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Beyond14

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

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Beyond14

In another thread, some forumites expressed strong preference never to use the KKK as anything but an antagonist in a Jazz Era game. (Fair enough. Every Keeper should run as he likes.)

 

I brought up Cold Harvest, in which the PCs are NKVD men in the time of Stalin's purges. Even if they are all unusually decent sorts for the NKVD, they are on the side of the human monsters.

 

Would you run/play a game in which the investigators are ''the baddies", or working with an ''evil'' group? How dark will you go?

 

Just for a one-off? In a longer campaign?

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Travern

First, why are you using scare quotes around evil when you introduce this topic?

 

Second, why do really you want to play a in real-life evil campaign?  Himmler's Ahnenerbe?  SMERSH death squads?

 

Seriously, why?  Think very long and hard about this.

 

There's a quote from Vonnegut that's apposite: "We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be."

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Beyond14

First, why are you using scare quotes around evil when you introduce this topic?

 

Second, why do really you want to play a in real-life evil campaign?  Himmler's Ahnenerbe?  SMERSH death squads?

 

Seriously, why?  Think very long and hard about this.

 

There's a quote from Vonnegut that's apposite: "We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be."

 

I'm using scare quotes to avoid a tedious moral debate.

 

It's a game, not real life.

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Travern

Why are you raising this topic if you want to avoid moral debate?

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Beyond14

If I didn't use scare quotes, some ''cosmic horror forever/nihilism rules!" fan would come on and give us a long lecture about the utter meaninglessness of all human moral conceptions in the face of the Mythos.

 

You know it's true.

 

But since you've shared your thoughts about the question, I'll go ahead and give mine.

 

I'm interested in running Cold Harvest.

 

But I don't think I'd enjoy a long-running game in which the investigators were NKVD men. It would easily reach the point where the cultists trying to blow everything up look like the good guys. And I think the very real horror of Bolshevism would detract from the imaginary supernatural horrors of the campaign.

 

PWhy are you raising this topic if you want to avoid moral debate?

I'm asking about player and Keeper preferences, not "do you think the NKVD was horrid?"

 

If you don't, we couldn't possibly have such a debate. There'd be no common ground.

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Travern

Fair enough, so you're not interested in running a campaign in which real-world horrors overshadow the (fictional) Mythos ones.

 

Why then do you want to ask this forum about this?

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Beyond14

Fair enough, so you're not interested in running a campaign in which real-world horrors overshadow the (fictional) Mythos ones.

 

Why then do you want to ask this forum about this?

 

Because I am interested in running an adventure in which the investigators are part of a bad guy organization. 

 

 

And I'm curious to know what other Keepers and players think about set-ups like the one in Cold Harvest.

 

Or, say, a Delta Green game that includes a lot of illegal and unpleasant stuff done by the self-designated ''good guys'', for something dark but not grimdark.

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Travern

When you say "a bad guy organization" what did you have in mind?  There's the "grimdark" of fantasy roleplaying, the "dark" of edgy escapism, and then there's real-world morality.

 

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

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Beyond14

When you say "a bad guy organization" what did you have in mind?  There's the "grimdark" of fantasy roleplaying, the "dark" of edgy escapism, and then there's real-world morality.

 

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

 

I'd say the Mafia,  Reds, bomb-tossing anarchists, Crowley-type occultists, and Nazis would all count as (non Mythos) bad guys. 

Your list may differ from mine.

 

Further notes on bad guy groups:

 

 

Because I generally run 1920s games (and not set in Germany), the Nazis have pretty much never come up. Too minor and distant.

If I did 30s stuff, I'd probably be tempted to use them.

Indiana Jones!

 

Reds and anarchists work well as a foreign menace or enemy within. I've seen it done well in the relevant literature and it very much fits the tenor of 1920s America.

