MU Podcast 022 – Survival Tips for Players

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Keeper Dan
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MU Podcast 022 – Survival Tips for Players

Post by Keeper Dan » Sun Jan 06, 2013 9:00 pm

ImageIn Episode 22, we’ll launch the New Year from the other side of the Keeper screen with some tips for players, burrow into the Dreamlands Underworld for a visit to the Bestiary, and we’ll talk about the proposed “Connections” mechanic in the play-tested draft of 7th Edition.

Campus Crier

• Only one more week to enter the Build an Elder God contest. So far, we've got just one entry. Are there no challengers for this esteemed prize of > $100 value?

To enter, write up a new Elder God, Great Old One, or Outer God. Stats aren't what we're looking at so much as a creative description of the being, history, location, and ways Investigators might come in contact with it or its servants or cultists.

You can submit the entries to contest@mu-podcast.com, and the due date for entries is January 15th. The entries will be posted, and the community can vote on them to determine the winner. The voting will be open until January 22nd.

Punktownfrom Miskatonic River Press was funded successfully, with more than $13,000. Not bad, considering they were shooting for $9,000 to print the book.

• And the NecronomiConKickstarter for convention seed money has met its funding goal.

• Jon mentions the Roll for Initiative podcast, a show focused on old school Advanced Dungeons and Dragons that often mentions Call of Cthulhu along the way. In one of their early episodes, they interviewed TSR giant Jeff Grubb, who talked about some Call of Cthulhu war stories along the way.

One of the show's hosts, DM Nick, occasionally posts on our forum as Blackstone.

• Achtung! Cthulhu is launching a Kickstarter to craft a line of WWII 28mm Heroes and Villains Miniatures.

Check out the briefing from Modiphius's Chris Birch.

(Note: During the show, Chad mentions that this might be compatible with the Lovecraftian miniatures game system Strange Aeons, which turns out to be at the 25mm scale, so crossover won't be easy to pull off.)

• Speaking of zombie Nazis, there's a great Norwegian indy film called Dead Snow that scratches that itch. We checked -- it's available to stream on Netflix.

• While we're on a movie tangent, Dan mentions checking out Finnish film Rare Exports during the holiday -- a story he says could easily be a Call of Cthulhu investigation!
The Rare Exports movie is based on two short films, available to watch HERE and HERE. (Not Safe for Work!)

MU History Department Lecture

This week's lecture from Dr. Gerard delves into a real-life inspiration for pulp adventures, in Percy Fawcett's "The Lost City of Zed.”

7th Edition

And we finally get around to one of the draft rules that didn't sit well with our group. Check out our coverage of the storytelling mechanic known as "Connections."

The Bestiary

In our latest installment of the monster menagerie segment, Gugs! Another imagehttp://en.allexperts.com/q/Biology-664/2010/3/Speculative-biology-Lovecraft-gugs.htm

Jon mentions the appearance of a Gug in Fantasy Flight's novel [url=amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Ghouls-Miskatonic ... miskatonic fantasy flight: http://www.fantasyflightgames.com/edge_ ... %20Trilogy]Ghouls of the Miskatonic[/url], written by Graham McNeill.

Main Topic

Tips for players and character background ideas...

We kick off the discussion with an old standby, the 10 Commandments of Cthulhu Hunting, which appears in The Cthulhu Casebook, by Sandy Petersen and John B. Monroe, and also Keeper's Compendium I.

1. Keep it Secret
2. Stay Together
3. Act in Haste, Repent at Leisure -- Dan mentions regretting an impulsive move while playing in Skype of Cthulhu's Grave Concern. The module he plays in is from a book of solo scenarios called Monophobia.
4. Always Have a Plan
5. Scout It Out
6. Guns are a Last Resort
7. Know Your Enemy
8. Things Are Not Always as They Seem
9. Never Give Up
10. Be Prepared

ImageJon pulls his copy of the Theron Marks Society off his bookshelf. It's out of print, but we're looking for a way to make this material available (legally).

Chad mentions some ways to role play skills like Spot Hidden and Fast Talk. He's working up a list of techniques that will be posted on the forum.

We would also love to hear your ideas for topics for us to talk about. Send us a note directly, or go to the Campus forum with your ideas!
Keeper Dan of the Miskatonic University Podcast

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Re: MU Podcast 022 – Survival Tips for Players

Post by Eibon » Thu Jan 10, 2013 3:41 pm

Another great podcast, they keep getting better and better.

