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How much non-mythos stuff is in your games?


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#21 yronimoswhateley

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Posted 28 November 2017 - 06:30 PM

I think the real world Ku Klux Klan would make a terrifying opponent for adventurers in any pulp era game. The organization is at the height of its power and influence in the mid 1920s. Unlike our current cartoon view of them, members don't wear robes most of the time, they have a whole shopping list of people they dislike (Catholics, Jews, Republicans, foreigners, northerners). Unlike typical Cthulhu cultists, the Klan has a large membership, political clout, and lots of funds to carry out its agenda. Klansmen may be capable of doing evil things but they aren't crazy, and they may be perfectly nice, reasonable folks until the adventurers cross them somehow. Worst of all, PCs don't know who they are -- they could be the grocery boy, the pastor, the beat cop or sheriff, that sweet little old lady who waves at them from her garden. Who can the heroes trust?

 

I'd never thought of it before, but the KKK might make for a terrifying and interesting addition to a campaign for those reasons; and, worst of all, in a fictional world where there really are alien or hybrid monsters disguised as humans, the KKK can even claim some "jerk has a point" points... after all, in the end, how many real differences are there in what the KKK claim to stand for and apparently believe they are doing, and what investigators normally do?


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#22 wcburns

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Posted 28 November 2017 - 08:24 PM

I honestly never considered the Klan, given my chosen location of San Francisco. I'm not sure what presence they had in the city, and the Chaosium sourcebook for the city doesn't specifically mention them.

 

There is Chinatown of course, though it was more insular, probably more to the Klan's liking. But if any form of mythos-based events end up affecting the city, it might be a good excuse for them to make an appearance as an additional concern for the investigators.

In any case, they could certainly be a good red herring, particularly if you have any PCs of colour in your group. What might seem like cultists stalking you might be klansmen.


Edited by wcburns, 28 November 2017 - 08:37 PM.


#23 fluffy

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Posted 29 November 2017 - 06:31 PM

I rather echo most of what's already been said in saying that the players' expectations of your adventure need to be met.

 

This however doesn't mean you pander to their whims, just that you as keeper should be aware of what your players' 'switches' are.

You will get a good deal of lead on this from your history with your players so having decided on your campaign you will tweak it to match their expectations.

You will get more info of their current appetites at character creation, this is where you observe the cries of, " but I need more points to make my character affective/believable/godlike".

Be charitable at your peril. You have to balance the risk with the assembled team against your threat. Mundane aspects create your filling, if you like, to the mythos sandwich, the carrying layer (bread) being the shared acceptance of the environment and rules.

 

The spice you use is your own recipe for hotting up the action, your creatures, cultists, mythos objects etc.

Mundane aspects are vital to retain players' grounding to the plot. I believe that researching the mundane is one of the delights of our hobby.

Well thats my twopennorth.

 

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#24 WinstonP

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Posted 30 November 2017 - 10:30 PM

I'd never thought of it before, but the KKK might make for a terrifying and interesting addition to a campaign for those reasons; and, worst of all, in a fictional world where there really are alien or hybrid monsters disguised as humans, the KKK can even claim some "jerk has a point" points... after all, in the end, how many real differences are there in what the KKK claim to stand for and apparently believe they are doing, and what investigators normally do?

 

I strongly disagree. The KKK are white supremicists organization who believe in a fantasy of one human group being biologically superior to another and who use violence and intimidation to maintain (or hope to restore) a racist system of white political dominance. Mythos investigators know the truth of mankind’s utter valuelessness and impotence in the universe and who use violence to delay our extermination.

Cultists and Klansman both wear robes and deserve no quarter.


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#25 EihortBroodling

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Posted 01 December 2017 - 03:05 AM

I strongly disagree. The KKK are white supremicists organization who believe in a fantasy of one human group being biologically superior to another and who use violence and intimidation to maintain (or hope to restore) a racist system of white political dominance. Mythos investigators know the truth of mankind’s utter valuelessness and impotence in the universe and who use violence to delay our extermination.

Cultists and Klansman both wear robes and deserve no quarter.

