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How do you deal with cell phones?

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#21 ElijahWhateley

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Posted 04 October 2017 - 09:56 AM

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.

 

If I was trying to deal with a shoggoth in real life, and I read and believed that thread, I'd give up on the spot; there seem to be a lot of voices saying they have no weaknesses, could be anything or anyone, and there's a possibility that they have magic power and/or are gods. More likely (at least if I passed my SAN check), I'd say "well, better hope these nerds on the Internet have something wrong" and go on about it with what's really no more useful information.

 

I think you could do an interesting scenario in which players find a "protective" ritual online that was posted by an actual sorcerer, only it's got some added "features" like permanently giving two points of the caster's POW (or 10 if it's 7e) to the sorcerer who designed it, along with a vision of the caster's current situation. Then again, there's no reason you can't find the same kind of thing in that sixteenth-century Latin manuscript.


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


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#22 WinstonP

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Posted 04 October 2017 - 10:10 AM

If you don't know what a creature is called, how do you look it up online? Never name the creatures unless there is very good reason - try looking up a byakhee or Shoggoth just using descriptors. You'll be buried under bad leads.
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#23 numtini

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Posted 04 October 2017 - 10:57 AM

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...


Or its completely accurate, but the last 2 pages are only available offline. Don't know how many times I've run into that with Google.

#24 yronimoswhateley

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Posted 04 October 2017 - 12:21 PM

All great points, and especially beginning with WinstonP's advice of never naming the Mythos horror, and the suggestions of Numtini and others to embrace the use of cell phones as a replacement for research.

 

Lots of heirs to Lovecraft's legacy of weird horror - including modern horror movies and television shows like "Supernatural" and "The X-Files" - have done just that, and it never seems to give the protagonists any special unfair advantage against the Unknown... where the Unknown is involved, the internet is full of far more educated guesses and baloney invented by armchair experts than it is of reliable information, for example.  And one doesn't need to look much further than the comments sections of YouTube videos or articles on politics, religion, or science to see what the raving contributions of "knowledge" written by Mythos Cultists look like....

 

And, after all, Lovecraft's tomes of horror WERE the internet of his day, and they were sometimes helpful, sometimes confusing, but always a good way to add flavor and atmosphere to the story -

 

The internet as a story element is only as boring and cheap as you make it out to be.

 

Embrace and use the internet as a way of adding flavor and atmosphere to your story... there's lots of horror to be found in the crazy conspiracy theories of internet wackos who can't agree whether the half-glimpsed mythos monster you sketchily described to the players is an amateur "creepy pasta", a sign of the End Times, an alien conspiracy, a mutant caused by global warming, the punchline to a Justin Bieber joke, a famous legendary monster over-described with suspiciously fanciful detail on a cryptid website, "annunaki" and "nephilim" from from mythology as filtered through a bizarre racist theory on cult website, evidence of MK-Ultra, or random fuel for half-baked political commentary....

 

Which is right?  Perhaps none of them.  Lovecraft's protagonists were often left in the same sort of mess, only they were provided with even fewer unreliable narrators from which to jump to conclusions from:  the ravings of a mad poet, or a dubious translation of an allegedly pre-human myth, or a pseudo-scientific theory Lovecraft saw in an encyclopaedia, or an unlikely-sounding cutting-edge new idea in science that few pulp readers of his day might have heard of....


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#25 WinstonP

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Posted 04 October 2017 - 12:33 PM

Whateley smashed his fist onto the table next to the laptop. The machine rattled but the screen remained the same: "Pages 744 to 771 are unavailable". He'd have to find the ritual another way.


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#26 yronimoswhateley

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Posted 04 October 2017 - 12:40 PM

Edited to add:  LOL, Winston:  I'm probably not the Whateley you meant, but Nyarlathotep knows I've been there before while trying to do research on less occult topics!  :)

 

 

 

One of the uses to which Lovecraft put books - his version of the Internet - was an old fantastic literature device sometimes referred to as "The Apocalyptic Log":  a diary, or manuscript found in a bottle, or confession scrawled on a piece of paper by a doomed man before something weird happens to him, etc., which leaves a description of something strange for those who find the message - presumably some investigators better equipped to follow in the writer's footsteps.

 

The "Apocalyptic Log" device is still in use even today:  it's the foundation for the modern "Found Footage" and "Security Cam" horror movie format, for example.

 

And, the internet is filled with other equivalents:  Blogs, internet Journals, amateur YouTube series by internet personalities, "Top X Strangest/Weirdest/Scariest/Most Mysterious/Whatever" video click-baits, anonymous "true life" testimonials, creepy-pastas, mystery videos and webcam hoaxes, chain letters....

