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Is it too easy to get Mythos Lore from a book?

CoC 1-6e

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#1 Celebrim

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Posted 14 November 2017 - 01:54 AM

I've hitherto only run CoC as one shots - fiasco scenarios where it was expected everyone would end up insane or dead.  I'm considering running a CoC campaign for the first time, and it's causing me to question a bunch of rules that I never had reason to question before because they didn't really have impact during a typical haunted house type scenario.

 

Previously, I never cared particularly what a mythos tome actually did because they typically showed up destroyed someone's mind and that was about it.  If someone managed to get 12% Mythos Lore studying a book, or if the book contained a fact relevant to the plot neither was a problem.

 

But if characters are going to go from scenario to scenario, this presents for me both a gameplay problem and a conceptual problem. 
 

From a gameplay perspective, it would only take reading 5-6 mythos tomes to level yourself up to where you could produce almost any fact - and at the same time level yourself out of the game, as your fragile sanity would not be able to take it.  Indeed, by the RAW, the Necronomicon alone has a reference fact to 80% of the questions that might come up, which is paralleled in general applicability by only the Junior Woodchuck's Guidebook.  This hardly seems to be enough manuscripts to make up a campaign.  While I'm totally OK with the mechanics of sanity loss and decreasing stability, the speed that you figure out all the secrets of the universe seems to be not only a bit bizarre but down right counter-productive to a good game.  One stint in the British Library, and you come out an emotional wreck but able to identify what Cthulhu had for breakfast the last time the stars are right and who Hastur dated in high school.

 

From a conceptual perspective, this is even more bizarre.  I would never design a system such that if an investigator read the Oxford's History of the American People and four or five other thick books, they'd come away with 80% in history.  We'd expect an actual historian to study scores and scores of books to get in the region of 80%.  And this is true of any other subject as well.  Yet, conceptually, Mythos Lore ought to cover more knowledge than exists in all the other subject matter combined.  Only a cursory understanding of the vast range of human knowledge can be gathered by reading through the Encyclopedia Britannia (if anyone can remember what those tomes lined up beside each other look like).  Better can be achieved by reading every page of Wikipedia and following every link to every source.  But even that is a drop in the bucket compared to the galaxy spanning multi-dimensional multi-species lore that 'Mythos Lore' encompasses.  All of human knowledge is to mythos lore as the first volume of an encyclopedia is to the entire library.  The greatest of human sciences are but rudimentary primers.  So what gives reading one Arab madman's graduate student thesis paper and coming away with a working knowledge of so much that vast alien lore? 
 

I'm thinking that each time you read a mythos book, the sanity loss is per the RAW, but the increased mythos lore is reduced by a fraction that depends on how much you already know.  So for example, after reading the Liber Ivonis you might gain +13 lore, but upon adding the Cultes des Goules to your reading list your lore increases by but half the usual number as much of what you are reading is no longer quite as revolutionary.   So instead of adding the full +14 for a total of +27, you had +7 for a total of +20.  Then, if you're made of stern stuff and read De Vermiis Mysteriis as well, but a third of the usual understanding (+4) is added bringing your total Mythos Lore to +24 (rather than +39).  By that time, most investigators will probably have killed themselves casting an ill-advised spell, or sent themselves to the insane asylum, but most of the mysteries of the cosmos are still mysteries.   The more books so read the bigger the differences we'd see, as each book eventually adds but 1 or 2 points of understanding - the same sort of advantage a player might gain by studying a more mundane book.
 

Obviously, some tinkering in actual play may be required to make the order your read things in not matter too much, but rather than outlining an algorithm I'll just deal with that in a case by case basis.
 

What do you think the outcome of this change will be?  For example, will this make spells too accessible, and is that even a problem?




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#2 Oncorhyncus

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Posted 14 November 2017 - 03:36 AM

I think your real problem is not how much someone can learn from a particular tome, but rather making the tomes too easily accessible.  It should be a real rarity for any institution to allow access to their mythos tomes (I'm sure that most scholars asking after such works will be given the "I have no idea what you are talking about" treatment, let alone being allowed to read and handle such materials) and individuals who own these works are probably even trickier in their treatment of eager disciples.  Enforce all the time  limits, language limits etc and I suspect this will never approach being a problem.  I also, IMCs, only allow those who have achieved enlightenment (i.e. are fully convinced of the reality of something akin to if not actually the mythos) to gain any of the benefits (such as SAN loss) from reading any tome that is not actually malignant (as the XII volume of the Ongoing Adventures of Glaaki, The Jaundiced King, The Big Book of Practical Farming, and such are), and even if they become enlightened at some point after reading such a (or several) mythos tome(s) must reread to gain such practical knowledge as though it were brand new to them.

