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


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1 hour ago, EricW said:

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

Definately. A conclusion that I  reach long ago a bout CoC, is that Investigators are better off without the skill. The longest lived, most successful Investigator in out local area was a character of mine who had the good fortune to never be in the wrong place at the wrong time to get a look at a Mythos creature (with maybe one exception, but that might have been another character), and who never read and  refused to read any of the Mythos books discovered. 

Basically, Mthos skill costs/limits SAN, and  reading the books can give access to spells that can lead to more SAN loss and m ore encounters with life and SAN threatening creatures.

 

1 hour ago, EricW said:

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.

I wouldn't say the information was all that useful. All it does is give the main characters in the story just enough information to get them killed, and to be aware that it is going to happen before it does. The short story is actually a  good example of why the world of H.p. Lovecraft isn't such a great setting for an RPG. Anyone suspected of having any Mythos knowledge gets hunted down and murdered by the Cthulhu cultists.

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I see Occultism as sort of a mitigating discipline against the effects of encounters with the Mythos.  It establishes a framework of ritual knowledge and understanding as well as preparing the character through interactions with non-Mythos non-human entities.  I could even see a grounding in Occultism as enabling one to have one's SAN not be as vulnerable to Mythos encounters due to an existing body of experience with similarly non-ordinary entities.  My perhaps erroneous understanding concerning the sanity-damaging affect of encounters with Mythos elements assumes the person is suffering SAN loss due to how completely divorced from their ordinary understanding of "reality" the Mythos element tends to be.  Someone well grounded in Occult practices already knows there's shit "out there" that can/will mess one up, that defies "common sense".   Therefore, the effect of an encounter with Mythos is somewhat mitigated.

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33 minutes ago, ThornPlutonius said:

I see Occultism as sort of a mitigating discipline against the effects of encounters with the Mythos.  It establishes a framework of ritual knowledge and understanding as well as preparing the character through interactions with non-Mythos non-human entities.  I could even see a grounding in Occultism as enabling one to have one's SAN not be as vulnerable to Mythos encounters due to an existing body of experience with similarly non-ordinary entities.  My perhaps erroneous understanding concerning the sanity-damaging affect of encounters with Mythos elements assumes the person is suffering SAN loss due to how completely divorced from their ordinary understanding of "reality" the Mythos element tends to be.  Someone well grounded in Occult practices already knows there's shit "out there" that can/will mess one up, that defies "common sense".   Therefore, the effect of an encounter with Mythos is somewhat mitigated.

This leads to another question I have had in my mind for a long time. Are the sanity rules even realistic? Assuming things like bigfoot, faeries, and aliens are real and assuming even a tiny portion of encounters are real, most people are not driven insane by their encounters with these beings. To me, it seems like Lovecraft highly underestimated the strength of the human mind, as I would imagine, eldritch super beings aside, seeing something like a deep one or shogoth would be no more damaging to the mind than seeing bigfoot in the wild.

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Realistic?  It would depend upon the person experiencing the encounter, but, in general, I think the CoC sanity is not terribly realistic.  It is, however, a part of the fun.  So, it being a bit over the top serves the game experience.   I see the Weird Story sort of sanity to be part of the experience that the stories seek to deliver to the reader.  Porn is not terribly realistic, but it tends to be done the way it is done because of what "consumers" are perceived to want as an experience.

I like how Traveller 5 handles Sanity.  Players don't know their characters' sanity rating until the first time that it is threatened.  At that point, dice are rolled to determine the rating and the first test is performed.  (Sanity in Traveller?  It is most commonly used to show the effect of long trips in confined spaces, but can also be affected by "non-ordinary" encounters and the effects of chemical agents (ingested, breathed, etc.) or other causes that arise in play or in the GM's twisted imagination.)

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1 hour ago, Old Man Henerson said:

This leads to another question I have had in my mind for a long time. Are the sanity rules even realistic? Assuming things like bigfoot, faeries, and aliens are real and assuming even a tiny portion of encounters are real, most people are not driven insane by their encounters with these beings. To me, it seems like Lovecraft highly underestimated the strength of the human mind, as I would imagine, eldritch super beings aside, seeing something like a deep one or shogoth would be no more damaging to the mind than seeing bigfoot in the wild.

No, not really. Especially when  considering Lovecraft and his own sensibilities and biases. He was  a recluse who might have had a mental breakdown if his postmen happened to have been of African-American decent. His stories are the onles  with the least amount of hope., and  everything is at least somewhat more positive under other Mythos authors.

But then, considering that the Mythos pretty  much  states that reality as we know it, isn't real, maybe the SAN rules shouldn't be real. In game  people are open to all sort s of thoughts being projected at them by Cthulhu and other  strange  beings. What's real a bout that?  Hopefully nothing.

 

Edited by Atgxtg
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41 minutes ago, ThornPlutonius said:

We also live in a time wherein we are far more jaded with respect to "horror" than were folks in Lovecraft's time.

Sort of, but not really. Mankind has always had dark monsters and world ending horrors lurking around throughout all of history. This is just the first time we can discus all of them in one place.

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On 12/4/2019 at 4:11 PM, Atgxtg said:

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

A very small collective pool of points. Let's not ignore that either. It's much easier to throw points at niche skills in Gumshoe games because you have a lot of points in general as compared to CoC. The concept of CoC has always been characters who aren't extremely competent, but that creates a situation where you want to achieve what competence you can with the few points you have available. 

In terms of Sanity, my understanding has always been that the big sanity losses aren't because you see a scary monster, but because the scary monster disrupts your really deep understanding of what reality is.