 

Traditionally, "The Apocalyptic Log" can be thought of as both the story, and as the hook for a new story (a couple of Lovecraft's stories were a series of nested apocalyptic logs as one narrator digs into another narrator's claims of what was found after digging into a third narrator's ghastly discovery, perhaps with the occasional reference to a clipping from a newspaper article describing a strange story from yet another narrator, and references to a creepy old tome written by yet another...)

 

Web search results found by characters in your scenarios might include just different ways of revealing new clues to what is going on, as well as hooks for your next adventure....


Edited by yronimoswhateley, 04 October 2017 - 12:41 PM.

"I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time." - Blaise Pascal


#27 rylehNC

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Posted 04 October 2017 - 02:16 PM

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. 

 

This is OK to a point - if the Keeper has to create more red herring than story I tend to doubt it's helpful for her overall Sanity.


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#28 vincentVV

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Posted 04 October 2017 - 04:07 PM

Whoa!!!

So many answers - thank you guys, very much!

 

After studying all posts I came to a conclusion that my problem with cell phones was not their use by players - but the fact that I'm less familiar with phones than my players. =(

No, really. I have a notebook, but my phone is an old Samsung with no Internet connecion at all, and the previous was Sony Ericsson k310i. SO when my players (they are younger than me) started to use their phones' features... Google search, different applications and so on - looks like it... well.. confused and frightened me in some way. I was the Keeper, but hell - I was simply not in charge of the situation! I could not controll the game because I simply didn't know my players' capabilities!

It was something like a chest in Gamers: Dorkness Rising - "... and a Lightsaber! - WHAT???"

=)

 

As for the points mentioned - I really liked the idea of desinformation and misleading Internet can bring as well as creating a tension through strange posts.

 

Yet there still are some things that make creating and running adventures a little more complicated.

 

First, are NPCs. All those librarian, old professors, antiqarians and so on can be swapped with Google search in many cases. Especially it concerns translations - why bother yourself with finding a French-speaking guy when you have google-translate at hand to get the idea of the text? And the problem here is not the quality of the translation - but in excluding of an NPC as a part of game-mechanics.

Of coure situations can be different, but still Inernet can substitute too much NPCs. =(

 

Second, handouts. It is more difficult (at least for me) to create a false Wiki-page handout, and been printed it looks a little... weird. While good old journal pages are easier to create and are much more atmospheric and impressive.

 

And third is the total amount of information players can get in one minute - the amount that a Keeper can be unable to present to them!

Something like "I'd like to google about a Golden Dawn order" - and it brings up articles about all its members and followers which in turn is followed by 100 more connected articles and so on. How to deal with it, especially if the information searched is not "How to kill shoggy", but something of a more logical and realistic matter? Say, chemistry articles, medcine - well, anything!



#29 mvincent

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Posted 04 October 2017 - 04:26 PM

Second, handouts. It is more difficult (at least for me) to create a false Wiki-page handout, and been printed it looks a little... weird. While good old journal pages are easier to create and are much more atmospheric and impressive.

 

And third is the total amount of information players can get in one minute - the amount that a Keeper can be unable to present to them!

Something like "I'd like to google about a Golden Dawn order" - and it brings up articles about all its members and followers which in turn is followed by 100 more connected articles and so on. How to deal with it, especially if the information searched is not "How to kill shoggy", but something of a more logical and realistic matter? Say, chemistry articles, medcine - well, anything!

 

My solution is to just let the players use the real internet (and their own real phones). Have them tell *you* what they find (you can then decide how true it is). If you have information (or handouts) you want to also provide on the subject, you can do so then.


Edited by mvincent, 04 October 2017 - 04:26 PM.


#30 Gaffer

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Posted 04 October 2017 - 05:09 PM

Exactly what I was thinking, Winston.


"Two in the head, you know he's dead." <heh-heh>

#31 yronimoswhateley

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Posted 04 October 2017 - 10:28 PM

...After studying all posts I came to a conclusion that my problem with cell phones was not their use by players - but the fact that I'm less familiar with phones than my players. =(

No, really. I have a notebook, but my phone is an old Samsung with no Internet connecion at all, and the previous was Sony Ericsson k310i. SO when my players (they are younger than me) started to use their phones' features... Google search, different applications and so on - looks like it... well.. confused and frightened me in some way...

 

I can sympathize completely:  I'm one of the only people in the IT field who does not own a smart phone.  I have a landline, but it's barely beyond a rotary phone - visitors to my home laugh when they see it.  And I've got a flip-phone cell phone that was given to me as a gift many years ago that I keep charged up in case of emergencies, but I almost never use the thing, and my coworkers have a good laugh at it and tell me they didn't know that sort of phone still worked on today's cell networks.

