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Soutti

Levelling Monsters

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I have a question about levelling monsters. If your campaign has been running for awhile, and your PCs have increased their skills a bit, how do you create monsters that are appropriate for the group? Coming from a level system, it was easy. But a skills based system is not as intuitive for me. 

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58 minutes ago, Soutti said:

I have a question about levelling monsters. If your campaign has been running for awhile, and your PCs have increased their skills a bit, how do you create monsters that are appropriate for the group? Coming from a level system, it was easy. But a skills based system is not as intuitive for me. 

Hey welcome Soutti!

So here's the major difference between Call of Cthulhu and most other systems. It is not balanced in the normal way, and Investigators are actually discouraged from battling enemies too much. A cultist or ghoul is about the best any PC could hope to slay the conventional way. The idea is to have the players figure out what's going on, then you can add a weakness the "monster" has for the players to discover (you only need to do this if the monster is supposed to be defeated, many scenarios revolve around other ides such as escape, NPC protection, or stopping the horror as opposed to killing it). 

Call of Cthulhu's mythos monsters are mostly overpowered to insane levels, and Investigators don't level up in the usual sense of the word. While players can increase some skills, the majority of the game is spent role-playing a horror themed game. True to its nature, horror is supposed to be disturbing or at least have a sense of helplessness. In fact, the enemies don't really get more powerful (unless you want them to, all the rules are really suggestions and Keepers should do whatever works for their game), the players get progressively weaker as their sanity is drained away.

I hope that helps answer your question, but this game is pretty different from say D&D, so if you have any further questions please reach out:)

Edited by Dethstrok9
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If you are looking for a way to judge a monster's power level, take a look at how much damage it can deal in a turn and how much health it has.

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Yup this question would be more relevant to BRP...

In that optic I would say yes.... Think of it like a war zone... Initially everybody is green... The conflict goes on, many people dies.. whoever survives is much better....

Or in other game mechanic goes, levelling is an illusion for players, everybody else get better as the player does...

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4 minutes ago, Lloyd Dupont said:

Or in other game mechanic goes, levelling is an illusion for players, everybody else get better as the player does...

Very true, always found that humorous. It means next to nothing, because they aren't really getting more powerful. The main thing they get is new types of power or new ways to use power, which is likely where the novelty comes from.

Edited by Dethstrok9
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It's not entirely an illusion to be fair....

Ideally raw power increase across the board.... just give the happy illusion of improvement....

But.. usually people got more options (more spell, more different powers) which is true (but "horizontal") power up... They also get that in BRP anyway (learn new spell)(hopefully?) 

Ooops.. was in a meeting (i.e. bad reading skills), just realised you said the same thing! ^_

Edited by Lloyd Dupont
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1 minute ago, Lloyd Dupont said:

Ooops.. was in a meeting (i.e. bad reading skills), just realised you said the same thing! ^_

Great save though! "Well, I was in an important meeting soooo....":)

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Work meeting! 😮

Well the more urgent work is, the more of them and the longer they become! 😮 :( 
We do them remotely , so I can do something else... 😛 

Edited by Lloyd Dupont
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Thank you both for your responses. I might have to read them several times to get into my head that it's a different style of play. As it is,  that is exactly why I wanted decided to become a Keeper. The system looked incredibly interesting, but I had no Keepers to game with. 

Does lead me to another question..."Stopping the horror" So if I can't kill it, then what are some ways to stop it? closing portals, dispelling magic...Do the players need to know a lot of magic for that, or are other elements such as kicking the sand ring apart or learning that the ritual bowl must be broken sufficient? 

I'm not wanting magic to be easy. Doesn't seem like it is supposed to be.

Also, as a side rant, they shouldn't make The Haunting end in combat. If that is the most ran module, and a starter module...shouldn't start where they don't want you to go. </endrant>

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Now to your other comments, it is only part of an illusion. Yes, I may be able to do an extra die of damage, and therefore the bad guys get an extra die of health, however, it is the options that really make it interesting and potentially more powerful and the reason you want to level up. The animal may ever only have claw claw bite, but I have several options to dealing with it. Those options can indeed give me a leg up or even a way to effectively deal with it that I didn't have before.

