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Beyond14

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

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The_Tatterdemalion_King

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

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Beyond14

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

 

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

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eternalchampion

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

https://sites.google.com/site/germanliterature/20th-century/heiner-mueller/mauser

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Beyond14

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

 

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

 

https://sites.google.com/site/germanliterature/20th-century/heiner-mueller/mauser

 

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

 

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

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DeUniversumMysteriis

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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Beyond13

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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DeUniversumMysteriis

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Because in the movie...

 

 

Eli isn't portrayed as an evil creature. He feeds on human because he wants to live, it's just a mean to an end and that's also why Eli uses Hakan to find blood, Eli doesn't want to kill. He doesn't want to have blood on his hand.

Furthermore, I agree that the bullies are convenient antagonists (Especially the big brother who is totally ok with killing a younger kid) but I think that the character of Hakan, Eli's former protector, is here to balance things up. Hakan is nothing more than a way to show what Oskar's life will be like with Eli : he will have to kill for him, to kill innocent people.

 

 

 

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

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Beyond14

That's legit, Celebrim.

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

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Beyond13

@DeUniversumMysteriis

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

 

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

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Beyond14

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

The first is the most likely in my CoC games.

 

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

 

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

 

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

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DeUniversumMysteriis

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

 

The first is the most likely in my CoC games.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Same for me.

 

Putting the players into situations with hard choice to make, I'm okay with that and I will likely do so.

 

Putting the players in a game which is validating the hideous ideas of some maniacs, no thanks.

 

@DeUniversumMysteriis

 

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

 

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

 

I think it's a matter of trusting your players and their intelligence.

 

And for Let The Right One In, I think it's a too simplistic interpretation of the story (But once again, I've only seen the movie adaptation) but to each his own. Thanks for sharing your opinion.

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Travern

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

Conversely, the firsthand accounts/oral histories I've encountered picked up that there was clearly something truly terrible about how Hitler, by the time he achieved national prominence and political importance, appealed to people. Beyond the ostensible reasons above, his sheer sense of hatred was attractive and compelling. (There may be a selection bias at work, since these tended to be people the Nazis would target, as well as survivor bias, since they managed to escape or evade them thanks to their attention to early warnings.) And Hitler's whole point about the Fatherland was that it was supposed to be purified of enemies (politically, racially, ideologically, etc.—what mattered was the struggle for purification). This was established with Mein Kampf and continued unbroken and unabated into the early 30s, when Germany's circumstances in the Depression created the perfect atmosphere for it, though it wasn't sui generis. Hitler had been in the enemy-hunting/traitor-blaming business for over a decade, and bankers and bolsheviks were code for Jews and slavs that everyone implicitly understood.

 

The point is that if players want a morally ambiguous setting in inter-war Germany as "ordinary people", they're better off in the late 20s than the early 30s. Hitler's out and around, there are Brownshirts in the streets, but the point of no return lies in the future.

 

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

 

The difficulty with such a scenario in CoC is that its dramatic turn then has to do double-duty. In regular CoC scenarios, the horrific Lovecraftian climax occurs when the investigators discover the monstrous truth of Mythos behind mundane existence and (risking) going mad from the revelation. If CoC players are "true believers", whether fascists or bolsheviks, then they have to be confronted with not only the Lovecraftian revelation, but also a moral one when their totalitarian ideologies break down. If they undergo the former without the latter, then they're at best anti-heroes. Role-playing SS or SMERSH as anti-heroes should be a bright line in RPGs—taking the side of the Wehrmacht and the Red Army is exclusively for tactical wargaming.

 

This topic may be pushing the limits of CoC as an RPG. At its roots, back to BRP, it's a simulationist game designed to model success/failure tasks, such as engaging in combat, engaging in clue-hunting, or testing sanity. In contrast, the narrativist game genre, which came into popularity some time after, follows dramatic rules.  Out of the box, those come prepared to engage with ethical and moral issues (see Robin Laws's Drama System as an obvious example).

 

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

 

Excellent points. Horror gaming is already pushing boundaries of comfort in order to explore fear (cathartically). And beyond that, there's a huge different between moral ambiguity in roleplaying and moral relativism.

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Beyond14

For most CoC secnarios and campaigns I'd run, I prefer the investigators  to be at least semi-respectable sorts. 

 

They are not professional criminals, cultists, or members of violent subversive movements. 

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PoC

We've had some reported posts for this thread.

 

A reminder for all. No politics, religion or agenda-pushing in the forums please (or elsewhere on the site).

 

Thank you.

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Beyond14

Huh.

I thank all the guys who were interested in having a fun discussion about gaming, in particular those who provided ideas and feedback about Cold Harvest.

Some... [edited for foul language and intent. ~ Mod.]

I'm out. Quitsville.

 

Yes, you're done here. ~ Mod.

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The_Tatterdemalion_King

I'd like to see someone try to get through MoN without engaging in criminality, deviant religious practices and violent subversion.

