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Is There Too Much Cthulhu in Gaming?

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Two podcasts enter, one podcast leaves!

The UK's finest podcast crews went head to head to have the world's most polite argument about whether there was too much Cthulhu in gaming. The Smart Party and The Good Friends of Jackson Elias dueled it out in front of a live audience, who weren't shy about getting involved and sought to answer this perennial question once and for all.  Have a listen, see if you agree, tell us your thoughts!  Imagine the worlds most polite rap battle with less dancing and more tentacles.

Catch the recording from Dragonmeet here

Listen out for golden nuggets from Chaosium's own Mike Mason and other luminaries!

 

 

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I haven't listened to the recording, but arguably there's too much Cthulhu in Cthulhu.  Lovecraft et al. made up creatures and gods as they went along, but most adventures recycle Cthulhu, Mi-Go, the Great Race of Yith, etc. until they're no longer unsettling.  Kevin Crawford's Silent Legions (for OSR D&D, alas) includes random tables for generating your own "mythos", and I'd rather see more of that than yet another stat block for Deep Ones and Shoggoths.

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The idea of Cthulhu... ancient undead alien high priest of even stranger 'gods'... whose dreams echo through the subconscious of sensitives and dreamers... is still a powerful notion, IMO. But the pop-culture version is more of a cuddly kaiju. Similar to what's happened with most any 'monster' that's been around long enough and the mystery surrounding them dissipates.

Even when going for the scares, Cthulhu doesn't always get used in the most imaginative ways... too often it's just a big monster that lives in the ocean.

But vampires and werewolves and zombies continue to find new, effective portrayals... and I figure the same goes for Cthulhu and other Mythos entities. It's down to the manner or presentation.

In all my games of CoC I've never had it as anything more than a background element... hardly ever even named, really. The same goes for most of the powerful Mythos entities. They get referenced by cultists and madmen from time to time... but they all have multiple names and no two groups really agree on what they are.

Silent Legions is a great resource for getting out of that hackneyed Mythos rut.

Edited by Simlasa
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Got a transcription of the recording, by chance? I don't have the time to sit through an hour-long podcast to find the golden nuggets. Generally, I find most gaming podcasts to be too long, poorly-paced/rambling, and boring to be worth the effort. 

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1 hour ago, K Peterson said:

Generally, I find most gaming podcasts to be too long, poorly-paced/rambling, and boring to be worth the effort. 

I really only listen to them while I do other stuff... paint miniatures, play videogames, draw.

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23 hours ago, Simlasa said:

 

In all my games of CoC I've never had it as anything more than a background element... hardly ever even named, really. The same goes for most of the powerful Mythos entities. They get referenced by cultists and madmen from time to time... but they all have multiple names and no two groups really agree on what they are.

I agree with this. In my Mythos sessions, the actual villains are predominantly human. The cultists, priests, psychopaths, etc. There's so much horror in the darker side of humanity that this can be more unnerving than a googly-eyed B-grade movie blob. Having notable human villains and intelligent arch-villains is the key.

I have the PCs uncover evidence of otherworld or supernatural happenings with ancient texts, grissly murders, residue, debris, dreams, etc So the actual mythos skirts the corners of the game, elusive, and not wanting to be revealed in its glory. Bizarre shrieks in the night, followed by screaming, then dismembered bodies being found, that kind of thing.

When I do eventually bring direct confrontation with a Mythos entity it is a really Big Deal, and even then its mainly human level horrors such as an animated corpse, a ghoul crawling out of the earth, or aquatic hybrid village-folk. 

I only look at direct involvement with a major Mythos being once or twice in a campaign, and even then its often towards the campaign climax. Keeping things happening in the dark so only part of the enitity is seen at any given time really helps the feeling of otherworldly horror. I have torches splutter out and electrical equipment malfunction beforehand, and even increase the chances of firearems malfunctions etc. You don't need to explain why these things happen in the presence of Mythos beings of such level, and it all adds to the frantic atmosphere.

I have found that you need to reveal less to get the most out of the Mythos.

Edited by Mankcam
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23 hours ago, K Peterson said:

Got a transcription of the recording, by chance? I don't have the time to sit through an hour-long podcast to find the golden nuggets. Generally, I find most gaming podcasts to be too long, poorly-paced/rambling, and boring to be worth the effort. 

Sorry, no transcript, I've not got the time to re-listen to it and type it all out either! ;)

Thanks for giving us a chance though and not tarring us with the same brush... :)  In defence of this particular cast, it's a direct recording of the seminar as it happened.  If gaming seminars are something you'd attend at a con you may well get some value out of it.  If the idea of listening to other people banter about a topic for best part of an hour leaves you cold however, then probably not worth your time.

I'll leave it up to others if they can pull out what golden nuggets there are (if, indeed, there are any).  Scott definitely had to pull some fish from his beard.

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Agreed with the Good Friends on this or following podcast episodes talking about their favorite mythos figures in games. Cthulhu isn't in a whole lot but Hastur is, nothing against Hastur but we do need more than just a few Cthulhu themed scenarios/campaigns in print.

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