It was interesting that Connections didn't work. My general feeling about the suggested changes is that they are mechanical changes to address narrative issues, but of all of them Connection was the one which potentially solved a problem I've not really found a solution for over the years--players using the characters are tokens rather than as different people. We all have a tendency to play certain types of character, but a lot of players seem to favour a default character who acts very much like they would in real life. Yet I find role-playing other types of people actually enhances the experience (the one exception was the psychopath I once had a go at--don't try it, it was no fun whatsoever!). If Connections had provided some character elements of the type players might not have chosen for themselves and then encouraged those elements to be deployed in play, then it would have been great. But from the first I could see that it could be used as just a game mechanic ("collect six character traits to win the prize!"). And this appears to be exactly how your group played it.

The problem is that even when a player comes up with that motorcycling half-Cherokee librarian, they rarely actually play the character from the character’s prospective except to get a game advantage ("Do I know anything from Indian folklore?"). I once had a player who wanted to be a Chinese vampire hunter. It was obvious that he was rule jockeying to get Chinese language and some Occult skill for free. "Fine, if that's what you want to play," I said, "but don't forget to put some points into "English language or you'll have trouble communicating, and your Credit Rating will have big penalties in Western countries." He played him, but I didn't let him get away with just communicating normally (in fact it is one of the few times I've played the racism of the day in the game).

It's odd that Gaslight attempted to make social connections and I thought that was the way to go, but the 3rd Ed dropped the requirement to have five or some useful acquaintances, instead going for random Traits. I suspect that this is something that needs doing at the character creation stage to lodge the character in the society the game is set in, but I don't have easy answers. If the players aren't willing to put the work in to fill out their background then it's really hard to persuade them to do so.

The ten rules for good Cthulhu hunters was a good strong piece, partly because the original ten commandments are strong, and partly because the discussion was interesting and informative. Almost everything your said I agree with or recognised from play sessions. "Act in haste, repent at leisure" is a saying, which is why the language is a bit archaic. The things players seem most often to fail to do is correlate the information they've picked up, to follow-up leads (most people will answer civil enquiries without much prompting, there is rarely a need for player-characters to tell them their life story first!), and to keep the group informed rather than acting alone and on a impulse.

In my current 1890s campaign the players killed The Return of Jack The Ripper adventure dead by telling the Freemasons who they thought the killer was, pretty much on a whim. They had gone to get information on their suspect and when asked why they wanted it, they dropped the bombshell that he was Jack. The masons dispatched some eminent doctors to interview the man, and when he proved perfectly rational they returned nonplussed. This tipped the suspect off, who fled the country, adventure over! Except I wrapped it up by having the villain visit one of the players and then his boat sinking in a storm at sea.

But it's certainly good to be remineded that these things happen in many people's games.

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Re: MU Podcast 022 – Survival Tips for Players

Post by KeeperMurph » Thu Jan 10, 2013 4:25 pm

Eibon wrote:Another great podcast, they keep getting better and better.

It was interesting that Connections didn't work. My general feeling about the suggested changes is that they are mechanical changes to address narrative issues, but of all of them Connection was the one which potentially solved a problem I've not really found a solution for over the years--players using the characters are tokens rather than as different people. We all have a tendency to play certain types of character, but a lot of players seem to favour a default character who acts very much like they would in real life. Yet I find role-playing other types of people actually enhances the experience (the one exception was the psychopath I once had a go at--don't try it, it was no fun whatsoever!). If Connections had provided some character elements of the type players might not have chosen for themselves and then encouraged those elements to be deployed in play, then it would have been great. But from the first I could see that it could be used as just a game mechanic ("collect six character traits to win the prize!"). And this appears to be exactly how your group played it.

The problem is that even when a player comes up with that motorcycling half-Cherokee librarian, they rarely actually play the character from the character’s prospective except to get a game advantage ("Do I know anything from Indian folklore?"). I once had a player who wanted to be a Chinese vampire hunter. It was obvious that he was rule jockeying to get Chinese language and some Occult skill for free. "Fine, if that's what you want to play," I said, "but don't forget to put some points into "English language or you'll have trouble communicating, and your Credit Rating will have big penalties in Western countries." He played him, but I didn't let him get away with just communicating normally (in fact it is one of the few times I've played the racism of the day in the game).

It's odd that Gaslight attempted to make social connections and I thought that was the way to go, but the 3rd Ed dropped the requirement to have five or some useful acquaintances, instead going for random Traits. I suspect that this is something that needs doing at the character creation stage to lodge the character in the society the game is set in, but I don't have easy answers. If the players aren't willing to put the work in to fill out their background then it's really hard to persuade them to do so.