 

I haven't really used gangsters in games I've run, but I have played in a couple of adventures that did. In one game, a PC was a mechanic and driver who also worked as a bootlegger, but the rest of us were not playing criminals. It was fun. Details are a bit foggy--this was nearly two decades ago.

 

Crowleyan types and Satanists can make interesting villains, IMO. I've done this once, with devil-worshippers. I'm not a 'Mythos purist' so the supernatural horror does not always have to be the Mythos for me. 

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Oncorhyncus

In another thread, some forumites expressed strong preference never to use the KKK as anything but an antagonist in a Jazz Era game. (Fair enough. Every Keeper should run as he likes.)

 

I brought up Cold Harvest, in which the PCs are NKVD men in the time of Stalin's purges.  Even if they are all unusually decent sorts for the NKVD, they are on the side of the human monsters.

 

 

Would you run/play a game in which the investigators are ''the baddies", or working with an ''evil'' group?  How dark will you go?

Just for a one-off? In a longer campaign?

 

This is a touchy subject of course, and I am sure that it could be and has been uncomfortable for me as well as others.  But, it seems to me that a conceit of the genre is that mythos evil transcends human misconduct.  To oppose the schema of mythos antagonists, alliances with even the most vile of human monsters is allowable.  I would never make my players be members of the National Socialist Party of Germany, but I might put them in a situation where one way to prevent a mythos apocalypse would be to save Adolf Hitler from an assassination plot (I say one way both because I despise scenarios with only one solution and because of I was a player in such a scenario I have doubts I could stomach working to keep Hitler alive regardless of the consequences).

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Beyond14

I should add Fu Manchu style Triads/Tongs to my baddies list. 

 

This is a touchy subject of course, and I am sure that it could be and has been uncomfortable for me as well as others.  But, it seems to me that a conceit of the genre is that mythos evil transcends human misconduct.  To oppose the schema of mythos antagonists, alliances with even the most vile of human monsters is allowable.  I would never make my players be members of the National Socialist Party of Germany, but I might put them in a situation where one way to prevent a mythos apocalypse would be to save Adolf Hitler from an assassination plot (I say one way both because I despise scenarios with only one solution and because of I was a player in such a scenario I have doubts I could stomach working to keep Hitler alive regardless of the consequences).

 

Thanks for the thoughtful reply.

 

I think a Keeper needs to know his players. 

 

I wouldn't run something like Cold Harvest with a group that included guys who would balk at playing communist secret police, even for a limited scenario. I really like the scenario, but I wonder if the premise is a hard sell?

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Travern

But, it seems to me that a conceit of the genre is that mythos evil transcends human misconduct.  To oppose the schema of mythos antagonists, alliances with even the most vile of human monsters is allowable.

The only drawback to such Faustian pacts in terms of the Mythos is that, at the heart of HPL's stories, human victories are meaningless on a cosmic scale. The return of the Great Old Ones can't be prevented, only postponed. What does it mean for the players if they have to make extreme moral compromises for a temporary remedy?

 

I'd say the Mafia,  Reds, bomb-tossing anarchists, Crowley-type occultists, and Nazis would all count as (non Mythos) bad guys.

 

Did you have a particular one of those in mind?  How much research into their history did you plan to do?  How much of their genuine historical activities would feature in the making of your adventure?  How would the Mythos figure in such a fact-based setting, and what would its significance be compared to the real-world malevolence?

 

Going down this avenue raises a lot of questions, and all the more the farther one goes.

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Beyond14

Did you have a particular one of those in mind?  How much research into their history did you plan to do?  How much of their genuine historical activities would feature in the making of your adventure?  How would the Mythos figure in such a fact-based setting, and what would its significance be compared to the real-world malevolence?

 

Going down this avenue raises a lot of questions, and all the more the farther one goes.

 

Yep! :)

 

(Note: I trimmed your post only because the first part is not addressed to me.)