#3 Celebrim

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Posted 14 November 2017 - 04:19 AM

Oncorhyncus, on 13 Nov 2017 - 10:36 PM, said:

I think your real problem is not how much someone can learn from a particular tome, but rather making the tomes too easily accessible.

 
That would be one of those answers that makes sense from the stand point of a single scenario or limited run of scenarios.  Sure, most of the known copies of the most valuable tomes are locked away in institutions of higher learning, and you'd need to make probably both a Credit Rating check (at a significant penalty if you weren't actually a reputable scholar in the field) and a Fast Talk/Persuade roll to be allowed access, and for popular works this might involve being put on a waiting list.  And access would be highly restricted and you'd only be given a limited time to study the document, which would have to remain in the building, and so forth.  Although, that's mostly a restriction on access to learning spells, which would be very difficult to accomplish without having your own copy of the tome, and not reading the book.

However, it's not me making tomes 'too easily accessible'.   It's published scenarios.   A great many scenarios have at least partial tomes among the 'treasure' discovered in the scenario, and full length campaigns can dump as a dozen tomes in the players laps if they are 'lucky'.  Granted, campaigns like MoN have a time limit that generally prevents the investigators from actually reading everything they find along the way, but it's at least conceivable that the players end up with a mythos library that is the envy of the British Museum at the end of the campaign.  Besides which, writers of these scenarios do this because it's fun.  Having access to sanity destroying secrets is more fun than not having access to them.  Practically every HPL protagonist has read or at least skimmed a half-dozen tomes while lurking in the restricted section of the MU library, so it's not like these is inappropriate to the genera.

What I'm suggesting is that however the investigators get ahold of the books, and however inappropriate you think it is that they get ahold of THE PNAKOTIC MANUSCRIPT, LIBRE IVONIS, PEOPLE OF THE MONOLITH, AFRIKA'S DARK SECTS, G'HARNE FRAGMENTS, and the BOOK OF DYZAN before the end of chapter 2 even without visiting a museum's rare book collection, it's too easy from a few books to learn too much and such steep gains/costs don't help the game or make much sense.

#4 johnmcfloss

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Posted 14 November 2017 - 09:08 AM

What I'm suggesting is that however the investigators get ahold of the books, and however inappropriate you think it is that they get ahold of THE PNAKOTIC MANUSCRIPT, LIBRE IVONIS, PEOPLE OF THE MONOLITH, AFRIKA'S DARK SECTS, G'HARNE FRAGMENTS, and the BOOK OF DYZAN before the end of chapter 2 even without visiting a museum's rare book collection, it's too easy from a few books to learn too much and such steep gains/costs don't help the game or make much sense.

 
The other factor to keep in mind, is Reading Times - I'd imagine (although I don't have the books to confirm), you're looking at 6 months of solid study, in a reference library, in order to actually glean the benefits from these. Realistically, this probably means that everyone in the party has a book to read, and may get around to reading a second if they want (although any handout-worthy information has been found by then)
 
I tend to find that this becomes the biggest choke point in gleaming Cthulhu Mythos - even in relatively book light campaigns, the character who wants to actually read the book has to balance it with Actually Doing Stuff.



#5 wcburns

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Posted 14 November 2017 - 01:37 PM

Definitely consider the languages of the books, as I think was mentioned. Many Mythos books are written in different languages beyond English (Or the common language your game is being run in). Many of the books were written in dead or completely fictitious languages that would take many years to properly understand.

 

If, say, your characters get a copy of the original Unaussprechlichen Kulten, can any of the characters read German? One could perhaps be unsettled by any illustrations or mathematical equations, but otherwise the book itself would be mostly harmless to someone who doesn't read sufficient German.

 

On that note, you might want to not go with the "big-name" tomes right away. There's loads of other lesser known mythos books you can find the stats on in print and online resources that are comparatively less harmful, perhaps even more commonly found. If anything, such books can be used to help corroborate the contents of the Necronomicon and the like.

