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Can I write this scenario? in media res?

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#1 HelplessBystander

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Posted 30 September 2017 - 11:03 AM

Alright, so recently, a few of my PCs had a near-death experience; luckily, we were using Pulp rules, and they had spent all of their luck to escape from what would've been a tragic end at the hands of one of the servitor races.

Now, I have a scenario in mind where the PCs pay the price for their blunder and the price will be...amnesia. So I was thinking of building a scenario where I confiscate their character sheets and rediscover their skill proficiencies and their character's backstory as they head off on an epic journey through the Dreamlands, places they've been to before, and talking with NPC acquaintances while also solving a mystery. Can such a In Media Res situation be done? I've heard of RPGs that baked these core concepts into their very game mechanics, but I don't know whether this could be done with COC Mechanics.

Edited by HelplessBystander, 30 September 2017 - 02:13 PM.



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#2 noahghola

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Posted 30 September 2017 - 01:15 PM

Hi Helpless,

 

I'm sure it can be done with these mechanics--one of the good things about CoC is just how flexible the rules really are, and can be bent to fit (almost) any situation. 

 

While I like the conceit--traveling through the Dreamlands, rediscovering their characters, etc.--my worry is that it would seem like a railroad, or perhaps even a bottle episode, driving the characters to specific locations where they can find themselves. While this could prove really interesting for your players, it's going to depend on your group if they would enjoy this. Would returning to "places they've been to before" be fun for them? One of the appeals of the Dreamlands, for me, is that they're always new and changing. If you could bring that feeling to this scenario, I'm sure it would turn out well. 



#3 HelplessBystander

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Posted 30 September 2017 - 02:11 PM

Thanks for the response! Personally I’m going to have to try my best to get them to travel through the Dreamlands, and the recesses of their memory to find their character. At the end of the campaign, they should’ve had their character’s sheet filled out again, with key changes (I imagine people change a bit after amnesia).

The railroad thing was actually one of my worries, could I logically pull this off while retaining ‘fun’?

Edited by HelplessBystander, 30 September 2017 - 02:13 PM.


#4 ReydeAmarillo

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Posted 30 September 2017 - 03:11 PM

I once ran a AFMBE campaign where one character had total amnesia. He started with an almost blank character sheet (just strength, speed, dexterity, health etc) and rediscovered himself through the encounters and flashbacks. I had one player in mind for this character and THOROUGHLY brifed him beforehand to make SURE he was happy to play such an unconventional character. He was and the campaign proceeded. Its not railroading if the player goes into it with their eyes open !!

Edited by ReydeAmarillo, 30 September 2017 - 03:18 PM.


#5 GBSteve

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Posted 30 September 2017 - 03:24 PM

There's In Media Res, the John Tynes scenario from UO#10, in which the characters start with no memory of the events that lead them to be standing round a corpse. It works very well. So yes, it can, and should be done.


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#6 Gaffer

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Posted 30 September 2017 - 04:03 PM

To avoid railroading, you might let the investigators lead the process. Did they keep notes or journals that can provide clues? Can their possessions help them recover: "Hey! Theres a shotgun in my closet, i bet i can use it." Do they want to talk to people in their address book? How will they get to the Dreamlands, if that is what they think will help?

I generally don't like amnesia scenarios. They seem too precious and artificial to me. As I understand it, in reality amnesia is rarely total, but a matter of memory gaps about a specific traumatic event.

And won't the players remember a lot about their skills and characteristics, even if not the exact value? Maybe you should swap characters around.

Finally, I think you should give them an in-story motive to recover themselves. Maybe what happened jolted them back to some time before everything went pear-shaped. If they can recover their memories, they can maybe avert what happened.
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#7 HelplessBystander

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Posted 01 October 2017 - 02:30 AM

I once ran a AFMBE campaign where one character had total amnesia. He started with an almost blank character sheet (just strength, speed, dexterity, health etc) and rediscovered himself through the encounters and flashbacks. I had one player in mind for this character and THOROUGHLY brifed him beforehand to make SURE he was happy to play such an unconventional character. He was and the campaign proceeded. Its not railroading if the player goes into it with their eyes open !!