 

I have a fair idea of how things work on a personal computer, and that old flip phone is just enough experience for me to figure out that cell reception can be unreliable and calls are more likely to disconnect weirdly and fail to connect at all the further I get from a city, but for the specific details on things like phone apps and feature, I'm hopeless.

 

I just sort of improvise the best I can on games involving internet use and such by smart phone - the folks I've gamed with have all known me pretty well, and know what to expect from me, I guess, because if they've ever seen me mess up on my assumptions about how smart phones work, they've never drawn any attention to it or anything.

 

When it comes to hand-outs, I've never really bothered making anything fancy up - if the ones that come with the rare published scenario aren't sufficient or I have to produce my own for home-brew scenarios, I either improvise by describing the contents out loud, or I just type something up in Windows Notepad and print it off - it's generic and doesn't look pretty, but it's enough to get the job done.  (Kudos to the folks who make and collect gorgeous and elaborate props - that's a fantastic hobby in is own right, and I'm behind that all the way - but I've almost never used anything much fancier than generic text handouts and perhaps the occasional miniatures with dungeon tiles in tabletop RPGs....)


Edited by yronimoswhateley, 04 October 2017 - 10:33 PM.

"I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time." - Blaise Pascal


#32 windandfire

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Posted 05 October 2017 - 04:31 AM

In my experience as a techie, student, and programmer, the internet is very good for finding general information on something you don't know about, but the more specific stuff you'll need the relevant skills to understand or even find. Many academic research papers are locked under research databases only accessible to schools and experts in the field (kinda like 1920's Library's). If your players want to figure out what chemicals may interact with "a sulfer based life form", that may be one roadblock as that's not stuff people (let alone experts who may know) generally discuss on the internet.

If they want to Google "golden dawn order", they're going to get thousands of hits from different locations around the world, different time periods, Freemason wannabe sites, someone's D&D game notes, and maybe... If the cult is actively recruiting online under their real name, their ad page or private members-only forums. In the least, that's going to be a library use (Google-fu) or history roll to weed out the results. And remember all search engines rank results by the most relevant or most popular - that one page article about the 1600's short-lived knightly order isn't going to be at the top of the results.

 

On the topic of time, unless the answer is a common knowledge or very specific common question ("what is the Latin word for demon?"), your looking at hours of research - the 4-hours per Library Use roll works pretty well here.

For translations, Google translate is best used for single sentences and misses nuance all the time. Usually if you type a few sentences, translate it, then translate the results back, it'll be a mess. It also doesnt handle slang, Names, or descriptions like "the city of pillars" might become "column village"
Translating an old, handwritten book one sentence at a time will be difficult for anyone not a linguist - think of how different ye olde English is from nowadays, or how 80's slang differs from our dialect today. Google translate can give you a quick guess at what a sentence means, but it's like asking a second year Spanish Language student to write out Don Quixote and won't match the quality or usefulness of finding an actual translator.

Handouts I can kinda see. Many wikis offer you a way to play around with pages of your own and make edits to them in a sandbox mode. There are a lot of personal wiki sites available for free as well you could use to build.

Lastly, you didn't mention this but I bet it'll come up - Google maps is great for figuring out where you are... If your on a paved road or in a city. It's only as accurate as GPS is though - from my home it keeps thinking I'm at a restaurant about a mile and a half away.

Edit: forgot to mention about translations - phones don't work very well with non A-Z alphabets. Autocorrect will add 100s of mistakes to your typing of a foreign language, you need to be familiar with the written language to have any hope of typing sentence written in most Asian or middle Eastern text, and many of those require a special keyboard app to even try. And just forget about Egyptian hieroglyphics.



#33 ElijahWhateley

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Posted 05 October 2017 - 12:58 PM

That's a very good point about translation - google translate works pretty well for things written with simple sentences, when you already know the context. The more esoteric the vocabulary and subject and the more complicated the sentence structure, the more that what you get back is going to be word salad.

 

For example, I took the quote from The Case of Charles Dexter Ward about how to deal with Curwen. It's one of the most straightforward instructions for dealing with a threat in Lovecraft's fiction, and only a couple lines instead of an entire book. I fed it through google translate to Latin, and back to English.

 

Here's the original: "Curwen must be killed. The body must be dissolved in aqua fortis, nor must anything be retained. Keep silence as best you are able".

 

Here's the translation: "Curwen be killed. To save your body in the water, with mighty men, and I retained no. In order to keep the best they can silence".


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

#34 Gaffer

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Posted 05 October 2017 - 02:33 PM

If they want to Google "golden dawn order"

And you better hope some porn star named Goldie Dawn hasn't become popular.
"Two in the head, you know he's dead." <heh-heh>

#35 eternalchampion

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Posted 05 October 2017 - 03:27 PM

Hi VincentVV, You don't have to give them all the info a computer can find, it is like Library use, where you don't tell them everything they read or check in a day's time. You just give them the clues, if there are some, or anything else you want, like red herrings.

