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MartyJopson

Cthulhu Star Wars mash up help

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MartyJopson

Hey Yoggies, 

 

On the last Breakfast Club I mentioned that I had tried and failed to work out how to run a Call of Cthulhu / Star Wars mash up. Can you lot help me rationalise the two antithetical world views?

 

Here is some background on this, starting with why do it in the first place:

- I really enjoy playing the new Star Wars roleplaying game system from Fantasy Flight

- I wanted to create a wacky one-shot scenario for a YSDC Games Day

- Cthulhu in space works really well (cf. John Ossoway's excellent Cthulhu Rising)

- Its Star Wars!

 

The problems I encountered are this:

- CoC is set in a dark world where nothing is clear cut and hope is ultimately foolish

- Star Wars is a world of black and white where there is always hope of redemption against the odds

- What is the Force? How does this work with occult weirdness?

 

I could just ignore all these implications and plop a CoC scenario into the Star Wars universe. But how do I make it feel Lovecraftian and Star Warsian at the same time. 

 

Can it be done?

 

Discuss...

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HJ

For bleakness in the universe you clearly have a window of opportunity between the destruction of Alderaan and Luke blowing up the Death Star - the Empire was able to obliterate an whole planet and there is apparently no chance to fight back against the Death Star.

 

The Star Wars Force has always been a bit naff. Magical rituals in the Jedi temples to grant the jedi knights powers beyond normal. Perhaps Nodens?

Sith powers would seem logically to come from Nyarlothotep.

Or Azathoth is emitting a radiation, which is mutating some beings in the universe. Luke inherited the mutation from Darth?

 

Star Wars is more of a Derleth universe than Lovecraft.

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BenJoss

I'm going to be honest Marty and say that I find this idea disturbing.  The idea of these two things I love being mashed together fills me with dread (objective achieved you might say 8) ).

 

One thing to consider is that the FFG Star Wars system is built off their now out of print WFRP 3rd Edition.  Wouldn't Warhammer be a better fit?  But if we're talking sci-fi / Lovecraft mash-ups surely Doctor Who is the way to go.

 

That said if you have to go down this path (and forever will it rule your destiny) then some sort of Sith Cult would be my take on it.  The cave on Dagobah as a representation of the dark side would be a good tool, perhaps where a Mythos entity is attempting to break through and this Sith Cult wants to bring the avatar into the galaxy.

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yronimoswhateley

My first reaction is "Ah, no way - it ain't gonna work!"

 

My second reaction, though, is to think about Star Wars as basically being a sword-and-sorcery tale with a couple blasters and star-ships tossed in. 

 

The question from there becomes one of whether there's any room in Call of Cthulhu for some sort of sword-and-sorcery angle.

 

Robert E. Howard actually managed to weld the two genres together successfully, so, at least on paper, this can be done, perhaps as a Lovecraftian Conan pastiche with a few familiar cosmetic Star Wars sword-and-sorcery-in-space upgrades for flavor:

 

 

 

Can it be done in practice?  What challenges might there be in running a Robert E. Howard, Conan the Barbarian-style blood-and-thunder fantasy story with a few blasters and star-ships tossed in?  I don't think there are too many, actually:  in fact, I think there might have even been a Conan story or two that might have nodded into that general direction! (See "The Tower of the Elephant", for example.)

 

So, our basic model for a "Lovecraftian" sword-and-sorcery mashup might be found in Conan the Barbarian.  What characteristics do we find in a Conan story, and do they have counterparts in "Star Wars"?