 

I've also read alternative Book rules that suggest holding off on the full sanity loss until one actually faces something referred to in said book. Basically you half whatever the Cthulhu Mythos score it gives, and allow the player to do a sanity roll to see if they get a portion of that. There's also skill rolls involved if the book provides other bonuses (i.e. 1d6 anthropology), where their sanity can further drop based if they gain a certain portion in that skill. Finally, if/when they see a monster in the book, they get the remainder of the sanity score.

 

It's a bit more bookkeeping on your part, and I don't have the exact rules in front of me, but it's available in the keepers companion vol. 1 (for version 6)



#6 eternalchampion

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Posted 14 November 2017 - 03:01 PM

I do agree with you that so many “powerful” books given away in some scenarios too easily can imbalance the game. However it would also depend on what kind of game one wants. I tend to limit the amount of Mythos knowledge that can be attained in a given scenario, thus I would only rarely allow access to a complete Mythos tome, let alone two or three during the course of any scenario. A campaign could be more easily and believably made more “rewarding” in that sense, but I would keep in mind that we are talking about staff poisonous to the mind and soul, and also that its awe-inspiring reputation is also based on its rarity.

 

Your proposal about cutting down “Cthulhu Mythos” points gained form the books sounds reasonable, if your campaign will involve many tomes. But I would like to add a couple of comments. First, as I see it, the percentage number in a knowledge skill does not represent the actual portion of knowledge on the subject. For example any professor in Physics would have, say, 80% on the skill “Physics”. For me that would mean that he/she has a great amount of knowledge in modern Physics, the ability to apply it up to a point and the ability and understanding to search effectively (80% for normal task, 40% for difficult) on areas that involve Physics, but does not actually know completely. It does not mean that the professor knows 80% of Classical Mechanics and Nuclear Physics and Optics and Quantum Mechanics and Plasma and Astrophysics and… This is impossible. The professor might be able to recall something, even on the spot, but not everything. So Cthulhu Mythos percentage would not be like a contract that someone owns all that part of Mythos knowledge. It would be a measure of the ability that one can perceive reality as it is and not as human societies teach us. And along with that “different viewing angle” comes an amount of understanding, general knowledge and even specific parts of knowledge concerning reality (like the Yithians’ home world), but not, say, 25% of everything that there is.

 

Another thing is that human knowledge is not necessarily a part of Mythos knowledge. Maybe great parts of our knowledge are actually rubbish and have no connection to the “True knowledge”



#7 tjgreenway

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Posted 14 November 2017 - 03:11 PM

Don't forget that to gain the full Cthulhu Mythos points from a full study of a tome you have to compare the reader's Mythos skill to the Mythos Rating of the book and it needs to be below the Mythos Rating for points to be applied (although I'm not sure if this is a new rule for 7th edition, so if you're playing 6e or earlier, this may not apply). So the higher your Mythos rating goes, the less likely you are to gain the full benefits of reading these books. You could still theoretically get quite a high score from power reading through the main books, but that really leads back to having them too readily available in a campaign setting.

 

On that note, you might want to not go with the "big-name" tomes right away. There's loads of other lesser known mythos books you can find the stats on in print and online resources that are comparatively less harmful, perhaps even more commonly found. If anything, such books can be used to help corroborate the contents of the Necronomicon and the like

 

This is my way of thinking -  even with published scenarios and campaigns, you can easily switch out the big books for lesser tomes (with much lower Mythos Rating) or get rid of them altogether. I recently started out my British campaign with The Haunting, but switched out the Libor Ivonis for Pastor Thomas' Notebooks, which I found in The Unspeakable Oath's Chapel of Contemplation article (which is an excellent read!). I'm linking The Haunting into an adventure I've written based on the article in Edinburgh, and then onto A Wee Dram Of Danger from Adventurer Magazine. There'll be another tome available in Edinburgh - the diaries of the creature from A Wee Dram, and then a seriously damaged copy of the Liber Ivonis at the end of the third scenario, with reduced Cthulhu Mythos to be gained as a result. I'll probably run a red herring scenario or two along the way, which means that during the course of four to five actual investigations (a matter of two to three months, I imagine, from start to finish), the group will only have time for initial reads and thus gain about 6% in Cthulhu Mythos between them. Of course, there'll probably be a month or two of recuperation (or at least light investigation, maybe some non-mythos stuff) afterwards so, there'll be time for study then, but I still don't envisage any one investigator getting to more than 20% through study in that time - probably some more as a result of going insane at the sight of the mythos!