 

I think of all the groups I listed, the ones that interest me most are:

 

  • Dark occultists/Satanists 
  • Mafia
  • Triads/Fu Manchu style baddies

 

I think the Mafia has potential to be a bad guy group that sometimes helps and sometimes hinders the investigators. It's violent and secretive, but it does have certain rules. Its basic goal is not so bad. Make money. It's the means that are bad. Crime. 

 

The men running it are generally sane, if ruthless. I could see a gangsters versus cultists scenario develop very easily, if the cultists are engaged in criminal enterprise to fund their group's activities and cover  necessities.

 

A capo who uses supernatural aid to make a power play might work well as a villain in an adventure.

 

I haven't read or run King of Chicago, but I understand it involves gangsters.

 

 

Dark occultists/Satanists are by definition villainous. I like them. I think not all supernatural evil needs to be cosmic horror and alien fungi/tentacle monsters.

 

Of course, with witch covens and 'The Black Man' actually being part of the Mythos, it's easy-peasy to make a Satanic cult that is also a Mythos cult. The cultists just think they are worshipping demons and fallen angels. They are loons, anyway, so it doesn't really matter if they are correct in their theology or demonology. 

 

And, hey, maybe they are right! It's not as if player characters will know everything in the rulebooks, and it's not as if there's only one way to run a CoC game. The Mythos and other stuff depends on the Keeper.  One might run the Purist/"Cosmic Horror" Cthulhu Mythos, a game with or without Dreamlands, a Derlethian cosmic struggle, a game that mixes the Mythos with classic horror stuff like werewolves and vampires, whatever.

 

RE Research:

 

I'm fairly well read on European and Colonial witch trials in the Early Modern Period, the fatal shift in thinking about witchcraft reflected in works such as the Malleus Maleficarum (I own a copy, in English), and related matters.

 

 

And I'm familiar enough with modern occultism and black magic to know where to find more information in constructing a scenario. 

 

Gangland lore isn't my forte, but again, I know enough to know where to find more of the details I'd want.

 

 

With any of this, I approach research as a question of fun. Am I having fun? Will this work result in more fun in play? It's not a journal article. I don't need to stress over it.

 

On a related note, did you ever notice how the CoC rulebook indicates a ludicrously high number of executions and killings sparked by the Malleus Maleficarum? 

 

I can only assume somebody flubbed his History and Library Use checks.

 

Or maybe, in the Chaosium CoC universe, the witch trials raged longer and hotter?  

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Travern

I think the Mafia has potential to be a bad guy group that sometimes helps and sometimes hinders the investigators. It's violent and secretive, but it does have certain rules. Its basic goal is not so bad. Make money. It's the means that are bad. Crime. 

The men running it are generally sane, if ruthless. I could see a gangsters versus cultists scenario develop very easily, if the cultists are engaged in criminal enterprise to fund their group's activities and cover  necessities. 

A capo who uses supernatural aid to make a power play might work well as a villain in an adventure.

 

To take up the Mafia, there's the popularized version with its operatic omerta ethos, à la the Godfather; the mundane deconstruction of that, à la Goodfellas or the Sopranos; and lastly, the real-world organized crime composed mainly of brutish, not-too-bright clinically antisocial types.  The next issue is how it makes its money, which is, invariably, by exploitation, intimidation, and extortion. Coppola glosses over this entirely, Scorsese and Chase capture it neatly, and otherwise there are plenty of true crime works that go into the grubby, unexciting details of actual mob life.

 

So, how does contrasting an organization like that against cultists and the Mythos work thematically?  Is it a case of enemy-of-my-enemy for the players?  Is it like "The Horror at Red Hook", in which the urban environment hides a criminal underworld, which in turn conceals supernatural corruption?  What are the actual moral stakes for the players themselves in this situation?  What does dealing with this organization cost them? And there's always a cost to dealing with the Mafia.

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ElijahWhateley

I've done this many times, and seen it done well many more times, both in published games and online actual plays. "What do you think of?" is a bit of a general question.

