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#1 vincentVV

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Posted 02 October 2017 - 03:34 PM

Cell phones, Internet and other ways of obtaining information are wide-spread nowadays. It's a part of our life, of course, but if you are keeping a modern-day adventure - they are a real pain-in-th-ass. =(

So, the question is - how to keep a present-day game without ruining it with players' "Ok, I google a "Shoggoth weakness" on my I-pad"?

The first and obvious solution is to set the adventure somewhere where connection is either low or not present at all. But that's too obvious. Besides, not all adventures take place in a wlderness (and even there the connection is still possible) or in other dimention and worlds.

To make the cell charge run low is another idea, but after your first game clever players can easily counter it with good preparations (I charge my phone full and take several accumulators with me just in case).

You can damage the phone but it shold be done very cautiously because it can look like a heavy railroading and Keeper's despotism.

No such information in Internet - is too unconvincing but still can work with some really weird things or rare data (some old library records or things too old and useless for librarians to bother digitalizing them)

Playing in about 2000s era can be a way out - life was not too different from today, yet mobile phones were still only a way of communication, not a way to find out anything you like at any time.

If your players are adequate - you can simply ask them not to overuse their phones' capabilities. Something like "All right, guys, I know that you can find an article on any topic in Wiki at any moment - but I ask you to play as if you don't have a permanent Internet connection - for not ruining the atmosphere's sake".

So.. Maybe you have some more ideas?

P.S. My problem arose because of the fact that I still can't grab a hold on 20s-30s atmosphere however I try - so it looks like my future games will still be set in present days to which both I and my players are much more familiar.


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#2 Mad7eo

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Posted 02 October 2017 - 03:47 PM

I don't think that "Shoggoth" is something you can research on google (in game)

 

In game, you are living an adventure, and you don't know that monsters are real, and you don't know that a shoggoth is even called shoggoth!



#3 Tony Williams

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Posted 02 October 2017 - 04:01 PM

I agree that "no signal" is unrealistic these days. Also "running out of battery" is not acceptable really ( unless the investigators have spent a day or two without electrical sockets ).

 

However, just because the Mythos is all over the internet in the real world doesn't mean it would be in the game world. Just have any Google searches for "Shoggoth weakness" come back with no hits.

 

The Mythos is arcane and undiscovered in the game world so I don't think many people will have created websites for it. All the Mythos lore in the game world still exists only in weird tomes in ancient libraries ( that have not been scanned and put on a computer! ).

 

Or you could use Google search results to point the players to where you think they should be getting the info from; "There is a hit on a webpage for a 'Shogot' but it just says a beast called a Shogot is described in the Book of Jelly Beasts in the Library of the Lunatic Fringe in Liverpool"

 

If there is a legitimate plot reason ( e.g. local Mi-Go science experiments ) you could have electromagnetic interference playing havoc with a smart phone's functioning ( screen corruption, constant rebooting, etc. ).


Do you play Trail of Cthulhu ? You may find these downloads useful...

The Condensed Rules for Trail of Cthulhu PDF - the rulebook as slim as it can go.

The Enchiridion of Elucidation PDF - a guidebook for both players and Keepers, with advice on playing the game.


#4 rylehNC

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Posted 02 October 2017 - 04:05 PM

There are a number of ways that using phones can come back to bite a party, too. For example, I bet you didn't know that shoggoths can perceive the frequency of cel phones. And neither do the players....


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#5 GBSteve

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Posted 02 October 2017 - 04:06 PM

We weren't that different from now in the 20s, but communications and information is one of the big differences. You probably need to embrace those if you want to play modern games. The fact that we're still around suggests that the kind of information that burns through sanity is not readily available on the internet. That could be for several reasons:

- someone keeps removing it. You know those spam filters and virus checkers? Keeping your computer safe is secondary to keeping the world safe. They seek out and destroy and really dangerous things, such as maths (see the Laundry Files for how that works, or Delta Green).

