MUP 124 - Sanecdodes: It's a Mad World After All

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MUP 124 - Sanecdodes: It's a Mad World After All

Post by Keeper Dan » Mon Jun 05, 2017 3:12 am

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In this episode, the MU crew takes a closer look at Sanity mechanics in Call of Cthulhu and a whole slew of other other horror and Lovecraft related roleplaying games. Plus, sanecdotes and more. This episode was recorded on, May 29, 2017.
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CORRECTIONS:
Sean, who got a hat tip for the topic suggestion last time, is not officially a member of Skype of Cthulhu at this point. Chad said he is “of Skype of Cthulhu fame.” But he’s not. He is famous, however, because Jon interviewed him and Edwin about Extra Life charity events he was involved with last year.

Speaking of Skype of Cthulhu faux pas(es) - remember when we talked about how we wished there was an Actual Play of Gatsby and the Great Race out in the world somewhere? Welp, there is. Skype of Cthulhu - you know, our sister podcast? Well they did one. A big one. To celebrate their 300th episode, in fact. Back around February 2016. Skype guys, we are terrible. Links to the four-part series are in our show notes. Image Alan Bligh

Call of Cthulhu writer Alan Bligh passed away on May 26 after a brief battle with cancer. His credits include Edge of Darkness, Dead Light and Crimson Letters. Mike Mason posted a nice note about his passing: “Alan loved creating stories, be it fiction or roleplay, whether it involved storming a stronghold with a multitude of tanks on a battlefield or populating dark gothic worlds with which to terrify his friends (in a good way). Over the next few days, weeks, and years, if you find yourself reading or playing through one of Alan’s many works, please raise a glass to his memory. The world is a smaller place for his loss.”

Image Joan Stanley

Catching up on news we missed, Joan Stanley, the author of Ex Libris Miskatonici, passed away last year at the age of 71. She has an incredible career bio, was one of the first black female US federal prosecutors in the 1970s, battled arthritis for most of her adult life, and somewhat mysteriously penned this incredible catalog of "pseudobiblia" from the Cthulhu Mythos. She served on the Convention Committee of NeconomiCon back in the 90s, and on the back cover of Ex Libris Miskatonici, it says she “fell in love with Lovecraft’s writing by reading At the Mountains of Madness in 10th grade.To a life-long resident of Boston, those shoggoths pouring out of the cave resembled nothing so much as a speeding MTA streetcar coming out of a Tremont Street tunnel, or a subway train screeching through the Park Street Under.”

She was also one of the early members of the Boston Star Trek Association and traveled as far as Australia to attend the World Science Fiction Convention. Friends quipped that she was as logical as a Vulcan in her approach to life.” Hat tip to Bret for the lead and some great background materials.

Boston Globe article
NecronomiCon 1997 details

Speaking of Bret, thanks to the audio intervention of Keeper Chad, Sentinel Hill Press Patreon backers can now hear a long-lost interview with scenario author Ben Wenham. In the interview Bret and Ben talk about Ben's scenario “The Bosworth House,” as well as his inspirations, and future plans, including his campaign "Stranger Still". The interview will be part of an upcoming episode of The Sentinel Hill Presscast.

The Cthulhu Dark Kickstarter is now underway!



Hero Lab, a character management system, has added CoC 7th Edition to its list of supported systems.

The HP Lovecraft Historical Society has a freaking storefront in Glendale, CA?! And they put out a call for people to play Call of Cthulhu with them on May 11?! They inaugurated their new Glendale headquarters earlier in May with a Call of Cthulhu game night. They played 'Dead Light', and Chaosium contributed some extra Call of Cthulhu swag for the players. The HPLHS's new digs are at 1644 Victory Blvd., Glendale CA 91201\

Jordan Peele to Produce HBO Series ‘Lovecraft Country’ With J.J. Abrams, Misha Green

Lovecraft-ian Cosmic Horror Conarium Arrives on June 6, 2017

The Call of Cthulhu video game will be shown at E3 …But behind closed doors.




Topic - Sanity Mechanics
(Jon) Does anyone else think many of the suggested Sanity losses in Call of Cthulhu should be higher?
(Chad) Command and control: totally random sanity outcomes vs. Keeper-dictated outcomes vs. player-driven outcomes. How do you guys do it?
(Dan) Lost Expedition Sanecdotes?

Other Systems:

Trail of Cthulhu
1) Sanity is broken into two parts. 2) At the moment of fear, you have to make a gamble with resources 3) It’s tied strongly to character background “pillars” and “drives.”