  • A tribe of strong-thewed Barbarian heroes:  Conan the Barbarian wouldn't be the same without the barbarians, right?  This might seem tricky at first... are there any analogues to the Cimmerians in Star Wars?  Well, there are the Wookiees:  "...A droid don't pull people's arms out of their sockets when they lose. Wookiees are known to do that."  - Han Solo  (I bet Cimmerians are known to do that, too!  At least, I'm sure Conan would approve.)  Check!
  • Some eccentric, roguish sidekicks:  Especially in the movies, but also in the stories, Conan ends up with going on adventures with pirate queens, weird sorcerers from far lands, giant warrior-cultists, master thieves, pouting princesses, and what-not.  Some of them are faithful and courageous, some of them are treacherous, some are odious comic relief, and with Conan as the star of the show, they all tend to be be shadowed by their barbarian leader, but it doesn't have to be that way in a role-playing game.  This cast of characters is actually standard-issue for sword-and-sorcery stories, and of course, Star Wars has an equivalent cast of jedi "knight" sorcerers, pirates, rogues, farm hands who discover they are The Chosen Ones, pouting princesses, odious comic relief droids, etc....  Check!
  • Wretched hives of scum and villainy:  Everywhere Conan goes, he seems to find polyglot cities full of danger; in fact, cities seem to represent decadence, decay, evil, villainy, and the unnatural in Robert. E. Howard's work.  These towns are great places to assemble a cast of misfit adventurers, get hooked into a quest, get attacked by sinister cultists, sneering soldiers, bands of thieves, and deadly assassins.  And, of course, they are thus also standard issue for sword-and-sorcery tales, and naturally one of the genre's most famous Wretched Hives of Scum and Villainy can be found in Star Wars.  Check!
  • Quests for High Adventure:  Another standard for the sword-and-sorcery genre... Conan and the cast of any good Star Wars movie will rescue princesses, stop evil wizards, slay hideous monsters, retrieve the jeweled macguffin, and destroy the Doomsday Weapon of Doom, all before riding off into the sunset when the story is over.  It's all in a day's work for Barbarians and Jedi Knights alike.  Check!
  • An Evil Empire:  Yet another standard for sword-and-sorcery.  Conan might find himself matching sword against evil sorcery in evil empires in Stygia, Shem, Acheron, or what have you, while Luke matches light-saber against evil sorcery in The Empire, but at the end of the day, it's the same concept.  Check!
  • Evil Wizards:  Some of Conan's most memorable enemies have been evil wizards... it seems like black magic, decadent civilizations, vicious empires, evil wizards, and high adventure all go hand-in hand in Conan's universe.  And the same theme seems to rule the Star Wars universe, too - in fact, it's yet another staple of sword-and-sorcery... in Star Wars, they just call them "Jedi Knights" who have "Turned to the Dark Side".  Check!
  • A Strange World Full of Strange Races, Fallen Civilizations, and Lost Technologies:  Conan the Barbarian lives in a strange kind of prehistoric world:  a mega-continent where peoples of all races, creeds, colors all seem to exist side-by-side with each other, with mankind struggling to recover from the fall of Atlantis into the sea.  Stray outside the ragged borders of wicked civilization too far, and you're likely to find ape-men and men-apes in all stages of evolution, lizard men, degenerate man-monsters of all descriptions, living statues, elephant-headed gods from other dimensions, and so on.  Star Wars is set in an exaggerated version of this sort of world:  you can barely move without tripping over some sort of creative alien in this time long-long-ago in a galaxy far-far away, set sometime after the fall of some sort of galactic empire.  If anything, the Star Wars universe almost seems to dilute the impact of weirder monsters by having such a wild variety of aliens hanging out in even the backwoods bar of a desert planet populated by a handful of hillbillies. Check!
  • But, What About the Cthulhus?  A Call of Cthulhu campaign just wouldn't be the same without all the weird monsters, sinister tomes, creepy cultists, and what-not.  Would using Conan leave the Cthulhus out of the picture?  And how would they fit into Star Wars?  Robert E. Howard's Conan stories (and the similarly-themed Kull and Bran Mak Morn stories) were explicitly set in the same universe as Lovecraft's stories, and you don't have to look very hard to find references in stories by both Lovecraft and Howard to each other's creations; Howard tends to be a little more optimistic about man's chances against weird tentacle monsters than Lovecraft was, with Conan occasionally muscling and outwitting his way to victory against eldritch horrors, so we needn't worry about that too much... but what about Star Wars?  Lucky for us, it's even easier to find weird, eldritch horrors in the Star Wars movies:  there are weird tentacle-monsters buried under the sands of desert planets, strange ice-monsters lurking in the blizzards of snow worlds, giant worm-things living in asteroids, weird blasphemies lurking in trash compactors of space stations, vicious monsters waiting to rip foolish adventurers limb-from-limb in the gladiator pits under the palace of Jabba the Hutt...  It wouldn't take very much at all to give such monsters a more obviously "Lovecraftian" angle.  Check!

 

 

So, I think all the elements are there for at least a Conan-Star Wars mashup:  in many ways, Star Wars is basically Conan the Barbarian, with a few nominal science fiction elements tossed in, largely borrowed from the pulp "space westerns" and "planetary romances" written at about the same time that Lovecraft and Howard were writing about Cthulhu and Conan and so on.  So, a Conan-style RPG scenario set in the Star Wars universe might look something like this:

 

In a local imperial planet full of "civilized" thieves, wizards, gamblers, prostitutes, and what-not, a party of Wookiee investigators are drinking and carousing with the last of their latest haul of loot when they come upon hooks for adventure:  a local evil Jedi sorcerer is digging up a forbidden lost city on the moon of Kashyyyk to obtain the sacred Gem of Mak-Gof'n, which will be used to power a doomsday weapon that would rain terror upon the innocent people there, while lining the sorcerer's pockets will tribute stolen from the temple.  Any self-respecting Wookiee investigator would leap at the chance to steal the Gem, and take the treasure from the sorcerer!  But, not all is what it seems:  the Gem is alive and has ideas of its own, the forbidden lost city is guarded by a weird tentacle monster, the treasure comes with complications, and the complicated star-ship journey to the Moon of Kashyyyk involves passing by a few picturesque and bizarre worlds loaded with distant, misty, bejewelled, and vaguely sinister Dreamlands imagery.