At some level, our DM would have to invent arbitrary ways of dealing with how powerful he let us become. That's the part I never liked. 

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Not really in agreement with the idea that the game's meant to be unbalanced. If it was, then the players wouldn't have time to stop the cult and they'd all just converge on them and gun them down. The power of monsters is overstated a lot, and really, unless you get to the truly big, bad, awful things, a heavy arsenal can handle just about anything you'd expect to run into combat with, and even those bigger things are still vulnerable. Cthulhu was injured by a boat; imagine what a 120mm AT cannon would do. Balance is as important in Call of Cthulhu as any other game, but you have more creative ways of keeping it balanced. A monster might seem immune to every bullet you put into it and appear unstoppable, but its greatest weakness might be the flashlight you have stored in your car, which could burn it up like a pile of dead leaves just by shining the beam on it.

Call of Cthulhu combat is less about it being unfair, which it isn't meant to be, and more about being smart, such as not rushing Cthulhu with a pistol and expecting to live. You need to be smart and work together, and remember that brute force isn't always the answer. Discretion's the better part of valor at times, and by going against heavy odds, it's all the more satisfying when you come out on top. At the end of the day though, what Arnie said holds true: if it bleeds, you can kill it.

Don't actively seek to kill your players unless they're asking for it, and give them a way to handle challenges, even if it isn't obvious or even immediate. Like just about any roleplaying game it's about making a story and running it with your friends, not killing their characters and gloating about how they couldn't do anything to stop you.

Edited by TheEnclave
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TheEnclave, thanks. I definitely don't want to kill my characters outright or make them go insane, but I have told them that it is a real possibility in this game. They will all be rolling up backup characters just in case something happens. They can't just do anything and expect me to magically fix it. But I also don't like impossible situations. Feelings of helplessness is fine, actual helplessness is not. I do like the thought of some monsters being nigh invulnerable. But as you said, I need to always provide a way to deal with it.

DethStrok9, I stumbled across your insanity video. Very well done!!! It was super helpful. The one session I ran someone went temporarily insane when they saw blood oozing from the wall. So I had them run away in panic, down the stairs, and into the opposing wall...briefly knocking them out, but no damage. Now, as they go deeper insane, it's going to be rooted somehow in that first incident.

Also, one final question, when converting people from being Adventurers (like D&D style RPGs) to Investigators, how do you convince them that in a monster reveal, fleeing is a better option than combat? 

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7 hours ago, Soutti said:

TheEnclave, thanks. I definitely don't want to kill my characters outright or make them go insane, but I have told them that it is a real possibility in this game. They will all be rolling up backup characters just in case something happens. They can't just do anything and expect me to magically fix it. But I also don't like impossible situations. Feelings of helplessness is fine, actual helplessness is not. I do like the thought of some monsters being nigh invulnerable. But as you said, I need to always provide a way to deal with it.

DethStrok9, I stumbled across your insanity video. Very well done!!! It was super helpful. The one session I ran someone went temporarily insane when they saw blood oozing from the wall. So I had them run away in panic, down the stairs, and into the opposing wall...briefly knocking them out, but no damage. Now, as they go deeper insane, it's going to be rooted somehow in that first incident.

Also, one final question, when converting people from being Adventurers (like D&D style RPGs) to Investigators, how do you convince them that in a monster reveal, fleeing is a better option than combat? 

They are creating normal characters. Let them know that their characters, even ones like a Police Officer, is just as scared as they are in real life. Tell them to think about what they would actually do in the situation. If they tell you they actually would attack the 50 ft. tall tree creature with thousands of eyes and flowers spewing black sludge which they witnessed absorb and liquefy multiple passerby, well... I guess they are going to be in for a surprise. Don't railroad them if they insist on getting killed, but I would try to make only one or two die the first time, just so they really understand the consequences of battle against the horrors of the Mythos.