 

Even in normal groups, I tend to have someone play an organized crime type at least once a campaign, so I'm going to skip over that as pretty par for the course. There are probably close to a hundred Mythos/Mobster mashup scenarios, including Dead Man Stomp, Missed Dues & Blackwater Creek, Call of Duty (free on Dennis Detwiller's website), and, yes, King of Chicago. If you're going for Arkham, one of the most fleshed out additions that Chaosium has made to the original world of the Mythos has been the O'Bannion Gang, the branch of the Irish Mob that currently controls Arkham, and over the course of several of their adventures gets some ideas about the existence of the Mythos and even makes some efforts to fight it (they even show up in the CoC collectible card game!) Satanists are a bit boring, and afaik there have never been organized, evil Satanists on any significant scale - historical Satanism is more sad than anything else.

 

Getting back to the original question, it seems to be about playing as members of either vigilante hate groups like the Klan or the more ruthless police organizations, like the NKVD or SS.

 

Obviously, you need to talk to all your players ahead of time, figure out what they're comfortable with, just like you would with any possibly sensitive topic. Do a bit of research, and make sure everyone fleshes out their characters beyond caricatures. Once you get started, you might find that playing really despicable people helps players enjoy the high lethality of CoC a bit more, and they'll be more willing to lean into horror tropes that they know will get their characters killed or horribly maimed. Nobody gets upset when the torture expert goes out to beat that idiot native who won't stop screaming and comes back without a head.

 

Role Playing Public Radio has done some pretty good games along these lines. Check out their website - I won't spam links, but you can find games where they play as Western youths who left their countries to join ISIS, NKVD officers, I believe SS officers at least once, Yakuza members, and probably some other things I'm forgetting.

 

I'll also just repeat some thoughts on this I've mentioned before on YSDC:

 

Your average group of investigators is already very close to becoming villains in multiple ways. To the world ignorant of the Mythos, they're a domestic terror cell, murdering the innocent, blowing up buildings, and burning books. With the right failed sanity rolls, they could still become that, seeing Mythos threats where none exist and murdering random people in the attempt to end nonexistent (or non-Mythos) cults. And if they turn to supernatural means to defeat the Mythos, they can easily become the entryway for the same inhuman threats they tried to combat.

 

The behavior of the average investigator group has a lot in common with the worse hate groups of history - or, if they're an organization like Delta Green, the worse secret police. They act in total anonymity, serve as judge, jury, and executioner, then cover up their killings. They often conduct mass slaughters. They have no respect for any sort of human rights - and while this is all justified by the threats they face, it should give the average investigator a SAN check every so often when they think about what they've become.

 

It does seem likely that those human organizations that, in the real world, strive to seek out and destroy minority religions, would come into contact with the cult side of the Mythos more often than other organizations.

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ElijahWhateley

To take up the Mafia, there's the popularized version with its operatic omerta ethos, à la the Godfather; the mundane deconstruction of that, à la Goodfellas or the Sopranos; and lastly, the real-world organized crime composed mainly of brutish, not-too-bright clinically antisocial types.  The next issue is how it makes its money, which is, invariably, by exploitation, intimidation, and extortion. Coppola glosses over this entirely, Scorsese and Chase capture it neatly, and otherwise there are plenty of true crime works that go into the grubby, unexciting details of actual mob life.

 

So, how does contrasting an organization like that against cultists and the Mythos work thematically?  Is it a case of enemy-of-my-enemy for the players?  Is it like "The Horror at Red Hook", in which the urban environment hides a criminal underworld, which in turn conceals supernatural corruption?  What are the actual moral stakes for the players themselves in this situation?  What does dealing with this organization cost them? And there's always a cost to dealing with the Mafia.

 

The Mafia of the 1920s, and the Irish Mob and other bootleggers in the business, were a bit different than modern organized crime - although exactly what they were like will still get different answers depending on which historian you ask or period account you read. At worst, they were indeed a mix of thugs and genuine psychopaths. At best, they provided the funds for an entire generation of immigrants to go legit.