The ten rules for good Cthulhu hunters was a good strong piece, partly because the original ten commandments are strong, and partly because the discussion was interesting and informative. Almost everything your said I agree with or recognised from play sessions. "Act in haste, repent at leisure" is a saying, which is why the language is a bit archaic. The things players seem most often to fail to do is correlate the information they've picked up, to follow-up leads (most people will answer civil enquiries without much prompting, there is rarely a need for player-characters to tell them their life story first!), and to keep the group informed rather than acting alone and on a impulse.

In my current 1890s campaign the players killed The Return of Jack The Ripper adventure dead by telling the Freemasons who they thought the killer was, pretty much on a whim. They had gone to get information on their suspect and when asked why they wanted it, they dropped the bombshell that he was Jack. The masons dispatched some eminent doctors to interview the man, and when he proved perfectly rational they returned nonplussed. This tipped the suspect off, who fled the country, adventure over! Except I wrapped it up by having the villain visit one of the players and then his boat sinking in a storm at sea.

But it's certainly good to be remineded that these things happen in many people's games.
I think the main reason that connections failed was due to how easy it could have been abused. I agree that in theory it was a good idea, but only during character creation. In gameplay it was abused comically.

The only way I know of inter-linking characters with each other and the setting properly is the same method you used with the "Chinese Vampire" and have heavy GM review/control during, or just after, character creation.
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Re: MU Podcast 022 – Survival Tips for Players

Post by 1d4cast_James » Sat Jan 12, 2013 11:42 pm

Hey guys! Just wanted to say thanks for the shout out to me and the 1d4cast Podcast! Oh, and my name is James :).
Founder and Co-Host of the 1d4Cast Podcast and 1d4Con.

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Re: MU Podcast 022 – Survival Tips for Players

Post by trevlix » Tue Jan 15, 2013 4:29 am

So are entries for the contest due any time on Jan 15? (e.g. as long as its received <= 11:59:59 PM) ?
[Trafford: Insanity: 4, Exhaustion: 2]

http://keepingthegame.blogspot.com/

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Re: MU Podcast 022 – Survival Tips for Players

Post by Eibon » Tue Jan 15, 2013 11:22 am

KeeperMurph wrote:I think the main reason that connections failed was due to how easy it could have been abused. I agree that in theory it was a good idea, but only during character creation. In gameplay it was abused comically.

The only way I know of inter-linking characters with each other and the setting properly is the same method you used with the "Chinese Vampire" and have heavy GM review/control during, or just after, character creation.
He was a Chinese Vamprire hunter -- he wasn't actually one of the guys who hop...

But, to get back to the point: Cthulhu differs from Fantasy RPGs in that the players exist within a settled and structured civilisation. They are not wandering sociopaths with a murderous lust for gold. I think the game therefore has a requirement to embed the characters within the society, whether Imperial Rome, 1810s, 1920s, 1930s or 2010s. I admit I'm late in coming to this conclusion, but I have now reached it. True, the players should not be relying on law enforcement agencies to solve Mythos problems, and they will almost certainly work "outside of the law" to deal with the threats, but they have cultural and actual associations which will effect the character's actions. Connections sounded like it was a crude way of highlighting this by giving characters "features" and providing a reason to utilise those features in game play. However, it does sound like it didn't work because it was too much a game mechanic and not enough a mind-set on the players part. I'm not sure giving people SAN back solves the issue (actually I like this less than recharging Luck).

The odd thing is that I've always found it far more interesting to play a developed character rather than a default blank character. From both sides of the GMs screen it's better, more interesting. Yet some players seem to be happy to treat the game as a puzzle solving exercise without developing the character they are playing. It's as if they are playing a slightly more elaborate game of Clue (Cluedo for us British).

I haven't yet developed a way to encourage players to develop the mind-set to round-out their characters and play them to the hilt, beyond simply encouraging. It's something I'm still developing.

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Re: MU Podcast 022 – Survival Tips for Players

Post by Gladius » Tue Jan 15, 2013 5:08 pm

Eibon wrote:
The odd thing is that I've always found it far more interesting to play a developed character rather than a default blank character. From both sides of the GMs screen it's better, more interesting. Yet some players seem to be happy to treat the game as a puzzle solving exercise without developing the character they are playing. It's as if they are playing a slightly more elaborate game of Clue (Cluedo for us British).

I haven't yet developed a way to encourage players to develop the mind-set to round-out their characters and play them to the hilt, beyond simply encouraging. It's something I'm still developing.
One thing about CoC discourages well-thought-out characters: characters tend not to be playable too long (either through death or insanity), which can dampen the enthusiasm of players who normally spend a lot of time fleshing out their character. On the other hand, though, the game often takes place in an historical "real world" setting, which I find makes it easier for players to create a realistic character with ties to things they they, as players, actually know about (as opposed to elves and dwarves in a fantasy world, at least).