 

- it can't easily be stored that way. The Mythos is more than just information and accessing it requires more than just words (see the Courtyard by Alan Moore for a reason why this is the case).

 

- it hasn't been decoded yet. We keep saying how the Voynich manuscript has been cracked, but it hasn't yet. And watch out when it does.


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#6 numtini

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Posted 02 October 2017 - 04:13 PM

I don't do modern for Cthulhu, but I've been running a Dracula Dossier campaign. It really doesn't matter much what they can research because, as was said above, you can't just google "Shoggoth." You could, however, substitute a lot of library and newspaper research with internet research. Instead of an old journal, maybe the crazy coot who ended up in a grisly death kept a blog rather than a dusty journal. Instead of dusty newspaper records in the basement of the newspaper office, you're accessing Google or Lexis-Nexis--you could also use that as a way to get people places because I can't even remember how many times I've searched for something and found a reference to a physical record that hasn't yet been digitized.

 

As part of my "hey, I live here," efforts, I'll point out that lots of small towns in rural Massachusetts and Vermont really do have crap for wireless coverage. So you're not going to have a problem getting a signal in Arkham, but out in Dunwich? Even here on Cape Cod which is developed, close to Boston, and touristy and rich, if you want data at the beach, you're probably out of luck or walking to the parking lot at the top of the dunes. In such a place, you're likely to have a connection in business and residential areas, but as you get out into the woods or farm areas, it may come and go--particularly if there are hills or mountains to block transmission. (You're probably always a five or ten minute drive from a solid connection though and you'll have voice and txt.) On the other hand, while I can tell you these gaps in coverage are reality, your players may not buy it if they're in an area where coverage is something you don't worry about. "What do you mean there are places an hour west of Boston where coverage is spotty? You're daft!"


Edited by numtini, 02 October 2017 - 04:18 PM.


#7 Gaffer

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Posted 02 October 2017 - 04:22 PM

In pre-contemporary settings, the problem for investigators is not enough information. Nowadays it can be too much information.

 

As Mad7eo says, investigators should never be sure what weird, never-before-encountered thing they are dealing with. They don't know that pulsing mass of protoplasmic goo is a "shoggoth." They shouldn't know what it's named, just what it looks like.

 

Half the time, what I google comes back with a lot of erroneous information mixed in. How useful is this tidbit?

 

Armor: none, but (1) fire and electrical attacks do only half damage;
(2) physical weapons such as firearms do only 1 point of damage,
impaling or not; (3) a shoggoth regenerates 2 hit points per round.

 

Or maybe one "authority" says shoggoths are vulnerable to freezing temperatures, another says seawater, one says chant them away, another says you should escape into the Dreamlands. Which do you choose to believe? And how much trust do you put in the typing skills of that guy that uploaded the Dismiss Shoggoth chant? Or which of three variants will you rely on?

 

You don't need to have three chants typed up, just tell them they find three, generally describe the differences, and ask which they want to use? Oh gosh, it's now 2:00 a.m. you've wasted another whole day following links on the internet (we all know how easy it is to do THAT).

 

It's only a benefit to the investigators if you let it be.


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#8 eternalchampion

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Posted 02 October 2017 - 04:23 PM

I generally prefer setting a game in the modern world. Now about the cell phones, I usually do not see them as a problem. When you start reading and designing modern day scenarios you will gradually get in to the mentality of using modern technology as a fact and as a part of the scenario.

 

In general the investigators are dealing with things man was not meant to know and Mythos is something that 99.99..% of the population has no idea about (this is a long way from going viral). So no useful info on the subject can be found online, except maybe a few  tons of conspiracy theories about this and that. Now, a Keeper could place a clue for the investigation in some of those theories, the same way some clues are placed in myths and legends.

 

Investigators can use the cell phones to communicate silently if needed and this is ok. They could use the internet to find info about people and places, download floorplans of buildings they plan to enter, hack fb accounts and things like that. Again, these things are pretty much ok, they are all part of the modern “Library Use”, and information gathering of the investigation.