 

But if Mythos investigators are convinced of the pointlessness of it all, why do they bother? What's the value in putting off human extinction if  humanity is utterly without value? I don't get it.

 

RE the Klan

 

I could see KKK types as non-Mythos foils, unexpected allies, or creepy cultists. They work for all these roles.

 

Non-Mythos foil= a mysterious 'cult' that is conducting strange nocturnal rituals and has kidnapped a sympathetic NPC turns out to be the local Klavern up to no good.

Pull off the mask, Scooby Doo style! 

This works well with political corruption cases.

 

 

Unexpected allies: The party has previously helped a local businessmen, sheriff, minister, or some other such person. He learns they are investigating some kind of criminal or occult matter involving ''dirty foreigners'' and ''coloreds", and has offered to help them in what small ways he can. Seems like a decent guy. (A bit prejudiced, but hey, it's the 20s! The investigators quite possibly share some of his feelings and attitudes. Or maybe not. )

Later, at some point when serious trouble has developed, Klansmen show up to aid the party. Need some cultists rounded up? We brought bloodhounds and shotguns. 

 

 

 Cultists: I'm sure someone on this forum has already suggested a Cthuga Klan variant. Or should that be Kthuga? ''Call down His holy fire, brothers! Burn the unclean!"


Edited by EihortBroodling, 01 December 2017 - 03:40 AM.


#26 EihortBroodling

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Posted 01 December 2017 - 03:33 AM

RE non-Mythos supernatural stuff:

 

I've used werewolves before, and without any explicit Mythos tie-in.

 

No vampires, ghosts, mummies, pixies, etc.. Was it the 3rd edition rulebook that included pixies? 

 

I've also used the Dreamlands once, but that was in an adventure connected with Y'Golonac. And the Dreamlands is arguably part of the 'Cthulhu Mythos.'

 

I'd probably have included more non-Mythos stuff in games if my group in the 90s hadn't also played  Ravenloft and Vampire the Masquerade. 


Edited by EihortBroodling, 01 December 2017 - 03:37 AM.


#27 skaye

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Posted 01 December 2017 - 04:28 AM

I used a would-be avatar of Dionysus, maenads, and a minotaur in my 1890s Los Angeles game (note to self: in future make minotaurs more bullet-proof).



#28 DeUniversumMysteriis

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Posted 01 December 2017 - 06:48 AM

Unexpected allies: The party has previously helped a local businessmen, sheriff, minister, or some other such person. He learns they are investigating some kind of criminal or occult matter involving ''dirty foreigners'' and ''coloreds", and has offered to help them in what small ways he can. Seems like a decent guy. (A bit prejudiced, but hey, it's the 20s! The investigators quite possibly share some of his feelings and attitudes. Or maybe not. )

Later, at some point when serious trouble has developed, Klansmen show up to aid the party. Need some cultists rounded up? We brought bloodhounds and shotguns.

 

Yup. It's not the kind of ally you're glad to have by your side but it's not hard to imagine such a scenario. With groups like the Cult of the Bloody Tongue from Kenya or simply with the Necronomicon being written by Abdul Al-Hazred, it's easy to write about some Klansmen who are convinced that "Evil was brought by the foreigners" and who will help the investigators because of that.

 

It could lead to some interesting roleplaying scenes if one or more members of the party is strongly against racism. The Klan as the power and the ressources to help, but will the investigators ask for this help or will they act behind the Klan's back?

 

The investigators and the Klansmen could bump into each other during their research and be surprised that there are others who are investigating on the matter.

 

About the Cultist Klansmen, as I said before, you could have Klansmen who worship an Entity without being aware of its true nature and intention just like in that scenario I quoted. They could mistake it for a Biblical figure or something and their ritual could lead the world to its doom.



#29 wcburns

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Posted 01 December 2017 - 04:09 PM

Re: The Klan (or modern day equivalents) I can certainly see one using them as unexpected allies. Particularly if you find yourself going up against one of the more powerful entities in the mythos, and need some expendable muscle that one doesn't feel as bad about being devoured or mutilated. I'd probably still cause a san loss from it.