As for the handouts, I don't know... Usually I do not create elaborate handouts and I just give them the ones already present, so I tend to describe what a newspaper, or web-page looks like.

#36 Enerod

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Posted 11 October 2017 - 03:18 PM

Just to go back to your initial post, did you try running scenarios in the 80's ? No cellphones but still not that far away from our time, and also much more relatable thanks to all the movies and books from this period, so it might even be easier to give an "80's vibe" (and also easier to find/buy props !).

 

Also, about cellphones, I do think it can bring another layer of horror, as the players might think they have some kind of life-jacket : sure, they called the cops, and were enough convincing to make them come, only to saw them eaten alive by the shoggoth. Lost in the mountain ? Well, the helicopter is already in use, can you wait one or two hours ? There is also the "fantasy and technology" thing : you call a taxi to get out of an Innsmouth-like village, and realized when it arrives that it doesn't belong to any taxi company, you make a phone call to your wife, and when you meet her the evening she's sad because you told her that you would call her today and you did not... Phones also work for the bad guys : tracing the player, giving information really quickly to all the members of the cult...

 

Finally, about information on the internet, there is the Delta Green approach : most of the true mythos content is watched closely by secret organizations : a source told them there was a video of a Byakhee on this obscure website ? Impossible to find it. This guy who was selling a strange book on ebay ? Seems like he never existed. The players upload several pictures of an ancient mosaic and create an online working group in order to decipher it ? The site is taken down 2 days after, and if they try again, some G-man shows up at their front door.



#37 carpocratian

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Posted 12 October 2017 - 10:29 AM

To date, I have always run campaigns set in historic periods, prior to widespread adoption of mobile phones and the Internet.  I tend to prefer to set campaigns in the 1920s or earlier (sometimes much earlier), though I have been thinking about doing one in the 1960s or 1970s.  I don't do that specifically to avoid the mobile phone / computer issue - I just like working with historic periods.



#38 dulcamara

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Posted 12 October 2017 - 06:10 PM

Lots of great advice here.

 

I'd also add that the "there's no cell connection" approach is pretty viable in a lot of areas. Maybe not in Lovecraft Country where even the wild spots aren't separated from urban settings by much distance as the crow flies, but say the Western US and such. I'm in Oregon and once you're 20-30 miles outside the main cities it's spotty-to-nonexistent (I don't care what the provider coverage maps claim). I doubt half the state has effective coverage - if even that much - and in my travels throughout the West it's similar everywhere. There are just large swaths of wilderness and undeveloped land still around in amounts that don't exist on the east coast or in, say, Europe.

 

So if you've got a scenario or encounter that would really benefit from no communication w/outside world, there are still a lot of places you can plausibly locate it.



#39 ElijahWhateley

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Posted 12 October 2017 - 06:39 PM

No reception or dead battery is one of those things that's actually pretty common in real life, it's just been so overused as a horror gaming trope that I'd avoid it at all costs.

 

If you did want a way to make it feel a little less dead horse, you could set a game in a city during an unexpectedly large gathering, like a protest march or a gaming convention. There have been a few of those in the US recently that were large enough to overload networks and make cell phones useless for hours (I even attended one), and they have the added benefit of making everyone on edge and the police overstretched already. I could see an interesting scenario in which the investigators are trapped in the basement of a haunted house and unable to call for help even as chants echo from the streets above, or where they're trying to hunt down a crazed sorcerer before it's too late, but the streets are already blocked, everyone's paranoid or upset, there are cosplayers everywhere, and they have no way easy way too coordinate with each other. It would at least feel very current.


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

#40 windandfire

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Posted 12 October 2017 - 06:45 PM

Lots of great advice here.

I'd also add that the "there's no cell connection" approach is pretty viable in a lot of areas. Maybe not in Lovecraft Country where even the wild spots aren't separated from urban settings by much distance as the crow flies, but say the Western US and such. I'm in Oregon and once you're 20-30 miles outside the main cities it's spotty-to-nonexistent (I don't care what the provider coverage maps claim). I doubt half the state has effective coverage - if even that much - and in my travels throughout the West it's similar everywhere. There are just large swaths of wilderness and undeveloped land still around in amounts that don't exist on the east coast or in, say, Europe.

So if you've got a scenario or encounter that would really benefit from no communication w/outside world, there are still a lot of places you can plausibly locate it.


Along with that, different providers Mary have different converge areas and signal strengths. Good to keep in mind that both people need effective coverage to communicate by cell phone - possibly two Luck rolls during dramatic scenes.





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