Delta Green
1) Focus on backstory elements (Called Bonds) are so crucial. 2) Sanity results brought forward to modern understanding of trauma.

Cthulhu Dark
1) Suppressing the Mythos can bring the Insanity down. 2) The spiral of the d6 means you hover on the edge of madness for a long time, and things affect you easily in the beginning of the game. 3) There is incentive to risk your Insanity as a resource.

CHILL
1) There is no permanent character death from loss of “sanity” (though they can have severely hampered rolls against psychological traits) 2) Granular horror gauges of Horror, Terror, and Revulsion (Stephen?) 3) Trauma recovers pretty quickly, though it could leave a “disadvantage” scar behind.

Tremulus
1) the current value of your Shock comes with a verbal descriptor to guide role play. 2) The ability to call for a Shock check with no change in Shock status means the GM can pile on the horrors without driving the PCs completely crazy.

Unknown Armies
1) Succeeding means you become tougher against the fear but also more distant from humanity / compassion. 2) Failure means an immediate reaction, but in a way it can save you from going crazy. 3) Five different scales of fear is very granular.

GURPS
1) If you like granular tables and random results, this system works well. 2) with advantage/disadvantage systems, you can set up the character’s likely reactions to trauma during character creation. Read Hite’s GURPS Horror no matter what system you use!

Don’t Rest Your Head
1) Madness is an important resource, and it gives you special powers in the game. 2) The game’s main stats determine “how” you are performing any particular feat, and Madness is one of the wells from which you can draw to do anything. 3) Madness is front and center for the PCs, not a side effect or a consequence.

An incomplete list with some other traditional systems mentioned

Sanecdotes is now a thing.
Keeper Dan of the Miskatonic University Podcast

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Re: MUP 124 - Sanecdodes: It's a Mad World After All

Post by Danial79 » Tue Jun 06, 2017 2:35 pm

When a gripe was mentioned about the written san hits, I thought it was going to be the same one I have, which is that some monsters that seem horrific and truly alien have lower stats than others that seem less so. My guess is that most of the creatures were probably created independently and the San stats have never actually been charted against each other to make sure they all have some sort of "scale".

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Re: MUP 124 - Sanecdodes: It's a Mad World After All

Post by Dr. Gerard » Tue Jun 06, 2017 2:38 pm

Danial79 wrote:When a gripe was mentioned about the written san hits, I thought it was going to be the same one I have, which is that some monsters that seem horrific and truly alien have lower stats than others that seem less so. My guess is that most of the creatures were probably created independently and the San stats have never actually been charted against each other to make sure they all have some sort of "scale".
We chatted about that before we started recording, so yes that was also an issue on the table. We just pushed through because of a full plate. If you have examples, please post here. I know I have run across some strange apparent glitches before.

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Re: MUP 124 - Sanecdodes: It's a Mad World After All

Post by trevlix » Wed Jun 07, 2017 2:49 pm

Dr. Gerard wrote:
Danial79 wrote:When a gripe was mentioned about the written san hits, I thought it was going to be the same one I have, which is that some monsters that seem horrific and truly alien have lower stats than others that seem less so. My guess is that most of the creatures were probably created independently and the San stats have never actually been charted against each other to make sure they all have some sort of "scale".
We chatted about that before we started recording, so yes that was also an issue on the table. We just pushed through because of a full plate. If you have examples, please post here. I know I have run across some strange apparent glitches before.

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Came here to say this too. There is no consistence in SAN checks for many creatures in the CoC game. I understand why. The game is > 30 years old. Creatures were added in over that time, with very little to no guidance regarding the SAN checks for them, so it was really up to the authors on what they felt the check should be.

So, some examples. I'm using Malleus Monstorum for these, but I believe 7th ed has the same stats when I looked.

Here are 2 which I'll use as almost a baseline:

Deep One 0/1d6
Ghoul 0/1d6

Shoggoth 1d6/1d20 - to me, 1d20 seems a bit high, but I can still go for it. It is a shoggoth.
Dark Young - 1d3/1d10 - OK, I can buy this as well.
Dark Sargassum - 1d6/1d20 - Well, I'm confused. This is a water-based Dark Young. But it has the same SAN loss as a shoggoth. Why not the same as a Dark Young?
Sand Dweller - 0/1d6 - I could be missing it, but aren't sand dwellers Gollum-looking guys? I guess I can see 1d6 for failing, but to me 1d4 seems more appropriate for some reason.
Colour out of Space - 0/1d4 to see it, 1/1d8 to see a victim - The loss for the victim I can by...but only 1d4 to see it? That seems low to me.