 

All of the bigger books (or at least, complete copies in good condition) will be strictly under lock and key - they're going to have to do a hell of a lot to encourage the likes of Henry Armitage or my London and Edinburgh University professors to allow them to have a detailed read, and that means proving themselves in the field over time, not just a few lucky dice rolls. And those investigators will be watched carefully - if the good professor thinks someone is going too far in their study, then they'll be cut off and repercussions will be forthcoming for that PC in particular as well as the group he belongs to (which is based on the Icarus Club within the Daedelus Club in the Cthulhu Britannica box set).

 

I'm going to keep adventures coming at the group thick and fast, so that if any full time study is done, it'll have to be done in the background while investigations are ongoing, making it an even longer task to accomplish. Of course, investigators could drop into the background while a new PC takes their place for a while, but if this were to happen, I'd no doubt be applying some serious SAN-related penalties to the investigator whose locked themselves away from their friends and colleagues for months to study a forbidden book, along with penalties to Credit Rating as it affects their working and family lives. 

 

I think this approach should stop anybody from gleaning too much information from any one book or source too quickly



#8 Celebrim

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Posted 14 November 2017 - 03:43 PM

Don't forget that to gain the full Cthulhu Mythos points from a full study of a tome you have to compare the reader's Mythos skill to the Mythos Rating of the book and it needs to be below the Mythos Rating for points to be applied (although I'm not sure if this is a new rule for 7th edition, so if you're playing 6e or earlier, this may not apply). So the higher your Mythos rating goes, the less likely you are to gain the full benefits of reading these books. You could still theoretically get quite a high score from power reading through the main books, but that really leads back to having them too readily available in a campaign setting.

 

That's interesting and reassuring.  I don't have access to the 7e rules, but yes, as far as I know that's a new rule for 7e, although I'm mostly familiar with 4e/5e and it could have been introduced in 6e.   But the very fact that someone official is turning something very similar to my observation into official rules suggests to me that I'm on to something.  
 

I'm very much a rules smith and if I can do something fairly simple with the rules that vastly reduces the amount of metagaming I have to do to keep the game going where is fun, then I prefer to do that.  Yes, obviously I can drop road blocks, both reasonable and unreasonable, in the path of anyone trying to learn Mythos Lore, but I'm not sure that is fun.  Fun is learning Mythos Lore drop by drop like poison running through your veins, with it's steady ever present corruption, but it's lure of power and understanding ever before you.  If we are moving to a campaign scenario with investigators that might be able to hang around a while, I want to draw that out. 

 



#9 Celebrim

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Posted 14 November 2017 - 03:59 PM

First, as I see it, the percentage number in a knowledge skill does not represent the actual portion of knowledge on the subject. For example any professor in Physics would have, say, 80% on the skill “Physics”. For me that would mean that he/she has a great amount of knowledge in modern Physics, the ability to apply it up to a point and the ability and understanding to search effectively (80% for normal task, 40% for difficult) on areas that involve Physics, but does not actually know completely. It does not mean that the professor knows 80% of Classical Mechanics and Nuclear Physics and Optics and Quantum Mechanics and Plasma and Astrophysics and… This is impossible. The professor might be able to recall something, even on the spot, but not everything. So Cthulhu Mythos percentage would not be like a contract that someone owns all that part of Mythos knowledge. It would be a measure of the ability that one can perceive reality as it is and not as human societies teach us. And along with that “different viewing angle” comes an amount of understanding, general knowledge and even specific parts of knowledge concerning reality (like the Yithians’ home world), but not, say, 25% of everything that there is.

 

Obviously, BRP is an abstraction and one not at all aimed at perfect realism.   Therefore, what is impossible isn't really important.  The real question is what is the functional outcome of the rules.  Functionally, most skills in BRP act like passive tests where there is some hurdle and your chance of hurdling it is equal to your skill.  So the scenario might have some hidden clue involving rock strata and the clue is only given if you pass your Geology hurdle, or another clue might only be discovered if you leap an Archaeology hurdle, or a Spot Hidden hurdle, or a Library Use hurdle and so forth.  In that way, however you imagine it or describe it, the chance of knowing something is the same as your skill percentage.  Functionally, someone with 80% physics knows 80% of what is known in the field of physics in the 1920's.  Rarely, and by rarely I mean almost never, do I see scenarios put a hurdle in the game where you must roll below 1/2 or 1/5th of your physics, or geology, or history, or whatever to jump a hurdle because such attempts at 'realism' regarding the players body of knowledge aren't fun and don't advance the game.  So as a practical matter, the same sort of thing is true of Mythos Lore.