 

Cell phones don’t work everywhere. They cannot operate in deep basements and there is “no signal” in many remote places outside towns and cities. Sometimes they cannot operate when many people are using the network simultaneously, like for sending wishes for the new year or during a sudden unfortunate event (earthquake, great old one visit, etch). Certain Mythos entities and maybe spellcasting can have negative effects on cell phone connectivity or even functionality. These would be only the side-effects of an entity being nearby, but could be used in order to build the atmosphere of an impending event. Certain entities could tune to the cell phone and make the holder receive their own mind blowing messages or just noise.

 

On the other hand I would be a bit worried with all those cameras the PCs can have. Could they just take a quick photo of the ghouls nearby and post it all-over? I would say that the Keeper has to think in advance what would be the result of photographing Mythos entities. Shouldn’t there be something already with all these types of critters lurking around? Or else that could be the proof that nothing like that exists, as in the case of UFOs, where you had many “photos” until the 80s and now that there are billions of cameras ready around there is hardly anything.



#9 Mad7eo

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Posted 02 October 2017 - 04:32 PM

I generally prefer setting a game in the modern world. Now about the cell phones, I usually do not see them as a problem. When you start reading and designing modern day scenarios you will gradually get in to the mentality of using modern technology as a fact and as a part of the scenario.

In general the investigators are dealing with things man was not meant to know and Mythos is something that 99.99..% of the population has no idea about (this is a long way from going viral). So no useful info on the subject can be found online, except maybe a few  tons of conspiracy theories about this and that. Now, a Keeper could place a clue for the investigation in some of those theories, the same way some clues are placed in myths and legends.

 

Investigators can use the cell phones to communicate silently if needed and this is ok. They could use the internet to find info about people and places, download floorplans of buildings they plan to enter, hack fb accounts and things like that. Again, these things are pretty much ok, they are all part of the modern “Library Use”, and information gathering of the investigation.

 

Cell phones don’t work everywhere. They cannot operate in deep basements and there is “no signal” in many remote places outside towns and cities. Sometimes they cannot operate when many people are using the network simultaneously, like for sending wishes for the new year or during a sudden unfortunate event (earthquake, great old one visit, etch). Certain Mythos entities and maybe spellcasting can have negative effects on cell phone connectivity or even functionality. These would be only the side-effects of an entity being nearby, but could be used in order to build the atmosphere of an impending event. Certain entities could tune to the cell phone and make the holder receive their own mind blowing messages or just noise.

On the other hand I would be a bit worried with all those cameras the PCs can have. Could they just take a quick photo of the ghouls nearby and post it all-over? I would say that the Keeper has to think in advance what would be the result of photographing Mythos entities. Shouldn’t there be something already with all these types of critters lurking around? Or else that could be the proof that nothing like that exists, as in the case of UFOs, where you had many “photos” until the 80s and now that there are billions of cameras ready around there is hardly anything.

 

I don't think that cameras can be a problem :) there are lots of The Walking Dead zombies in google images... are they really ghouls? ;)



#10 Gaffer

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Posted 02 October 2017 - 04:39 PM

Oh yeah, cellphones.

 

Who they gonna call? Ghostbusters?

 

Dispatchers hate crank calls about made-up emergencies; even in RL they have dismissed peoples ACTUAL EMERGENCIES for very little reason. And what if 911 routes them to the investigator's home? Maybe a lot of Mythos power plays havoc with GPS systems.

 

How quickly can an overstretched county or state police system respond to "I'm being chased by a big flying monster in the hills about six miles west of Dunwich? Closest intersection? I dunno. Aylesbury Pike and Dunwich Road? Hurry!"

 

They want to call their friends? Great. Their friends can listen to them being devoured by the shoggoth. Spread that SAN loss around.

 

Really not that helpful.