Also, I wouldn't worry about it too much. I made a ton of mistakes the first time I ran, and continue to make mistakes as I keep running. That doesn't keep the players from having a blast though:) 

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17 hours ago, Soutti said:

Thank you both for your responses. I might have to read them several times to get into my head that it's a different style of play. As it is,  that is exactly why I wanted decided to become a Keeper. The system looked incredibly interesting, but I had no Keepers to game with. 

Does lead me to another question..."Stopping the horror" So if I can't kill it, then what are some ways to stop it? closing portals, dispelling magic...Do the players need to know a lot of magic for that, or are other elements such as kicking the sand ring apart or learning that the ritual bowl must be broken sufficient? 

I'm not wanting magic to be easy. Doesn't seem like it is supposed to be.

Also, as a side rant, they shouldn't make The Haunting end in combat. If that is the most ran module, and a starter module...shouldn't start where they don't want you to go. </endrant>

Okay, so again I will stress that the rules are suggestions and Role-Play is the main idea of the game. I have run modules before, but if there was anything I thought wouldn't work for the scenario I cut it or let different story hooks and plots grow organically out of the player' decisions. 

As for stopping the horror, that can be accomplished however works for you:) All methods you just listed could work, and it's up to you how to reward your player's creative thinking. It also is possible to kill the enemy sometimes, as stated by @TheEnclave, you just have to be smart about it.

And no, in my games magic is always very rare and difficult to use. It should not be easy to use, unless there is some kind of backlash. It's actually great when players think they've found a way to beat the system with a spell, then realize said spell is slowly corrupting them or killing them.

7 hours ago, Soutti said:

DethStrok9, I stumbled across your insanity video. Very well done!!! It was super helpful. The one session I ran someone went temporarily insane when they saw blood oozing from the wall. So I had them run away in panic, down the stairs, and into the opposing wall...briefly knocking them out, but no damage. Now, as they go deeper insane, it's going to be rooted somehow in that first incident.

I'm glad you enjoyed it, my entire channel is dedicated to Call of Cthulhu and many of my videos are similar to that one, with practical advice for Keepers of Arcane Lore. Please consider subscribing:) And yes, that sounds perfect for keeping the horror building, sanity and psychological horror is one of the highlights of this amazing game! By linking everything together, you can create tension as they try to figure everything out and dig deeper into the unfolding plot-line, sinking into despair as they finally understand the truth, but that truth is their very end. One of my favorite examples of this is the SAW franchise;) The first Matrix is also a good example

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4 hours ago, Dethstrok9 said:

They are creating normal characters. Let them know that their characters, even ones like a Police Officer, is just as scared as they are in real life. Tell them to think about what they would actually do in the situation. If they tell you they actually would attack the 50 ft. tall tree creature with thousands of eyes and flowers spewing black sludge which they witnessed absorb and liquefy multiple passerby, well... I guess they are going to be in for a surprise. Don't railroad them if they insist on getting killed, but I would try to make only one or two die the first time, just so they really understand the consequences of battle against the horrors of the Mythos.

To that point... 

I am not a good GM (yet) in my own opinion.. but I think 2 approach on that topic apply:
- give warning about huge danger to you players (innocent passer by might die without warming, but it is rarely good form to start an adventure by, so you are going grocery shopping, yes? well, then, you suddenly die!), so that they can retreat or, foolishly move forward
- When PC proceed forward anyway or when they are surprise (it happens) I like PC to be pretty sure to be able to survive 1 round and maybe retreat or something.. But it might be difficult with some monster with 110% in attack and 8D6 damage.. But remember, PC will have good dodge and also luck points! (in the case of area attack which always do half damage I also created a stunt that can mitigate that)

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Thank you, everyone for answering my questions. It was tremendously helpful. It was nice to be able to talk to people who have played in this world before. Most of the people I have talked to who are local say, "CoC, Yeah, heard of it. Sounds interesting." and that is as far as it goes.