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Beyond14

To take up the Mafia, there's the popularized version with its operatic omerta ethos, à la the Godfather; the mundane deconstruction of that, à la Goodfellas or the Sopranos; and lastly, the real-world organized crime composed mainly of brutish, not-too-bright clinically antisocial types.  The next issue is how it makes its money, which is, invariably, by exploitation, intimidation, and extortion. Coppola glosses over this entirely, Scorsese and Chase capture it neatly, and otherwise there are plenty of true crime works that go into the grubby, unexciting details of actual mob life.

 

So, how does contrasting an organization like that against cultists and the Mythos work thematically?  Is it a case of enemy-of-my-enemy for the players?  Is it like "The Horror at Red Hook", in which the urban environment hides a criminal underworld, which in turn conceals supernatural corruption?  What are the actual moral stakes for the players themselves in this situation?  What does dealing with this organization cost them? And there's always a cost to dealing with the Mafia.

 

These are very good questions.

 

I'm inclined to portray the Mafia and similar groups in a negative light, not glossing over the extortion and other activities you mention.

 

But as you suggest, such criminal organizations might become investigators' allies of convenience if the investigators are up against a Mythos threat that also threatens the mobsters' interests. 

 

I like that you brought up The Horror at Red Hook. While not my favorite HPL story, I find some of the criticism of it off the mark. It has some really effective scenes and passages. 

I'd love to run a game with the same feel of urban decay, crooks and cultists mixed up together, teeming crowds of foreigners with suspicious faces (secret enemies or just strangers? Who knows?) , etc...

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Beyond14

Elijah

 

I won't quote all that. But thanks for sharing.

 

I tend to agree with you on all points, except for Satanists being boring.

Yes, most real world Satanists are not interesting from  a game perspective, for me.

 

But fictional Satanists and the sort of witches imagined in works like the Malleus Maleficarum don't strike me as boring. They sound like a blast. 

 

With these baddies, I'm definitely leaning toward 'print the legend'. 

 

This particular tangent ties back into the parent thread.

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Travern

At best, they provided the funds for an entire generation of immigrants to go legit.

  

That's the Coppola gloss, which doesn't bear up to historical scrutiny.  It's a case of "in spite of", not "because of".  There's a moral issue at the heart of what making a deal with criminality costs, but that veers off into social realism and away from Mythos adventures.

 

I'm inclined to portray the Mafia and similar groups in a negative light, not glossing over the extortion and other activities you mention.

 

But as you suggest, such criminal organizations might become investigators' allies of convenience if the investigators are up against a Mythos threat that also threatens the mobsters' interests. 

 

I like that you brought up The Horror at Red Hook. While not my favorite HPL story, I find some of the criticism of it off the mark. It has some really effective scenes and passages. 

I'd love to run a game with the same feel of urban decay, crooks and cultists mixed up together, teeming crowds of foreigners with suspicious faces (secret enemies or just strangers? Who knows?) , etc...

 

In that case, if the Mafia are going to be as bad in the scenario as they were historically and are in real life, what does it mean for the players to take them on as even temporary allies?  How do the Mafiosi feel about their alliance with the investigators, and what advantage do they think they can leverage from the bargain?  How much are the players going to come to fear them, even as the confront the Mythos?

 

"The Horror at Red Hook" definitely has a lot of material that one can mine for scenarios.  As far as the urban horror goes, unfortunately in HPL's case, it springs as much from his antipathy of "the herds of evil-looking foreigners" as the occultism he cribbed from the Encyclopedia Britannica.  That's something to bear in mind going in.  As for the players, would they be out-of-towners, like HPL, without any frame of reference for who they can trust but with whatever assumptions of their own they bring along?  How do the ordinary people there view the players, the mob, and the cultists—are they oblivious bystanders, unwilling accomplices/victims of the mob, or gradually corrupted by the cultists?  If the players encounter people actually grounded in the setting, one way or another, then the horror can channel consequences the players will be able to wrestle with, instead of going with  "the dynamite solution".