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#11 ElijahWhateley

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Posted 02 October 2017 - 05:24 PM

If I'm doing modern, I never have cell phones get no reception or run out of charge; that's just weaksauce. The cell phone in the modern world is a route to horror more than a defense. Modern people spend all day using their cell phones to get constant updates about real-world horrors that they are helpless to alleviate; adding Mythos just ups the ante. Now when one person wanders off alone and gets eaten, everyone else gets to take some SAN damage from hearing their last screams coming over a cell phone while they're desperately trying to get there. And they'd better hope that 911 calls get written off as stupid hoaxes, because if cops show up and enough get eaten by the shoggoth that the feds show up, well, I'm sure they'll use the ancient alien warmachines responsibly.

 

As for google, supposing someone has figured out the name shoggoth (say from a book of lore), I'd give similar results to what you'd get today if you googled "vampire weakness". The first few pages of hits will be about their weaknesses as portrayed on popular television shows and video games ("uh...they're weak to timed hits"). You might get a few blog posts about "there's this cool monster from folklore called a shoggoth, and here's some lore about it!" followed by explanations filtered through generations of oral tradition, some apathetic translator in the 19th century, and then some Buzzfeed intern skimming that 19th century text for article inspiration - probably not reliable or useful information.

 

Now, get a few pages in, and maybe you'll find a thread on an occult forum from seven years ago, in which one guy claiming to be a practicing occultist gives pretty detailed, step-by-step instructions for how he defends against shoggoths, although they're full of jargon and abbreviations, and mixed with a blend of profanities, dirty jokes, and homophobic slurs. Three other posters say he's completely wrong and that method will lead to a messy death, and give vaguer answers. One guy says everyone should just use the old guide he uploaded, and posts a link, which is inevitably dead and not on the Waybackmachine.

 

At the end of the day, it's a bit faster than translating the sixteenth-century tome written in coded Latin by an insane monk, but not that much more reliable.


In the Mythos, there is no such thing as cannon.

#12 mvincent

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Posted 02 October 2017 - 05:44 PM

I allow (and even encourage) IRL smart-phone usage to gather information:

 

1) It allows a player to become engaged in the game without requiring my attention. Having them explore the Mythos isn't necessarily bad, and I *want* my players to become that engaged. Maybe they'll also look up historical information or locations on google maps (especially street-view) to aid immersion.

2) Even with (or possibly because of) my encouragement, my players still avoid looking things up on-line. They know that I might change things. Anything they find on-line might be incorrect, make things worse, or even cause a SAN roll.



#13 HJ

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Posted 03 October 2017 - 11:31 AM

Insects like bees often lay their eggs in a cell, where the larvae grows to the next Ishtar. Therefore cell phones + egg cells for Insects from Shaggai, which the phone user then sticks nice & close to his ear, just waiting for it to hatch.



#14 ElijahWhateley

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Posted 03 October 2017 - 12:24 PM

(I think you meant instar, although Ishtar could work under certain circumstances.)


In the Mythos, there is no such thing as cannon.

#15 Shanty

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Posted 03 October 2017 - 02:20 PM

I think searching for stuff online fits with the normal CoC tone. It's not like players don't get unreasonable levels of information out of their Library Use checks in the 1920s, the pace is just a little slower. Whether it's Professor Crompop spending a leisurely afternoon at the library and local newspaper or dan_upvote trawling through /r/creepyPastaSnopes and #mfw3lobedeye, the end result is the same.

 

However, I do love the idea of rampant disinformation making the internet useless as a source. It's like googling the symptoms of your harmless head cold and coming up with three types of cancer, but even worse because the type of crackpot who'd be posting about Cthulhu mythos stuff.

 

"The guy we shot kept screaming 'yay shub niggurath', let me just google that, aaaaand we need gas masks, weed wackers and a truckload of salt. Oh, and nobody breathe."



#16 Tony Williams

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Posted 03 October 2017 - 02:38 PM

Cults could be actively suppressing internet pages about the Mythos by having a network of lawyers sending out "take down" legal threats to scores ( hundreds ) of web-server owners.

