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Beyond13

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

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Beyond13

@Eusebio: The essay you wrote is a very good one on Mythos tomes, but it feels to me like it mostly just restates the basic rulebook descriptions of a tome in general, with a bit of added color because you are apparently quite familiar with the original stories that the tomes were mentioned in.  For example, the rules already emphasize that the tomes are very rare, very hard to acquire, and hard to translate and require lengthy periods of study and decipherment.  I agree with you that one of the biggest problems is the rules silence on the tomes and their contents.  I realize that the original stories use a literary device of being largely silent regarding the tomes and telling rather than showing us that they are terrible, but I'm not sure that device is actually applicable to an RPG.  In particular, I think it important that you call out that we do know at least something about the contents of several of the more important mythos tomes, and therefore that we ought to be able to expand upon those ideas.

 

I am most intrigued by this statement: "but [the Mythos tomes] have also been a huge let-down to me as a player and Keeper."  Could you explain to me how the tomes were usually employed or described in games before you evolved your current methodology, and why that was such a let down?

 

Also, I think much could be accomplished with fuller descriptions of the books, maybe broken down into 20 page sections and describing the major and minor themes of each section and exactly what spells are to be found in therein, and which spells in which editions are soundly described, or badly described so that they 'misfire', or described so badly that they don't even work.  If the work is a manuscript copy, there might be chances assigned to each category for each spell.  Books described thusly could be adroitly damaged so that pages 118-120 have been ripped out crudely, or the last 20 pages are badly water damaged, or what have you.   Indeed, system for assigning random damage might exist, and as you note the most common sort of tomes might be incomplete and partial copies.

 

Indeed, I imagine that you could end up with quite an extensive lore book covering just mythos tomes and lore.  I personally don't think that leaving the mythos tomes entirely as plot devices vaguely described and totally up to individual keepers works in most cases.  In an RPG you can't cop out with just telling and no showing the way an unreliable narrator in a horror story can.

 

All of that by the way speaks to the problem I have with the existing rules.  If you treat tomes as something that the characters have some relationship with rather than something the induces a mere mechanical change in the character sheet, it's not just a matter of even getting a tome or a couple of tomes.  Piecing together mythos lore or spells might well be a matter of getting and studying a lot of tomes.  Instead of having a copy of a major tome working like the Junior Woodchuck Guide to the Elder Gods, and then after one or two you are done because reading one more tome is going to too permanently threaten your sanity, the rules would then create a non-binary process where in the investigator painstakingly put together lore through a scholarly process with sanity draining consequence  - what you aptly call "the erosion of the mind". 

 

On the other hand, this process seems to suggest a campaign length measured in decades rather than months or even years with leisurely periods between scenarios rather than some sort of race against time.

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Eusebio

I am most intrigued by this statement: "but [the Mythos tomes] have also been a huge let-down to me as a player and Keeper."  Could you explain to me how the tomes were usually employed or described in games before you evolved your current methodology, and why that was such a let down?

 

I have had Keepers who treated tomes as the stats you find on them in the rulebooks:

 

Keeper: "Amongst the many volumes, you find one book that somehow seems older."

Player: "I take it out and try to read it."

Keeper: Roll you German

Player: Succeeded.

Keeper: You find Unausprechlichen Kulten. You can add X to you Mythos score, and roll me X Sanity

 

It was, for me, a technical matter, almost like when you loot something in a video game: you look at the stats. I don't blame Keepers for doing so, after all, the rulebooks do not give us much more to work with. In my opinion, tomes can (and should) be so much more. 

 

I agree with you a more extensive description of the books would be very useful, although I'm not sure it should be in the main rulebook. Maybe a nicely illustrated, hardcover book on tomes?

 

(Take note, Chaosium  :-D ) Because now, I must admit, when using one of the canon tomes, I need to dive deep into the rabbithole that is the internet. 

 

On the other hand, tomes are (again in my opinion) luckily not the only way to raise your Mythos score. To me, the Mythos score reflects how much a character knows about the Secret and Terrible Truth that is Out There. It is an otherwordly counterpart of the occult skill in a way. It also means that every little snippet of knowledge learnt on the Mythos can enhance this skill, no matter how small. 