 
That sounds like a valid solution. Asking the players, and I had actually asked them beforehand already prior to every RP-ing session on whether or not they are interested in trying something new.
 

There's In Media Res, the John Tynes scenario from UO#10, in which the characters start with no memory of the events that lead them to be standing round a corpse. It works very well. So yes, it can, and should be done.

 

...I’ll check out that scenario. I suppose. I’ve already heard of it before; I just couldn’t bloody find it on the interwebs.
 

To avoid railroading, you might let the investigators lead the process. Did they keep notes or journals that can provide clues? Can their possessions help them recover: "Hey! Theres a shotgun in my closet, i bet i can use it." Do they want to talk to people in their address book? How will they get to the Dreamlands, if that is what they think will help?

 

I generally don't like amnesia scenarios. They seem too precious and artificial to me. As I understand it, in reality amnesia is rarely total, but a matter of memory gaps about a specific traumatic event.

 

And won't the players remember a lot about their skills and characteristics, even if not the exact value? Maybe you should swap characters around.
Finally, I think you should give them an in-story motive to recover themselves. Maybe what happened jolted them back to some time before everything went pear-shaped. If they can recover their memories, they can maybe avert what happened.

 

I think...I’ll have ALL OF IT take in the dreamlands. It’s just basically rehashing a scenario that I’ve seen in the dreamlands sourcebook with a few of my own ideas to ensure continuity in my stories.



#8 Gaffer

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Posted 01 October 2017 - 04:23 AM

Their trauma not only wipes their memory, but also throws them into a dream state? Interesting. Maybe they don't know there is a Waking World. That's what they have to discover in order to regain their memories.


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#9 HelplessBystander

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Posted 01 October 2017 - 04:29 AM

Basically. I feel like it would be a nice change of pace after the fact their character f’uo big-time in the real world since they failed to prevent the apocalypse from happening. Again, Pulp rules allowed for them to survive, just...not in good shape. And with the fact that their luck is essentially 0,they aren’t exactly going to find themselves ina good situation any time soon. Mwahahhhaha!

#10 yronimoswhateley

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Posted 01 October 2017 - 04:19 PM

With the added possibility of intervention from any of a number of morally ambiguous Lovecraftian nasties intervening through alien super-science, surgery, hypnotism, and "magic", plus the pulp setting, I don't think there's any problem with how "real" amnesia is, either.  If you think there's a chance someone will complain about amnesia not working that way in "real life", you can simply inject a dash of "well, the Mi-Go/Nyarlathotep/whatever did it, so...." into the forgotten episode, and surely all but the most intractable players will roll with it.

 

Like Noahghola, I like the conceit of using the Dreamlands as a setting to rediscover the characters - or, at least, to rediscover their lost memories (perhaps a little less "railroady" than recovering their forgotten character sheets?). 

 

Perhaps you start what seems to be a new and unrelated Dreamlands campaign, with a group of amnesiac Dreamlands investigators, who can then follow clues to find the legendary Dreamlands scholars and texts and such in far-flung and exotic locations that the investigators can seek out to find hints about who they were (revealing their past in the waking world in the previous adventure), and what happened in their final days, and, ultimately, reveal the terrible secrets of the ancient Doom that was accidentally unleashed by their failure upon the Dayland of Earth by the investigators so many centuries ago, with the recovered memories a torment for the poor Dreamers  (see "Polaris" for an example of the way Lovecraft handled a similar idea....)

 

From there, depending on what sort of campaign works for you and your group, you can either...

  • End the campaign on that depressing note, with the Dream story simply an epilogue to the failed campaign (I'd only do this if the players didn't realize the gravity of their failure and it seemed to need a little extra emphasis!)
  • just continue on with Dreamlands adventures for these characters (perhaps they began a ciphers in the Dreamlands, and have been filling out their Dreamlands character sheets as their Dream selves develop?)...
  • or perhaps the Dreamers can go on a Dreamquest for the secrets that will allow them to travel back in time and divert the catastrophe they previously failed to prevent, with the diversion through the Dreamquest allowing a second chance to set things right...
  • or perhaps upon achieving the Dreamquest, you can awaken the characters and divert the campaign into a "Cthulhu End Times" campaign after the characters awaken from Dream into a waking world scarred by years or centuries of the doom they unleashed upon it before they were lost in Dream (do the investigators just re-appear, centuries later, in a post-apocalyptic landscape, through some Dream-like mechanism?  Or have they reincarnated into new bodies and regain a revelation of the memories in a previous life in addition to their new one, like in "Polaris"?  Or, through some awful Dreamlands secret, do their disembodied minds take over someone else's bodies, as in "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward"?  You have a lot of options for hand-waving the mechanics of how to jump the investigators a great deal of time into the waking future!)