 

The outcome of this is that highly skilled investigators aren't realistic people, but characters of fiction like Randall Carter, Sherlock Holmes, Professor Challenger, Indiana Jones and so forth whose knowledge of particular fields is unrealistically vast.   Indeed, I have rather the opposite approach that you seem to suggest.   A character with 80% skill knows almost everything.   He need not even roll where it concerns what a might be learned about physics from a 4 year degree.   It's only regarding the rare esoteric matters of physics, the sort of stuff that you'd scarcely expect anyone to know, that he has but an 80% chance of rattling off the relevant details.   Such a character not only knows 80% of all that is known to mankind, but has a not trivial chance of understanding physical principles hitherto unknown to man merely by observing their effects.  Because understanding is fun.   Investigators are overwhelmed not by their incompetence, but rather by the sheer inability of even a heroically competent human to deal with the forces of the real universe that are represented by mythos beings.   Primitive man could hide in their ignorance, but in HPL's stories it's the very competence and knowledge of the protagonists that lead them to despairing mind-shattering conclusions.



#10 mvincent

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Posted 14 November 2017 - 07:14 PM

The other factor to keep in mind, is Reading Times - I'd imagine (although I don't have the books to confirm), you're looking at 6 months of solid study, in a reference library, in order to actually glean the benefits from these. Realistically, this probably means that everyone in the party has a book to read, and may get around to reading a second if they want (although any handout-worthy information has been found by then)
 
I tend to find that this becomes the biggest choke point in gleaming Cthulhu Mythos - even in relatively book light campaigns, the character who wants to actually read the book has to balance it with Actually Doing Stuff.

 

Agreed: after dozens of campaigns (using only published works), this hasn't been an issue. This might be because I mainly use campaign length adventures (MoN, HotOE, BtMoM, AYD, etc.), which likely provide less books and downtime per session than one-off scenarios.

 

Still, even when I used one-off scenarios and provided long (6 months to a year) down-times between sessions, I found that most players preferred to use the time to get psychotherapy or train on other skills. Even the rare PC's that instead chose to greedily devour books would've paced their consumption were it necessary (unless they were totally ok with losing their PC to madness). The problem seemed self correcting.

 

Curious: are you using the 7e rules for gaining mythos knowledge from books, or are you using earlier editions?



#11 windandfire

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Posted 15 November 2017 - 07:03 AM

In my current game I've had a lead investigator give up the chance to read over a tome (Waite's copy of The Book of Dagon) because they were scarred by what they had already seen and what the book might contain or confirm for them. The rest of the group read it while that investigator sought psychiatric help.

And only one of the three who did read the tome was interested in learning one of the spells - breath of the depths. Boy were they suprised when they tested it out on someone and learned what it did. That person took an extra sanity hit in addition to the loss incurred by reading the book.

Remember, getting 80% in Cthulhu Mythos means your maximum possible sanity is only 20 - at that level a deep one could put you over the edge into insanity, and your vast knowledge is now lost to the party or worse, turned against them. (This is in the 6th Ed rules at least, not sure if 7th is different)

#12 eternalchampion

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Posted 15 November 2017 - 09:10 AM

 Therefore, what is impossible isn't really important.  

Functionally, someone with 80% physics knows 80% of what is known in the field of physics in the 1920's. 

Rarely, and by rarely I mean almost never, do I see scenarios put a hurdle in the game where you must roll below 1/2 or 1/5th..

 

The outcome of this is that highly skilled investigators aren't realistic people, but characters of fiction like Randall Carter, Sherlock Holmes, Professor Challenger, Indiana Jones and so forth whose knowledge of particular fields is unrealistically vast.   Indeed, I have rather the opposite approach that you seem to suggest.   A character with 80% skill knows almost everything.   

 

Because understanding is fun.   Investigators are overwhelmed not by their incompetence, but rather by the sheer inability of even a heroically competent human to deal with the forces of the real universe that are represented by mythos beings.  

 

I do not agree with this interpretation of the rules. As far as PCs and human activities in general, the rules of BRP are quite realistic (without being tedious).

The characters in the usual CoC game are not unrealistic. They can be certainly unusual but they are very realistic human beings and have little relation to superhuman (although enjoyable) figures like Indiana Jones, who in turn has no relation to the tortured HPL’s characters.