There are other examples in there. I realize these are not extreme differences, but they are there. I was hoping 7th ed would have provided some consistency, but alas, no as far as I can tell.

I also don't have a solution to provide any consistency (which is bad on my part to complain but not have any potential solutions I realize). The way I look at it is would I expect the PC to potentially go temporarily insane from seeing this thing. In other words, would it be possible for them to lose >= 5 SAN in one shot. Sand dweller, probably not. Ghoul/Deep One...possible. Dark Young/Shoggoth, yes. Colour....thats a tough one, but given its expansive nature, possible. I probably would have given it a SAN of 1/1d6.

As a house-rule, (Sanity-loss wise) I don't like PCs losing 0 SAN for seeing mythos creatures. I rarely have PCs lose 0 in this case, they'll always lose at least 1.
[Trafford: Insanity: 4, Exhaustion: 2]

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Re: MUP 124 - Sanecdodes: It's a Mad World After All

Post by DadsAngry » Wed Jun 07, 2017 8:11 pm

What version of Chill were you taking about?

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Re: MUP 124 - Sanecdodes: It's a Mad World After All

Post by Danial79 » Thu Jun 08, 2017 3:02 am

Dr. Gerard wrote:We chatted about that before we started recording, so yes that was also an issue on the table. We just pushed through because of a full plate. If you have examples, please post here. I know I have run across some strange apparent glitches before.
Just taking a quick look through the 7e rulebook, it seems that abnormal humanoids get 1d3 (Tcho-Tcho) or 1d4 (Deep One Hybrids), while monstrous humanoids get 1d6 (Ghouls, Deep Ones etc.), yet within that 1d6 range are also truly alien beings such as Byakhee, Elder Things, Yithians, Mi-Go, and Shantaks, all of which I think people would freak out over more than a fish person.

Then there's also the creatures whose success values are strangely 0. I can't imagine a single person who would see a Gnoph-Keh, Hunting Horror, Elder Thing, Fire Vampire, Yithian, or Lloigor and not freak out even in the slightest. You'd have to be the chillest person in the universe to see a Hunting Horror and just go, "Oh look, there's a giant flying snake dragon thing, that's cool." You can at least narratively explain a 0 sanity loss at seeing a Ghoul, thinking it just an ugly person, or seeing them in dim light, but you can't do that with the monstrous ones.

One last one: Chthonians and Dhole have the same sanity loss. Sure they're both giant worms... but Dholes exponentially larger... than any animal ever! I know which one would mess my head up more if I saw it.

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Re: MUP 124 - Sanecdodes: It's a Mad World After All

Post by Dr. Gerard » Thu Jun 08, 2017 1:01 pm

DadsAngry wrote:What version of Chill were you taking about?
It might have been convoluted, because I had access to 2nd ed, but feedback from others on 3rd ed. I tried to keep it to 3rd but might have slipped up.

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Re: MUP 124 - Sanecdodes: It's a Mad World After All

Post by Dr. Gerard » Thu Jun 08, 2017 1:10 pm

trevlix wrote:
Dr. Gerard wrote:
Danial79 wrote:When a gripe was mentioned about the written san hits, I thought it was going to be the same one I have, which is that some monsters that seem horrific and truly alien have lower stats than others that seem less so. My guess is that most of the creatures were probably created independently and the San stats have never actually been charted against each other to make sure they all have some sort of "scale".
We chatted about that before we started recording, so yes that was also an issue on the table. We just pushed through because of a full plate. If you have examples, please post here. I know I have run across some strange apparent glitches before.

Sent from my VS985 4G using Tapatalk
Came here to say this too. There is no consistence in SAN checks for many creatures in the CoC game. I understand why. The game is > 30 years old. Creatures were added in over that time, with very little to no guidance regarding the SAN checks for them, so it was really up to the authors on what they felt the check should be.

So, some examples. I'm using Malleus Monstorum for these, but I believe 7th ed has the same stats when I looked.

Here are 2 which I'll use as almost a baseline:

Deep One 0/1d6
Ghoul 0/1d6

Shoggoth 1d6/1d20 - to me, 1d20 seems a bit high, but I can still go for it. It is a shoggoth.
Dark Young - 1d3/1d10 - OK, I can buy this as well.
Dark Sargassum - 1d6/1d20 - Well, I'm confused. This is a water-based Dark Young. But it has the same SAN loss as a shoggoth. Why not the same as a Dark Young?
Sand Dweller - 0/1d6 - I could be missing it, but aren't sand dwellers Gollum-looking guys? I guess I can see 1d6 for failing, but to me 1d4 seems more appropriate for some reason.
Colour out of Space - 0/1d4 to see it, 1/1d8 to see a victim - The loss for the victim I can by...but only 1d4 to see it? That seems low to me.