 

A simple realization like 'I shot the monster in the face with my shotgun and all that did was make it even angrier' can be a valuable lesson (if you survive to learn it), and should be reflected in your Mythos score (even if it raises the score with only 1%). Tomes often represent the theoretical knowledge of the Mythos: they grant you a lot of lore, but they are hard to come by. The everyday insights (that particular symbol that we saw at the cult murder scene somehow represents warding off the evil) can be a much more natural way to get that Mythos score up for your players. That way, you're not forced as a Keeper to put in more tomes because the characters need a certain understanding/score of the Mythos and tomes can remain the time-consuming rarity they are.

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tjgreenway

I have had Keepers who treated tomes as the stats you find on them in the rulebooks:

 

Keeper: "Amongst the many volumes, you find one book that somehow seems older."

Player: "I take it out and try to read it."

Keeper: Roll you German

Player: Succeeded.

Keeper: You find Unausprechlichen Kulten. You can add X to you Mythos score, and roll me X Sanity

 

It was, for me, a technical matter, almost like when you loot something in a video game: you look at the stats. I don't blame Keepers for doing so, after all, the rulebooks do not give us much more to work with. In my opinion, tomes can (and should) be so much more. 

 

Unfortunately this has been my experience so far as well, and it's really put me off playing - that's fine, it's made me realise that I'm happy to devote more time to mastering my GM skills so that my group can enjoy the game as much as possible. I'd hate to think how many others it's had the same effect on, though - it might not be a major issue for a lot of people coming from a traditional fantasy RPG background, but I imagine it would be offputting for a lot of Lovecraftian fans who have delved into CoC as their introduction to gaming.

 

 

Maybe a nicely illustrated, hardcover book on tomes?

 

This would seriously be an auto-buy for me, it would be an absolute dream - detailed descriptions of all the major tomes with game stats, some nice illustrations and a short excerpt to give it some added flavour, in the same vein as the Mysterious Manuscripts articles in The Unspeakable Oath. A collection of articles in that manner would be fantastic to have collated in one place. Round it out with a couple of scenarios that focus on the books themselves (something along the lines of Bookhounds of London), and I'd be throwing more money Chaosium's way in a flash!

 

That being said, I've found the Cthulhu Myrhos Encyclopaedia by Daniel Harms is invaluable as a 'keeper for this very reason - there's just enough information in there to whet the appetite and get the imagination flowing. I'd highly recommend it for any new GM's!

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jlynn

I'm coming late to the debate here, but I want to say up front to Celebrim that your OP was sheer genius!  The mechanics might need to be flexed a bit depending on the circumstances, but your reasoning is sound, the idea is brilliant, and it clearly addresses an issue that most of us Keeper types have felt one way or another for, in some cases, decades.  Thanks for sharing that idea.  7th Edition DOES have a mechanic for sort of addressing this, but it isn't really developed as fully as your system seems to be; I'm wondering if there's a happy merger of the two concepts out there that might actually deliver a much more reasonable way of determining how people can use Tomes in the game and still actually, you know, participate in the game.

 

Most of the objections, if I may overly generalize, seem to revolve more around the "hard to manage" and "it's not really a problem" categories; and it IS hard to manage, but anything that breaks player "suspension of disbelief" IS a problem in my opinion, and the Tomes were always one of those areas that was probably going to do that.  When I first started playing back in the early 1980's HPL was not at all well known among my contemporaries -- in fact, I was the only one of the entire gaming group (and there were over 10 of us) that actually knew who he was and had read most of his stuff -- one of my early rules was that they players weren't ALLOWED to read anything by him for the first year or so of play (I didn't want someone to interrupt my creepy description of the creature bearing down on them with an offhand "oh, it's just a 'deep one'...").  Because of that, the Tomes issue didn't break anyone's suspension of disbelief, but after that, the problem became much more acute for me; and playing it the way I had previously wound up leaving a "retrospective" bad taste in the mouths of my players.  Unfortunately, the rules said (or at least implied) do it that way, and, like most inexperienced GMs, I used the rules as a crutch, not a springboard.