 

Something investigators with computer and legal skills might stumble across - the network of lawyers I mean.


Do you play Trail of Cthulhu ? You may find these downloads useful...

The Condensed Rules for Trail of Cthulhu PDF - the rulebook as slim as it can go.

The Enchiridion of Elucidation PDF - a guidebook for both players and Keepers, with advice on playing the game.


#17 GRWelsh

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Posted 03 October 2017 - 03:10 PM

Like others have suggested, you could just have cell phones be the modern equivalent of the "use Library" skill -- having access to information, and being able to get useful information relevant to the situation, are two different things.  The monsters and other details of the Mythos, if they appear on the Internet at all, are probably detailed just as variously as ghosts and other monsters of folklore are, making it difficult to determine what is true and what isn't.  If it turned out vampires were real, for example, they may not be a perfect match to the vampires of folklore (see del Toro's TV show "The Strain").  But as far as being able to research people, places, history, land records, etc. -- sure, investigators should be able to get some of that information on smart phones.  I agree with ElijahWhately that trying to 'nerf' cellphones is just weaksauce... at least, if you rely on this too much, it will feel contrived and imply a lack of Keeper neutrality.  Cell phones are reliable and nearly ubiquitous in the modern civilized world, and most investigators in the modern era should have access to them.  Investigators already have the odds stacked against them -- cell phones help, but don't change that.  If I were running a modern era game, I'd let the investigators use cell phones and other technology as much as they want... it only makes the horror more palpable when none of that is enough to save them...


Edited by GRWelsh, 03 October 2017 - 09:21 PM.


#18 numtini

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Posted 03 October 2017 - 03:12 PM

However, I do love the idea of rampant disinformation making the internet useless as a source. It's like googling the symptoms of your harmless head cold and coming up with three types of cancer, but even worse because the type of crackpot who'd be posting about Cthulhu mythos stuff.

 

Back in the 80s, when I was first running COC, I would make all research, spot hidden, and listen rolls blind. If they failed badly, they could get wrong information. They liked to roll the dice, so I'd roll against them and add together and roll over at 100, so they wouldn't know the real "roll." And for spot and listen, I'd occasionally make them roll just for the hell of it when there was nothing to see. 



#19 The_Tatterdemalion_King

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Posted 04 October 2017 - 03:14 AM

So, the question is - how to keep a present-day game without ruining it with players' "Ok, I google a "Shoggoth weakness" on my I-pad"?

 

That problem isn't cell phones and ipads per se, but rather the question of whether YSDC exists in your game — this thread is the first result when I google it. 

 

I actually love having cell phones and digital media as part of my games, because it underscores the verisimilitude of the situation for my players. A modern player can instantly understand what the ramifications are of a cultist with an instagram account and one who doesn't have one at all. 


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#20 MikeM

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Posted 04 October 2017 - 08:55 AM

Let PCs use phones and the internet.

 

So they call the police.... 1D8 Sanity loss for creating the situation where all of the police responders were eaten by the monster. The innocent blood is on the PCs hands. And, the police have subsequently traced the incident back to the phone they used to call the emergency services....

 

So they use the internet to look up how to dispel a star vampire... even 'if' you allow them to find a ritual, will it really work?! The internet is full of false / misleading/ inaccurate information - the spell goes wrong, does not work, makes things worse. 

 

So they look up a tome on the internet... do you really expect a crazy cultist to accurately input all of the text correctly? Nothing could go wrong there...

 

etc.

 

I ran a game once where the PCs looked up HPL and his stories online - I said they were all there. Now, what do you want to do with them? The information didn't in any way actually help their situation.

 

Remember, technology and access to information is not a guarantee of success. Anything created by humans is not infallible.

 

Oh, and - Library Use is the term given to identifying and finding useful information - it is the skill to use when searching the internet etc. and not Computer Use (which is programming etc.) - you could have a combined roll of Library + Computer Use to create an information sifting program of course.


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