If Cthulhu had been the first RPG scenario

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Shannon Mac
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If Cthulhu had been the first RPG scenario

Post by Shannon Mac » Sun Jan 05, 2014 5:23 am

IF CTHULHU HAD BEEN THE FIRST RPG HOW WOULD THE HOBBY BE DIFFERENT? :fhtagn:

Here's a remark that came up at a horror con I attended which I believe was originally proposed by game designer, John Wick. How would RPGing be different for GMs, players and the industry overall if Cthulhu had been the go to game instead of D&D? Assume the same level of popularity as today. Aaaaannnnd go!

I made the dubious error of posting this to a gaming group which was mostly D&D fanbois so I posted some of the better comments and a portion of the quips. You don't have to read the list below to answer the question. Thanks.

Best,

Shannon

8-) :lol: :x

VARIOUS COMMENTS

It wouldn't have gone anywhere. Part of the reason D&D is so popular, is that players get attached to their characters. COC is the exact opposite. It's the intentional TPK, or at the very least TPFIT (Total Party Failed Insanity Test)...

Instead of Mazes and Monsters we would have Tunnels and Tentacles. Miniatures industry would've collapsed with regard to heroes - who would spend hours painting a figure doomed to last a few minutes?

I think we'd have a focus on atmosphere and mood, more than die and monsters. We'd being play more on the threat, that what we imagine is both not as bad and infinitely worse than anything we would actually face.

More thoughts on the matter, I think not only people would be playing on the threat of an encounter, more worlds akin to Ravenloft would exist. There wouldn't be an expectation of being able to kill the dragon, that the dragon is something to be avoided. All monsters are threats all of the time, to generalise. I think there would also be more of a focus, design preference for classless, skill based systems. Where a characters role is more determined by narrative needs than any player preference, ie I only play fighters etc. perhaps a wider acceptance of other worlds, more modern worlds as well. Cthulhu always struck as Victorian to a degree, early 20th century, nothing later than 1930.

The idea of "longterm campaign" would be less of an assumed notion. There'd be more popcorn gaming and less attachment to characters.

You don't see Cthulhu adventures written "for characters of 20th level and above".

I think Wick is being a bit of a nostalgic Pollyanna here.

Given that the CoC system seems to be inspired mostly from a desire to move away from D&D and less out of one to totally misrepresent Lovecraft's work, I don't think anything would be truly any different; CoC would have to have been borne out of all the same inspirations that lead to D&D, and it would almost certainly possess all the same convoluted design issues as D&D does today simply because it would have no prior games to study the design issues of.

We would all be talking about our characters movement rate instead of level.

If TSR in its early days then would do Cthulhu Dark Ages it would be CAS gonzo. It was rather good that each RPG came out when it did as it paved the way for the innovations to follow. As much as I love Runequest - it needed a dumber system like D&D to learn then appreciate the finer things. It is like a child tasting champagne for the first time and compares it to Sprite. The appreciation for champagne comes with time. CoC would have been too complex in its early itinerations....for most gamers and too narrow - 1920s? Whereas, D&D rode the crest of the post Vietnam vet syndrome and Tolkein euphoria of the late 1960s/early 70s flower power wave.

Hmm... if CoC became the lingua franca game...

1)Epic fantasy roleplaying would be a niche concept, like superhero games. TSR would be looking for their own gritty horror tie-in to try and catch up. Their best success would be the Ravenloft campaign setting.

2)The BRP System would have been set up as the Chaosium/Sorcerers of the Shore ('cause you know they would have bought them out eventually) go-to universal system... which does work rather well for a variety of settings, actually. Bonus points for Elric!/Stormbringer having a bit more market share. And Pendragon.

3) The wargamer channel has a more distinct parallel, though we would see some thematically aligned crossovers: Warhammer FRP, Rouge trader, et al would be a shoo-in for the mainstream roleplayer (oppressive atmosphere, unspeakable horrors, you are likely to die if you run into anything larger than a cockroach). Miniatures are purely a Wargamer thing.

4) Instead of riffs on Tucker's Kobolds, we'd have Old Man Henderson stories - how a player managed to take the weakest and most pitiable of creatures (the PC) and totally break the game.

5) Evul cults worshipping devils... while not accurate, does capture a core faction of opponents in the game. The fact that these are (almost) universally the bad guys is completely missed by the holy rollers. The implied atheism is missed as well. After missing the point on a crusades-themed wargame, Dogs in the Vineyard hits the market earlier, to better success.

6) Fanboy directors try to make a series of movies based on Mythos stories and game stories. The second one wasn't half bad.

7) Story is the go-to-term for games - campaign implies survivability.

8 ) GURPS is unaffected. D&D 4.0 never happened. D&D 3rd would have been a different animal, assuming that TSR lived that long.

9)Arkham Horror was the gateway drug board game that brought us in to gaming instead of Dungeon!.

10) Vancian Magic is considered a really weird way to handle spells. Most RPG-as-story-element authors avoid it. It returns as a new type of horror: a Meme Entity. Weeping Angels got that much scarier.