 

Anyway, I just wanted to say I love the concept that you came up with, though frankly I might make it even harder -- i.e., when you roll on the book the first time to see how much you get out of it, that is the final limit on you gain from that book (rolled a 1%?  Too bad! Welp, you can give that book to someone else now...) and even studying a "better" copy of it will only buy you, potentially, the difference between that copy and the one your originally studied.  (For example, if the new copy is 6% better than the old one (the first one had a +6% Cthulhu Mythos, and the better version has a +12% Cthulhu Mythos, then the max your player is going to get is 1% from the original roll, plus whatever fraction of the additional 6% you manage to roll (for a possible maximum of 7%).)  That book just isn't making any sense to you, no matter how many times you re-read it!  Then I'd tend to apply your rule for all the other Tomes as well (that is, stacking the difficulties; the books themselves can be a problem, and the corpus of knowledge is ALSO a problem) -- let's face it, the Human mind isn't really designed to understand the Mythos, and some people just aren't going to be susceptible to that understanding no matter how hard they try.  It's like anything else; some of us are olympic class swimmers, others can barely dog-paddle, and that's just the difference between those two individuals.

 

I also seem to remember reading some rules somewhere in the long ago (a magazine?  One of the earlier supplements?  I can't remember.) that had suggestions on reading times, how to handle that in the game, and even a way of spacing out the Sanity losses and the Mythos gains in terms of the number of weeks of effort (and it required a LOT of effort -- like full-time, 12-hours-a-day stuff) to more realistically simulate "the correlation of the contents of the reader's mind".  Unfortunately, the ideas in that article required a LOT of the Keeper's time to manage and were really sort of impractical for use during an actual gaming session; they effectively consigned the reading of Tomes to the players' off-stage time, which also tended to remove some of the feel of HPL's work from the game.  What we really need is a satisfying way to do both things -- a sort of "unification theory" that makes the Tomes useful in actual play without breaking either the system or the players' suspension of disbelief, while at the same time making them a very hard hurdle to cross, with clearly understood principles for how they are studied, how and how quickly knowledge is gained and sanity lost, and how they are handled in action sequences.  And if you can do that, you are probably the next Sandy Petersen...

 

Oh, and at MOB and Chaosium -- I'd like to seriously put in a pitch for a Tomes splat book -- it would be an autobuy for me too; and you've already done something similar with the Grand Grimoire, so it's not like it would break any precedents!  :-D

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Gaffer

Keith Herber's 1993 Keeper's Compendium had a chapter on Forbidden Books that covered a lot of ground, though probably not in the detail requested here.

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Beyond13

Keith Herber's 1993 Keeper's Compendium had a chapter on Forbidden Books that covered a lot of ground, though probably not in the detail requested here.

 

Even if it did have sufficient detail, the game and its assumptions have changed so much from 1993, that any information that it had there would be largely out of sync with the game rules and assumptions today.

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Gaffer

I'll just note that not everyone has chosen to leave 'old school' style behind.

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mvincent

Even if it did have sufficient detail, the game and its assumptions have changed so much from 1993, that any information that it had there would be largely out of sync with the game rules and assumptions today.

 

How so?

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Beyond13

How so?

 

My impression is that over time what was called 'The Greater Grimoire' of straight forward spells like Call Azathoth or Summon/Bind Byakee have become less and less important in published scenarios simply because they don't work well as game devices for either PC's or NPC's.   In contrast, what was called 'The Lesser Grimoire' has become more important simply because it's more useful to have a sorcerer deploy weapons like Wrack and Dominate than it is for them to summon up Azathoth or even necessarily a Dimensional Shambler. 

 

So my impression is that a writer in 1993 would use the tools at hand, filling the canonical mythos tomes with lots of call, contact, summon and bind spells and little or no spells of other sorts without any real reflection on whether it makes for a better game (much less an internally coherent world) to have tomes contain the means to summon an incarnation of the demon sultan from his place in the center of the universe (or the equivalent) and basically nothing else.  As plot devices, I think the tomes deserve to have more use than that, and I think from what I've read of the scenarios, scenario writers tend to want to use them for various creepy but less world shattering uses.

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Eusebio

As plot devices, I think the tomes deserve to have more use than that, and I think from what I've read of the scenarios, scenario writers tend to want to use them for various creepy but less world shattering uses.

 

As far as I read the description of many of the more known tomes, they are indeed much more than a simple grimoire, a collection of spells. If you look at 'Unaussprechlichen Kulten', the book is almost the pseudo-scientific diary of Von Juntzt as he travels te world and encounters strange and exotic cults. The same goes for the 'Culte des Ghouls', a work that brushes with the sociology and the natural history of another mythos phenomenon, the ghouls.

