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Old cartoons, bad puns, and why your CoC characters die

Posted in Crazy Wisdom on Friday, January 29, 2010 at 2:10 pm by flerly.

For the record, I never actually went outside to get any details of what was going on, so the whole story from my perspective is one of randomness  and frustration. That is, the story of whatever malfunction the Bradmobile was having this morning when he arrived at our house to pick up Mr. T for their Daytona weekend. All I know is that his car alarm seemed to be going off repeating some monotone message I couldn’t make out, occasionally there were sirens, and in the midst of it Brad shouted up to James on the porch that “the electrical system is down”. From there, my mind went “techno” turning it all into a repeating “The system is down.” while they did whatever to get it going again. I gave in to the evil/easy Facebook demon to say as much, and it prompted a call from sis, concerned with our alarm system. Once I’d explained, I did tell her I’d probably go get them if they called broken down. Probably.

Perhaps I need to get sis one of my recent toys for 2010, so she can be as on-the-ball as me in getting my weird references. Thanks to this, I’m on-the-ball every day, and it beats the hell out of my uber-squeaky old desk chair.

James asked me last night how I’d enjoyed getting back into gaming again, and I had to say I enjoyed it, even if I did remember how much I hated Cthulhu. I figured I ought to clarify a little. In D&D for example, you’re going to make some kind of adventurer whose life it likely is to seek fortune and glory, so getting you into a story isn’t too hard. But why are we going to sneak into wherever or fight this so-and-so? Because of the treasure/fame/reward/whatever. There you go. 

 In Cthulhu, you make pretty much regular people, who are supposed to start the game with zero knowledge of the existence of any supernatural mumbo-jumbo in their world. Thus, when the gamemaster conspires to put you in a situation where something is amiss, you’re probably pretty likely to accept reasonable explanations for things that you run across. That is to say, why should we go investigate why the train is stopped when the nice man just explained it’s only a temporary delay and they have it under control instead of going to wait in our cabins as instructed? 

Most of our party are just ordinary passengers, no special train expertise to be helpful to the effort, no reason to distrust the nice train employee, so why wouldn’t we go back to the cabin and wait the 20 minutes like we were told? Simple, because we’re all people who know we’re playing characters in the messed up world of Cthulhu and in all likelikhood something is about to eat/appear on/or dimensionally shift the train we’re on if we don’t check it out NOW! In 20 minutes, their “evil scheme” could be done, and since we don’t like to have to roll up new characters everytime we sit down to play, we take our “ordinary people” and make them do things that are really out of character.

He's got those crazy eyes!You solve this problem, I think, by making only characters that have inherent reason to be curious/insane/paranoid/distrustful anyway, so even as ordinary Joe’s who may not think something cosmically bad is about to happen, are still curious enough to be wary when the nice train official says “nothing to see here! Move along!” so at least it makes sense why they might try to get their own look at the problem instead of taking somebody’s word for it.

Breaking in new characters is always the worst, though. Pretty much anybody, if you slap them in the face with some Cthulhu horror and they manage to not go completely insane or be eaten by it, will likely rethink their current course in life and start to be a little paranoid and curious, and thus become a perfectly good investigator type. More likely, though, your character will blindly go headfirst into the gaping maw of the beast because they simply don’t know yet that such a beast exists and might be hungry, because you as a player have to keep making your character rationalize things into the normal instead of the paranormal you know it is.

Thus, unless you are just danged lucky, despite your own personal knowledge of the world of the weird, your newbie is going to accept the drink from the stranger/let the weird doctor give them the injection/gladly hold the big ugly book for the nice man/go back to their sleeper cabin and relax like they were told, and next thing you know you’re rolling up another character.

My solution this time? A character based loosely on the eccentric Robert Ripley of Ripley’s Believe it or Not fame. An explorer/writer type in search of the weird, quick to want to investigate things that might seem out of the norm… which can be good to get us into adventures, but will likely result in me lingering too long to take photos of the weird tracks until the thing that made them comes back to eat me. Either way, I expect he’ll be fun once we get into it. I think I’m going to have to add “shrunken head” and “petrified monkey” to my inventory, though, just to add to the quirkiness of my guy. The actual Robert Ripley had the largest car collection of his day, but never learned how to drive, had a collection of weird pets, and enjoyed wearing outfits from other countries, so I think he may actually have been more insane than I can play for my character at this point. Dunno, though. If I survive this and get a few more sanity points down, we’ll see.

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