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eternalchampion

The difficulty with such a scenario in CoC is that its dramatic turn then has to do double-duty. In regular CoC scenarios, the horrific Lovecraftian climax occurs when the investigators discover the monstrous truth of Mythos behind mundane existence and (risking) going mad from the revelation. If CoC players are "true believers", whether fascists or bolsheviks, then they have to be confronted with not only the Lovecraftian revelation, but also a moral one when their totalitarian ideologies break down. If they undergo the former without the latter, then they're at best anti-heroes. Role-playing SS or SMERSH as anti-heroes should be a bright line in RPGs—taking the side of the Wehrmacht and the Red Army is exclusively for tactical wargaming.

 

This topic may be pushing the limits of CoC as an RPG. At its roots, back to BRP, it's a simulationist game designed to model success/failure tasks, such as engaging in combat, engaging in clue-hunting, or testing sanity. In contrast, the narrativist game genre, which came into popularity some time after, follows dramatic rules.  Out of the box, those come prepared to engage with ethical and moral issues (see Robin Laws's Drama System as an obvious example).

 

 

But this can be very match the point of that a given PC selection, even if it is not the main theme of a horror scenario. Not that a nazi or the inquisition braves the Mythos, but that all too human beliefs crumble before the only (inhuman) truth. As for the “crumbling of one’s beliefsâ€, it is supposed to happen all often in a CoC game. The world view of the “good old†priest PC, or a guy who thinks his country is most important, or the carefully preserved moral values of another can change considerably after an encounter with Mythos truth.

 

About the game system, I do not feel that role playing realistic characters pushes its limits, not at all. My experience has shown that “getting in to the role†depends mostly on the player and the Keeper. Also, CoC is a mature game, there is horror, the supernatural element we all love, but there are also moments where you have to make difficult moral decisions.

 

That said, there are systems that allow a wider spectrum of role playing possibilities that others. We used to play D&D some years ago… How match more human the players feel now that they have only 10-15 HP…

I thank all the guys who were interested in having a fun discussion about gaming, in particular those who provided ideas and feedback about Cold Harvest.

 

Bye son of Eihort, we had a small skirmish but you sound to be an interesting person and Keeper.

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Gaffer

Having come of age in the USA in the late 60s, I can assure you that totalitarian regimes do not have a corner on sending their military and security agents to do terrible things.

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The_Tatterdemalion_King

Similarly, the 20s and 30s were an era of widespread, vigorous institutional racism and worker suppression in the US and Canada, nations which themselves were the result of imperialist projects—imperialist projects self-consciously imitated by Mussolini's Italy and the Third Reich. That same period was bookended in the British Empire by the Amritsar Massacre and the Bengal Famine. Playing people who would think of themselves as 'semi-respectable sorts' in NA or the UK in the classic era means you're going to be playing some pretty horrible people. 

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yronimoswhateley

Bye son of Eihort, we had a small skirmish but you sound to be an interesting person and Keeper.

 

I took a couple days away from this discussion to let it "air out", and I regret seeing that it took such an unpleasant turn instead that someone had to get banned - I thought that user was doing alright in navigating through some difficult subjects, until that ungraceful exit, and wish him well, but I agree completely with the moderators' decision under the unfortunate circumstances.

 

Similarly, the 20s and 30s were an era of widespread, vigorous institutional racism and worker suppression in the US and Canada, nations which themselves were the result of imperialist projects—imperialist projects self-consciously imitated by Mussolini's Italy and the Third Reich. That same period was bookended in the British Empire by the Amritsar Massacre and the Bengal Famine. Playing people who would think of themselves as 'semi-respectable sorts' in NA or the UK in the classic era means you're going to be playing some pretty horrible people. 

 

...Or, at least, people connected with some organizations that at best could never really be considered "good", and might as fairly be called "evil"; people who have done, approved of, or at least turned a blind eye to some pretty horrible things done by those organizations' members, supporters, and allies.

 

I might compare any organization to a Lovecraftian horror:  an amorphous, anonymous, amoral, faceless, alien entity that infiltrates a community and reshapes the human beings that become entangled in it, corrupting them away from their individual natures and altering the way they think of themselves, others, and the world around them, and all too often encouraging the expression of the worst in human beings under its influence.

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Vladd

In the short lived series of Jekyll and Hyde set in the 1930s Richard E Grant led an organisation called M.I.O. Military Intelligence Other, Who in their attempts to protect the country from the unusual were in many ways as bad as the monsters they hunted.

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PoC

I enjoyed Jekyll and Hyde. There was rumour of a second series at some point.

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Vladd

I believe Charlie Higson had the second series all planed out but ITV killed it due to falling viewing figures and unfavourable reviews.

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ReydeAmarillo

"He who fights monsters should see to it that he does not, in the process, become a monster. And when you look long into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you"

 

For me says all I need to know about this topic. YMMV!

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Nightbreed24

I'd love to be the Keeper of a group of Klansmen. I'd let them "do their thing" first, but I would challenge their beliefs after several adventures. They would HAVE to work together with groups of people the Invisible Empire hates: the Order of the Sword of St. Jerome (Catholics) or a band of experienced Non-White Mythos hunters, hunt down infernal tomes, or learn, that a highly regarded, Mayflower descendant WASP family is secretly sacrificing immigrant children to eldritch powers, and it's up to them to do something. This could really anger their Grand Dragon (highest ranking Klansman and ruler of their state) or Imperial Wizard Hiram Evans if they aren't careful enough.

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