 

To give it a little more "Lovecraftian" flavor, the city was built by a pre-Wookiee civilization of intelligent vegetables from the dawn of Kashyyyk history, the Forbidden Lost City is guarded by a freakish tentacle monster, the Wookiee investigators will have to consult a sinister, veiled, alien vampire cultist for a tome containing the location of the Forbidden Lost City, the Gem of Mak-Gof'n is actually a Shining Trapezohedron linked to a monstrous and shadowy avatar of Nyarlathotep, and the Forbidden Lost City also happens to conceal a sinister and horrible secret to the origins of the Wookiee race and their monstrous relationship to the trees of Kashyyyk in elder times when the moon was young and ruled by the ancient vegetable-horrors, a secret with equally nightmarish implications for the day when the vegetable-horrors awaken from slumber and return to rule Kashyyyk once more....

 

 

 

 

 

The more I think of it, the more certain I am that this can be done rather gracefully, as characteristic elements of Robert E. Howard, H.P. Lovecraft, and Star Wars are not as incompatible as they seemed to me at first.

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MrHandy

I'm actually running a Doctor Who/Call of Cthulhu campaign online as a play-by-post (currently finishing up the fourth adventure and getting ready to start the fifth), but I also enjoy mixing Star Wars with Call of Cthulhu. I played in a few Cthulhu Live LARPs of that sort at conventions in Morristown, New Jersey. More than one of them featured an ancient Sith holochron with terrible forbidden knowledge (dubbed the Necronomichron out-of-character). They were all set in the Old Republic era.

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HJ

in line with every other retailer, Amazon's kindle daily deal to day is "Rogue 1", "The Force Awakens" and the original Star Wars book all for 99p each.

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MartyJopson

As much as I love the Star Wars franchise, I can't bring myself to read the books.

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HJ

I remembered last night that back in the early 90s our Rebel team occasionally flew around in a stock light freighter with a truly horrifying tartan colour scheme, which was called "The Cuddly Cthulhu", the Imperials soon spotted it though as it was a little bit conspicuous.

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MartyJopson

Was it the name though that sent up the red flags?

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HJ

i think that the stormtroopers spent most of their time laughing at us.

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MartyJopson

Great was the disturbance in the Force

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SavageBob

Hi, folks! I wanted to chime in on this, as I love the FFG Star Wars mechanics, and I'd love to run a Lovecraftian adventure in the Star Wars universe.  it's something I've been planning to do myself.

 

One thought is that I'd love to run Masks of Nyarlathotep, but set it in the Star Wars universe. The various destinations in the campaign would be different planets, thematically similar to their use in the adventure. So, London could be Coruscant, Kenya could be a frontier world, like Tatooine, etc.

 

The other campaign idea would be to have the players be the crew of an Imperial ship sent into the Unknown Regions to scout out something or another (or to track down a lost expedition). The Unknown Regions is a great setting for horror, since it's so far off the beaten path and away from the civilized galaxy as everyone knows it. There are also lots of creepy critters out there that are great stand-ins for Mythos monsters. The Mythos was a big influence on the authors of The Unknown Regions supplement for the D20 Star Wars RPG, and it's a great book worth picking up for anyone interested in this kind of mashup.

 

I'm still not sure how to handle the Force. It will work as normal, of course. But I'm not sure whether to somehow make it linked to the Mythos in some way, or to make it just another irrelevant bit of mortal nonsense the the Mythos entities care nothing about. My inkling on this that to truly get the Lovecraftian nihilism, you'd need to treat Jedi and Sith as basically more ants out there doing ant things. In other words, the Jedi and Sith think what they do matters, but it's no more important than the fact that human beings on our earth have the bomb or have landed on the Moon. However, maybe their power does link to the Mythos in some way. I could see the Daughter, the Son, and the Father from the Mortis trilogy of Clone Wars episodes being somehow Mythos entities (or avatars of them). In this scenario, the Jedi and Sith are mere pawns of the Old Ones. Or maybe there are factions of each that are trying to suppress certain gods and/or make deals with other gods.

 

I've also been toying with a Sanity mechanic that works something like Morality. If folks are interested, I can post up my notes on it. In this style game, Morality, Duty, and Obligation would all be available, but ALL characters would have to take Sanity, as well.

