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''Are we the baddies?"/ investigators and ''evil'' organizations


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#41 EihortBroodling

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Posted 02 December 2017 - 08:48 PM

Yes, that's exactly the sort of thing I mean about the sensitivity.  And it's not just a matter of people having fun reading the game - it's also a matter of people reading the message board and so on:  I don't mind the conversation, but I'm sure there's more than one reader who feels the subject matter is a little too dark for their tastes, bordering on bad taste, and I do sympathize with them - I don't want to spoil their fun, especially by sounding disrespectful to a very serious subject.

 

A publically posted PbP game should adhere to whatever rules and standards are in place on the forum where it is posted. If some things are off-limits, then those things are off-limits. Knowing what fits and what doesn't matters. One can always ask a moderator for clarification. 

 

People who don't like a given game should just not play in it. That's true online and at the tabletop.

 

 But do I worry, when running a game,  about the personal opinions of strangers who aren't even playing in my games? Nope.

 

Some rando is always going to be offended by something. A vocal minority of people on social media are prone to complaining at length about movies, books, games, whatever. Sometimes they have points that seem valid to me, but usually they are just looking for attention. I ignore the outrage brigade. 




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#42 yronimoswhateley

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Posted 02 December 2017 - 08:55 PM

I don't want to carry things too far off-topic on you, but I just spent most of the week offending the Men's Rights Movement and Anti-Textualists without even trying... I don't care too much about those internet strangers, but the Yog-Sothoth dotcom community genuinely seem like nice folks, and I don't want to upset them, especially after coming off sounding like a KKK supporter in another thread on this site because my communication style stinks :)

 

Anyway, I'm clarifying what I mean for the (dubious) benefit of anyone trying to understand what I'm saying, not for the purpose of telling you You're Doing It Wrong.


Edited by yronimoswhateley, 02 December 2017 - 08:56 PM.

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#43 EihortBroodling

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Posted 02 December 2017 - 09:05 PM

I don't want to carry things too far off-topic on you, but I just spent most of the week offending the Men's Rights Movement and Anti-Textualists without even trying... I don't care too much about those internet strangers, but the Yog-Sothoth dotcom community genuinely seem like nice folks, and I don't want to upset them, especially after coming off sounding like a KKK supporter in another thread on this site because my communication style stinks :)

 

Anyway, I'm clarifying what I mean for the (dubious) benefit of anyone trying to understand what I'm saying, not for the purpose of telling you You're Doing It Wrong.

 

No problem, dude!

 

And I got what you were saying about the KKK in the other thread. A organization that aggressively supports "100% Americanism"  and that thinks Catholics and Jews are cultists is very likely to reach for the shotguns and torches when it becomes aware of stuff like human-Deep One hybrids or Mythos cults made up of foreigners and degenerates. 

 

 Ever seen Nightbreed?



#44 Gaffer

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Posted 02 December 2017 - 09:12 PM

Having read contemporary accounts from people living in and closely observing Germany of the 30s, it's clear that few Germans had waded through Hitler's turgid manifesto and most who had --if their first sympathies were with restoring German glory and fighting Communism-- were willing to accept it as hyperbole for effect and/or to believe that the German constitution and societal norms, not to mention the industrialists, politicians, clergy, and military, would restrain Hitler's worst impulses. All of these elements were sure that they could co-opt the Nazis and use them for their own purposes. Most ordinary people  just heard "Make the Fatherland Great Again" and got aboard the hoped-for gravy train.

 

Investigators need be no different.


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#45 EihortBroodling

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Posted 02 December 2017 - 09:12 PM

RE the Klan

 

I also like the Klan-Kthuga idea.

 

Not for the whole organization, but for a local faction someplace in 1920s America.  

 

''Call down the fire from on high, brethren!"

 

Cthuga cultist Klansmen would be baddies in my game, of course. Feel free to use the Thompson gun. But you will get the electric chair for it if caught, so don't get caught, or come up with a subtler means of unmasking and defeating these nutters.


Edited by EihortBroodling, 02 December 2017 - 09:14 PM.


#46 red_bus

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Posted 02 December 2017 - 10:59 PM

A more fine-grained approach to describing moral situations might help here. Instead of blanket "good" or "bad" groups / acts, thinking of terms like: kind, courageous, generous, fair, warm, and alternatively; heartless, cowardly, greedy etc.. Players (characters) can perform virtuous acts even while being part of groups (or in settings) that are generally reviled. And I reckon they might have fun doing so. :)

 

More broadly I guess you could even frame the conflict as more fundamental, the threat of the Mythos is not so much that it is bad but that it annihilates all meaning and morality - so for any characters the threat is suddenly much graver than their humdrum lives and actions (no matter where or who they are). But of course that really does depend upon your game, Call of Cthulhu is a broad tent now!