 

Of course, these kind of books will describe some spells, most likely Contact, Summon, Bind or Ward spells, like you said, but that is in my opinion not their primary role. They offer an understanding of (certain parts of) the Mythos, and it is through that understanding, new spells potentially open to the reader/scholar.

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jlynn

Keith Herber's 1993 Keeper's Compendium had a chapter on Forbidden Books that covered a lot of ground, though probably not in the detail requested here.

 

That seems to be a part of it, but not all that I remember -- so maybe I'm conflating two different articles in my mind. Seems to me that I do that a lot more these days than I did when I was 20! My mind is a cluttered attic...

 

And thanks for finding that for me! ;-)

 

As far as I read the description of many of the more known tomes, they are indeed much more than a simple grimoire, a collection of spells. If you look at 'Unaussprechlichen Kulten', the book is almost the pseudo-scientific diary of Von Juntzt as he travels te world and encounters strange and exotic cults. The same goes for the 'Culte des Ghouls', a work that brushes with the sociology and the natural history of another mythos phenomenon, the ghouls.

 

Of course, these kind of books will describe some spells, most likely Contact, Summon, Bind or Ward spells, like you said, but that is in my opinion not their primary role. They offer an understanding of (certain parts of) the Mythos, and it is through that understanding, new spells potentially open to the reader/scholar.

 

I have to agree with this -- the books are not simply a source of spells, they are supposed to be a major plot element in and of themselves. Part of the problem, as I see it, is that too many players want to use spells in Call of Cthulhu as if they were D&D spellslingers instead of treating them as the terrible and horrifying things they are in HPL's omniverse. The use of a spell, for a PC at any rate, should be the absolute last resort, when all hope of even surviving by doing anything else has fled. Instead, people try to go around shooting these things off like they were Fourth of July firecrackers (or, for our British friends, Guy Fawkes Day fireworks). Even cultists ought to be a bit leery of casting any spell -- and while they aren't subject to loss of sanity (or at least not in the same way), they should have the possibility of severe repercussions as well -- personally, I go with a "consequences" possibility a la Dungeon Crawl Classics -- a cultist casting a spell can have the possibility of something severe going wrong as a result, even if the spell is successful; e.g., he suddenly sprouts a pair of horns, or one of his limbs becomes a tentacle instead, etc., etc. (Players can be subject to this as well, to make it even more creepy.)

 

Those sorts of things tend to severely cut back the eagerness of the players to go around shooting spells at the drop of a hat. Plus, I try to make them play the casting time and efforts (there was a thread on here quite a while ago where someone suggested using a web site to download silly Latin paragraphs and then making the players repeat them out loud, without mistake, in the middle of the game when they are trying to cast a spell. This becomes almost impossible with any kind of distraction, particularly in a combat situation -- which is when our D&D-esque spellslingers want to go into action. And if they DO make a mistake, well...

 

In short, magic should be extremely risky, time consuming, expensive, and horrific, all at the same time. The good guys should probably look on it as a case of the cure being worse than the disease, except in extremely desperate circumstances.

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Gaffer

When I was a young man in the late 60s (instead of an old man in MY late 60s), like many people I was credulous about paranormal phenomena. I looked into a number of 'arcane tomes.' Some purported to be copies of 17th and 18th century grimoires. Almost all enumerated ways to contact/summon various named demons. Most also described various 'useful spells' like love philtres and such.

 

I see no reason Mythos books shouldn't be the same.

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jlynn

Why, then, make it so!  ;-)

 

In my games, I'll do it differently, but mostly because I see a difference between "popular" magical books (that probably don't really work, or are wildly malappropriate versions of Mythos Spells for completely different purposes -- and that the players had better hope DON'T work) and the "real" magic contained in the fabulous, legendary, and very hard to obtain Mythos Tomes...  But hey, that's just me.

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ReydeAmarillo

When I was a young man in the late 60s (instead of an old man in MY late 60s), like many people I was credulous about paranormal phenomena. I looked into a number of 'arcane tomes.' Some purported to be copies of 17th and 18th century grimoires. Almost all enumerated ways to contact/summon various named demons. Most also described various 'useful spells' like love philtres and such.

 

I see no reason Mythos books shouldn't be the same.

 

Totally.