 

Actually, there's a lot of potentially fun ways this could play out, and few of them depend very much on the investigators doing much of anything in a particularly railroaded manner.  I think I'd have a hard time choosing which one to roll with....


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#11 HelplessBystander

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Posted 02 October 2017 - 12:50 AM

With the added possibility of intervention from any of a number of morally ambiguous Lovecraftian nasties intervening through alien super-science, surgery, hypnotism, and "magic", plus the pulp setting, I don't think there's any problem with how "real" amnesia is, either. If you think there's a chance someone will complain about amnesia not working that way in "real life", you can simply inject a dash of "well, the Mi-Go/Nyarlathotep/whatever did it, so...." into the forgotten episode, and surely all but the most intractable players will roll with it.

Like Noahghola, I like the conceit of using the Dreamlands as a setting to rediscover the characters - or, at least, to rediscover their lost memories (perhaps a little less "railroady" than recovering their forgotten character sheets?).

Perhaps you start what seems to be a new and unrelated Dreamlands campaign, with a group of amnesiac Dreamlands investigators, who can then follow clues to find the legendary Dreamlands scholars and texts and such in far-flung and exotic locations that the investigators can seek out to find hints about who they were (revealing their past in the waking world in the previous adventure), and what happened in their final days, and, ultimately, reveal the terrible secrets of the ancient Doom that was accidentally unleashed by their failure upon the Dayland of Earth by the investigators so many centuries ago, with the recovered memories a torment for the poor Dreamers (see "Polaris" for an example of the way Lovecraft handled a similar idea....)

From there, depending on what sort of campaign works for you and your group, you can either...

  • End the campaign on that depressing note, with the Dream story simply an epilogue to the failed campaign (I'd only do this if the players didn't realize the gravity of their failure and it seemed to need a little extra emphasis!)
  • just continue on with Dreamlands adventures for these characters (perhaps they began a ciphers in the Dreamlands, and have been filling out their Dreamlands character sheets as their Dream selves develop?)...
  • or perhaps the Dreamers can go on a Dreamquest for the secrets that will allow them to travel back in time and divert the catastrophe they previously failed to prevent, with the diversion through the Dreamquest allowing a second chance to set things right...
  • or perhaps upon achieving the Dreamquest, you can awaken the characters and divert the campaign into a "Cthulhu End Times" campaign after the characters awaken from Dream into a waking world scarred by years or centuries of the doom they unleashed upon it before they were lost in Dream (do the investigators just re-appear, centuries later, in a post-apocalyptic landscape, through some Dream-like mechanism? Or have they reincarnated into new bodies and regain a revelation of the memories in a previous life in addition to their new one, like in "Polaris"? Or, through some awful Dreamlands secret, do their disembodied minds take over someone else's bodies, as in "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward"? You have a lot of options for hand-waving the mechanics of how to jump the investigators a great deal of time into the waking future!)

Actually, there's a lot of potentially fun ways this could play out, and few of them depend very much on the investigators doing much of anything in a particularly railroaded manner. I think I'd have a hard time choosing which one to roll with....

There's plenty of good ideas tossed around, but I personally don't think that's what I would have in mind since Time Travel and Retconning is just too big of a workload for me. Having it take place after many centuries of Post-Apocalyptic horror leads to the more important question of: HOW ARE HUMANITY NOT DEAD YET?

Because of this, I plan to have the apocalypse campaign set only two~three years after their major screwup and have the whole thing reversible...to a degree (the spiders of Leng could be transported back to the Dreamlands), and we are using low-Pulp, since high Pulp felt too damned weird and required so more maths.