 

I think this could be great fun with the right group. Or maybe I'm insane already?

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The_Tatterdemalion_King

Isn't there a Star Wars adventure with Lovecrafty aliens? Otherspace or something like that? 

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Procopius

Isn't there a Star Wars adventure with Lovecrafty aliens? Otherspace or something like that? 

 

And Otherspace II! The Charon. They were only very vaguely Lovecraftian. IMO, the Darkstryder campaign has more light Lovecraftian elements, especially near the end.

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The_Tatterdemalion_King

And Otherspace II! The Charon. They were only very vaguely Lovecraftian. IMO, the Darkstryder campaign has more light Lovecraftian elements, especially near the end.

 

Ahh, you're right. I think I conflated them in my head. 

 

So there you go, OP. Someone already did it for you... 

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SavageBob

Both Otherspace and the DarkStryder campaign would need to be tuned up quite a bit to truly match the ethos of Lovecraft and co.'s fiction, IMO. They might be places to mine for ideas, of course.

 

In my mind, the question for this sort of amalgam has to be which of the two settings wins out thematically? Does the game privilege Lovecraft's pitting of petty human concerns versus insanity-shattering amorality, or does it privilege the fight between good and evil? Does it privilege pulpy derring-do, or is it more "purist," with characters dying and going mad as they uncover necronomi-holocrons?

 

My thinking is that the pulpy route would be the way to go. The FFG rules are just set up to be pulpy and cinematic, so avoiding this element would be very difficulty, unless characters were built on very few XP.

 

But I'm not so sold on the moralism of Lucas versus the nihilism of Lovecraft. For a dualistic take, I've heard that August Derleth's fiction has a moralistic tinge to it, so maybe his work would be a place to take inspiration? I'm unfamiliar with his dualist version of the Mythos, but, again, the oppositions between Mythos gods that Derleth sets up could be paired with Lucas's own pairings of the Daughter vs. the Son (overseen by the Father) in his Clone Wars stuff.

 

Then, for a more Lovecraftian purism, you could dispense with Derleth and Lucas completely. Keep the mad cultists, but add in a lot of Sith sorcery that draws on the Mythos. The Jedi have all along not been simply trying to defeat the Sith, they've been trying to keep them from summoning Cthulhu and friends from their prisons at the center of the galaxy to wreak havoc on sentient life everywhere. Maybe the Empire has factions that are also trying to study the Mythos. But this is all secret, hush-hush stuff -- only the highest-ranking Jedi and/or Imperial forces even know this stuff is going on. Or maybe only a few isolated Jedi and/or Imperials are even interested in or aware of the Mythos, and they aren't taken seriously by everyone else.

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yronimoswhateley

...Then, for a more Lovecraftian purism, you could dispense with Derleth and Lucas completely. Keep the mad cultists, but add in a lot of Sith sorcery that draws on the Mythos. The Jedi have all along not been simply trying to defeat the Sith, they've been trying to keep them from summoning Cthulhu and friends from their prisons at the center of the galaxy to wreak havoc on sentient life everywhere. Maybe the Empire has factions that are also trying to study the Mythos. But this is all secret, hush-hush stuff -- only the highest-ranking Jedi and/or Imperial forces even know this stuff is going on. Or maybe only a few isolated Jedi and/or Imperials are even interested in or aware of the Mythos, and they aren't taken seriously by everyone else.

 

Come to think of it, there's a lot of pulp Nazi super-science in the Empire already, with space ship dogfights copied from war movies, Le Resistance appearing in the form of the Rebel Alliance (Allies), the villains' suspiciously familiar-looking jack-booted uniforms (their soldiers are even referred to as Storm Troopers), secret doomsday weapons to be sabotaged, a black magic-wielding evil Fuhrer Emperor to defeat, etc...  Really, in many ways, Star Wars even plays the theme a little less "pulpy" and than the Indiana Jones movies did, now that I think of it.  Removing any references to the Light Side of the Force would perhaps be the only big change needed to set the right tone.

 

So, it might not be too difficult to translate a lot of "Weird World War" style themes over to the Star Wars universe, and make them fit in a natural way with minimal editing, and the Cthulhu Mythos is only a short step away from that brand of dark fantasy (often just a matter of exchanging The Spear of Destiny for The Necronomicon, and a random Mythos Nasty for the devil or any random Judeo-Christian demon, if anything needs to be changed at all....)