Now, I say “usual” because what you describe sounds like a pulp style of game. Many people like it but I don’t usually play pulpy.

As for halving (or generally penalizing) skill rolls, it is mentioned in the 6th edition in many individual skills description and it is also mentioned in the yellow BRP book and Keepers companion. It is used at Keeper’s discretion when a task is considered difficult.

 

Since you’ve mentioned fun, I must say that fun is something serious but is not singularly defined. Some people consider it fun if their characters have 100HP and throw fireballs at each other, while others are excited remembering their character not daring to open that door to the dark room because they them selves were afraid.



#13 johnmcfloss

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Posted 15 November 2017 - 09:24 AM

Curious: are you using the 7e rules for gaining mythos knowledge from books, or are you using earlier editions?

 

Me, or the original poster?

 

...I don't actually remember what the difference is (which would lead me to suspect I'm using the old rules, because if I have to remember something on the fly, odds are good what I remember isn't current). Could you remind me of the difference?

 

I'm in the same boat with Published Campaigns - we're currently part way into HotOE, and players who want to actually read the tomes are spending every single train journey in seclusion, and weighing up whether it's more useful for them not to leave the train.

 

The exception being TotK, which practically turned into a book club. But that also felt entirely appropriate for the campaign.



#14 Celebrim

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Posted 15 November 2017 - 01:58 PM

In my current game I've had a lead investigator give up the chance to read over a tome (Waite's copy of The Book of Dagon) because they were scarred by what they had already seen and what the book might contain or confirm for them. The rest of the group read it while that investigator sought psychiatric help.
 
And only one of the three who did read the tome was interested in learning one of the spells - breath of the depths. Boy were they suprised when they tested it out on someone and learned what it did. That person took an extra sanity hit in addition to the loss incurred by reading the book.
 
Remember, getting 80% in Cthulhu Mythos means your maximum possible sanity is only 20 - at that level a deep one could put you over the edge into insanity, and your vast knowledge is now lost to the party or worse, turned against them. (This is in the 6th Ed rules at least, not sure if 7th is different)

 
It is increasingly obvious that there is a disconnect between what I'm asking and what people are interpreting as the intent of my asking. I am not at all saying anything like, "Do mythos tomes allow players to too easily become powerful?" I am in no way asking about 'balance' as if this was some sort of heroic adventure game.
 

I do not agree with this interpretation of the rules. As far as PCs and human activities in general, the rules of BRP are quite realistic (without being tedious).
The characters in the usual CoC game are not unrealistic. They can be certainly unusual but they are very realistic human beings and have little relation to superhuman (although enjoyable) figures like Indiana Jones, who in turn has no relation to the tortured HPL’s characters.
Now, I say “usual” because what you describe sounds like a pulp style of game. Many people like it but I don’t usually play pulpy.
As for halving (or generally penalizing) skill rolls, it is mentioned in the 6th edition in many individual skills description and it is also mentioned in the yellow BRP book and Keepers companion. It is used at Keeper’s discretion when a task is considered difficult.
 
Since you’ve mentioned fun, I must say that fun is something serious but is not singularly defined. Some people consider it fun if their characters have 100HP and throw fireballs at each other, while others are excited remembering their character not daring to open that door to the dark room because they them selves were afraid.

 
I have no idea what I said to deserve that reply, but perhaps the words "Indiana Jones" set you off on some rant owing to a past conversation you had with someone other than me.
 
