. 

 

I haven't had any trouble with the problem the GUMSHOE system is intended to solve - PCs missing clues - because I try to run/design investigations with multiple paths (if you are missing anything in MoN, the problem goes beyond blowing a role every now and then), and am fairly good at making up for PCs missing things. 

 

However, I want to run Tatters of the King and while to some degree the linearity might be a problem - the story is linear and tightly plotted, and I worry they might miss clues - a bigger problem is that TotK seems written as though assuming the PCs are normal human beings instead of adventurers. There are parts of the campaign where there's nothing to do until an NPC sends a letter or whatever, and under the model my CoC campaigns take, I suspect my PCs would (literally) try to blow the story open. 

 

So, if the ToC setup with sources of stability etc means that PCs are less likely to assume that arson is the best solution to any problem, that is what I would be looking for...




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#2 numtini

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Posted 28 June 2017 - 05:16 PM

I think it's less lethal. Combat is less random, PCs have a lot of control over the situation, and human cultists aren't as dangerous. You don't have people with high combat skills randomly killed by a mook because of a couple of bad rolls. Human to human, you have similar pools to draw on, but PCs die at -12 and cultists die at 0 health. Human to creature, the creatures seem to be more powerful in stats than their equivalents in Call and the same lack of randomness means being more powerful means the monsters generally win. 

 

I don't know that stability will solve the "arson" issue. Though, players killing someone costs stability. In general, I like the split between stability and sanity because it lets you recover from normal every day trauma and makes sanity feel a lot more significant when you do lose it.



#3 The_Tatterdemalion_King

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Posted 28 June 2017 - 05:49 PM

1. ToC makes it hard for a monster to one-shot a PC; even a Shoggoth's max one-hit damage is 11, which would put my average PC when I was running ToC only down to the 1 to -1 Health range. (My players like to buy lots of Health.)

 

2. If TotK's linearity is a real problem with the campaign, but the best bet is probably to make actual game sessions pass between letters by throwing in hooks to ancillary scenarios (there's got to be a lot of KiY-related ones by now...). Or you can just let them take a crowbar to the situation in-game and hope that the writer explained things enough to let the PCs make some real choices. 


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#4 Harndon

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Posted 28 June 2017 - 06:51 PM

Thanks for indications of how combat system runs.

I think it's less lethal. Combat is less random, PCs have a lot of control over the situation, and human cultists aren't as dangerous. You don't have people with high combat skills randomly killed by a mook because of a couple of bad rolls. Human to human, you have similar pools to draw on, but PCs die at -12 and cultists die at 0 health. Human to creature, the creatures seem to be more powerful in stats than their equivalents in Call and the same lack of randomness means being more powerful means the monsters generally win.

I don't know that stability will solve the "arson" issue. Though, players killing someone costs stability. In general, I like the split between stability and sanity because it lets you recover from normal every day trauma and makes sanity feel a lot more significant when you do lose it.


I don't know that stability will solve the "arson" issue. Though, players killing someone costs stability. In general, I like the split between stability and sanity because it lets you recover from normal every day trauma and makes sanity feel a lot more significant when you do lose it.


I meant more that the rules for regaining stability reward being a normal person who spends time with their family, has attachments, etc, while SAN at end of scenario based on what they accomplished, rewards being a murderhobo.

2. If TotK's linearity is a real problem with the campaign, but the best bet is probably to make actual game sessions pass between letters by throwing in hooks to ancillary scenarios (there's got to be a lot of KiY-related ones by now...). Or you can just let them take a crowbar to the situation in-game and hope that the writer explained things enough to let the PCs make some real choices.


TotK is frustrating. It's got a great story, and there are certainly choices PCs get to make, but they're moral choices. The high point of campaign design in any game is MoN, because it's almost impossible for PCs to break, and so doesn't require railroading. But its plot is pretty hackneyed and derivative. This is OK, because story isn't what RPGs do best anyway. The beauty in MoN is not the backstory, it's what comes out of play. The PCs can make a lot of choices, including unpredictable ones, without causing problems.

TotK is much more linear and much easier to break. TotK has choices, but they're all story-linked.

Spoiler


I would like to run it one day, but my players tend towards a style of play where the ideal scenario is MoN (hard to break, very pulpy) and not TotK (relatively easy to break, not very pulpy at all). The way that ToC handles restoring stability might force them to a style of play more suitable for the latter.