#12 yronimoswhateley

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Posted 02 October 2017 - 04:33 AM

Then again, the Earth has been home to a variety of active alien horrors for billions of years - how are humanity not dead by the 1920s

 

 

"The Kanakys explained that folks from the other islands might want to wipe the Deep Ones out if they got wind of their being there, but the Kanakys say the Deep Ones don’t care much, because they could wipe out the whole brood of humans if they were willing to bother...."

- "The Shadow Over Innsmouth"

 

"[The Mi-Go] harmed only those earth-people who got too near them or spied upon them. Animals shunned them through instinctive hatred, not because of being hunted [because the Mi-Go] brought their own food from the stars...."

- "The Whisperer in Darkness"

 

"The time would be easy to know, for then mankind would have become as the Great Old Ones; free and wild and beyond good and evil, with laws and morals thrown aside and all men shouting and killing and revelling in joy. Then the liberated Old Ones would teach them new ways to shout and kill and revel and enjoy themselves, and all the earth would flame with a holocaust of ecstasy and freedom....."

- "The Call of Cthulhu"

 

 

Even when the stars are right - or, especially when the stars are right - human beings simply aren't important enough to bother making dead, or are perhaps too useful or entertaining to make dead (the quote from "The Call of Cthulhu" suggests that, when that time is right and Cthulhu returns, human beings aren't just alive and well - humans apparently become like Cthulhu's kind, apparently sharing all the power and joy and freedom of the freed Old Ones....) 

 

You could just as easily ask why cattle, sheep, dogs, lab rats, and cockroaches are not dead yet in a world where humanity's star has risen; all sorts of animals live not just in spite of humanity, but in many cases because humanity tolerates them or even helps them survive for mysterious human reasons, and that's not necessarily a happy thing for those animals.

 

Remember that Call of Cthulhu is normally a game full of things worse than being dead happening to a few unfortunate victims in secret, but a post-apocalyptic game of Call of Cthulhu is a place where all those things-worse-than-death are happening at the same time, on a massive scale, in public, forever and ever....

 

 

In any case, set your scenarios whenever and wherever it makes you and your group happy.  I just wouldn't rush to say "you can't do that" so quickly - some of the best Weird stories are about things that can't be done!


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#13 HelplessBystander

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Posted 02 October 2017 - 05:55 AM

I see...



#14 Gaffer

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Posted 02 October 2017 - 04:00 PM

Then again, the Earth has been home to a variety of active alien horrors for billions of years - how are humanity not dead by the 1920s

 

"The Kanakys explained that folks from the other islands might want to wipe the Deep Ones out if they got wind of their being there, but the Kanakys say the Deep Ones don’t care much, because they could wipe out the whole brood of humans if they were willing to bother...."

- "The Shadow Over Innsmouth"

 

"[The Mi-Go] harmed only those earth-people who got too near them or spied upon them. Animals shunned them through instinctive hatred, not because of being hunted [because the Mi-Go] brought their own food from the stars...."

- "The Whisperer in Darkness"

 

"The time would be easy to know, for then mankind would have become as the Great Old Ones; free and wild and beyond good and evil, with laws and morals thrown aside and all men shouting and killing and revelling in joy. Then the liberated Old Ones would teach them new ways to shout and kill and revel and enjoy themselves, and all the earth would flame with a holocaust of ecstasy and freedom....."

- "The Call of Cthulhu"

 

Keep in mind though, that what the Kanakys tell is what was told to them by the Deep Ones. The Native Americans kept thinking they could destroy all the European invaders. They told themselves that well into the 1880s. The Mi-go only harmed humans when it seemed 'necessary' but there was no firm line to it, just convenience. And the Great Old Ones tutelage of humans in their ways are the stories their human followers tell themselves.

 

In other words, all these stories are self-serving and unreliable as fact.


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#15 HelplessBystander

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Posted 03 October 2017 - 12:42 AM

Again, I feel that the overall gist of it was that nothing's sacred: Do whatever as long as it sticks.

Edited by HelplessBystander, 03 October 2017 - 12:42 AM.