11) The 'Call of Cthulu' Saturday morning cartoon was reviled by all CoC fans because of how it sugar-coated the mythos. Nodens as a riddle-spewing gnome made no damn sense at all.
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Re: If Cthulhu had been the first RPG scenario

Post by Howard » Sun Jan 05, 2014 6:01 am

I think you've covered it. I see this topic in other rpg forums. Traveler. Sci-fi instead of Fantasy. The same responses go around. I'm not a Cthulhu guy so I can't imagine the reverse. Fantasy would have surpassed it even if it came second. There's just more there. I've listened to the SoC group kill 'Deep Ones' for two years now. It's not that fresh, you have to really suspend your imagination and pretend you don't know what's next. Cthulhu works best for noobs. Experienced players wouldn't die that often, especially if they kept their experienced characters(which they don't). They only die because you guys are being polite to your keeper and going along with their game and their "New" character has a 5% chance of success. I get it though....that's fun....?....for you guys. Before you bash how noob D&D players roll, I haven't played that way since 1984. Today's fantasy gaming is gritty, in-depth, low magic, low fantasy and constructive, mixed with the hack'n'slash. Heroic fantasy railroad campaigns are for the inexperienced, but they're still fun.

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Re: If Cthulhu had been the first RPG scenario

Post by Shannon Mac » Sun Jan 05, 2014 7:57 am

<<<< Today's fantasy gaming is gritty, in-depth, low magic, low fantasy and constructive, mixed with the hack'n'slash.>>>

Is this you or are you quoting someone? If they're talking about D&D they're really off.
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Re: If Cthulhu had been the first RPG scenario

Post by Howard » Sun Jan 05, 2014 9:23 am

Yeah, sorry, that's describing my group. We're old, we play WFRP/Pendragon/HackMaster5e. To your question. IMO, Fantasy still would have overcome horror for the main reason that it's campaign playable. Horror is best as a one-off.

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Re: If Cthulhu had been the first RPG scenario

Post by Shannon Mac » Mon Jan 06, 2014 7:24 am

>>>>>Yeah, sorry, that's describing my group. We're old, we play WFRP/Pendragon/HackMaster5e. >>>

I've enjoyed 4E KAP and 1st and 2nd WFRP. WFRP was a nice revisit to Old School D&D with New School D&D players who were too emotionally attached to their original characters.

<<<<To your question. IMO, Fantasy still would have overcome horror for the main reason that it's campaign playable. >>>

<<< Horror is best as a one-off.>>>>

Disagree strongly. I've played in year long or more COC camps. Some were meat grinders like MoN and others you had your original character b/c the Keeper gave you gradual SAN losses and no serious threats until later at the very end. It all depends on the style of the Keeper.

Additionally, are you aware that one of the Fathers of Tabletop RPGing arguably didn't believe in a long legion of campaign characters? Gygax was known for killing most characters if not all at cons and remarking that it was time to retire your high level character after some great adventure like TOMB OF HORRORS.

This goes back to my presentation that paradigms are so strong for people who love fantasy gaming that I can't even reach them with the possibility of said scenario. :evil:

The idea that fantasy was about long lived characters who save the world was never Gygax's true motivation. That was more of a LORD OF THE RINGS ripoff idea that is overplayed too often in fantasy games.
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Re: If Cthulhu had been the first RPG scenario

Post by fox01313 » Mon Jan 06, 2014 12:57 pm

Love #11 on that list at the end, the D&D cartoon was quite dated but somehow enjoyably cheezy like a bad but amusing b-movie. I personally think that if CoC was the first RPG out there that overall it wouldn't change most systems too much, they might skip over the sanity mechanics or just do a lighter version of it but I do think that they would be most story driven with a bit of freedom put in over how railroad and mechanical the D&D games were at the start where you didn't have a ton of variation on where to go. I'm much happier with CoC & the storytelling systems, D&D was a good introduction and a point of comparison but for me the huge amount of rules with D&D as well as the huge number of books for players was just insane.
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Re: If Cthulhu had been the first RPG scenario

Post by Howard » Mon Jan 06, 2014 5:49 pm

If D&D came second...1st level characters would, after a series of Fast Talk checks, go from point A to point B where a second series of Fast Talk checks would take place. Because all of the checks were fails, the DM/Keeper begins to pull his hair out a little as the PCs wander off of the path. Knowing the bad guy is another Dragon cult, the party meta games a little just to get back on track. Finally, the Dragon hunters loose their sanity at the very sight of what they're trained to hunt just before their final demise as the cult succeeds in awakening a Dragon which consumes all in it's path. :)

Another difference between the Genres is Cthulhu fans both play and 'Keep' games. Being the Keeper is "Half" the fun. Everyone is waiting their turn to Keep and therefore is never invested in a character. IMO, D&D(fantasy) has legions of "Players" who have no interest in DMing and are purely focused on developing their characters.

[OT]On the subject of Fast Talking. Achtung Cthulhu game designers probably didn't realize that 8,742 Fast Talk checks were going to be needed in their scenarios where operatives/investigators sneak past enemy lines to foil the cultists plans. Game designers need to take notes during play testing.
Last edited by Howard on Mon Jan 06, 2014 11:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: If Cthulhu had been the first RPG scenario

Post by Shannon Mac » Mon Jan 06, 2014 10:51 pm

I'll always come to you first when I want to be mystified by your dizzying conclusions, Howard. Heh.
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Re: If Cthulhu had been the first RPG scenario

Post by EddyPo » Tue Jan 07, 2014 3:15 pm

D&D was my gateway drug. As much as I love Call of Cthulhu now, I don't think 12-year-old me would have had the maturity and the appreciation for investigation and story that I do now. I probably would have waited until the first fantasy or superhero RPG came out.
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Re: If Cthulhu had been the first RPG scenario

Post by Shannon Mac » Wed Jan 08, 2014 8:23 am

You guys suck. Can't even do a what if scenario. :x
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