 

We can try running through the plot synopses of a few "Weird World War" type movies and see what happens:

 

 

 

  • Dead Birds (2004 film) ‎ - "A group of defecting Confederate soldiers hole up in an abandoned plantation after robbing a bank, and find themselves at the mercy of occult forces conjured by an evil cultist."  In our version, a group of bounty hunters or space pirates hole up in an abandoned Imperial base after a raid on an Imperial bank or cargo ship goes wrong, and find themselves at the mercy of occult forces conjured by a Jedi of the Dark Side whose attempts to resurrect his dead wife with the Force opened a gate to an evil netherworld....
  • The Keep (1983 film) ‎ - "Nazis occupying a strange fortress are forced to turn to an insubordinate Romanian officer, a Jewish historian and his daughter, and an unearthly stranger for help in battling the ancient evil they have inadvertently freed from its prison."  In our version, Stormtroopers occupying a strange alien fortress are forced to turn to an insubordinate local officer, a historian and his daughter, and an unearthly stranger for help in battling the ancient evil that have inadvertently freed from its prison.
  • Deathwatch (2002 film) ‎ - "In 1917 a malevolent force slowly drives nine soldiers mad while they are trapped in the enemy's corpse-strewn trenches."  In our version, a long time ago in a galaxy far away, a malevolent force slowly drives nine rebel soldiers mad while they are trapped in the Empire's corpse-strewn battlestation...."
  • The Objective (2008 film) ‎ - "A team of U.S. Special Ops forces is dispatched to a remote mountain region of Afghanistan with the ostensible orders of locating an influential Muslim cleric. While on the mission they find themselves lost in a Middle Eastern "Bermuda Triangle" of ancient evil and faced with an enemy that none of them could have imagined (malevolent ancient alien astronauts)."  In our version, a team of elite Imperial special forces is dispatched to a remote mountain region of Tatooine with the ostensible orders of locating an influential Rebel leader.  While on the mission, they find themselves facing strange phenomenon and an ancient evil, in the form of an enemy none of them could have imagined (Lovecraftian ancient alien astronauts)."
  • Outpost (2008 franchise) ‎ - "In war-torn Eastern Europe, a world-weary group of mercenaries discover a long-hidden secret in an abandoned WWII bunker: Nazi zombies!"  In our version, in a war-torn star system, a world-weary group of bounty hunters discover a long-hidden secret in an abandoned Imperial bunker:  Imperial deadites, possessed by demons after reading the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis....
  • The Devil's Tomb (2009 film) ‎ - "In a rip-off of 'The Thing', an elite group of soldiers on a covert mission to Afghanistan to retrieve a scientist from an underground lab encounter an ancient evil in the facility (zombie "Nephilim", Judeo-Christian half-human-half-angelic demons, released from their tomb by the scientist)."  In our version, an elite group of Imperial stormtroopers on a covert mission to Hoth to retrieve a scientist from an underground lab encounter an ancient evil in the facility:  a Thing from Another World....
  • Spectral (2016 film) ‎ - "A (very pulpy) sci-fi/thriller story centered on a special-ops team that is dispatched to a small, war-torn Ruritanian country to fight supernatural beings that have been killing peace-keeping forces there (the beings are actually the result of a super-science project used for creating a race of atomic super-men....)"  This one might be a little tougher than usual to translate due to its action/adventure tone, but let's roll with it and see what happens:  Rebel forces taking a besieged Imperial planet encounter resistance in the form of what appear to be evil ghosts; a team of Jedi Knights and their adventurer friends are the only ones who can uncover the secret behind the Dark Side's secret project on the planet, and stop their race of atomic super-men before it is too late.....
  • Tank 432 (2016 film) ‎ - "Mercenaries tasked with retrieving hostages from a battlefield are forced to hide inside an abandoned tank when they come under attack from a terrifying and ghostly enemy. As the forces outside begin to close in, the men realize that the real enemy is already among them (the mercenaries were dosed with a psychedelic drug in a super-soldier experiment conducted by their employers, who are studying the effects from a safe distance)."  In our version, a band of bounty hunters tasked with retrieving hostages from a planet ravaged by the Star Wars are forced to hide inside an abandoned and wrecked AT-AT when they come under attack from an unseen enemy; as the forces outside begin to close in, the men realize that the real enemy is already among them, in the form of a mind-altering Mi-Go experiment...."
  • Devil's Rock (2011 film) ‎ - "Set in the Channel Islands on the eve of D Day,two New Zealand commandos, sent to destroy German gun emplacements to distract Hitler's forces away from Normandy, discover a Nazi occult plot to unleash demonic forces to win the war."  In our version, set on a remote asteroid on the eve of a major Rebel offensive, two Rebel commandos, sent to destroy Imperial gun emplacements to distract the Emperor's forces, discover a Dark Side occult plot to unleash Eldritch forces to win the war....
  • Hellboy (2004 film) - "At the end of World War II, the Nazis attempt to open a portal to a paranormal dimension in order to defeat the Allies, but are only able to summon a baby demon who is rescued by Allied forces and dubbed "Hellboy". Sixty years later, Hellboy serves as an agent in the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense, where he, aided by a merman with psychic powers and a woman with pyrokinesis, protects America against dark forces."  In our version, in the final days of the Empire, evil Jedi attempt to open a portal to a paranormal dimension and summon an eldritch horror in order to defeat the Alliance.  A team of rebel commandos, experts in Dark Side Jedi technology and rituals, are dispatched to disrupt the plot before it is too late....  (The rest of the original synopsis sounds like the backstory of a standard-issue Star Wars RPG party to me, and can probably be omitted as part of this scenario.)