 

And assuming that our occultic traditions are loosely based on Mythos truths, then Mythos tomes should bear some resemblence to their lesser cousins.

 

But also, what are Mythos tomes primarily for? Imho they are for the seekers after truth (High cultists) to preserve the knowledge and spells and pass it all on to the next High bod. What spells would GOO's want their human slaves to use? Surely those t9hat bring their servitors to earth to run riot, or utility spells that enhance the chances of that occurring (Enchant object spells etc). I dont think that making some human sorceror so powerful that he/she no longer needs to Summon and Bind a Servitor is on a GOO's mind. Hence I see the Greater Grimoire of mostly Contact and S&B etc being just that- the greater, more often used and so more often written in a tome, spells. So I normally write and Keep with servitor races interfacing with a High Cultist bod who can summon the beastie to a worship/sacrifice, and then loads of lesser bods to drain MP's from and maybe provide a snack if they get clumsy or lazy. So High bod would have Contact the Deity, S&B the Servitor race, a coupla utilities (Gate, Enchant Item, Voorish Sign) from Greater and then maybe a couple of suitables from Lesser. Maybe a combat, a defense/heal and a special?

 

And those spells, plus a bit of the Deities "gospel" would be all that is on the High bods Tome. Whether that tome is a hand written section from Cults des Ghouls or just the first high bods diary.

 

I guess it depends whether you want a powerful sorceror leading an evil cult, or the Critters of the Mythos having high bod under their control to ensure the cult provide whatever "worship" and sacrifice is required.

 

Just in closing I MUCH prefer the seperate Summon and Bind rules in 5e and earlier. Summon is the critters invite and Bind is to tie it into not eating too many cultists once its here. Also it ramps up the tension that bit more for Investigators !!

 

That is just my take.

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jlynn

What's a "bod?"  Do you mean person?

 

Also, sort of off-topic, isn't it interesting that the all-powerful GOOs can't even come and go as they please?  Seems to be a disconnect somewhere in HPL's concept of them...  :-)

 

(Of course, I recognize that they had to be limited in that regard to aide in the suspension of disbelief for his readers -- if they were all that awesome, why aren't they right here among us now?  Why does humanity even exist?  A nihilistic approach to life tends to be self-limiting after all, I guess.  Who knew?)

 

Also, I agree.  I preferred the separate Summon and Bind spells as well -- you'd better have ALL of your ducks in a row before you summon something.  "...doe not call up Any that you can not put downe; by the Which I meane, Any that can in Turne call up somewhat against you, whereby your Powerfullest Devices may not be of use. Ask of the Lesser, lest the Greater shall not wish to Answer, and shall commande more than you" is as true for the various creatures and GOOs as it is for the essential saltes.

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ReydeAmarillo

Since it doesnt seem that HPL went in for world building, then the disconnect is probably more with us, 80 odd years later trying to rationalise what he wrote into some sort of pattern. I tend to prefer things a bit looser than others do but hey!

Sorry, yes, "bod" to me just means some random nonspecific person.

Back to GOO's being limited, I tend to go heavily with the "stars not being right" shtick and so the GOO's being either on Terra but in hibernation or elsewhere and not able to easily go on a road trip.

So they send dreams and illusions and/or proxy servitors here to keep those hairless apes's worship going on.

Yeah that quote also always suggests to me the separate S&B rules that were lost after 5e. It has given my Investigators many problems over the years !!!

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jlynn

Yes, I agree with all that -- and let's face it, if the GOOs were able to roam at will, it would be a pretty short and pointless game (or novella, if you're HPL)!  As far as HPL's disconnect goes, yes, some of that is no doubt in play, especially in the wake of August Derleth's attempt to "rationalize" something that HPL clearly intended to be irrational; but it's also because HPL never worried too much about backstory consistency.  I guess he figured that if the creatures were, by definition, "unknowable," then any apparent disconnect was a product of our own inability to understand the whole picture due to our puny nature.  Or at least that's the excuse that I'm betting he would have offered!  :-)

 

Personally, I prefer to simply have the GOOs shadows being cast; them constantly popping in personally (which does seem to happen an awful lot in published scenarios and campaigns) seems to me to be just silly.  If a GOO actually shows up, that's it; the game is up, the fat lady has sung, the end of the world is upon us...  Believe me, most servitor races and cultists are plenty for the investigators to have to deal with, so a GOO actually, physically appearing is like dropping a nuclear bomb to kill an ant nest.  Dreams, by all means.  Physically present, not unless you are planning on ending the campaign for some reason (or are moving on to The Apocalypse Machine from Trail of Cthulhu...I suppose it would be totally necessary in that case).