#47 rylehNC

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Posted 02 December 2017 - 11:17 PM

Delta Green, as a milieu as much as a setting, works hard on the tension between the organization's ends-justify-the-means ethics and the toll it inevitably takes on the characters, even as cosmic horrors threaten to destroy the world.  The players are confronted with awful choices and sometimes no-win situations—and worse, the bond mechanics of destroying the things they value in their lives are often their only recourse to staying in the game, so to speak.  But it's not an exercise in evil role-playing.

 

Don't forget it took decades for the DG rules to address the personal stakes to the investigators. Before the new edition these factors were included at the choice of the scenario writer, if at all. Plenty of folks are content to emphasize the nihilistic attitude.

 

I would only make the investigators be bad guys (in the sense of this thread) if a story or setting was so compelling that there was no other way to frame it. To use the Klan as an example, I can't envision a story I would want to run that would need PCs to be members.

 

You can always find examples of fictional heroes who do the best they can in a bad situation - for example, Philip Kerr's Bernie Gunther is a Nazi party member in 1930s Germany ("the only Kripo detective who doesn't use brass knuckles on the job").


Edited by rylehNC, 02 December 2017 - 11:19 PM.

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#48 red_bus

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Posted 02 December 2017 - 11:25 PM

...also for those who have not seen it, I guess this is the (v funny) scene to which the thread refers ... :)

 



#49 EihortBroodling

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Posted 02 December 2017 - 11:33 PM

Yup!

 

While the topic is indeed serious (as serious as gaming can be, anyway) I thought a bit of dark humor would not be out of place, so I put a reference to that bit in the thread title.

 

I also enjoy some of Mitchell and Webb's other skits. Bad Vicar.



#50 ElijahWhateley

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Posted 02 December 2017 - 11:48 PM

If you're really interested into delving into a diverse group of people working for an over-the-top evil organization to fight inhuman terrors, you might take a look at some of the Fantasy Flight WH40K games, particularly Dark Heresy and Only War. In both games, the investigators are low-level pawns of a massive, corrupt, and crumbling Imperium that borrows heavily from many historical villain tropes, and is essentially a fascist theocracy considers individual human lives and rights to be the least valuable thing in the galaxy. Reasonably intelligent PCs will quickly realize that the Imperium is falling down around them and doing as much to hurt the human race as it does to help - and yet, it still seems like a better bet than the howling demons or undead genocidal robots coming over the horizon.

 

I find it particularly interesting because the WH40K universe is set up so that its reality is the kind of reality that fascists use to justify their causes. There are multiple enemy factions that seek to kill or enslave the entirety of humanity and can only be defeated by total extermination. Doubt in the power and beneficence of the state makes people vulnerable to mind control, possession, and physically mutating into literal monsters, while absolute faith in the state is a useful mental defense. Simple attempts to protest living conditions and improve quality of life regularly get coopted by supernatural or alien forces and turned into twisted cults. Human lives are genuinely easier to replace than all but the most basic technology, making it necessary for the Imperium to make them a secondary concern if it wants to keep the machinery of interstellar trade and warfare functioning. And yet, despite all that, the setting doesn't shy away from the weaknesses of fascism, with corrupt or psychopathic leaders regularly abusing their power in ways that hurt their own side, and the average Imperial citizen living as a slave in nightmarish conditions that make Metropolis look pleasant.

 

And then, in the midst of this, your PCs are regular people who have been granted some small scrap of government authority. Maybe they are true believers, but if they aren't, they aren't going to admit it to most people - more likely, they're just trying to survive.


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#51 The_Tatterdemalion_King

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Posted 03 December 2017 - 12:21 AM

I'll just say that running DG over the past three years has involved a lot of, uh, dark humour.
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#52 EihortBroodling

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Posted 03 December 2017 - 12:52 AM

I'm a WH40K fan,  though I haven't played in years.

 

I still have Rogue Trader and the Book of the Astronomicon.



#53 eternalchampion

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Posted 03 December 2017 - 12:03 PM

They might be fully complicit in the crimes of the regime, of course. True Believers, as you suggest, or just corrupt bastards doing what they need to do to benefit themselves. 

 

Or world-weary cops muddling through in a very nasty system.

 

It seems to me you have the ideas you need to create interesting PCs. If I may suggest one more thing, you could also make a character who is "the new guy", maybe a true idealist, not yet corrupted by the brutal practices of the organization and for the most part oblivious to them.

 

Also before you play you might want to have a look at the following theatrical play.