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6 minutes ago, Numtini said:

A very small collective pool of points. Let's not ignore that either. It's much easier to throw points at niche skills in Gumshoe games because you have a lot of points in general as compared to CoC. The concept of CoC has always been characters who aren't extremely competent, but that creates a situation where you want to achieve what competence you can with the few points you have available. 

Yup it similar, but not as bad as, class and level games. You've got X amount of resources and  X+100 things to spend them on, but need to be good at  3 or 4 things and so can't really divert points from key skills.

Of course a case could be made that there are a lot of other skills that fall into he same  boat as  Occult, and most professions  don't exactly concentrate on skills that  investigators need to combat the Mythos.

6 minutes ago, Numtini said:

In terms of Sanity, my understanding has always been that the big sanity losses aren't because you see a scary monster, but because the scary monster disrupts your really deep understanding of what reality is.

Yes. That's probably why  it's SAN loss, not a fear check or something. With CoC it's about reality essentially being more insane than we can handle. 

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46 minutes ago, Numtini said:

In terms of Sanity, my understanding has always been that the big sanity losses aren't because you see a scary monster, but because the scary monster disrupts your really deep understanding of what reality is.

33 minutes ago, Atgxtg said:

Yes. That's probably why  it's SAN loss, not a fear check or something. With CoC it's about reality essentially being more insane than we can handle. 

Yeah, but wouldn't that be the same thing as someone finding out that the Earth was round instead of flat? Sure people did not like it back then when they first discovered it, but it did not dramatically change how they lived their day to day lives either. It should be the same as finding out about mythos monsters. Unless you need to actively avoid and adapt to the presence of these monsters, your day to day life would not change that much, and even if it did, this new way of life would eventual become your norm.

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48 minutes ago, Old Man Henerson said:

Yeah, but wouldn't that be the same thing as someone finding out that the Earth was round instead of flat?

Hard to say. In Lovracraft's works mankind essentially cannot handle the truth, and most of it's beliefs shield itself from reality. That's the bit a GM has to aceept or reject before figureing out SAN loss. Basically, SAN in CoC is really the strength of  the delusion that shields someone from reality. Or, as I used to joke when I worked in a hospital: "Sanity is a crutch for people who can't handle reality."

 

 

48 minutes ago, Old Man Henerson said:

Sure people did not like it back then when they first discovered it, but it did not dramatically change how they lived their day to day lives either. It should be the same as finding out about mythos monsters.

The world being round? Don't let bad retelling of t he Columbus story fool you.  People knoew the Earth w as round for thousands a years before Columbus. It didn't really bother anybody. Even the objections to Columbus wasn't about the world being round, they all knew it was, but in calculations  of the distance (they were right). A couple of landmasses smack in  the way didn't hep either.

48 minutes ago, Old Man Henerson said:

Unless you need to actively avoid and adapt to the presence of these monsters, your day to day life would not change that much, and even if it did, this new way of life would eventual become your norm.

Not quite. Think of it this way, you awaken from a dream only to  be shown evidence that the dream is actually real and the waking world only an illusion. Remember  humanity is sensitive to Cthulhu's dreams and other such stuff- we all come intro contact with it to some extent. So it all comes down to if Lovecraft's interpretation of his own Mythos is correct or not. If not then you've got considerable latitude in how to interpret things. If true, however, the one day something is going to squash our applecart, bring out cherished delusions down around  out ears and  put us face to face  with reality, and ,  best case is we end up being more cultists.

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Wow, has this discussion taken a turn. :)

The way I see it now, after taking in all the above input, is ...

In the initial character creation, the skill of Occult might be considered to be 'Mythos Lite' i.e. some knowledge but flawed and vague. It also can act as a lead-in for a good Keeper. Let's not forget that it can be used to create a red herring for characters leading them into the direction of non-Mythos realms of thought but, advisedly, it can help. After all, the skill Occult can 'remind' investigators that certain days of the year (e.g. Walpurgisnacht) has 'always been associated with the Otherworld and the dead, especially the harmful spirits. And in HPL's own writings, such 'celebrations' figure large, vide The Dunwich Horror, The Festival.

If you don't use a skill then, apart from the initial point investment, it won't develop. If the investigator you envisage holds Occult in contempt but in character template needs to allocate points to it, then allocate none or the minimum indicated. In game terms, it can't be taken as Mythos-lite, i.e. SAN loss avoiding knowledge gain because use of Occult doesn't really, directly, involve Mythos subjects. Occult relates to non-Mythos ... er ... myths. Should there be a connection then it will be vague. E.G. Occult studies have recorded the idea of ghouls as spirits or even people who thrive in cemeteries, living off of corpses, but it doesn't arm you with the Mythos concept of the ghoul.

The nature of The Occult has changed since the days of HPL, as has the concept of horror. What was, at the time of writing, psychologically terrifying may no longer be. All writing, especially set in a time past of the readers, must be taken within context of its setting. What was scary then isn't now. That said, if we play investigators of the 1920s/30s then we must play them as being scared of things in that time. It's called role playing. Many will have experience of the horrors of Great War trenches - and losing SAN (!) in the process. Hardened to gore, they'd still freak out at seeing a corpse rise! We, on the other hand, mayn't have experienced real warfare but have seen too many zombie movies so might approach animated corpses with a little more stoicism. :)

All in all, I see BRP as being a realistic mechanics-wise, game system but in a fictional world. The SAN rules may not be realistic as in real life but they (mostly) work in the fictional ... er ... real world.

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3 hours ago, Ali the Helering said:

Dear God!!!! 

Your Cthulhu May Vary?????? 

Not so much your Cthulhu may vary but that skills that don't come up in an adventure don't have much value. For instance, if the investigator  never have to fly themselves to a location then it doesn't matter if any them know how to  fly or not. On the other hand if they have their own aircraft and fly to adventure locations, piloting skill become  more important.

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