 

The title Shadows of Yog-Sothoth pretty much defines my belief in how GOOs should be represented!  ;-)

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ReydeAmarillo

Totally agree. I only ever write scenarios and campaigns for Independents, Servitors, hangers on and cultists, with GOO's mostly appearing only in nightmares.

 

The only exceptions being the "minor" GOO's like Yig, Y'golonac etc which can (just about) be semi-survived.

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jlynn

Yep.  And when I do include creatures like Yig, Y'golonac, Ithaqua, or Daoloth, I make darn sure that the Investigators have lots of ways to avoid actually meeting them!

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yronimoswhateley

I don't have too much to add to the original topic, except that it depends on...

  • whether you're running a stand-alone scenario vs. a longer campaign (one powerful tome isn't going to mean much in a stand-alone scenario... several such tomes gathered over a lengthy campaign might really add up....)
  • just how many tomes you throw at the investigators (tomes, artifacts, and guns are, in a way, the closest thing to "treasure" collected in CoC, with guns being left to the players for the most part and artifacts being a little less common, so, like treasure in other RPGs, some Keepers tend to throw too many tomes out there, others too few, and the balance between the two being a bit vague and left to individual taste...)
  • which tomes you use and how well you tailor them to your scenario/campaign (some tomes are more powerful than others, and even for the more powerful tomes, I always got the impression that the stats given for tomes in the rulebook are broad guidelines that should be adjusted to fit your scenario by omitting what isn't needed or substituting what fits better, rather than a recipe book of everything that needs to go into a tome before giving it to the players - ideally the combination of tomes together should supply any spells and mythos improvement the investigators would need to complete the scenario, plus a couple extra as a reward/bonus, and, I think, not very much more...)
  • I think there should be a limit to what investigators would get out of re-reading a tome (I always assumed there was:  that the stats for the Mythos tome represent the maximum total amount of Mythos knowledge that could be gained from the tome., and I think D20 CoC and 7th Edition actually make that more explicit in different ways...);  it makes sense:  there's only so much information available in a tome, and tomes, like any other book, are limited in scope in some way by depth or breadth - a book can tell a little bit about virtually every topic, or a lot about a specific topic, but no single book is very good at giving all the information there is to know about every topic - a relatively small limit to the amount of info that can ultimately gained from a tome makes sense in that regard (you might read Cultes des Goules a hundred times and learn a lot of what there is to know about Ghouls, but there's no way you'll learn everything there is to know about the Mythos!)
  • Mythos knowledge is a resource that is not just hard to come by, but expensive as well, in terms of sanity (I've never run the numbers myself, but it seems reasonable to expect that a typical investigator will go mad before maxing out Mythos knowledge; maybe a numbers "geek" would be in a better position to verify that than I would be?)

 

On a (probably unrelated) note, something that occurred to me while reading this discussion is that perhaps we would be making a mistake in assuming that more than a subset of Lovecraftian Mythos Tomes bear any serious resemblance to "real-life" books on alchemy, magic, religion, and such, based on any information we get from Lovecraftian (read, unreliable) narrators, in the same way that assuming there's any real similarity between Lovecraftian "cults" and "real-life" cults and religions, or Lovecraftian "gods" and "real-life" gods. 

 

This thread might not be the best place to do it, but it would probably be a fruitful discussion to re-examine from the ground up exactly what a tome is, was meant to be, and should be, depending on its role as an element of the "real world", as a pulp literary device, and as a role-playing game mechanic, and the best way to balance those roles when talking about them....

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jlynn

That's some pretty good points right there, and I agree -- we need, as a community, to re-examine what Tomes are supposed to be in terms of the game.  To my mind, what Sandy wrote back in the 1980's was probably "purer" than the material that has since accumulated, since it was based on his feelings about the HPL Mythos and seemed pretty well analyzed by him at the time.  It seems to me that a lot of the changes have been made to more or less "acknowledge" that a lot of players and keepers were using the Tomes more as grimoires and "spell books" than for the purpose they were originally intended to fill, and the newer rules were designed more to codify that usage than put the Tomes back into their "proper" place.