 

https://sites.google...-mueller/mauser



#54 EihortBroodling

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Posted 04 December 2017 - 02:00 AM

It seems to me you have the ideas you need to create interesting PCs. If I may suggest one more thing, you could also make a character who is "the new guy", maybe a true idealist, not yet corrupted by the brutal practices of the organization and for the most part oblivious to them.

 

Also before you play you might want to have a look at the following theatrical play.

 

https://sites.google...-mueller/mauser

 

Thank you for the link to the page about the play. 

 

I do like your idea about ''the new guy." That poor bastard might end up taking SAN losses from the actions of the other investigators, if they go full Stalinist mode on NPCs making trouble or not coughing up info quickly enough. And then the alien or supernatural horrors...


Edited by EihortBroodling, 04 December 2017 - 02:25 AM.


#55 DeUniversumMysteriis

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Posted 04 December 2017 - 06:40 AM

It seems to me you have the ideas you need to create interesting PCs. If I may suggest one more thing, you could also make a character who is "the new guy", maybe a true idealist, not yet corrupted by the brutal practices of the organization and for the most part oblivious to them.

 

That sounds a lot like the film Training Day and it's not a bad thing. :)

 

For those who don't know Training Day, it's about a cop who is assigned to work with a more experienced and also more corrupt detective. The officier witnesses (and is to forced to commit) a lot of crimes in the span of a day, from drug usage to murder and robbery.

 

In the case of the NKVD or any ther organisation of that type, it's easy to imagine an investigator who will be a "true believer" and who will have to face the darker truth.



#56 Celebrim

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Posted 04 December 2017 - 05:13 PM

I have a great abhorrence against portraying anything I find to be evil in positive light.  I don't want to get into deeply the question of "what I find to be evil", because that would be the least interesting point of debate.  I'll simply say that I think you should replace "what I find to be evil" with, what you find to be evil, and do not portray that in a positive light.

 

To that end I'd never present the KKK as good guys.  They are the baddies.  But then again, I'd never portray the mafia or the Nazi's or the communists as "good guys" either.  They are the baddies.

 

However, I do concede that fundamentally you can't just throw a label on people and understand everything about them.  Indeed, in the case of the KKK or the Nazi's, part of what makes them so repellently evil is that they do think you can just label people and understand them.   In the real world, there were people in the German military marching under the Nazi banners that were not actually wholly depraved and were even at times admirable in some traits.  The same is true of just about any group of people.  Indeed, you can even point to the worst of them and find some situational morality where in some situation or context they behaved morally - mafia people might be good to their family, for example.  Or, consider the end scene of "Band of Brothers" where the German general gives a stirring and noble speech, and is accorded - quite appropriately - respect by the protagonist of that real story, the quite honorable Captain Winters.  Consider conversely the complexity of a 'good guy' like Ronald Speirs. 

 

However, I find that CoC is a very bad framework for exploring that.  To explain why, I'm going to describe the inverse problem that I have with moral complexity being deliberately explored in the context of CoC, and that's the Swedish horror story "Let the Right One In".

 

In "Let the Right One In" there are inhuman monsters that we have absolutely no reason to sympathize with, but for the purposes of the story the author has humanized them and tamed their horror by presenting human monsters as being so terrible that the inhuman monsters seem understandable and less horrible by comparison.  I personally could not stand this, precisely because it violates the principle I started this discussion with - don't present something evil as if it wasn't evil.  To me, having monsters in this story was unnecessary and even distracting. To the extent that the "realistic" aspects of this fiction represented in any way the reality of modern Sweden, that was far more worth exploring than vampires and such crap, and certainly you should never use the horrors of the real world to make something like a vampire seem not that bad.

 

But if that is the case, then how much worse is it to use the infinite horrors of CoC to make real horrors like the KKK, Nazi's, Communism, Mafia or (pick your evil organization here) seem not that bad by comparison?  In other words, I think you can deeply explore fictional horrors, or deeply explore real horrors, but you can't do both at the same time without risking putting a happy gloss on something terrible and in essence writing a defense of something you should not be defending.

 


Edited by Celebrim, 04 December 2017 - 05:43 PM.


#57 DeUniversumMysteriis

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Posted 04 December 2017 - 05:38 PM

I have a great abhorrence against portraying anything I find to be evil in positive light.  I don't want to get into deeply the question of "what I find to be evil", because that would be the least interesting point of debate.  I'll simply say that I think you should replace "what I find to be evil" with, what you find to be evil, and do not portray that in a positive light.

 

I didn't read all the posts here but I don't think anyone is talking about portraying evil people in a positive light. On the contrary, the way I see it, the topic is more about :

 

1/Using evil groups as potential allies for the investigators. A lesser evil if you will. To quote the previous example concerning the KKK it would be a situation where the investigators may ask the help of the local Klansmen because they have the ressources necessary to attack the cultists and stop their plan, the fact that some of the cultists (or all of them) are foreigners being only an excuse to lure the KKK in the situation.

