Am I too squeamish for Call of Cthulhu?

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Am I too squeamish for Call of Cthulhu?

Post by Scriven » Thu Feb 27, 2014 9:43 am

This may sound like an ingenuous question, but am I too squeamish for Call of Cthulhu? It seems like a fair bit of material I've seen written for the game lately addresses ideas of sexualized violence, and especially violence towards women and children. I understand it's a horror game, and that eliciting genuine emotions of anxiety, fear and repugnance is the order of the day. I know that the Keepers have touched from time to time on the different thresholds of acceptability for such things depending on the player's expectations and desires from the game. I'm just wondering whether or not there's anyone else out there who struggles with this sometimes. Not all the time, mind you -- I don't oppose gore and violence as legitimate part of many stories, but when these things stray into torture-porn territory I begin to doubt myself. I know I'm "outing" myself as a timid type, but there it is. Am I just being over-sensitive?
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Re: Am I too squeamish for Call of Cthulhu?

Post by Dr. Gerard » Sat Mar 01, 2014 5:08 am

I would like to think there is room for many kinds of horror in this genre of play, and that people have a right to their tastes and boundaries. In fact, I hope we are emerging from, perhaps evolving beyond outmoded attitudes where player exclusion was seen as preferable to compromise on such things.

Personally, I enjoy being challenged on these things. If someone gives me parameters, I see them as interesting creative prompts, and it gives me permission to delve deeper into other kinds of horror, ones that I might not otherwise have considered.

I'm not sure squeamish is the word I'd use to describe my own attitudes about violence toward women in horror fiction but...I would say it often bores me. I'm not a fan of the overwhelmingly popular Law and Order slash CSI SVU formula o8f procedural TV, which almost always begins with close fetishized photos of an underwear model in some state of decay and violation. Eye roll.

So I can relate, and I don't think that a specific sensibility means you should give up on the game. At least I hope not.
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Re: Am I too squeamish for Call of Cthulhu?

Post by Howard » Sat Mar 01, 2014 9:29 am

Scriven wrote: It seems like a fair bit of material I've seen written for the game lately addresses ideas of sexualized violence, and especially violence towards women and children. I'm just wondering whether or not there's anyone else out there who struggles with this sometimes. Am I just being over-sensitive?
Your not being over-sensitive, that material is unnecessary IMO. I've become more sensitive towards these issues ever since the wife and kids. Not interested vote for me.

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Re: Am I too squeamish for Call of Cthulhu?

Post by monkey prime » Sat Mar 01, 2014 1:22 pm

I'm funny about that too. I'm starting to write more of my own stuff and find me shaping the adventures to exclude a lot of that. Shape it how you want it to be, the material is elastic enough to fit what you need it to.

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Re: Am I too squeamish for Call of Cthulhu?

Post by Dr. Gerard » Sat Mar 01, 2014 4:59 pm

Not sure I would dismiss any of these violent themes out of hand, but I enjoy seeing more diversity of theme in horror gaming and it helps very much for people to express a thirst for alternatives.

That said, I think the "anything goes" attitude is predominant in the culture of this game, and this is probably a conversation you will have to start with players or keepers if you want to shape some ground rules to make it more fun for you. And be prepared for some rejection. "Anything goes" is a valid play style too, so there may be some negotiation involved. Recruiting a group with similar tastes or interest may be your best bet.

But honestly, do we really see a lack of alternatives in the scenario offerings? Would you mind identifying some of the recent work you've seen that crosses your threshold of taste? (You plural. This is already a rich conversation!)
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Re: Am I too squeamish for Call of Cthulhu?

Post by hastur » Sat Mar 01, 2014 7:18 pm

"hurt the women and children" is a cheap attempt to prompt horror, anyway. it's the HFCS of the genre. and frequently utterly baseless, most mythos beings have about as much interest in the sexual and age classifications of humanity as humanity does of crickets. a tiny few study such details, certainly, but for the most part they are not even a side-note on the way to crushing the noisy little buggers. i suppose human cultists might care, since they're already prone to deviant and inhuman behaviour. but again, that's easy to write out if you don't prefer it, and develop more complex motives for them.
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Re: Am I too squeamish for Call of Cthulhu?

Post by monkey prime » Sat Mar 01, 2014 8:21 pm

From my point of view, my group are all Christians so while they appreciate horror and that horrible things will happen, I have to look at where my line is. It's ok to suggest, in fact for me that's more fun, let their imagination fill in the blanks. It makes for effective horror. I have gory moments, last night one NPC had his head crushed, a player was shorn in half by a mechanical octopus and a clockwork bear shredded a player. The violence is there but I don't dwell. I did involve a child who had been experimented on, the kid was now a grotesque monster but I rewarded my players for reasoning with him. Again it's there but it's where the emphasis is. I still look at the themes but I get to choose how I dwell on them.

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Re: Am I too squeamish for Call of Cthulhu?

Post by trevlix » Sat Mar 01, 2014 8:55 pm

I think it comes down to that being a type of horror which is viewed as some people as hitting uncomfortable, horrible areas that a CoC game can go. Some people like that, some people don't. Its the same as body horror, psychological horror, etc.

I agree that I am in the same boat as you and would not play or run a game that deals with that, but thats me. I do appreciate publishers that let readers of materials know beforehand about it. Case in point, Islands of Ignorance from GGP. There is a scenario in there which deals with these themes, but they put a warning on that scenario to let people know. Good Guy Publisher IMO.

Disclaimer: I was an author of one of the articles in that book, so my opinion is biased.
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Re: Am I too squeamish for Call of Cthulhu?

Post by fox01313 » Sun Mar 02, 2014 2:46 pm

As mentioned with one of the recent MUP episodes, just let your keeper know that's one of the limits as horror games are supposed to be somewhat spooky/unsettling but you don't want to gross out the players to where they want to leave. As a horror fan in general I do agree some as after seeing a bunch of the exploitation/torture-porn style of movies, I just don't find them entertaining. I've heard many audio games that will include some horror but not focus so much on it. :slimer:
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Re: Am I too squeamish for Call of Cthulhu?

Post by Russacky » Mon Mar 03, 2014 12:09 am

Personally, I can't think of a scenario where sexual violence would be necessary. Any of the Eldar Gods and Old Ones, I assume, wouldn't care enough about humanity to consider the finer points of violence. The specificity of the type of violence would probably come down to the perpetrator cults, killers etc.

I think that sexual violence doesn't really fall into horror, as horrific as it may be. It's an altogether different type of fear than what Lovecraft and his contemporaries were going for, I think. If revulsion is what you're aiming for there is a bevy of other topics to draw from. Only a very proud or puerile Keeper/GM would refuse to make room for the players needs in this instance.

Also I find the image of, let's say, a Dimensional Shambler walking towards you sporting a large erection more comical than scary.
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