 

The underlying issue is how the thematic elements balance with historical fidelity when horror addresses questions of real-world morality.  If there isn't enough, then the horror is simply for shock, the historical details only a backdrop, and the moral ambiguity just titillation.

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Beyond14

Real-world morality? 

 

I'm not quite sure I  know what you mean. 

 

Do you just mean your own moral ideas, in the real world, and the way those affect how you enjoy or don't enjoy various things that might come up in a CoC game? That's relevant, sure. Some people dislike playing characters whose values  differ much from their own. It's a game. Play what's fun for you.

 

 

But I strongly prefer we not get too deep into abstract philosophical arguments or discussions of personal religious and moral views as these relate to things outside the context of gameplay.  If I mention Cold Harvest and note that I see the NKVD are ''bad guys'', and somebody out there disagrees and wishes to defend Stalinism, we really don't need to debate Soviet history. It's both pointless and off-topic. 

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DeUniversumMysteriis

Morality is always a tricky thing in roleplaying games, I guess.

 

There are people of who have no problem playing an Evil Campaign in D&D where they will be the baddies who steal, kill, pillage, destroy the world.

 

In CoC case it's a bit harder because of the serious tone of the game (Well, except if the keeper decide to run a more "lighthearted" campaign, I suppose...). Being in the shoes of mobsters, cultists, or any other kind of assholes in this game is supposed to affect the players more than, say, if a group of D&D players decide to play a bunch of goblins who are attacking a village to steal stuff.

 

In my case, I wouldn't make my players be completly evil characters (Except if they ask for it). I'd rather run a campaign with greyish morality. As someone said before, in a "normal" campaign, the investigators might do bad things and they might appear as a group of maniacs killing people and destroying building for no reason.

 

I would offer my players choices they won't be proud of. Hard decisions. Uncertainty.

 

It's kind of already the case in the campaign I'm running : During their second adventure they discovered that a cunning woman has been kidnapping babies for months, maybe years. She used them as sacrifices during rituals performed to maintain a barrier which has been preventing something from destroying the whole region. The barrier was getting weaker and weaker and the woman became desperate. (And it affects her very much)

She wasn't evil, I mean not "I will destroy the world" evil. She was actually trying to help but was forced to do horrible things for that reason.

 

So I gave my players that ambiguous situation. Will they let the woman continue her awful deeds and hope that it will work? Will they stop her?

In the end, the investigators found an alternative solution (Something the woman was aware of but couldn't pull off alone) and the woman turned herself in to the local police.

 

Besides, I have in store a little adventure who could totally end up with the investigators being forced to let go a potential serial killer (Because they can't just tell everyone he is a killer for they have no proof against him and he's too powerful) or they could simply kill the guy. (And during this adventure they will be in contact with the local irish mobsters so...)

 

So, would I let my player be part of an evil organisation or help such an group? Probably, but with a lot of ambiguity. Maybe they will be german soldiers who will be deeply affected by the horrors commited by the Nazis. Maybe they will be given the opportunity to use the ressources of the KKK to stop some cultists (Classic "The enemy of my enemy is my friend"). Maybe they will have the choice of killing or letting go an assassin that just helped them.

 

And about the fact that any hard choice becomes meaningless in the great scheme of things because the very nature of Cosmic Horror is that Man can't do **** to prevent the Apocalypse, I'd say it's a matter of perspective.

 

Normally, the investigators are not aware of that. That's when they realise that what they do is meaningless that the true horror begins to take them over. Otherwise, when they decide to take extreme measures to stop a cult or something like that, they don't know that Cthulhu, Nyarly & company will come to Earth one day anyway.

