Smarter Than Human

Where new Keepers can ask "stupid" questions without fear of hazing.
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Smarter Than Human

Post by Wordcraftian » Sun Dec 15, 2013 1:27 am

Hello Ladies and Gents,

I've finally landed myself a job back in KC that allows me to listen to podcasts while I work. Coming back to the scene, I find myself overwhelmed with the amount of content generated by the lovely folks here at the Miskatonic University Podcast. I'm also a member of a consistent and reliable gaming group for the first time ever, and I've been tasked with running Call of Cthulhu for them this weekend. I'm very excited. So, in preparation, I've unpacked my copy of the core rule book and have commenced listening to the show again from episode 1.

Something that is mentioned quite a bit, specifically in the Bestiary, is that many of the creatures encountered are either as smart as or smarter than the average human. My question as an all too human keeper is: How do you play a being as smarter than human? For all intents and purposes, I am this thing's brain; I think for it, and act on its behalf. I'm by no means unintelligent but I certainly do not posses a trans human intellect. Any pointers?
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Re: Smarter Than Human

Post by hastur » Sun Dec 15, 2013 2:40 am

Wordcraftian wrote: Something that is mentioned quite a bit, specifically in the Bestiary, is that many of the creatures encountered are either as smart as or smarter than the average human. My question as an all too human keeper is: How do you play a being as smarter than human?
cheat. take advantage of the investigators' weaknesses, because the thing knows them.
place traps in front of the investigators on a whim, because the thing guessed correctly.
if the encounter start to go pear-shaped, give the thing an escape, because it planned.
whenever the investigators think they have an advantage, it turns out to be a trap.

that's my 2 cultists.
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Re: Smarter Than Human

Post by Wordcraftian » Sun Dec 15, 2013 5:34 pm

This is extremely helpful! Thank you.

Does anyone have a fun story about their investigators facing something like this?
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Re: Smarter Than Human

Post by fox01313 » Thu Dec 26, 2013 4:25 am

No interesting game experiences yet here on this but I'd think that apart from what hastur wrote is to either pick that for the enemies or have them do the mad random or obscure stuff as it appears to our minds. If the players then start connecting the dots then they realize they have to be more special to outwit the thing they are up against.

Examples that come to mind are: The creature moving to a particular angle to throw a warning shot at someone, if they survive later, they will see that the warning shot was well timed to injure the car in a critical way that it couldn't get away with it, or maybe it's damaged forcing it to the nearest garage which is run by Fred the cultist to spy/sabotage them some more. The creature while not creating certain traps might start throwing particular chemicals in a lab only to find out when they combine it makes a murky fog to escape by or a cloud of smoke that could be really flammable or knocks out the characters inside it.
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Re: Smarter Than Human

Post by Wordcraftian » Fri Jan 03, 2014 2:13 am

The main villain in the scenario I'm working on, and will be running soon, is an ancient sorcerer body thief a la "Thing on the Doorstep". He is centuries old and, therefore, much smarter than my player's characters will be. I've decided to use my position as a keeper to set the players up and misdirect their efforts. I will be taking on the persona of my villain and will genuinely try my best to kill the character's (and steal one of their bodies) using a variety of traps and red herrings. I think the smarter than human aspect will come through nicely, simply by having my villain manipulate their choices without their knowledge and force them into a trap. If I stay focused on "Big Picture Smart," and less on small actions to convey intelligence, I should get the desired affect.
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Re: Smarter Than Human

Post by Dr. Gerard » Fri Jan 03, 2014 4:24 pm

This is a great question, one that I think we should address in the show at some point. Wordcraftian, focusing on big-picture thinking instead of the small stuff is a great approach. I would say that's the key.

The problem is that there are so many kinds of intelligence, right? To express it in a single statistic is absurd. With strength, a statistical comparison is so much less problematic. The stronger guy wins an arm wrestling match. The stronger guy can bench press more. But intelligence is very poorly measured as a single score. The IQ score is no longer considered to be a gold standard measurement in professional psychology, though it still lingers as a misunderstood meme in pop-culture.

Strategic thinking is one way to express intelligence. The more moves ahead you can predict, the better your chances of victory. And in a Mythos-haunted world, the conditions of victory are just big and weird.

In this case, short-term evil is just being a bully. Stealing a candy bar from a kid just to watch them cry is short-term evil. Taking a knight with your queen because it's there.

Long-term evil is slowly introducing methamphetamine into candy bars so that kids will start stealing them from each other, maybe even robbing candy stores, no to mention the massive consequent addictions. Using your queen to develop position, cover lines of attack at the center of the board.

