Jump to content
vincentVV

How do you deal with cell phones?

Recommended Posts

yronimoswhateley

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

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
rylehNC

Back in the 80s, when I was first running COC, I would make all research, spot hidden, and listen rolls blind. If they failed badly, they could get wrong information. 

 

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

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
vincentVV

Whoa!!!

So many answers - thank you guys, very much!

 

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

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

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

=)

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
mvincent

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

 

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

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

 

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

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Gaffer

Exactly what I was thinking, Winston.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
yronimoswhateley

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
windandfire

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
ElijahWhateley

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Gaffer

If they want to Google "golden dawn order"

 

And you better hope some porn star named Goldie Dawn hasn't become popular.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
eternalchampion

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

 

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

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Enerod

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

 

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

 

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

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
carpocratian

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

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
dulcamara

Lots of great advice here.

 

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

 

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

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
ElijahWhateley

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

 

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

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
windandfire

Lots of great advice here.

 

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

 

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

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

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
yronimoswhateley

The "no connection" thing is a fact of life, and I've been there many, many times, but yeah - in horror, it's sort of a cliche, and as a cliche, it's best used with care, or at least with some sort of surprise twist attached to it.

 

For my part, as a player I've used horror cliches like the car that won't start, the flashlight that won't stay on, or the phone that won't get reception more often than I ever have as a keeper or GM; I actually don't mind the cliches too much as a horror fan, and sometimes they just feel right in a story to me (I like making things rough on my own characters), but in my experience I get a lot more as Keeper/GM from letting other players use their gadgets and other assets if they want to - the old "yes, and..." thing and all.

 

 

I don't remember if it was touched on in this discussion already or not, but, although comparing cell/smart phones with traditional library research is a fair comparison, it's perhaps not the best comparison.  A better comparison for cell phones might be to any investigator friends or allies listed on character sheets - and, as that comparison implies, a cell phone listed on a character sheet is as much an asset to the Keeper's game as it is to the player's, with much of the same emotional attachment and potential for horror and other kinds of storytelling involved in characters' cell phones as there is in their family, friends, allies, and such.  (In this light, it is, perhaps, no surprise that modern horror movies, "creepy pasta", urban legends, and such are loaded with horror stories involving cell phones!)  It's not something you want to abuse with over-use, but it's an opportunity:  find out who is on the character's speed-dial, who the character sends texts to regularly, what websites the character is addicted to, what apps the character depends on regularly... and find different and colorful ways to work that kind of information into the horror stories, fantasy, science fiction, mystery, and adventure stories you write and tell about the investigators.  I bet you would gain more from one mundane phone call from an NPC college professor to his colleague, the party's college professor, asking for advice or inviting the PC and his wife over for a faculty dinner party, interrupting the party at an odd point in your story (like while the investigators are preparing to interrogate a cultist or burn down a police station or whatever it is that investigators normally do), than you'd ever lose from letting your players consult the phone for information or use it to try to call for help - and that's before you even introduce a real plot element involving the phone.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Graham

Something else to keep in mind, back in the early 80s when Marcus L. Rowland first came up with "Cthulhu Now!", one of the three outlines he wrote was based on the idea of cultists 'digitizing' Mythos Tomes (Well, hand typing them into .txt files rather than scanning as .jpgs, this was 1983...), the point being, as I remember it, the only way for the Mythos to retain it's potency when this was done was via divine intervention, in this case the cultists had done a deal with Nyarlathotep. So it may be that they find the information online, but it's useless to them unless they have the actual text...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The_Tatterdemalion_King

What do you roll to have retroactively remembered to charge your phone? 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
GBSteve

Preparedness.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Vladd

vincentVV if you are having trouble with an authentic looking wiki printout try using this.

 

http://www.wikia.com/Special:CreateNewWiki

 

Now you can build your own Wikipedia giving as much info to your players as you want. You could even give them the site address so they can search through it themselves instead of doing a printed handout.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
MonkeyPrime

Yeah I would consider cell phones to be a new opportunity and even a way to point to NPCs.

 

Firstly you have the power to say how a cell phone interacts with the mythos. A wrote a recent game on an AR (augmented Reality) game like Pokémon Go based around catching dragons but it turned out the filter that it used on the camera also let the user to see a shade of a little boy. Every time they used the App that they were asked to beta-test, it made the little shade appear more strongly until it was able to manifest and kill them. You get to decide if the magnetic field of the phone attracts shoggoths or if they can use the phone against the investigators. I wouldn't do it whim but it can be used to add to the terror as the device in their pocket makes their job more dangerous.

 

Secondly research found online can be set up to point to an NPC. A local folklorist may have set up a page to publicise their new book, and provide an email address or their next appearance at a local WI group. This points them towards the NPC rather than cut them out completely. While a lot of stuff is online, some bits are still fringe enough that they will prefer to meet in public. Use it!

 

Thirdly whose to say who put up the info. Maybe certain groups or races have put the info up in order to track who is searching. Whose to say that the Mi-Go haven't red flagged certain info to trace those who would look into their operations? Or by searching certain things brings other interested parties to bear on the investigators? Government groups, Delta Green, shadowy NWO (not the wrestling stable in the late 90s) may come into play just by their interest in things making the investigators job harder! Not as a punishment but as a way to add agency or create more tension.

 

Fourthly completely agree with what people have said about the reliability of info online. Anyone can post anything online, have fun with it. Nothing more fun than an investigator facing off against a Dark Young armed with a silver spoon as KillaKlown576 said it definitely worked for his cousin Ritchie!

 

Cell phones connect us all and connect your investigators with more opportunities to spread a little madness around!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Gaffer

Some wag might use the Internet handle Doc Armitage Son to troll all sorts of mis/disinformation.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×

Important Information

We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.