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3 hours ago, Soutti said:

Thank you, everyone for answering my questions. It was tremendously helpful. It was nice to be able to talk to people who have played in this world before. Most of the people I have talked to who are local say, "CoC, Yeah, heard of it. Sounds interesting." and that is as far as it goes.

Oh yeah, I had to bring all my D&D friends into the fold:) It's great that people like you can join the group, every new person is a new cultist...

 

 

 

(Paid for by the Esoteric Order of Dagon)

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Call of Cthulhu is like Ripley on the transport ship in the movie Alien. If you confront the monster in any kind of direct combat you die, but you might survive if you figure out a way to outsmart the people who summoned it.

Edited by EricW

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On 4/6/2020 at 6:59 PM, Dethstrok9 said:

If you are looking for a way to judge a monster's power level, take a look at how much damage it can deal in a turn and how much health it has.

What I would add to this is that the true challenge of a monster is often in it's defensive armor. It doesn't matter what conventional weapon a PC has when, hidden deep in the stat block, many creatures have the fun clauses: "takes one damage from conventional weapons" and "immune to conventional weapons." Most monsters also have hefty armor to the point where a PC can roll max damage on their fancy gun and it doesn't scratch them. I disagree with The Enclave, with respect. Call of Cthulhu stat blocks frequently invalidate the idea  that "if it bleeds you can kill it." Doing one damage to a creature with 32 hit points, 32 times, while facing attacks of 3D6+4D6 DB is tedious and unfun in the best circumstances and a total party wipe under average circumstances. No group of investigators is meant to gain martial victory under those circumstances. Now, a Keeper might throw in a whole bunch of NPC cannon fodder, maybe. But when you analyse your table feel, you may sense a lot of frustration. A little frustration might be ok. But you gotta know your group.

Edited by klecser
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23 hours ago, klecser said:

What I would add to this is that the true challenge of a monster is often in it's defensive armor. ...

What horrifies me in a monster is when they have the ability to bypass our defences.

Takes one point just means you need a machine gun.

John Carpenters “The Thing” wasn’t super tough, you could kill it with a blast from a flame thrower. The scary part was it could impersonate and mimic your friends, and subtly infect people with the slightest touch.
 

The monster could wear the face of the person you trust, right up untIl it struck.
 

What use is a flame thrower, when the alien horror might already be growing inside you, or inside the people you care about? When you realise there is no way for you to personally survive, all you can hope to do is sacrifice yourself to try to stop the shapeshifter from escaping to the outside world?

 

Edited by EricW

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On 4/7/2020 at 2:43 AM, Soutti said:

Does lead me to another question..."Stopping the horror" So if I can't kill it, then what are some ways to stop it? closing portals, dispelling magic...Do the players need to know a lot of magic for that, or are other elements such as kicking the sand ring apart or learning that the ritual bowl must be broken sufficient? 

I'm not wanting magic to be easy. Doesn't seem like it is supposed to be.

Stopping the horror may be finding and dealing with the cultists before they complete the ritual to bring the really bad monsters to the party. It may be finding and destroying (or hiding) some ancient artifact.

As well as cultists there are a number of things that a group of investigators could possibly survive attacking and killing (although nothing is ever safe or easy), but there are a lot that they cannot. Knowing which is which is key. Remember as Keeper you are in control of them and one of the key things is to intensify the horror and not just to kill the investigators as quickly as possible.

One final option is that the investigators do not 'stop the horror'. I have played in a number of scenarios where we confront a cosmic horror and go utterly blissfully insane as the end-scene.

I know you said that you don't really want to kill or drive your players' characters insane, but if done at the climax of the adventure it can be effective. I am sure that your players will get temporary insanities and these should add into the roleplaying - I remember one game where I was afraid of trees (any trees) for a few weeks and I was constantly trying to draw five-pointed stars or make them with twigs (I had seen one be effective when we faced a walking tree; but I didn't know what it was or how it worked).

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