 

Ultimately it's up to the keeper, and what they're comfortable with doing. While it is in period context (along with other problematic racial aspects of HPL/Mythos stories), I'd probably veto the investigators actually joining the group, personally, and probably keep them as a mostly-antagonist.


Edited by wcburns, 01 December 2017 - 04:10 PM.


#30 EihortBroodling

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Posted 01 December 2017 - 04:28 PM

I can't see how I, as Keeper could reasonably 'veto' investigators joining the Klan in play. YMMV

Of course they might be turned down if a plausible reason existed. 

 

 I also have no issues running Cold Harvest, even though the NKVD was a horrific and brutal organization directly responsible for many murders. 

 

 

 

It's true the investigators are usually assumed to be the good guys.

 

But for a fair number of characters looking at the world from a 1920s Anglo-Protestant American viewpoint,  the Klan may be the good guys. This may create values dissonance for some players. 


Edited by EihortBroodling, 01 December 2017 - 04:31 PM.


#31 wcburns

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Posted 01 December 2017 - 05:43 PM

I can't see how I, as Keeper could reasonably 'veto' investigators joining the Klan in play. YMMV

Of course they might be turned down if a plausible reason existed. 

 

I wouldn't outright say no, but I'd probably come up with a reason why they wouldn't be permitted: The character has a catholic background, is a mason, are women who are directed to a Ladies Auxiliary group, fraternizing with other races, etc. In my case the last one will certainly happen with my current group.

 

If they did, I would certainly relish as keeper when they succumb to madness. Such groups proclaim that they are superior to other peoples, and it would be quite the revelation that the gods don't even notice the difference between people, or wouldn't care if they did.

 

As you said, YMMV, and you have to know your group. In my case, I have players who are non-white, so while I could have NPCs see the Klan as heroic or normal, I won't encourage the PC's to do so.


Edited by wcburns, 01 December 2017 - 05:46 PM.


#32 EihortBroodling

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Posted 01 December 2017 - 06:10 PM

I wouldn't outright say no, but I'd probably come up with a reason why they wouldn't be permitted: The character has a catholic background, is a mason, are women who are directed to a Ladies Auxiliary group, fraternizing with other races, etc. In my case the last one will certainly happen with my current group.

 

If they did, I would certainly relish as keeper when they succumb to madness. Such groups proclaim that they are superior to other peoples, and it would be quite the revelation that the gods don't even notice the difference between people, or wouldn't care if they did.

 

As you said, YMMV, and you have to know your group. In my case, I have players who are non-white, so while I could have NPCs see the Klan as heroic or normal, I won't encourage the PC's to do so.

 

Right, there is always the question of what the players enjoy playing. It is, after all, a game. The players should be having fun. 

 

I make  allowances for this sort of thing. I can play up or play down some elements of a setting to suit a group's preferences. 

 

But if I'm running Pendragon and somebody has a problem with manorialism or a 'feudal system', well, he should just not play. Those things are not the focus of the game, but they are integral to the background and social position of player-knights. These are non-negotiable setting elements, for me. 

All knights are men, as well.

(Though I would allow non-knightly characters as part of a knight's warband, and a Lady might be an interesting character in a game).

 

CoC is  about investigating weird mysteries and strange happenings. I like to run 1920s games with period music, news, advertising, slang, prejudices, and politics all present in the background, and sometimes social attutudes  are important in an adventure, but it's not like I'm liable to run campaigns/adventures with strong themes of  ''fight against racism and social injustice'' or ''protect 100% Americanism from the colored hordes."

 

Back to the OP's core question, I think art thefts, missing persons, blackmail cases, and all that could work well as short adventures breaking up blocks of weirdness and horror. In a long-running campaign, it might be nice to have some short, solvable cases that involved no SAN  loss and gave the players a chance to earn a sense of victory and accomplishment. 


Edited by EihortBroodling, 01 December 2017 - 06:39 PM.


#33 Celebrim

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Posted 01 December 2017 - 09:46 PM

Personally I feel that while a twist scenario where there was no mythos foe might work once in a long running campaign, if you pull too much of that you are going to end up with a feel more like Scooby Doo than a horror game. 