"Indiana Jones" is an unrealistic character because he is able to absorb unrealistic levels of physical abuse and punishment without lasting effect in a way that a typical Call of Cthulhu character with 12 hit points just can't. He's further an unrealistic character because there hardly seems to be a skill that he is not incredibly competent in. It's like he has 80% or higher in literally everything. But there would be nothing unrealistic about individuals possessing seemingly bottomless depths of knowledge in particular fields, because I've known such scholarly types. What I am suggesting is a person with 80% or higher in some skill is one of the most skilled persons in their profession, and someone with 90% or higher in a skill is a person of international renown (or at least, within professional circles) and competence. This interpretation is not something I'm imposing on the text, or at least not older versions of the rules that I'm familiar with (I've no idea what 7e says), but something implied repeatedly by the text itself. For example, when discussing the Language skill, a 50% ability in a particular language does not imply that half of what they say or hear is mangled. A mere 50% ability in a language implies that you can speak the language with the fluency and accent of a native speaker and are virtually indistinguishable in your use and understanding of the metaphors of the language someone using it as their mother tongue. A mere 25% ability in a language implies someone that is fluent in the language and can carry on casual conversation with ease. So if that is true, what are we to make of someone with an 80% or 90% score in the language? This person has studied the language so extensively, that if we are speaking of English he understands not only the modern vernacular, but can easily read and interpret Shakespearean dialogue and can - if he desires - employ all the archaic words in his everyday speech. If a word's meaning has subtly evolved over the centuries when he reads it in context, he knows what the original author meant by it. He can even get along with just a little bit of difficulty reading an unknown text in Chaucer's Middle English and pronounce it most of the time the proper accent (something I as a Keeper might assign as a difficult task). What we are not talking about is someone that 20% of the time can't read an ordinary English book. Eighty percent or higher skill is extremely competent.

Moreover, this is entirely appropriate to the genera. Virtually every HPL protagonist spends the first page or so impressing upon the reader that he was a man of great erudition, education, and personal experience, imminently suited thereby to investigating and understanding the phenomenon he is about to recount. (Further they typically go on to tell that they are known to be very stable and rational individuals and that they are definitely NOT insane.) In this sense, HPL protagonists are not ordinary Joes. They are experts in their field, capable of recalling obscure details from obscure ancient tomes and scholarly works when presented with the slightest sort of clue. In a sense, it's this very level of competence that is their undoing, and which leads them inexorably to discoveries that we more ordinary sorts would be mercifully blind too.
 
You seem to use 'Pulp' as a slur. I have no idea what the term means in your head, but I assure you that I'm not planning to have investigators with 100 hp throwing fireballs around. I associate in my mind 'Pulp' with the following:
 
1) The game is mostly about thwarting the human minions of some mythos deity and as such features encounters with sizable numbers of hostile cultists and sorcerers often in some sort of set piece where combat is assumed to be a very likely resolution to the scene. That is to say the scenario assumes the investigators will battle cultists.
2) As such its often important and maybe essential for the investigators to be just as competent with firearms and other weapons as they are in a library or on an archaeological dig.
3) The game often involves globe hopping or traversing adventures to faraway and distant places - often places mentioned within the stories of HPL himself.
4) There is some expectation that investigators will survive multiple scenarios with sanity and body largely intact.
 
It's worth noting I think that however much distaste the term might have, Lovecraft himself was certainly a writer of pulp fiction and that at least some of the above elements can be found within canonical stories. The story 'The Call of Cthulhu' itself could be seen as falling within the 'Pulp Cthulhu' genera, as the protagonist rather literally 'punch Cthulhu'.

Be as it may, I've always enjoyed both D&D and Call of Cthulhu, each for their own separate charms. I've certainly no fear as a Keeper that my players will be so competent as to make a mockery of the fear, horror, and danger of the scenarios, and no one is starting with anything like Indy's or Sherlock's 2000+ skill points nor is there an expectation on my part any one will survive long enough to accumulate such general competence if they involve themselves in Mythos adventures.

#15 windandfire

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Posted 15 November 2017 - 03:52 PM

It is increasingly obvious that there is a disconnect between what I'm asking and what people are interpreting as the intent of my asking. I am not at all saying anything like, "Do mythos tomes allow players to too easily become powerful?" I am in no way asking about 'balance' as if this was some sort of heroic adventure game.


That wasn't what my reply was talking about either - maybe the comment on the spell gave you that impression. My point was that reading everything you can find on the Mythos is inherently dangerous and characters will recognize that and usually stop themselves before they become experts in all things otherworldly. At some point I wouldn't be surprised if they decide to destroy any further works that mankind mustn't know they run across.

#16 Celebrim

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Posted 15 November 2017 - 04:02 PM

That wasn't what my reply was talking about either - maybe the comment on the spell gave you that impression. My point was that reading everything you can find on the Mythos is inherently dangerous and characters will recognize that and usually stop themselves before they become experts in all things otherworldly. At some point I wouldn't be surprised if they decide to destroy any further works that mankind mustn't know they run across.

 

I agree that that is an entirely rational thing for investigators to do in the context of the game rules.