 

It's the bittersweet nature of Cosmic Horror. See Stranger Things 2.

 

 

The protagonists have closed the gate between our dimension and the Upside-Down. They have won. But, the Entity they fought isn't gone. It will eventually come back. It will never really be over. But the characters don't know that because they see the Universe through a narrow perspective

 

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eternalchampion

I'd say the Mafia,  Reds, bomb-tossing anarchists, Crowley-type occultists, and Nazis would all count as (non Mythos) bad guys. 

Your list may differ from mine.

 

Hmm, quite a mixed bag you’ve got there. I suppose this would make the capitalists intervening in South America’s economies and politics, the police suppressing civil unrest with rifles in the States, the imperialists of western Europe in India or Africa, or even the Czarists… what, good guys? What would the Indians think of a British officer, the Congolese people of a Belgian one, or in the excellent scenario “The Burning Starsâ€, a local Haitian for the US military presence or even the well dresses American investigators? On the other hand, what rich possibilities for role playing this can give!

 

When playing the game in a realistic historical context it is most interesting and important to depict the actual relationships of the time and place. At least for me. I am not talking about ideologies only, but I am talking about true relationships that can be according or against certain ideals.

For example, oppression; oppression is bad, it is evil. Some would say sometimes necessary, but evil it is. An SS-man has certain power over certain people and can exert control and oppression. A british officer can exert oppression to local natives, as well an NKDV man to his fellow citizens, or a us-army officer over the Haitian people and even a serif in a southern state over black people. In my game an investigator might be on either end of this relationship and I want the players to fill it either way. Even if he/she is on the “high end†(let us say) of that relationship and does not want to exert that right to oppress (in order to get information for the investigation for example), because even if he/she represents an oppressive regime he/she can be a good person, even then, I will make sure the first reactions from the other end would be that of fear, anger, distrust.

 

But this is an element of a good role-playing game for me. Whatever the situation of the context is, however good or bad, and even if it is just the background of the scenario or an integral part of it, I want to do it justice.

 

When we played the scenario “Garden of Earthly Delights†form Strange Aeons I, the players had the role of the Spanish Inquisition. I gave the role of the most strict and ruthless monk to a player known for his far-right ideas (he is actually harmless and even a funny guy, when he does not talk about politics). He was excellent in his role. He could make deals with the local aristocrats and terrorize villagers to get information. Of course it is CoC and soon the scenario takes another turn, but he was an element of a good game night (he was not that believable playing a Confucian priest in another scenario…). So, yes, you have to know your players, as it has been stated above.

 

How far we can go? I would not be hesitant to set a game with any type of characters in any period and situation, if I consider that situation interesting and the possible scenario to be fun.

 

Now, about a campaign. I should say no. I wouldn’t find it to my liking to have a whole campaign with the same oppressive and “evil†players and the same theme. It would soon expand its interest for me.

 

In our game the players are usually freelance investigators and they do not belong to an organization, even like Delta Green. I say usually because we play many historical stand alone scenarios where the characters can be many different types and have various religious and philosophical backgrounds.

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Travern

Real-world morality? 

 

I'm not quite sure I  know what you mean. 

 

As opposed to it's-just-a-game morality, like the neatly laid-out alignment chart of D&D.

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yronimoswhateley

I've come around to viewing cultists (at least the rank-and-file cultists, but why not cult-leaders, too?) not necessarily as goblin cannon-fodder for investigators to machine-gun through just because we put them in the investigators' way, but as ordinary people caught up in something much bigger than they are, something they've lost control over (or never had control over) and now try to live with the best way they can.

 

And I've thought of investigators in similar terms ever since I first started playing Call of Cthulhu - in the end, there are only vaguer shades of grey between a party of experienced investigators and a cult (a party of experienced investigators are, after all, little more than an insular group of people who have developed their own, peculiar, paranoid ideas about world, and their own way of dealing with it outside of mainstream society, laws, morality, etc., up to and including murdering their enemies for bizarre reason....)

