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Is Occult even worth bothering with? Suggestions on how to fix.

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So, I asume I am not the first person to notice that Occult's description implies it is worthless.  To whit:

"This skill does not apply to spells, books, and the magic of the Cthulhu Mythos, although occult ideas are often adopted by worshipers of the Great Old Ones."

So, it is a skill that lets you identify anything except anything that might be useful.  That, well it seems wierd if only because it works as a perfect Mythos detector.  I mean, think about it, you show an Occult expert 3 books, The Practices of The Dark One, The Hammer of Witches and The Book of Going Forth Around Lunchtime.  The expert idenfities the latter two, so you know the first one is a Mythos text.
Would it be so game breaking to change it to read the following:

"This skill cannot differentiate between spells, books, and the magic of the Cthulhu Mythos and more mundane Occult beliefs.  In addition information is likely to be obscure (prehaps requiring a Hard roll) and vauge, such as idenfiting The Necronomicon as simply 'An occult text reputedly translated from an Arabic text by Occultist John Dee.' and (as an Extreme roll) Nyarlathotep as 'an obscure Ancient Egyptian firgure, possibly a deity or a Pharoh, records are unclear'."

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The distinction between Occult and Cthuhu Mythos is pretty well explained in the full text, IMO.  Whether or not you personally consider that useful is up to you. It's your game. You can do whatever you want.

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Actually,  I was breezing through the forum and misread the statement that prompted my post.  Coming back I see how I misread it.  I do still think there is much more to occult studies that is reflected in CoC, but that is not a significant issue.

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I have also had problems in the past with the Occult skill. I think it's definitely a useful skill if non-Mythos magic exists in your game. If it doesn't exist, however, what I'm doing is that I consider occultism to be what lies at the "edge" of the Mythos, it's the thing that cults either use to wrap their sanity-blasting knowledge into, so as to reach people and get them into their cult, or it's the thing that scholars would write about before they realize what the horrible truth is and, well, they can't write anything anymore because they're dead or insane. In that case, I effectively use Occult as a "safe" version of the Mythos skill, where you get only a partial or distorted version of the truth, but guaranteed without any SAN rolls. Also, you can improve Occult, unlike Mythos.

Edited by lordabdul
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I'm totally with @lordabdul--I use Occult as the sanitized version of Cthulhu Mythos. What has made its way into folktales and more "mainstream" cults? What might someone who dabbles in those circles or that research, without ever confronting the Mythos in a way that tells them it's real, know or have heard of these things?

It's true that this isn't the rulebook definition, but it's a way to give the skill some utility.

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The Occult skill can be useful as a 'gateway' to ... er ... true Mythos knowledge.

Not only can the Keeper use it to nudge characters memories - after all in "The Whisperer in The Dark" Lovecraft story, the occult lore drops not-so-subtle hints on "real" Mythos knowledge - but also it can indicate possible leads.

Remember, while the "occult" (in game terms) isn't the reality of the Mythos, it is with the 'common herd' of dabblers in the arcane.

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I think occult could be useful if the Keeper uses horrors that are not from the Mythos like an "ordinary" vampire of werewolf.

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Beware the temptation of considering what skills are "useful" to players.

You select characters, mold them, train them but really, at the core, they should be realistic. (Well, in CoC anyhow. Bets are off for Pulp Cthulhu. :) )

We all create characters to be "realistic" but knowing what hideous struggles await, we select skills and powers which may help them survive the ordeal. To create a character with "optimum" stats and skills, interests and flaws; that smacks of creating a "winner". And as we all know, at the end, there is no winner 'cause there's no competition. Our characters can achieve goals, gain successes ... but our characters can always just miss personal (to them) success.

Part of the fun of any role-playing game is to play a character that isn't perfect or optimum or equipped with skills that allow them to succeed or 'win'.

While games lawyers exist, aint no such thing as a cheat mode in table-top RPGS ... or is there?

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I once created a character for Ringworld (much missed) who was rejected by the ref on the grounds that he was TOO realistic and therefore would not survive the opening scenes. 

I would rather have a character die than have them be purposely unrealistic. 

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1 hour ago, Ali the Helering said:

I once created a character for Ringworld (much missed) who was rejected by the ref on the grounds that he was TOO realistic and therefore would not survive the opening scenes. 

I would rather have a character die than have them be purposely unrealistic. 

That's what luck point / fate point / other are for! :D

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On 11/26/2019 at 2:13 PM, Atgxtg said:

I think occult could be useful if the Keeper uses horrors that are not from the Mythos like an "ordinary" vampire of werewolf.

This. One also gets the bonus effect of the Mythos being more special if it isn't encountered every scenario.