Mythos-term evil is on such a different scale, it's like playing an entirely different game. Introducing raw human brain tissue into candy bars so that after several generations human beings will be able to hear each other's thoughts, causing mass confusion, increasing political dysfunction, and spawning a strange new movement in architecture that looks suspiciously like nodes of neural tissue. Sacrificing all of your pawns and then declaring victory.

But how does that play out in a scenario, the time scale of which is necessarily short?

I think of Jon's suggestion in a previous episode about the Mi-go. He suggested that their melee attacks actually be surgical incisions and clean amputations. They're not attacking, they're doing research. That reflects exactly the kind of long-game intelligence that I'm talking about here, and yet it's something concrete you can describe in a scene.

It sounds like you've got your ducks in a row for the scenario you're working on already. Since you're dealing with a sorcerer, you're still basically in the realm of human intelligence with lots of extra experience, longevity and insight about "the truth." So it makes sense to use traps and red herrings to get what they want, because those are things that humans do, sort of like the trappings of international spy games.
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Re: Smarter Than Human

Post by Wordcraftian » Sun Jan 05, 2014 6:51 am

Dr. Gerard wrote:
Long-term evil is slowly introducing methamphetamine into candy bars so that kids will start stealing them from each other, maybe even robbing candy stores, no to mention the massive consequent addictions. Using your queen to develop position, cover lines of attack at the center of the board.

Mythos-term evil is on such a different scale, it's like playing an entirely different game. Introducing raw human brain tissue into candy bars so that after several generations human beings will be able to hear each other's thoughts, causing mass confusion, increasing political dysfunction, and spawning a strange new movement in architecture that looks suspiciously like nodes of neural tissue. Sacrificing all of your pawns and then declaring victory.

You are one sick twisted individual, and I love it....

Thank you for the words of encouragement. It's good to know I'm heading in the right direction with my big picture thinking. I was half expecting to hear that such a ploy would never work because you can never predict your players... and that's something I'm a little worried about. But I think I'll be able to pull it off given they don't all hop of the next ship out of the country or something. Lol.
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Re: Smarter Than Human

Post by fox01313 » Sun Jan 05, 2014 4:08 pm

Upon some more thought about this here's a few more thinky bits for this, which may or may not help.

For minions & whatnot that might be at or above humans, those you can figure out somewhat the same as any RPG player character has to when just figuring out the clues/patterns of some strange & foreign world. No matter how obscure the clues are, as long as you have figured them out, they might not make sense to a human brain but connecting the dots will still equal some kind of connection to the players. This will help them either predict and/or sabotage the lines of clues to put a stop to whatever is going on. The thing I thought of which I too will have to remember about this is that the minions who have the same brain power as humans are either educated differently or just mystically put full of associated thoughts & knowledge. It'd be like someone from a country who all they do is make hard cakes as a dessert (on the human end) but then someone comes along with this alien intelligence who decides hard cakes are inefficiently stupid so they make soft cupcakes that are encased in a sugar crystalline cage (where the cage is better than the frosting). Just try to figure out where the intelligence came from be it another culture or world then it'd be easier to picture mentally how it might see the world.

Above everything I think as long as whatever wacky intelligence thing fits in the story somehow then it should work, just try to not mix things so life turns out like Who Framed Roger Rabbit? with it's odd mix of cartoons & people where a subtle move of fixing a problem with a hammer instead of a screwdriver & have it work will puzzle the players but stay within the framework of the world the game is in.

Also another lead for you, (which I just got myself & quite pleased with it) is the book Stealing Cthulhu mentioned on an earlier podcast & I feel that there's plenty of things in there to give out as tips on how to play more with this idea.
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Re: Smarter Than Human

Post by Keeper Jon » Tue Jan 21, 2014 10:04 pm

This is funny. I'm addressing this in a scenario right now. I have a group of non-humans that have observed humanity for a long time, and are skilled in mimicking humans fairly well, but they overlook things like hairstyles. They tend to display hairstyles that can be seriously out of date. It has nothing to do with their intelligence, for they are quite intelligent, but they just don't concern themselves with some of the finer details that would be more jarring to regular humans when they observe them.

So when a human sees these non-humans in disguise, it is possible for the human to get a "somethings not quite right" about the disguised non-human.

As for the non-human's intellect leverage over the puny humans, I wait for the investigators to convey some information to my non-humans. And at that point it is free reign for my non-humans to aggressively oppose the investigators.

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Re: Smarter Than Human

Post by Dr. Gerard » Wed Jan 22, 2014 12:22 pm

Cool idea. I like the idea of "not quite right" -- as though alien smarts also means alien eccentricity. Absent minded professor trope, but exaggerated.

Not sure if y'all heard it yet, but we put this question to Ken Hite during the show, and he had some interesting thoughts on the topic.
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