 

 

 

 

All in all, it looks to me like the genres cross over nicely, once you remove the Light Side of the Force and the Jedi swashbuckling....

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SavageBob

All in all, it looks to me like the genres cross over nicely, once you remove the Light Side of the Force and the Jedi swashbuckling....

Love the suggestion of adopting Weird War tropes to make this work during the Imperial era.

 

As for the Jedi, I'd say keep them, since they're so central to the Star Wars setting. But I'd make them like any other religious order is in a purist Lovecraftian setting, i.e., deluded and ineffectual. Perhaps the rank-and-file Jedi know nothing of the Mythos and the horrors of the galaxy, but their highest-ranking members do, and they keep it a secret. Perhaps Yoda et al are allied with Derleth's benevolent Great Old Ones, the ones he identified as being at least tolerant of mankind, and maybe the Light Side of the Force even emanates from such beings. But in reality, these entities are just as inimical to mortal life as the so-called "Dark Side" mythos creatures are, and they are merely using the Jedi as pawns for some inscrutable scheme of their own. That way, you can incorporate Jedi characters, but then roleplay their slow descent into insanity as they realize that the Light Side, the Dark Side, it doesn't matter: It's all THEIR side.

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yronimoswhateley

And now that you've put the subject of the Light side Jedi that way, the Polish immigrant population and their priest weren't totally ineffective in "The Haunter in the Dark", while Dr. Armitage's role in disrupting the Wizard Whateley's plot in "The Dunwich Horror" might make a rather nice prototype for good Jedi in such a setting:  they've studied the potentially mind-shattering nature of "The Force", and have learned to respect and fear its unnatural power and the damage that it can do, and so avoid the use of The Force (essentially, Mythos magic) except where needed to tip the scales against the Dark Side who are far more willing to use - and inevitably abuse - the Force.  And, as you suggest, using it even for good is a slippery slope down the abyss into the Dark Side....

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SavageBob

And now that you've put the subject of the Light side Jedi that way, the Polish immigrant population and their priest weren't totally ineffective in "The Haunter in the Dark", while Dr. Armitage's role in disrupting the Wizard Whateley's plot in "The Dunwich Horror" might make a rather nice prototype for good Jedi in such a setting:  they've studied the potentially mind-shattering nature of "The Force", and have learned to respect and fear its unnatural power and the damage that it can do, and so avoid the use of The Force (essentially, Mythos magic) except where needed to tip the scales against the Dark Side who are far more willing to use - and inevitably abuse - the Force.  And, as you suggest, using it even for good is a slippery slope down the abyss into the Dark Side....

 

 

Ah, I love that idea. How would you handle sanity and Force use, though? I can see dark-side Force use being a route to madness, but the light-side Force users don't tend to be mentally unstable. But if all Force use is tapping into chaotic Mythos energies (an idea I love), how is it that light-siders avoid going insane? Would it be that light-side Force use is OK, but the real danger is the temptation of the dark side? Like, the light side is a gateway "drug" to the dark side, where the Force user is more apt to really get sucked in?

 

In game terms, would you impose a sanity penalty on light-side Force use? Or would you reserve it for tapping into the dark side?

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yronimoswhateley

The more I think of it, the more I think that the Force, in a Lovecraftian universe, is an unnatural alteration of the physical laws of the universe - in effect, equivalent to Mythos magic.  So, I think that I would impose a sanity penalty on even light-side Force use, with some limited possibility to resist the effects.  The best efforts of Jedi masters to train their monks and knights and wizards to resist the call of the ultimate cosmic madness while using the force, through self-discipline, meditation, asceticism, and other such techniques, along with the satisfaction of knowing that your use of the Force has had some positive effect in the universe at large, if only for the short term, only slow the Jedi's descent into madness, it doesn't stop it.