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 The Occult skill could be considered, in game terms, as a general acceptance of something 'out there' but no real knowledge of the Mythos.

And let's not discount that the Mythos' existence doesn't preclude the existence of other mythical beings. While the game is sourced on Lovecraftian creations, it can't be forced to make every paranormal event relate to the Mythos.

Sometimes a ghost is just a ghost.

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2 hours ago, TheHistorian said:

This. One also gets the bonus effect of the Mythos being more special if it isn't encountered every scenario.

 

36 minutes ago, Stormkhan Cogg of Pavis said:

 The Occult skill could be considered, in game terms, as a general acceptance of something 'out there' but no real knowledge of the Mythos.

And let's not discount that the Mythos' existence doesn't preclude the existence of other mythical beings. While the game is sourced on Lovecraftian creations, it can't be forced to make every paranormal event relate to the Mythos.

Sometimes a ghost is just a ghost.

That also begs the question of how non-mythos magical creatures view and react to the actual mythos.

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3 hours ago, TheHistorian said:

This. One also gets the bonus effect of the Mythos being more special if it isn't encountered every scenario.

In multiple ways. There is a bit of familiarity breeding contempt going on. If someone is running into a Mythos horrors every week, they tend to lose their effect. Also if people are encountering nasty things and surviving each week, then the horrors start to look incompetent. It's why T V shows  that have investigators into into supernatural  monsters every week tend not to last.

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I see occult as the human understanding of what is happening.

Someone with mastery of occult skill might be aware of strange religious rites practices by a handful of degenerates in the Louisiana swamps, and the striking similarity of those religious practices to religious practices of a handful of shunned and hated Eskimo tribes in the the most isolated and inhospitable regions of Greenland, but it won't tell the occultist that those degenerate religious practices are anything more than an unusually widespread human perversion. They won't learn through their occult skill that the god these cultists worship is real.

So still very useful - if you find an artefact, occult skill might tell you it is a sacrificial blade used by a middle ages European witch cult, but it won't tell you how to use the blade's magic.

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On 11/28/2019 at 3:34 PM, Stormkhan Cogg of Pavis said:

We all create characters to be "realistic" but knowing what hideous struggles await, we select skills and powers which may help them survive the ordeal. To create a character with "optimum" stats and skills, interests and flaws; that smacks of creating a "winner". And as we all know, at the end, there is no winner 'cause there's no competition. Our characters can achieve goals, gain successes ... but our characters can always just miss personal (to them) success.

People do want characters that are fun to play and that generally means having useful skills, if for no other reason than you are so short of points to begin with. If there's no obvious use for a skill or the uses are too niche or watered down so there's no value for points (ie, the athletics skills) then in the real world, nobody takes them. Particularly as there are plenty of "useful" skills that create characters that are fully fleshed out characters and more than just spot hidden/social skill/firearms mythos hunters.

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Point taken, Numinti, but ...

Er.

The characters in the game CoC are meant to reflect 'real life' characters or professions. The Occult literally means hidden knowledge. Some characters will have this 'hidden knowledge' e.g. a professor in anthropology might know a bit, someone interested in ghosts might know a bit, a fringe journalist might know a bit. Frankly, the title of the skill might be "paranormal knowledge". The thing is, a player might consider "Occult" as a waste of points - so be it. But this skill is useful for the player character to get some hint or insight from the Keeper.

" If there's no obvious use for a skill or the uses are too niche or watered down so there's no value for points (ie, the athletics skills) then in the real world, nobody takes them."

Um.

People pick up skills as we grow, learn, experience. I, myself, am not expert or qualified occultist but after over 40 years of reading stuff, experiencing some very weird events, listening to accounts and attending conferences, I might be justified in having 'occult' as a skill. I didn't chose it as part of my academic career.

Thing is, people play role-playing games not to win but to have fun. As you said. There is fun in being a fully fleshed out character, not a Grimm-style Mythos hunter. And having the skill Occult is part of that character potential. Does it 'waste' points? Well, that all depends on your approach to character creation. Arts/Crafts (photography) in the creation of a Private Investigator character makes sense (for a divorce-chasing gumshoe perhaps) but you don't have to add buckets of points in this and, with Keeper consent, you can change the skill emphasis.

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On 12/1/2019 at 3:45 AM, EricW said:

I see occult as the human understanding of what is happening.

Someone with mastery of occult skill might be aware of strange religious rites practices by a handful of degenerates in the Louisiana swamps, and the striking similarity of those religious practices to religious practices of a handful of shunned and hated Eskimo tribes in the the most isolated and inhospitable regions of Greenland, but it won't tell the occultist that those degenerate religious practices are anything more than an unusually widespread human perversion. They won't learn through their occult skill that the god these cultists worship is real.