There are other examples in there. I realize these are not extreme differences, but they are there. I was hoping 7th ed would have provided some consistency, but alas, no as far as I can tell.

I also don't have a solution to provide any consistency (which is bad on my part to complain but not have any potential solutions I realize). The way I look at it is would I expect the PC to potentially go temporarily insane from seeing this thing. In other words, would it be possible for them to lose >= 5 SAN in one shot. Sand dweller, probably not. Ghoul/Deep One...possible. Dark Young/Shoggoth, yes. Colour....thats a tough one, but given its expansive nature, possible. I probably would have given it a SAN of 1/1d6.

As a house-rule, (Sanity-loss wise) I don't like PCs losing 0 SAN for seeing mythos creatures. I rarely have PCs lose 0 in this case, they'll always lose at least 1.
Yes, we probably should have gone over that. Will probably revisit.

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Re: MUP 124 - Sanecdodes: It's a Mad World After All

Post by Dr. Gerard » Thu Jun 08, 2017 1:48 pm

Danial79 wrote:
Dr. Gerard wrote:We chatted about that before we started recording, so yes that was also an issue on the table. We just pushed through because of a full plate. If you have examples, please post here. I know I have run across some strange apparent glitches before.
Just taking a quick look through the 7e rulebook, it seems that abnormal humanoids get 1d3 (Tcho-Tcho) or 1d4 (Deep One Hybrids), while monstrous humanoids get 1d6 (Ghouls, Deep Ones etc.), yet within that 1d6 range are also truly alien beings such as Byakhee, Elder Things, Yithians, Mi-Go, and Shantaks, all of which I think people would freak out over more than a fish person.

Then there's also the creatures whose success values are strangely 0. I can't imagine a single person who would see a Gnoph-Keh, Hunting Horror, Elder Thing, Fire Vampire, Yithian, or Lloigor and not freak out even in the slightest. You'd have to be the chillest person in the universe to see a Hunting Horror and just go, "Oh look, there's a giant flying snake dragon thing, that's cool." You can at least narratively explain a 0 sanity loss at seeing a Ghoul, thinking it just an ugly person, or seeing them in dim light, but you can't do that with the monstrous ones.

One last one: Chthonians and Dhole have the same sanity loss. Sure they're both giant worms... but Dholes exponentially larger... than any animal ever! I know which one would mess my head up more if I saw it.
Yes, and in the game the actual rolled results can end up telling strange stories that are hard to backward justify. A more careful overhaul is a good idea. And I agree with "at least one" San point lost. Zero San effect is just not very interesting as a result. Unless you talk about the dramatic irony of player knowledge vs. PC knowledge. I feel like that's only effective rarely, however.

Something I have been thinking about lately is that one of the core challenges in codifying sanity costs is just how to simulate what's scary to a given fictional mind and what's not, given such wide variance in RL fear responses. With common RL traumas like surviving violence, we have a lot of case studies to gauge from. But with supernatural encounters, there is no such measuring stick. Would seeing a tentacular sea creature (Dark Sargassum sized) really be harder to take than a land-walking humanoid with rubbery skin and canine features? The assumption in CoC seems to be that the less human, the more disturbing. But I think there's an "uncanny valley" case to say that when something is close to familiar but just a little off kilter, the affects of fear might be greater than, say, discovering a strange new sea creature. Sea creatures are already messed up. Go snorkeling in a reef sometime. If inhuman and incomprehensible creatures really plucked our sanity strings, no one would survive a reef encounter.

Anyway, I guess that's why a "swingy" sanity cost is ultimately ok with me, but it bears talking about how to narrate outlying results such as the investigator who loses 6 points from a Deep One three sessions ago, but only loses 1 for seeing Great Cthulhu in the end.

Also strange is when PC1 fails their San roll and loses 2 points, while PC2 succeeds on their San roll but loses 4.

I'm fine with swingy losses like that in CoC, but it would be good to talk about how that affects narration and PC prompting.
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Re: MUP 124 - Sanecdodes: It's a Mad World After All

Post by Graham » Fri Jun 09, 2017 4:38 am

Dr. Gerard wrote: But I think there's an "uncanny valley" case to say that when something is close to familiar but just a little off kilter, the affects of fear might be greater....
There is a wonderful scene in the film 'Below' where they generated a really powerful sense of unease by the simple device of having the reflection in a mirror be ever so slightly out of sync with the person reflected in it.
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