 

It's probably a bit simpler to do things that way in game terms, too, and I kind of find the idea aesthetically pleasing besides, from both Lovecraftian and Star Wars aspects, that the best efforts of investigators and Jedi Knights alike to twist the laws of reality for even the best of intentions are ultimately doomed to corrupt the well-meaning heroes and their efforts, paving their roads to hell with good intentions as they are cursed to do the wrong things for the right reasons when trying to use the Force like a weapon for good.  I can almost imagine all of the Dark Side Force-using villains of the universe feeling just as certain that they are using the Force for good as their opponents are of their own good intentions.

 

I suppose that the notion that there is a Light Side and a Dark Side of the force might even be an illusion of unreliable narrators, Jedi Masters who keep telling themselves and their students that they alone seem to have the self-discipline and good intentions to use the Force for good, while their enemies must be failing due to some sort of weakness that turns them to a Dark Side, when, ultimately, there is no Light or Dark side, only an impersonal and amoral Force that, in the end, ruin all Jedi, good and bad, strong and weak, selfless and selfish alike....

 

The comparison to a "drug" might be accurate in more ways than one, with the Jedi dancing precariously at the edge of abuse and addiction, always certain that they can stop any time they want, that they know their limitations, that they can control it, that a little bit won't hurt, that it's everyone else who slips up and becomes a slave to the drug, but not them....

 

I suppose that the Jedi might be considered splinters of a very powerful and influential Mythos Cult in this sense... ensnared far more deeply into the cult of using the Force than other, more reasonable members, with some of the most ferocious conflicts being not between those between the Light and Dark side of the force, but those who are willing to use the Force to change the world for better or worse, and those who understand and fear the consequences of doing so with even the best of intentions.

 

The wisest Jedi masters, in the end, might be those who realize that there is no Light or Dark side of the Force, but only the Force, and that each time a Jedi chooses to use the Force, for good or ill, that Jedi is playing with an incredibly dangerous and seductive kind of fire, and that genuine mastery of the Force lay in resisting the temptation to use it for any purpose, a temptation that almost no free, conscious, thinking being can long resist.... 

 

The ultimate philosophical question at the heart of the Jedi teaching is a question of whether it is better to resist the temptation of using the Force, or to sacrifice one's self in using the Force for a greater good.

 

A similar question, I think, is at the heart of many aspects of the Call of Cthulhu RPG and its descendants:  do you burn the tome, or do you read it and sacrifice a little of your sanity in the name of stopping a Mythos threat?  Do you resist the temptation of using the spell you just learned, or do you try to use it for good and accept the consequences that come with that use?  Do you ignore the weird sounds coming from behind the locked door, or do you throw the door open wide, open the shutters, and look upon the horror hidden within in the full and glaring light of day?  Do you let an innocent person who might turn into a monster go free, or do you kill her and live with the guilt of what you have done, knowing that you may have spared the world from a potential monster?  Do you mind your own business and live a simple and mundane life, or do you take the bait and follow the plot hook into the horrors that wait for you?

 

I don't think that such decisions are totally incompatible with the Star Wars universe: there are hints of such conflicts all through at least the original films, in when it's appropriate for Luke to abandon his friends and keep training to be a Jedi, or abandon his training and save his friends, and whether using the Force to defeat his enemies is really a victory for "Light", or instead delivers him to the "Dark" side.  I think it's probably more largely a question of how interesting any particular audience for the Star Wars universe might find those questions, vs. a far simpler and more clear-cut conflict of Light-vs.-Dark.

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SavageBob

Yes, I think your musings here are great grist for a Lovecraftian Star Wars game. Treating the Force (light or dark) as a corrupting influence on Jedi and Sith alike represents well Lovecraft's theme that gaining Mythos knowledge is striking a Faustian bargain: It can help stave off the Bad Things, but it destabilizes the person using it, no matter their "good" intentions.

 

However, if adopted for a Star Wars RPG (using one of the Star Wars RPG systems), this stance on Force use would require some balancing factors to make it fair on the PCs. At least in the Fantasy Flight Star Wars rules, Force use is already fairly underpowered, at least at early stages of play. Even in advanced play, a Force user is no more capable than a bush pilot or smuggler with equal amounts of earned XP. This is because the Force and its powers are a deep XP sink: To be able to do the mystical feats of a Yoda or an Obi-Wan or even a Luke takes a lot of XP that the smuggler character can just dump into Piloting (Space) or buying cool talents that let her charm a Hutt or shoot a blaster in the dark or whatever. In short, if Force use makes you go insane, but piloting a ship doesn't, this interpretation of the Force would make playing Force-using characters unfair from a balance perspective.