I also think it depends on the group of players, and how the keeper presents the game. My current Invictus game is much more "metagamey" (more like your game of Cluedo) than my previous running of the Day of the Beast campaign. I chalk this up primarily to some of the players in the group. While I have some influence over it as the Keeper, I can't *make* my players roleplay better.

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Re: MU Podcast 022 – Survival Tips for Players

Post by Eibon » Wed Jan 16, 2013 9:58 am

Gladius wrote:One thing about CoC discourages well-thought-out characters: characters tend not to be playable too long (either through death or insanity), which can dampen the enthusiasm of players who normally spend a lot of time fleshing out their character. On the other hand, though, the game often takes place in an historical "real world" setting, which I find makes it easier for players to create a realistic character with ties to things they they, as players, actually know about (as opposed to elves and dwarves in a fantasy world, at least).

I also think it depends on the group of players, and how the keeper presents the game. My current Invictus game is much more "metagamey" (more like your game of Cluedo) than my previous running of the Day of the Beast campaign. I chalk this up primarily to some of the players in the group. While I have some influence over it as the Keeper, I can't *make* my players roleplay better.
Both good points. And I'm not saying the game can't be played this way, or that for one-offs it's not going to be played "metagamey". Indeed, it has been said that most of H. P. Lovecraft's fictional characters are non-entities, so there is a case for it. If the players are having fun, then that's actually what's important. But I know, from being a player, that the characters I remember best are those who had personalities, so, for example, I played an 1890s character who was a stuffy old respectable museum curator and he would refuse to have electricity in his house because he had heard that the electro-magnetic influence of the wires was bad for the health (a belief of the time) and would shout if he needed to make a telephone call (which he was reluctant to do for the same reasons). He was also convinced that madness was the result of lacking moral fibre and so believed himself immune to it. These added nothing to solving the mystery, but they where fun to play, more fun than if he's just kept his head down and solved the problem. Yes, the character might die quickly, but he's fun while he's alive.

Currently I'm running an 1890s campaign and I've got a police surgeon, a reporter, an inquiry agent and a labourer (a replacement for a dead character). The surgeon does go to the office, but rarely says, "stand aside, I'm a doctor!" The reporter has never written an article in game, and has never asked anyone for a quote, or commented that his editor would never believe this. Likewise the inquiry agent may have staked out a few buildings in game, but he has no particular personality. The labourer is fairly new but because he's an "unusual" type of player character, is already more interesting than the other three. I know he's got a step-daughter and grandson, and lives in a small terraced house in London, works nights (leaving him free to adventure) and has enough curiosity to get involved with the other players. And yet all four have potential.

I'm not saying we can force people to be better role players, but I do think the game can encourage role playing. I think it's something which has to happen at the character generating stage and has to be fairly quick and easy, but I haven't yet worked out exactly what that is. It might be family tables similar to those in Pendragon, it might be a list of contacts/acquaintances/friends for each era? It might even be the quirks and traits which Gaslight included. It might be a questionnaire which I think I've seen in some quick-charcater generator rules? Then there's the question of whether the game needs a mechanic like Connections to encourage people to play those features once generated?

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Re: MU Podcast 022 – Survival Tips for Players

Post by Gladius » Wed Jan 16, 2013 4:12 pm

Oh, I think I'm agreeing with you. I love a well-fleshed out character :)

I like the idea of Connections at character creation, because they give the player some ideas for how to flesh out their characters. I like them, too, in that they give the Keeper ideas on how to "mess with" that character when she starts to go insane. What I haven't liked, in my game (since I'm using Connections, albeit in a slightly modified way) is the *mechanic* of how players use them to regain SAN. They've been treating them more like the "ok, combat is over, let's heal up" mechanic of many hack-and-slash RPGs.

I think this is more a fault of myself as the Keeper (in allowing them to do this) than of the mechanic itself but I'm not sure how to modify their behavior at this point. I have been thinking of scrapping the SAN restoration mechanic, but then there's almost no motivation for them (beyond the inherent enjoyment of roleplaying) to bring those Connections into play. And if I can't "corrupt" them (or if "corrupting" has no mechanical game effect) then players won't really care about them and the game itself won't encourage them to use them.

The question is not "is roleplaying in the game good," it's "how can the game encourage good roleplaying."

How could the Connections mechanic be better used to encourage this sort of style of play? Or how could it be changed to better encourage RP?

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Re: MU Podcast 022 – Survival Tips for Players

Post by KeeperMurph » Wed Jan 16, 2013 9:01 pm

I agree Gladius, Connections had the potential to fix a long standing issue in CoC regarding the lack of player role playing. However, as you mentioned the mechanic was flawed. Perhaps if they used it to recharge luck as well?
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