 

And you certainly could run a Noir detective thriller or murder mystery with BRP rules if you wanted, but by and large I think this isn't a peanut butter and chocolate sort of thing where the two go together.  

 

The themes of one tend to detract from the other, each causing the other to seem more trite in perspective.  On the one hand you are dealing with vast cosmological horror, but which is presented in a way that is almost entirely fantasy and rarely IMO approaches the problem of real cosmic horror well.   And on the other hand you are dealing with gritty reality, but which involves the pettiest of crimes on the smallest of stages.  If you just saved the world from Yog-Sothoth or the machinations of the Mi-Go, solving a petty crime hardly seems a worthy endeavor.  And on the other hand, if solving petty crimes does seem a worthy endeavor, the mythos is likely to pale to childish banal fantasy.


Edited by Celebrim, 02 December 2017 - 03:52 AM.


#34 EihortBroodling

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Posted 01 December 2017 - 10:47 PM

Solid point, Celebrim. I think it would be best to let players know if a campaign is going to involve a lot of mundane crime. Otherwise, it might seem like a big bait and switch. 

''I thought this was a horror game?"

I haven't tried running non-supernatural/weird CoC adventures, so I can't speak from experience.

But players definitely enjoyed my adventure with werewolves and no Mythos elements.

 

It might make sense to tie the mundane crimes with weird stuff. Like rare books being stolen, and one is a Mythos tome. The thief was after money and valuables, or maybe hired by an obsessed antiquarian, but the adventure itself` isn't about magic and monsters. The Mythos tome will surely come up later, though...

 

Or say a wealthy young heiress, newly-married, calls the investigators to her country home to look into horrible happenings. She's afraid it's haunted. If they succeed in their investigation, our heroes can prove that there's no ghost, but that the woman's husband/uncle/other relation was gaslighting her as part of a plot to get her money and property. 

Disgraced, the cad flees to parts unknown.

 

He can then return later in the campaign, with actual supernatural allies or powers, having fallen in with some very nasty company in his opium-tinged exile.

 

Or perhaps there's a madman on the loose. Ax-murderer?  He's not supernatural, but it was encounters with the Mythos that made him crazy. In the hunt for him, the investigators learn some things about his past, and his confinement in an asylum, and so pick up clues and hints about the Mythos that may come into play later in the game.


Edited by EihortBroodling, 01 December 2017 - 11:02 PM.


#35 Travern

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Posted 02 December 2017 - 02:52 AM

The only way one could incorporate the KKK into a scenario in good conscience would be in either the role of incidental antagonist, like the Mafia or the German American Bund, or as pawns of the Mythos.  Come to think of it, the obsidian-skinned Nyarlathotep would probably take perverse pleasure in manipulating a bunch of racist terrorists into performing his works on earth.

 

Honestly, while Lovecraft was misguided enough in his prejudices to admire the KKK that doesn't mean we have to fall for revisionist nonsense about how malignant they were - and are to this day.



#36 Celebrim

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Posted 02 December 2017 - 04:18 AM

EihortBroodling: There is of course interplay between the real and the fictional in any mythos game (or in HPL's works themselves, for that matter).  But the core gameplay of CoC is uncovering mysteries beyond the ken of man.   If you run an entire scenario where the solution to the mystery proves to be entirely mundane and there is nothing deeper and darker to uncover, that's a huge let down and to a certain trick feels like a swindle.  Indeed, trying to imagine myself in the player's shoes, I'd just assume that there was something I missed and try to keep digging deeper to find it. 

 

A similar sensation would happen if the keeper sold me on a game as a private eye in the mold of Sam Spade or Phillip Marlowe.  If I was really enjoying that game, maybe once in a long campaign - probably a 'halloween' game set in October - I might enjoy a game with a mythos theme, but I wouldn't want to discover that the whole thing was just a set up for a CoC game where the keeper was trying to hide that fact.



#37 EihortBroodling

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Posted 02 December 2017 - 04:30 AM

Celebrim-

 

Yup. That's why I think a Keeper should state up front if he plans to include mundane mysteries.