 

2/Giving to the players the opportunity to play a member of an evil group, someone who is not bad by nature but who will witness the evil of the organisation from the inside and who might have to make hard choice to progress in the story. (For example, an NKVD agent who will discover that the "traitors" are not necessary bad people and who may have to do bad stuff to find the true baddies -ie: cultists).

 

In "Let the Right One In" there are inhuman monsters that we have absolutely no reason to sympathize with, but for the purposes of the story the author has humanized them and tamed their horror by presenting human monsters as being so terrible that the inhuman monsters seem understandable and less horrible by comparison.  I personally could not stand this, precisely because it violates the principle I started this discussion with - don't present something evil as if it wasn't evil.   To me, having monsters in this story was unnecessary and even distracting. To the extent that the "realistic" aspects of this fiction represented in any way the reality of modern Sweden, that was far more worth exploring than vampires and such crap, and certainly you should never use the horrors of the real world to make something like a vampire seem not that bad.

 

I'm curious, are you talking about the book or the swedish movie?

 

Because in the movie...

 

Spoiler

 

So I don't think Let the Right One In (Or Morse, as it is titled in France) tries to make vampires look good. It just not that simple.



#58 EihortBroodling

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Posted 04 December 2017 - 05:44 PM

That's legit, Celebrim.

 

I don't consider a game as something written in defense of an idea, but something to be played for fun. To me, an RPG  is far from an apologetic or didactic work. It's escapism. Moral conflicts in a roleplaying game can provide some of the fun.  

 

 

I wouldn't want to position certain particularly historical groups as 'the good guys' , yes. But this is an aesthetic consideration. It seems in poor taste, like something that might subtract from my fun and the fun of my players. I don't think anything bigger is at stake. 

 

Please note that I'm not criticizing your approach. I just think we look at these games in rather different ways. 



#59 Celebrim

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Posted 04 December 2017 - 05:59 PM

@DeUniversumMysteriis

There has been some suggestion that, in a world with real inhuman alien half-breed horrors, that the KKK's ideas of racial purity might somewhat make sense.  And, even if you didn't intend that message, I suggest that mixing the KKK with a story where there really where alien inhuman half-breed horrors and protagonizing the KKK (as for example and ally of the protagonist) risks conveying that message.   Or to put it in the language you use, don't try to make the KKK seem the "lesser evil", because that is exactly the sort of thing I'm talking about. 

 

As for "Let the Right One In", I'm talking the book: I've never seen the movie.  (And as an aside, in my case that could be a blanket response to just about every "book or movie" question.)  Your "spoiler" is exactly my point - Eli isn't portrayed as evil, even though he's a horrid evil monster, and the entire book ends in the most nihilistic way imaginable.   I don't want to get into the details of the example though, because although I recognize the skill involved in the writerly technique the author uses, the way he uses it not only do I find appalling, but they are sufficiently X rated as to not be suitable for public discussion.  Suffice to say that I find the whole structure convenient for doing exactly what you say it does, portray Eli as not an evil creature when in fact he objectively is and we should be no more sympathetic for Eli than say a Nazi concentration camp guard who says he was just acting out of fear (as if being afraid was some sort of moral justification). 


Edited by Celebrim, 04 December 2017 - 06:00 PM.


#60 EihortBroodling

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Posted 04 December 2017 - 06:05 PM

I didn't read all the posts here but I don't think anyone is talking about portraying evil people in a positive light. On the contrary, the way I see it, the topic is more about :

 

1/Using evil groups as potential allies for the investigators. A lesser evil if you will. To quote the previous example concerning the KKK it would be a situation where the investigators may ask the help of the local Klansmen because they have the ressources necessary to attack the cultists and stop their plan, the fact that some of the cultists (or all of them) are foreigners being only an excuse to lure the KKK in the situation.

 

2/Giving to the players the opportunity to play a member of an evil group, someone who is not bad by nature but who will witness the evil of the organisation from the inside and who might have to make hard choice to progress in the story. (For example, an NKVD agent who will discover that the "traitors" are not necessary bad people and who may have to do bad stuff to find the true baddies -ie: cultists).

 

For me, at least, yes, I'm interested in both those things.

 

The first is the most likely in my CoC games.

 

The second might come into play if I ran a scenario like Cold Harvest.

 

If somebody wants to run a game with heroic Klansmen PCs duking it out with mongrel Cthulhu cults and Voodoo Sons of Yig, he's welcome to it. Not my thing. But it's not for me to tell others how to play the game.

 

One has to go pretty far to get a stronger negative reaction from me than ''err... no thanks.''