#16 DeUniversumMysteriis

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Posted 11 October 2017 - 01:30 PM

Perhaps you start what seems to be a new and unrelated Dreamlands campaign,

 

You should totally do that.

 

Simply lie to your players. Tell them you're running a one-shot adventure either because you need a little change of pace or because you're actually preparing the next part of their current campaign and need more time to work things out. Give them pre-gen characters which suffer amnesia and bit by bit fill their sheets with skills scores that happen to be the exact same skills their former characters have.

 

And during the course of the adventure they will discover (With much horror) that they're actually playing their former characters.

 

To prevent them from uncovering the truth too soon, just give the pre-gen characters differents characteristics. Maybe one person could be physically different in the Dreamlands.

 

Just lie to them. Otherwise you may have some trouble. As Gaffers said, they will remember what was written on their character sheets. Some players might try to pull some meta gaming thinking into your game like "But my character was a police officer so even though he has amnesia he should totally know how to use that weapon. You can't forget that, it's like riding a bike!" or "Doesn't my character have some reminiscence about this strange language?".

 

While the characters should discover their skills (and thus their past) by experiencing familiars things, I think that the players knowing about said skills and past would ruin the scenes. It shouldn't come from them or at least not in a conscious and deliberate manner.

 

There's In Media Res, the John Tynes scenario from UO#10, in which the characters start with no memory of the events that lead them to be standing round a corpse. It works very well. So yes, it can, and should be done.

 

Yup. I wanted to mention this one.



#17 yronimoswhateley

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Posted 11 October 2017 - 08:26 PM

Keep in mind though, that what the Kanakys tell is what was told to them by the Deep Ones. The Native Americans kept thinking they could destroy all the European invaders. They told themselves that well into the 1880s. The Mi-go only harmed humans when it seemed 'necessary' but there was no firm line to it, just convenience. And the Great Old Ones tutelage of humans in their ways are the stories their human followers tell themselves.

 

In other words, all these stories are self-serving and unreliable as fact.

 

There's truth in that, Gaffer.

 

What is reasonably reliable fact is that, in spite of the fact that the Earth is, was, and shall be crawling with all sorts of eldritch horrors, humanity somehow survives anyway - even, apparently, through the "Cruel Empire of Tsan-Chan" in the year 5000, or through the fall of civilization to "the Dark Conquerors" in the year 16,000 and apparently beyond, if the accounts from Lovecraft's "The Shadow Out of Time" can be taken as reliable fact....

 

Certainly, it's fair game to call into question the claims of any or all of the Mythos creatures and their cultists and wizards and poets and mystics and scholars, regarding the lowliest hybrids and halflings and ghouls up to Cthulhu and beyond, even where the doom of mankind is concerned:  whatever else may happen, it seems human beings will be on Earth for thousands of years to come without being wiped out by the Old Ones.

 

Maybe that's because the Old Ones really don't want to wipe us out, perhaps because they will still have uses for us, maybe incomprehensible to us, and almost certainly horrific to us, for thousands of years to come.

 

Or maybe it's because Cthulhu and the Old ones cannot wipe us out, even when the Stars Are Right... which doesn't necessarily mean they can't make life a living nightmare for us anyway.

 

Or maybe it's because humans aren't as flimsy and easily destroyed as we seem - after all, those Mythos wizards and witches and such, if human they are, seem to be some pretty powerful beings in their own right!  And, that's not necessarily a good thing, either... if human beings are basically as much eldritch horrors as any other intelligent denizen of Earth has ever been.  There is, I think, something almost Lovecraftian in the awfulness of a quote from George Orwell's 1984 in which one character, a representative of the ultimate dictatorship, brags to another regarding human power:  "If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever."  (Compare Orwell's quote to the reference to the "Cruel Empire of Tsan-Chan", or the quote from The Call of Cthulhu about mankind becoming "as the Great Old Ones... free and wild and beyond good and evil...."  A future in which the Stars Are Right and humans are "like the Great old Ones" need not be an optimistic or pleasant one at all!)


Edited by yronimoswhateley, 11 October 2017 - 08:31 PM.

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#18 HelplessBystander

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Posted 11 October 2017 - 11:50 PM

You should totally do that.