 

And then, "in real life", I think there are few people who step into the roles of thieves, con-men, gangsters, death squads, terrorists, imperialists, cultists, fanatics, dictators, mass murderers, serial killers, or anything else, who think they are evil people doing evil things.  If asked, they'll tell you, and believe completely, that they had no choices, they were only following orders that must be obeyed, they are doing the right thing for society, they are making the world a better place, they are protecting the world from dangerous outsiders and/or minorities, they are striking back at life-long antagonists in the only show of strength they know how to make, their victims made them do monstrous things, they just did someone a favor and soon found themselves in over their heads, they made one small mistake and the world turned on them unfairly and forced them into a series of bigger mistakes....

 

I think that players who show some level of understanding, even a small one, about such characterization should absolutely feel free to play - or even be encouraged to play - an 'evil character' (in contrast to those who are just in it to indulge in sociopathic fantasies for things they aren't allowed to do 'in real life'!)

 

For my part, playing those sorts of characters have been some of the most memorable role-playing experiences and characters, and I don't think they caused any trouble for the folks I've ever gamed with.  I do try to set such characters up for a cosmically awful doom, in any event - it's perhaps not particularly "Lovecraftian" that an "evil character" gets singled out by an uncaring universe for an especially awful fate, but it always seems to feel right for me that a blood-soaked Secret Policeman, Gangster, Cult Leader, or whatever who has done awful things "for the greater good" or whatever excuse he might have ultimately lets his bad choices and decisions lead him down a path to ultimate personal disaster....

 

But then, I'm perhaps an uncommon and eccentric Call of Cthulhu player:  I'm not in the game to see my investigator ultimately succeed or win or get cool stuff or do heroic things, I'm in it to see my character meet his doom in an appropriately spectacular, nasty, and memorable way that (hopefully) doesn't interfere with the other players' success or spotlight at all, and that seems to happen the most easily and most interestingly (at least to me) when the character is clearly no hero, but does have some complexity....

 

It's also part of the reason I enjoy keeping games - I like to see my NPCs have awful things happen to them, too, because their human flaws and weaknesses put them in the wrong place, at the wrong time; I suppose I'm sort of ghoulish that way.

 

Anyway, I don't remember what the original question was, but I don't have a problem with "evil characters" per-se - only when an evil character is just an exercise in playing a long, uninterrupted string of aimless, bizarre, and awful things just because the word "evil" is written on the character sheet - in my experience, that's not a common problem, but every now and then I have joined a group with That One Guy in it, and it seems like his experiments in evil characters never really seem to end well.  (To be fair, for some reason, in my experience, turning a role-playing game into a rape-torture-and-murder simulator seems to mainly be a thing with "Dungeon Morality", where apparently all the motive and characterization a player needs for such thing is "well, I'm Chaotic Evil, so my character has to torture, rape, murder, pillage, and back-stab and rob all his friends, I have no choice - I'm just following the Rules'/Game's/Character's orders!")

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Beyond14

Eternal Champion-

 

Sure, a different list of bad guy organizations  might suit a different setting and a different set of baseline assumptions about investigators. I think my list is very appropriate for a interwar/Jazz Era United States game (which may see  American investigators working abroad in some adventures). It's influenced by the pulps, of course. Some of the list also works for Gaslight in Great Britain.

Use whatever works for you and your game, right?

 

As for good guy organizations in the Jazz Era, my list looks different than the one you suggest. This is drifting from the topic, but it still seems relevant, so I'll offer a sample list:

 

Anti-Mythos groups like the Theron Marks Society and the Order of the Sword of Saint Jerome

 

local law enforcement (but not where it is notably corrupt)

 

investigation-relevant university departments (not so much 'good' as useful)

 

most mainstream churches (not creepy cults)

 

sometimes the Feds and the military (good guys in a certain seaport-town related adventure module)

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