 

What I'm really asking about is does that situation create the best possible game, where 'best' implies something that is both fun for the players as a game and yet also true to the genera established by the stories of HPL.  For example, do HPL characters avoid reading tomes of dark lore and, having read one or two, devote themselves to destroying such books?  Even Armitage, for example, despite the Dunwich affair and his understanding of what those tomes really entail, doesn't go back to Arkham and burn down the famed Miskatonic library.  So what I'm really getting at is exactly where should the breaking point be on no longer having a rational reason to read a mythos tome you find in a scenario.  For example, even under the situation you describe, there would then be no practical reason to put a mythos tome in a scenario since the presence of the tome would add nothing to the scenario, it being something that the players will simply refuse to interact with.  
 

Obviously, yes, I do want to have accumulation of mythos lore have consequences and contribute to the game's famous 'sanity death spiral', but it feels to me that the big jumps in knowledge applied by the RAW in 1e-5e are suitable for shorter games.  Effectively I think the rules compress the process into a short period on the assumption that the game won't last very long.  I am not familiar with the 7e rules and have only a passing familiarity with the 6e rules, but it would seem that whoever wrote the 7e rules altered them from the earlier rules for what looks like similar reasons that I have.

 


Edited by Celebrim, 15 November 2017 - 05:03 PM.


#17 windandfire

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Posted 15 November 2017 - 05:05 PM

Since the sanity aspect is one of the main draws of the game, I'd say the scenario I described is both fun for players and fits within the "knowledge mankind must not know" tropes of the genera. I've seen players avoid reading books they find out of fear, give in and reading the ancient lore out of necessity after much debate, switch off who actually delves into the forbidden knowledge to extract the information they need to keep any one person from falling too far into madness. Those are all fun situations for players (if they aren't for some, those players may want to check out a different style game).

#18 mvincent

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Posted 15 November 2017 - 06:15 PM

Me, or the original poster?

 

...I don't actually remember what the difference is (which would lead me to suspect I'm using the old rules, because if I have to remember something on the fly, odds are good what I remember isn't current). Could you remind me of the difference?

 

Oops, sorry: I meant the original poster. He was thinking of using the following house rule: "increased mythos lore is reduced by a fraction that depends on how much you already know.  So for example, after reading the Liber Ivonis you might gain +13 lore, but upon adding the Cultes des Goules to your reading list your lore increases by but half the usual number as much of what you are reading is no longer quite as revolutionary.   So instead of adding the full +14 for a total of +27, you had +7 for a total of +20."

 

But I believe 7e already does something like that.



#19 Celebrim

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Posted 15 November 2017 - 07:16 PM

Oops, sorry: I meant the original poster. He was thinking of using the following house rule: "increased mythos lore is reduced by a fraction that depends on how much you already know.  So for example, after reading the Liber Ivonis you might gain +13 lore, but upon adding the Cultes des Goules to your reading list your lore increases by but half the usual number as much of what you are reading is no longer quite as revolutionary.   So instead of adding the full +14 for a total of +27, you had +7 for a total of +20."

 

But I believe 7e already does something like that.

 

I haven't read the 7e rules yet, though I learned last night one of my players had just purchased the 7e rules, so I may ask to borrow them.

 

The sense that the rules were 'wrong' came to me as I was studying the 5e rules to refresh myself since it's been some decades since I ran a scenario.   I am very interested to know what the 7e rules suggest.


Edited by Celebrim, 15 November 2017 - 08:35 PM.


#20 ronin

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Posted 15 November 2017 - 07:41 PM

I haven't read the 7e rules yet, though I learned last night one of my players had just purchased the 7e rules, so I may ask to borrow them.

The since that the rules were 'wrong' came to me as I was studying the 5e rules to refresh myself since it's been some decades since I ran a scenario. I am very interested to know what the 7e rules suggest.


I am by no means an expert on the rules since I just started running a 7e CoC campaign, only four sessions in so far. I believe the rules reduce the amount of mythos knowledge you gain if you read the same book a second time. For instance, if a book gives you a +8% and takes 12 weeks of study and you read it the second time it'll take 24 weeks of study and only provide a +4% mythos bump. If you decide to study the tome a third time it doubles yet again, 48 weeks with a +2% bump in the mythos. I don't believe this applies to a newly acquired tome.

If I am incorrect in this, someone with more knowledge of the rules should feel free to point it out. I have an investigator who has an 11% in the mythos already and was wondering if she was gaining them too quickly. She gained 6% from two different sources, and 5% when she went insane for the first time :)





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