So still very useful - if you find an artefact, occult skill might tell you it is a sacrificial blade used by a middle ages European witch cult, but it won't tell you how to use the blade's magic.

Not useful at all, by that interpretation. Basically Cthulhu Mythos would give all that plus more.

 

I think Occult is much more useful if there are non Mythos applications for it.

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1 minute ago, Stormkhan Cogg of Pavis said:

The thing is, a player might consider "Occult" as a waste of points - so be it. But this skill is useful for the player character to get some hint or insight from the Keeper.

Uh, that depends on the Keeper. It may well be a waste of points.

1 minute ago, Stormkhan Cogg of Pavis said:

People pick up skills as we grow, learn, experience. I, myself, am not expert or qualified occultist but after over 40 years of reading stuff, experiencing some very weird events, listening to accounts and attending conferences, I might be justified in having 'occult' as a skill. I didn't chose it as part of my academic career.

Yes, and you didn't have to assigned those skills out of a collective pool of points.

What Numtini points out is that players who a re building characters for an RPG  will focus on those skills that have some useful and ignore or put few points into those skills that don't have much use. If Occult just ends up being "Mythos Lite" with no real benefits and no SAN loss, then it will be marginalized in play. 

1 minute ago, Stormkhan Cogg of Pavis said:

Thing is, people play role-playing games not to win but to have fun. As you said. There is fun in being a fully fleshed out character, not a Grimm-style Mythos hunter. And having the skill Occult is part of that character potential. Does it 'waste' points? Well, that all depends on your approach to character creation.

It also depends on the style of the GM. If Occult, or any other skill, has little to no game effect, then yes it's a waste. Imagine if there were a skill called Financial History which was like Credit Rating but didn't given any of the benefits of Credit Rating. How useful would it be?

No to me I think Occult should be a useful skill, just that is doesn't focus a of Mythos stuff, so it would  be very useful for any sort of mystical/supernatural/paranormal phenomenon that isn't strictly Mythos based. Now if the Keeper is running a game where all such things are Mythos in nature, then Occult is a weak skill if not outright useless.

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On 11/29/2019 at 4:50 PM, Atgxtg said:

In multiple ways. There is a bit of familiarity breeding contempt going on. If someone is running into a Mythos horrors every week, they tend to lose their effect. Also if people are encountering nasty things and surviving each week, then the horrors start to look incompetent. It's why T V shows  that have investigators into into supernatural  monsters every week tend not to last.

Supernatural has been on TV for like 15 seasons. X-Files had 8 or 9 as well.

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4 hours ago, tedopon said:

Supernatural has been on TV for like 15 seasons. X-Files had 8 or 9 as well.

Most shows based upon supernatural elements do not last as long, as what are problem the two longest Supernaturally themed TV series,and don't normally have a have a connecting structure more complex that some McGuffin that causes the monster problem every episode..

Yes, but Supernatural changed showrunners several times and got to reinvent itself. X-Files wasn't exactly a "monster of the week" show. Some stories spanned multiple episodes, or had cliffhanger endings that weren't resolved for sometime or were never resolved. Both shows are more about longer running story arcs than the individual episodes. A good deal of both shows success was that the deeper stories going on were what kept the viewers watching (as long as they kept getting tidbits of information). X-Files also avoiding a lot of confrontations with monsters that returned later;  it went out of it way to ensure isolation of characters; the main heroes managed to survive an unreasonable number of close calls (Mulder mostly by his Occult knowledge actually being useful, like when he knocked over some rice to delay a vampire).The three elements would make writing and running a similar RPG more problematic, as the GM couldn't reuse the same monsters, break the party up constantly, or benefit from Script Immunity.

 

I think for a Keeper to run something long lasting then standard CoC probably won't work. With random dice and isolated Investigators, the turnover for main characters would end up being much to high. The Keeper would probably want something more cinematic for that-maybe Pulp Cuthlhu?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Atgxtg
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15 hours ago, Atgxtg said:

Not useful at all, by that interpretation. Basically Cthulhu Mythos would give all that plus more.

I think Occult is much more useful if there are non Mythos applications for it.

Maybe but a PC who is a master of Cthulhu Mythos skill probably has disadvantages which outweigh the benefits.

The Call of Cthulhu story has a display of occult skill such as I described. Professor Angell recognises "Cthulhu fhtagn" as a phrase of occult significance, though he doesn't know what it means. Anthropology Professor William Channing Webb recognised the carved Cthulhu idol recovered from the New Orleans cultists as similar to another idol he saw in West Greenland.

Useful information, but not supernatural insights.

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