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Ric

Introducing CoC to High School Students

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Ric

Greeting fellow Yoggies;

 

At the High School my son attends they have a school sponsored D&D club, run by a teacher. I have communicated with him and he is keen in getting the kids to diversify their gaming experience from just D&D. To this end he has acquired the Starter Set. He has only ever played D&D himself and the suggestion is that I might run some sessions at school for kids that are interested. We are talking 13 to 15 year olds.

 

Now my question for a group of young people, coming from a D&D background what would be the best setting to use? I was initially thinking Invictus or Dark Ages as the setting is closest to the generic fantasy settings of D&D. On the other hand, Darker Trails or Pulp could be stylistically an easier transition. I suspect a Gaslight setting could be too restrained and a Delta Green setting too darkly adult for them. Or do I launch them straight into classic 1920s? If the latter I was thinking of kicking off with the WWI scenario "No Man's Land" and then building a Lovecraft COuntry Campaign with the survivors after their return home (The Haunting, Edge of Darkness, and then the Doors to Darkness set) leading to MoN (or would the latter be too big a challenge for high school kids).

My instinct is to run this in Pulp mode as being more appealing to that age group.

 

Any suggestions friends?

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klecser

I am a high school teacher who runs a Game Club. I haven't run CoC with my high school group. That said, I'm a veteran role-player and educator. Ask. Give the kids some options. The most jarring thing for them isn't going to be the setting. It is going to be how CoC FEELS different from DND, because it is an investigative game. It makes sense to start Pulp to transition them.  It is WAY too early to even consider running them through Masks. You'll have to feel out what they like and what they don't like and the heavy investigative nature of Masks may not appeal to them. They may not have the patience for Masks right out of the gate. In addition, don't expect high schoolers to chug through a narrative like adult players would.

 

The turning point for me with Keeping high schoolers was when I started to do what I should have done all along: make the game about their tastes, not mine.

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UrsusMaior

I absoloutely second the point about transitioning the kids from a high fantasy setting into a historical setting parallel to our reality. And by parallel I mean that CoC means to emulate our world in most things, but obviously is not our world or a historical version of it. Real world settings, in my opinion, need to tackle immersion differently. CoC always did a good job with all its props. But most historical settings can be troublesome for teenagers, because they have little sense for historical eras. So you will be describing places in the USA (or similiar places), but your picture of it will be much different from theirs.

 

Doing that and at the same time switching into an investigative and a horror role-playing game, might pose a greater challenge for some of your players than a session of D&D. Especially when in the age range of 13 to 15 years a lot of stuff happens for teenagers: especially regarding their maturity of tackling intellectual problems, which is what investigative adventures largely are.

 

You might thus consider easing this complex situation up by sticking to a modern setting. And ginving them a decent number of fights, which they would be used to from D&D. I'm thinking more in line of "Stranger Things" than library hopping. And I would advocate for pulp rules as well. Killing of characters can have a more dramatic effect for teenager's as they usually have less distance to alter egos.

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RogerBW

I agree that a change of setting is likely to be helpful - you can't get away with behaving like a D&D character in CoC, and a different setting may help to remind them of that.

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johnmcfloss

I'm a big fan of running something Dark-Ages-ish (although I tend towards Post-Hyperboria over Pre-Cthulhu in tone). It's a good compromise because "you need to go to location X and kill this monster" and other standard adventuring quests still work, and you can still roll out the standard character concepts and tropes, so it isn't too big a jump in that way.

 

But the system is different, and that means that they very quickly learn that preparation, planning and investigation are important, because you can't just Dungeon Crawl through it and expect to survive, let alone succeed. Then it's just a question of increasing the investigative side of things, and lowering the combat.

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cloud64

The Darkness Beneath the Hill, from Doors to Darkness, is for the most part a dungeon crawl, investigation light. It struck me as being designed for introducing D&D players to CoC. It's set in Providence in the '20s, but could easily be adapted to another era. 

 

To get them into the investigation side of things, how about making the monster undefeatable unless they have specific info about it? That way, if they do run straight into the thick of things, D&D style, they won't succeed. A useful lesson in CoC, and in life generally.

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johnmcfloss
2 minutes ago, cloud64 said:

To get them into the investigation side of things, how about making the monster undefeatable unless they have specific info about it? That way, if they do run straight into the thick of things, D&D style, they won't succeed. A useful lesson in CoC, and in life generally.

 

I think the trick's to find a compromise between the two points, initially at first - where research and preparation are important, but it's not a forgone conclusion that if you don't do it, you'll fail.

 

Otherwise you run the risk of it feeling like the GM has changed the rules without warning, and is punishing the players for doing what they've always done previously with no success. And that risks souring them on it entirely.

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klecser
4 hours ago, johnmcfloss said:

I think the trick's to find a compromise between the two points, initially at first - where research and preparation are important, but it's not a forgone conclusion that if you don't do it, you'll fail.

 

Otherwise you run the risk of it feeling like the GM has changed the rules without warning, and is punishing the players for doing what they've always done previously with no success. And that risks souring them on it entirely.

 

Do give this point consideration. High school students can be a bit fickle with game choices. The real benefits of a Game Club is that it helps give them a semblance of control over their hectic teenage lives. I've found CoC to be a harder sell to high schoolers for this reason. They already feel "out of control" and doing things designed to make them feel more out of control (cosmic terror) sometimes isn't appealing to them. Doors to Darkness is the place to start, but balance, balance, balance. An adult can have the best intentions in the world, but if we ignore what teens are telling us about what they like and don't like, we risk simply alienating them. 

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revnye

I started playing CoC before high school. I think there will be less explanation if you run it in a modern setting, but ask them what they want. Maybe they will all go for Invictus, since they get to swing swords!

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cloud64
9 hours ago, johnmcfloss said:

I think the trick's to find a compromise between the two points, initially at first - where research and preparation are important, but it's not a forgone conclusion that if you don't do it, you'll fail.

 

Otherwise you run the risk of it feeling like the GM has changed the rules without warning, and is punishing the players for doing what they've always done previously with no success. And that risks souring them on it entirely.

 

Fair point. I was just trying to come up with  way of showing that investigation is worthwhile. Perhaps it's better to say make the monster trickier to deal with without prior investigation. The trick is getting across that investigation would have helped.

 

I concur that Pulp may well suit them better. Opportunity for creative heroics would help counter the generally downward trend.

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mvincent
14 hours ago, Ric said:

Any suggestions friends?

 

I personally like the 80's (like 'Stars are Right' and 'At Your Door'), since the era would seem intriguing and approachable to High-schoolers.

 

But classic 20's (run in Pulp mode) is probably the best approach. It's approachable, educational (history-wise), and can be played similarly to D&D (but in the 20's) if desired.

 

I'd recommend starting with the Haunting (like all groups) and maybe a couple other quick/light scenarios from the Keeper's book. If it takes off, I'd go all out and get MoN with the HPLHS prop set. It's well worth it when you consider the value of your time... a small price for making awesome memories.

 

MoN is also nice because you get to learn about real locations (and is thus educational). Conversely: Lovecraft Country scenarios don't provide that opportunity.

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Denis
17 hours ago, Ric said:

My instinct is to run this in Pulp mode as being more appealing to that age group.

 

I would also go with Pulp Cthulhu. It's closer to what they're used to and it's lots of fun. I also think you can share more references with them on this (suggest they watch some movies perhaps?).

 

For 13-15 y.o. I'm not sure classic Cthulhu is the way to go, although sometimes they surprise us! I personally wouldn't run a classic Cthulhu game for my 13 y.o. daughter, knowing her. YMMV.

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