 

''Guys, sometimes it won't be supernatural. I'm running a detective game with some supernatural elements, not a 'standard' Call of Cthulhu game. Some cases won't have monsters, magic, or aliens. Some will.  Is everybody interested in that?''

 

As I noted above, I don't use the bait-and-switch approach. Players get what they signed up for. That doesn't mean unexpected stuff won't show up. But unless the players know from the get-go that a given campaign will differ notably from the conventions and assumptions of the game, then they may expect it to generally adhere to those things. 



#38 ReydeAmarillo

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Posted 02 December 2017 - 10:20 AM

A good example in literature of mixing mundane and paranormal would be the Carnacki stories. Out of seven or so (sorry dont have it in front of me) stories in the collection about four turn out to have mundane resolutions, but seem paranormal at first. But those that are supernatural REALLY are!!
EDIT: Or for a far more subtle and far more mundane approach try the Merrily Watkins stories by Phil Rickman.

Edited by ReydeAmarillo, 02 December 2017 - 12:30 PM.


#39 yronimoswhateley

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Posted 02 December 2017 - 05:21 PM

I strongly disagree. The KKK are white supremicists organization who believe in a fantasy of one human group being biologically superior to another and who use violence and intimidation to maintain (or hope to restore) a racist system of white political dominance. Mythos investigators know the truth of mankind’s utter valuelessness and impotence in the universe and who use violence to delay our extermination.

Cultists and Klansman both wear robes and deserve no quarter.

 

Well, there's exactly what I'm driving at...

 

And please, don't get me wrong:  I used the phrase "and worst of all" for a reason!  Lovecraft - and especially the game based on his stories - paints a picture of a fairly awful universe (and one which, mercifully, I don't think we really live in!)  The Lovecraftian cosmos is one in which there is virtually nothing that is truly good, and nothing that is truly evil - it's all a relativistic universe in which morality depends only on a limited point of view, a relative and individual perspective - it's a universe in which survival of the fittest and might-makes-right and being on the right side of chance are the ultimate moral values, and the points of view of amoral, alien, man-eating, soul-stealing god-monsters are just as valid, or more valid, than those of human investigators, cultists, or even Klansmen, or ants or bacteria....  In the end, all are just animated meat that will eventually become inanimate dust in the greater scheme of the universe, and their so-called "evil", "good", or "amorality" will then all be as valid as the morality of forgotten bones and dust.  In this game, the population of Innsmouth are all the same monsters, and deserve no quarter, and they would say the same thing about humans, and who is morally "right" depends only on who the designated hero is, and it is the pulp luxury of investigators to give no quarter when breaking out the shotguns, tommy-guns, and dynamite.

 

In the end, the sentiment "all those people are the same, and deserve no quarter" is the rallying call of your investigators, and perhaps our own "real life" gut reaction to people we know for doing some awful things, but is the sentiment "all those people are the same, and deserve no quarter" really that different from the philosophy of klansmen?

 

I think it's a fair question, to stop and ask ourselves such from time to time, especially before taking a drastic action.

 

It's a fair question as well to stop and ask ourselves, is that group of people really all the same, and do they, as a group, really deserve no quarter?  Is the world (outside of the pulps) really as black-and-white as we'd like to claim through an easy slogan?

 

The ability to question our assumptions about those we disagree with or whom we have designated as our enemies, to ask whether any group of people truly deserve no quarter as a stereotyped, anonymous, faceless group, to see the potential for good in our enemies and the potential for evil in ourselves and our allies, might, perhaps, be the only real differences between investigators and cultists - between those people we want to look up to as a representation of the better part of humanity, and those people who have earned a reputation as symbols of evil.