 

Now, before you all tear me a new one for saying "you're not playing it right;" or "It's the only twue way," that's not what I'm saying at all.  I'm looking at what Sandy wrote back then, and what the rules seem to be saying now, and I'm seeing a dichotomy is all I'm saying.  People can play it any way they want.

 

What I personally always felt was that the Tomes were either too powerful in immediate game effects (if used as a D&D-style resource), or they were totally irrelevant to the scenario being played (because they couldn't be used -- it took six months to read and understand the book!).  In other words, no matter how you ran it, it just felt wrong.  The diaries and letters you found along the way were much more important than the Tomes were -- unless you turned the Tomes into an attache-case-nuke of sorts, by letting the players "flip through" the book and learn the spells very quickly.  What I'd like to see is some sort of flexible mechanism that allows the players to learn (eventually) and use (at great personal risk) the spells, but at the same time makes the books more than just a "magic scroll" or something.  To my mind, in HPL's writings, the Tomes were themselves frequently major plot points, and their effects on the story's protagonist was almost always more profound than merely letting him cast a spell (though the books certainly played that role as well).  The spells were almost a secondary issue in many ways; it was the twisting knowledge that destroyed their minds and souls that was the "important" part of the book...and the search for a certain book is often what took them around the world to all the evil places mentioned in the stories.  While the second half of that is covered by the way the Keeper uses them in the scenarios; and the first part is somewhat covered by the Sanity Loss mechanism, it somehow feels just that -- too mechanistic.  Struggling first to find, and then to master the contents of a book ought to be more than just a die roll or two, but in game terms, I'm not entirely sure how else you do it and still keep the game on track!

 

Now, I'm sure I'm just speaking for me with all of this, but I keep hoping someone will drop a brilliant insight here (even if just in passing) that allows me one of those "ah-ha" moments and let's me figure out a clever way to make the books...well, almost characters in their own right, in the game.

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Gaffer

I'd start with the idea that most of the major tomes are, deliberately or not, written in an obscure and confusing manner. It's not a matter of going to a table of contents or index, finding an entry for "Wither Limb: A Way to Cripple Your Enemies" and having a 'recipe' of simple step-by-step instructions to learn the 'spell.' The spell may be jumbled in text spanning a number of pages and almost certainly requires an understanding of at least a couple dozen pages of the present volume. Our would-be spell caster doesn't just need the words and gestures and components, but also at least a basic understanding of the inhuman forces and unnaturalenergies to be wielded. That is to say, needs to have read and digested (and suffered the requisite sanity loss), or been otherwise instructed (with similar effects) in the philosophy of this knowledge.

 

Now, if you NEED the investigators to have this counter-ritual or whatever for the current scenario, you can have it distilled for them in a journal or a letter tucked into the pages of the tome or notes scribbled in the end papers, where they CAN learn the bare bones of a specific casting. You might want to increase the sanity loss for trifling with the Mythos without proper understanding.

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jlynn

That's a good point there, and one that's been made in a few places before, but always seems to get overlooked.  When you're reading the product of an insane mind, organization as we know it, probably doesn't exist!  In fact, the spell, and the necessary background info might be scattered throughout the book, making it almost impossible to find and put together without months of study.  Also, I like the suggestion that if they want to cut corners in order to get the spell quickly, there are even more repercussions for doing so -- I'd never considered that possibility!  Brilliant!

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ronin

I’d like to toss an idea or two out there on this subject, I apologize beforehand if they sound ridiculous.

 

What if a mythos tome was actually a conduit to a mythos entity? I wouldn’t suggest a tome speak or anything but it could have designs of its own. These could be expressed through “feelings†the person who possessed the tome could have a chance to perceive. The more time they spend with the tome, the better their chances. If the users motivations align with the tome’s their chances could be even better. Perhaps the tome is trying to use it’s owner to further it’s own agenda? The tome could try to influence the owner’s friends to further its own ends? We could treat it like pulp, dialing it up for something like the Necronomicon, or down for lesser tomes.

 

I don’t know if this idea is viable, perhaps it’ll spark an idea from someone else :)

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Gaffer

All grist for the mill, ronin.

 

I wouldn't see it as common to every Mythos volume, but it could be a nice idea lurking in the background of an ongoing campaign.

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