MUP 19- Smooth or Pulpy?

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Re: MUP 19- Smooth or Pulpy?

Post by Scriven » Mon Dec 03, 2012 12:13 pm

Keeper Dan wrote: For a shorter campaign, using non-supernatural elements works fine, but I could see it being more tricky in a longer campaign. It's not like the characters un-learn that they faced Deep Ones and a mad sorcerer living in a basement. If I had those experiences and were still able to function, I'd probably start looking for weird stuff behind every shrub. After that innocence is broke, there's no fixing it unless you kill off the characters and bring in new ones.
An excellent and insightful reply, Keeper Dan. It is true that once the character has been "initiated" into the fact that there is a horrific, sanity-burning reality out there, it's difficult and indeed implausible for them to continue as if those experiences shouldn't inform their actions and attitudes from that point on. I suppose one could make that willful ignorance an aspect of a character's insanity, admittedly, but let's put that aside for the moment. It's just that I sometimes struggle with the idea of taking an X-Files approach where encounters with the fantastic and horrific simply become de rigueur: "Okay, what am I up against this time?" Admittedly, in Laundry/Delta Green-based games, that's a given -- it's simply built into the structure of the game itself. But I do sometimes think it can skew too much in the direction of Ghostbusters if Keepers and investigators aren't careful -- and that's just not the kind of Call of Cthulhu game I personally like to play. I'm not saying it's wrong or right -- it just comes down to a statement of preference.

I love playing with skeptical investigators -- both as a player character and as a Keeper. For me, a large part of the charm of the game (if that makes sense) is watching persons who are thoroughly ensconced in the mundane "realities" of everyday life struggle to come to grips with the fantastic. It reminds me of something I once heard or read by Stephen King to the effect that horror is more "horrific" when it is juxtaposed with things that are thoroughly normal. I don't say i as well as he does, alas. To go back to Dan's point -- that sooner or later an investigator is going to lose his or her "virginity" in this respect -- well, yes, that's absolutely true. But it's also why I like the idea of ultimately letting go of those characters who have been so thoroughly immersed in the Mythos as to make them misfits in everyday society, assuming they live that long, and starting over with the next campaign or sequence of adventures.

Again, sorry for the long and rambling reply. This is just something I find fascinating about the game and I love to hear others' insights about this.

- Michael
AKA Professor Max von Schiller of the Miskatonic Area Paranormal Society (MAPS)
AKA George Finch of the Secret Everest Expedition
"Let's see if someone tries to kill us and work backwards" -- Dr. Who

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Re: MUP 19- Smooth or Pulpy?

Post by Eibon » Tue Dec 04, 2012 2:48 pm

An interesting discussion.

The Stephen King point is something I noticed reading M. R. James -- that you need to establish normality before you can effectively subvert it with the Supernatural.

I'm generally in agreement: if the Supernatural intervenes all the time, then the world becomes like that of the movie Cast A Deadly Spell: day-to-day. There is a place for that, but I don't care to go there myself. Even when the Supernatural is present, I'm not convinced that the players should completely understand what's going on. The Mythos is not one consistent mythology with an orthodoxy. Unlike Indiana Jones, where the discovery of the Ark proves Judeo-Christian mythology to be "true" and therefore there to be a good God in Heaven, an encounter with an Old One tells you that there are malign powers in the Universe, but not much more than that. For example, I recently ran "the Burning Man" from Cthulhu By Gaslight 3rd Ed: the Devon locals referred to the supernatural element as "Pixies" (an authentic regional term for supernatural creatures). The players never discovered the Mythos truth lying behind this use. They have since had other supernatural encounters, but have not connected the "Pixies" to their subsequent knowledge. They have not yet been able to link the fragments together. So far they've had an encounter with Pixies, a soldier coming back from the dead (which had a non-supernatural solution), fought a cult working for the coming of the antichrist (in fact a Cthulhu entity), and are currently investigating the theft of a cursed gemstone from India. To use the old "onion skin" analogy from the rule book, the players have got beneath the first layer of the Mythos -- they know the Supernatural is real; but they have not yet been able to tie all the material together. They are a long way from being where Alhazred has been mentally and when they get there, they will be basket-cases too. My point is that although players will loose their "virginity" quite quickly, a Keeper should work to make sure that the characters do not become "jaded" straightaway and thereby maintain the longevity of their campaign, if it's campaigns your playing.

I'm also mostly in agreement with Dr Gerard over Purist and Pulp. I'm not sure how useful the terms are, but I think we kind of know what we mean by the term. Literally, "Purist" does not mean much. A CoC game is closer to Derleth's Trail of Cthulhu than it is to Lovecraft's The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. Ward is all about a lone man investigating a mystery and arriving at the climax too late, Trail has a team fighting the Cthulhu cult with atom bombs and escaping on Byakhee! Which is closest to the last game you played? Few Lovecraft stories would make good group adventures. However, there is a mood, a philosophy, which can be said to be Lovecraftian which is missing from Derleth and it is that mood which is Purist. Pulp, on the other hand, involves a protagonist as hero. It doesn't have to have thrills-a-minute, but often does. Perhaps the starkest example is the difference between Lovecraft and R. E. Howard's sections of the round-robin story "The Challenge From Beyond". Lovecraft gives us a fainting geologist adrift in an alien world, Howard transforms the character into a worm-Conan, hacking his way to interstellar glory!

In my experience players will tend toward the Pulp. They sometimes defuse tension with a joke or comment. And it's natural that they should view their characters as heroes. Fumbles will result in pratfalls. Yet, when you can hit the right mood to get a shudder out of the players, it can be greatly rewarding.

Variety, it seems to me, is an important part of making an on-going campaign. Keeper dan's point about looking at it as an on-going TV show is a good one.

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Re: MUP 19- Smooth or Pulpy?

Post by Howard » Thu Jan 31, 2013 12:30 am

I'm a big fan of Pulp. I like to think I play my D&D pulpy. I ran a pulp style Chaosium(Stafford's)Pendragon campaign. As a GM, i like to keep the action up and the players active. Near death experiences are fun and more memorable than dying(IMO). The Purist way is fun for me to play in, not run. As a player, I like to solve the puzzles, follows the clues, look for leads, determine the truths etc. all good stuff. But if your in my game, your hunting not being hunted.

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