 

The question that I find interesting is, should your investigators join the KKK in saying, for example, that "all those Innsmouth people are the same half-breed, sub-human monsters, and should be given no quarter"?  Is your fictional Innsmouth really full of people who are all the same half-breed, subhuman monsters who deserve no quarter, or is it a place that contains selfish collaborators, sadists who enjoy the power the Deep Ones have granted them over the rest of the town, con-men and profiteers, as well as men and women who are just trying to protect their families in an impossible situation, elderly people who cannot fight back against the Deep Ones, mad and tormented hybrids shuddering in misery and horror in attics and basements who have never hurt anyone yet but will be dangerous without treatment and care, resistance fighters waiting for an opportunity to strike back, people who once believed in the Deep One cause but have become disillusioned and want to defect but see no way out, children who don't know any other world - human children, hybrid children who do not realize they are part "monster", alien children who might have been sympathetic to humans if they'd been raised in a different environment and might still have a chance of redemption, Deep Ones who disagree with their leadership?

 

 

As another disclaimer, I should also mention that a Role-Playing Game IS a form a fiction, and, at the end of the day, a descendant of pulp fiction in particular, and in pulp fiction, it is an expected tradition for there to be a designated "always chaotic evil" mob of faceless mooks for heroes to slaughter, and when it comes down to it, Nazis and the KKK make particularly satisfying goons to shoot up without thinking about it - nobody likes having the Baby Orc ploy being sprung on them in the middle of what should have been a basic and satisfying Exterminate The Orcs adventure.  I've mentioned something similar before, but I suppose it's worth repeating here:  there's a time and a place to use a complicated enemy with a real personality and a complex motivation, and there's a time and a place to use irredeemable hooded goons that exist only to be mowed down by wise-cracking heroes with machine-gun fire - we don't want to confuse those two types of cultists!

 

 

 

I also want to say that I agree completely with anything said above about the importance of explicitly setting the tone and genre of the game ahead of time with your audience, or at least knowing the genre or tone is something your audience expects and wants to participate in before moving ahead with a game using that tone or genre.  Consider your audience, and be considerate of them.  The tone, setting, genre, etc. for your game is part of a (usually implied) social contract with your group - if you expect them to buy completely into giving up a few hours or days of their lives to play a game with you and be happy about it at the end of the game, you definitely don't want to "bait-and-switch" them on the terms of that social contract!  (If I buy into a horror story, I'll forgive the occasional episode of comic relief to break things up, but I'll feel ripped off if I bought a horror story and got nothing but comedy instead....)


Edited by yronimoswhateley, 02 December 2017 - 05:24 PM.

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#40 Travern

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Posted 02 December 2017 - 06:04 PM

In the end, the sentiment "all those people are the same, and deserve no quarter" is the rallying call of your investigators, and perhaps our own "real life" gut reaction to people we know for doing some awful things, but is the sentiment "all those people are the same, and deserve no quarter" really that different from the philosophy of klansmen?


Well, yes. The investigators' typical attitude toward cultists is based on their actions, starting with their admission into the Mythos, while the KKK persecuted and terrorized people on the basis of their race and ethnicity, intrinsic qualities that they could not help being or change if they wanted to. Racism justifies itself philosophically by invoking essentialism (and then backing it up with bad science). If hate groups like the KKK and Nazis appear in CoC scenarios, then their intransigence toward members of the "outgroup" should be presented, accurately, as inflexible, not relative.

What's potentially more fruitful is testing players' commitment to saving the world from the Mythos when they might be able to help the people messing about with it as well. Although CoC's game mechanics place zero-SAN cultists beyond saving, one could construct a scenario around investigators attempting to prevent victims from being indoctrinated by a Mythos cult or to rescue cult "laity" from being gradually subsumed by the horrors of the Great Old Ones. The web offers a lot of literature on how real-world cults operate and how to "deprogram" people caught up in them. Incorporating that into a CoC scenario has its risks when adapting real-life tragedies into a game environment, but if the players want something more than gunning down the cultist of the week before they complete the ritual, that's a possible direction to take them.

 

The major difficulty in faithfully adapting real-world cults to CoC, to return to the OP's question, is that they're always headed by the same malignant personalities - megalomaniacal, manipulative narcissists with a desire for dominance and control, e.g. Jim Jones, Shoko Asahara, and the late and unlamented Charles Manson.  When their fantasies of power and status finally, inevitably collide with reality, the result is their total psychological collapse.  Unfortunately, they want to bring everything/everyone else down with them.