Jump to content
MandilarasM

Pulp Cthulhu - Divination skill - Suggestions on handling it

Recommended Posts

I think I' ve created a monster!

Me and my players are about to start The Two-Headed Serpent tonight. I allowed one of them to get the Psychic talent and gave him the Divination skill. It is currently at 80% and I think he intends to use it constantly for everything, which might be a potential spoiler for all things to come.

Even though it's not mentioned anywhere, I came to the conclusion that I as a keeper, should do a hidden roll whenever he goes for it and give him the "yes" or "no". This way he will know that there is a very good chance that the answer might be true, but he can never be certain.

Have you ever faced a similar situation? How did you handle it? Do you have any suggestions on how to work things out? 

Thanks for your time!

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've got something similar with one of my players at the moment.

He has Psychometry so tries to use it everywhere to figure out whats going on with items and places so what I do now is hit him with san losses when he over uses it. I see it as him spending too much time on the psychic plane and getting hooked to it. You could do something similar where the character starts to suffer from over use of his power and it drains his POW or SAN from abuse.

Think of it as how drugs affect the body, over use causes some serious side effects.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes Mandilaras, that is exactly how you should handle it. Secret rolls. You should also take every opportunity to twist his request however possible. And if you can think of a way that there might not be an answer, go with it.

If you can make Divination inconvenient, or debilitating as Castings suggested, that's fair game as well.

But honestly, I can't imagine even giving a player, let alone a starting one, such a potential game-breaker. Your feeling about his plans only reinforces my urge to limit his ability any way you can.

You might even talk to him before the game, so he understands that you're not going to let him spoil everyone else's fun.

Good luck.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This sort of thing has come up in other games, too, such as the Talents in the 1984 pulp adventure title Justice, Inc.  Cool as it is to have psychic abilities, the player should never be able to depend on them.  The results should always be murky, uncertain, hard to interpret until after the.fact.  The abilities.should serve the GM's purposes in guiding the scenario rather than providing the player and his character with a Get Out of Jail Free card.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

“Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future.” — Yoda

As @Baron said, handle it as an Information Roll, so a secret roll by the Keeper is warranted. Plus, it’s unreliable by its very nature, so even a skill value of 80+% cannot tell anything with absolute certainty. Divination is looking at a probability-space (or quantum superstate) that contains all possible developments, and which gets exponentially larger with every second further away. Like trying to illuminate a pitch-black, growing room with the narrow beam of a flashlight: you can only see small, incoherent spots at a time, and the stuff you see might not even be relevant to you. The experience alone can be straining, if not outright grueling...

Additionally, this being a Cthulhu setting: the Key and the Guardian of the Gate YOG-SOTHOTH sees all and knows all. Try emulating it too often, dare treading on its domain uninvited one time too many, you may attract its attention, and inevitably, incur its wrath.

 

Edited by foolcat
  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 10/12/2019 at 9:50 PM, MandilarasM said:

I think I've created a monster!

Me and my players are about to start The Two-Headed Serpent tonight. I allowed one of them to get the Psychic talent and gave him the Divination skill. It is currently at 80% and I think he intends to use it constantly for everything, which might be a potential spoiler for all things to come.

Even though it's not mentioned anywhere, I came to the conclusion that I as a keeper, should do a hidden roll whenever he goes for it and give him the "yes" or "no". This way he will know that there is a very good chance that the answer might be true, but he can never be certain.

Have you ever faced a similar situation? How did you handle it? Do you have any suggestions on how to work things out? 

Thanks for your time!

I would point out a couple of things.  Firstly, divination should take a while to perform.  It isn't simply a reliable coin toss.  Secondly, you could make it that it becomes less reliable the more often you use it, decreasing it by 5% increments for each use in a day after the first, or, better yet, make each divination cost MP and/or SAN (but only when it comes true, as relying on magic to solve every problem is not very sane in a modern setting).  Thirdly, not everything can be answered with a "yes" or "no", and without a "maybe" option, those maybe questions are always going to be way more ambivalent than the answer can ever suggest.

Personally, when it came to divination, I would normally give my players one pertinent but occluded hint about the scenario.  For example, when there is a haunted crockery cupboard, the clue is "the one you seek guards china".

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I really don't remember exactly how PH divination is written but in the past in other games when this type of came up I never gave clear answers. And I definitely made it a hidden role.

I'd describe a indistinct vision.  A sense of foreboding.  A whispering voice only heard by the player. 

I put as much flair into failed roles as successful ones.  I answered what they asked, not what they meant to ask.

But I personally never gave a yes or no answer.

Edited by Spence
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I just plain don't like the way it's written up. It calls for yes/no answers and IMHO that is way too specific. When I've given a character a psychic skill, I've gone for clairvoyance or psychometry and narrated a vague and hopefully confusing feeling or vision or whatever. But avoided direct yes/no or details.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

HP Lovecraft treated divination as a two way street, you might get away with it once or twice, or not, but people exercising extraordinary abilities tend to attract unwanted attention.

Think The Haunter of the Dark, or From Beyond

In both stories the protagonist got their insane insight, but the cost was far greater than any value they derived.

By all means use the power - but every time the player uses it they see unnatural shifting shadows and piercing eyes glittering in the darkness beyond the light of their vision, hungering for the opportunity to draw closer to the foolish mortal who so recklessly drew their attention. Soon the scary visions start to intrude even when the player isn’t trying to use their gift...

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Come to think of it,  HP Lovecraft's story The Call of Cthulhu had a psychic character, an artist - his "talent" made his mind especially susceptible to Cthulhu's telepathic call. The Shadow Over Innsmouth the deep ones sent sanity destroying visions to the main character, so its not just Cthulhu who can use this talent.

Edited by EricW
  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...