 

So, one way to handle this disparity might be to just tell the players that no one may start out as a Force user. The era of play would likely be the Imperial period, when Force users are rare anyway. Discovering the lost mysteries of the Jedi and their ilk becomes part of the adventure, as it may be necessary to stymie the plans of an evil cult. At such a time as the PCs discover the Lost Holocron of the Mad Monk of Mantooine, they can decide whether they'll try to master the Force techniques his holographic avatar describes, knowing it will make them more unstable mentally. The disadvantage of this interpretation is that for a lot of players, Force wizardry is one of the main draws of playing in the Star Wars universe. To prevent Force users at character generation might turn a lot of people off this idea. But, with the right group, I could see this working. (Perhaps it would easier to bring in a seasoned group of CoC/ToC players than to go the other way around.)

 

Another option, and one that I've been toying with, would be to institute a Sanity system in the Fantasy Flight Star Wars game. I like the Pillars of Sanity used in Trail of Cthulhu, and bringing that concept into Star Wars might provide an avenue for a Jedi-type character to use the Force while staving off its dementing effects, as you suggested. So long as the Jedi PC can continue believing that she's fighting the good fight, her character can remain deluded enough to avoid a precipitous decline into madness, at least. I'm still working out the mechanics of how this might work in FFG's system, but it might be a way to let the PCs still be Force users from the get-go if they'd like to. I think it would be incumbent on the GM, though, to make sure they understand that Force use will have definite drawbacks in this type of game.

 

Of course, the third option is to not go with the Force-use-corrupts idea. Instead, Force use is just another natural part of the way the universe works, like gravity and hyperspace travel. Perhaps in this interpretation, basic Force use is fine: Moving something with your mind, doing a mind trick on the stormtrooper, whatever. Using the Force in these ways is just like reading an ancient manuscript in Lovecraft; it may touch on horrors very peripherally, but not enough to impact your sanity. But out there lie certain forgotten Force techniques that are the really bad ones, the ones more akin to Mythos tomes that shouldn't be opened. Some of these have been passed on by high-ranking Jedi as "light side" powers, while others are the purview of the Sith. But they are all focused on interacting with the Mythos entities that are out there, and these powers specifically are the ones to be avoided. This interpretation of Force use would be the pulpiest option, but it would also result in a game that is more Star Wars in spirit than Lovecrafian in spirit.

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rimren

Hey Yoggies, 

 

On the last Breakfast Club I mentioned that I had tried and failed to work out how to run a Call of Cthulhu / Star Wars mash up. Can you lot help me rationalise the two antithetical world views?

 

Here is some background on this, starting with why do it in the first place:

- I really enjoy playing the new Star Wars roleplaying game system from Fantasy Flight

- I wanted to create a wacky one-shot scenario for a YSDC Games Day

- Cthulhu in space works really well (cf. John Ossoway's excellent Cthulhu Rising)

- Its Star Wars!

 

The problems I encountered are this:

- CoC is set in a dark world where nothing is clear cut and hope is ultimately foolish

- Star Wars is a world of black and white where there is always hope of redemption against the odds

- What is the Force? How does this work with occult weirdness?

 

I could just ignore all these implications and plop a CoC scenario into the Star Wars universe. But how do I make it feel Lovecraftian and Star Warsian at the same time. 

 

Can it be done?

 

Discuss...

 

Have you seen Mad Cthulhu, the streamlining of CoC rules that Chimerae Hobby Group has done along the FFG lines?

 

 Star Wars can easily be "Lovecrafted." The Force is basically Azathoth and then some... a mindless, uncaring entity that plays with the lives of billions of billions without even being aware of it. It does not offer afterlife, It does not offer eternal peace, It does not even offer hellfire... It simply does not care. All that anyone (except the few sorcerers that mastered blasphemous rites to extend their will unto death) ever gets in death is the cold embrace of the Abyss and eternal darkness of the Oblivion, wheter he was Its servant, or not, wheter he was "good," or "evil" according to the arbitrary morality standards of sentient apes. Some individuals who are infected with a certain species of space germ get magical powers from It, but they are not masters of the Force. Oh no! They are even more Its slaves than those without foul space magics. Whenever this "Force" entity is "out of balance," whatever drek it means, it forces the Galaxy into fratricidal total war, where two sides annihilate each other for no apparent reason, and leaders of these endevours are these meddlesome sorcerers.

 

And when you really think about it are Jedi really "good"? They kidnap children to indoctrinate into their cult! They scheme, they plot, they manipulate. Sometimes they even outright control peoples' minds with their space magic! How in the world can a "mind rape" be considered good? Sith, at the very least are honest. When they enslave you, you are aware of it. Jedi are far more insidious. When they enslave you, you think you are doing your own bidding, not theirs... you are unaware of your slavery.

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Gaffer

What about setting your story before Episode 1?

 

Something (Azathoth) is disrupting the Force out in the just-being-explored center of the universe. Send out some Jedi and some droids under the command of a Senator or two. Might someone be a covert Sith? Might.

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