Simply lie to your players. Tell them you're running a one-shot adventure either because you need a little change of pace or because you're actually preparing the next part of their current campaign and need more time to work things out. Give them pre-gen characters which suffer amnesia and bit by bit fill them sheets with skills scores that happen to be the exact same skills their former characters have.

And during the course of the adventure they will discover (With much horror) that they're actually playing their former characters.

To prevent them from uncovering the truth too soon, just give the pre-gen characters differents characteristics. Maybe one person could be physically different in the Dreamlands.

Just lie to them. Otherwise you may have some trouble. As Gaffers said, they will remember what was written on their character sheets. Some players might try to pull some meta gaming thinking into your game like "But my character was a police officer so even though he has amnesia he should totally know how to use that weapon. You can't forget that, it's like riding a bike!" or "Doesn't my character have some reminiscence about this strange language?".

While the characters should discover their skills (and thus their past) by experiencing familiars things, I think that the players knowing about said skills and past would ruin the scenes. It shouldn't come from them or at least not in a conscious and deliberate manner.


That is some Paranoia level sh*t. I love this idea. It's so damned sadistic that it loops right back to being fun. I will definitely be using this idea! :P

 

There's truth in that, Gaffer.
 
What is reasonably reliable fact is that, in spite of the fact that the Earth is, was, and shall be crawling with all sorts of eldritch horrors, humanity somehow survives anyway - even, apparently, through the "Cruel Empire of Tsan-Chan" in the year 5000, or through the fall of civilization to "the Dark Conquerors" in the year 16,000 and apparently beyond, if the accounts from Lovecraft's "The Shadow Out of Time" can be taken as reliable fact....
 
Certainly, it's fair game to call into question the claims of any or all of the Mythos creatures and their cultists and wizards and poets and mystics and scholars, regarding the lowliest hybrids and halflings and ghouls up to Cthulhu and beyond, even where the doom of mankind is concerned:  whatever else may happen, it seems human beings will be on Earth for thousands of years to come without being wiped out by the Old Ones.
 
Maybe that's because the Old Ones really don't want to wipe us out, perhaps because they will still have uses for us, maybe incomprehensible to us, and almost certainly horrific to us, for thousands of years to come.
 
Or maybe it's because Cthulhu and the Old ones cannot wipe us out, even when the Stars Are Right... which doesn't necessarily mean they can't make life a living nightmare for us anyway.
 
Or maybe it's because humans aren't as flimsy and easily destroyed as we seem - after all, those Mythos wizards and witches and such, if human they are, seem to be some pretty powerful beings in their own right!  And, that's not necessarily a good thing, either... if human beings are basically as much eldritch horrors as any other intelligent denizen of Earth has ever been.  There is, I think, something almost Lovecraftian in the awfulness of a quote from George Orwell's 1984 in which one character, a representative of the ultimate dictatorship, brags to another regarding human power:  "If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever."  (Compare Orwell's quote to the reference to the "Cruel Empire of Tsan-Chan", or the quote from The Call of Cthulhu about mankind becoming "as the Great Old Ones... free and wild and beyond good and evil...."  A future in which the Stars Are Right and humans are "like the Great old Ones" need not be an optimistic or pleasant one at all!)


I mean, a totalitarian apocalypse seems to be a fun idea to explore, but I don't think I plan to have Humanity live past 10,000 years. I think that's enough for a sandbox post-apocalyptic-turned-sci-fi. After that, more ancient gods wake up and squash Humanity like petty insects. That's good. Nyarlathotep can take away a few 'sample specimens' and everyone else gets to go Kabloomey!



#19 DeUniversumMysteriis

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Posted 12 October 2017 - 07:28 AM

That is some Paranoia level sh*t. I love this idea. It's so damned sadistic that it loops right back to being fun. I will definitely be using this idea! :P

 

Thank you. (I think it's the only time in my life where being called sadistic should be taken as a compliment lol :P)

 

IMO your players will have a much more fun experience that way. Discovering who they are should be surprising.



#20 HelplessBystander

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Posted 12 October 2017 - 08:01 AM

No worries! Have a good day!





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