Lovecraftian Horror thoughts

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opey2dope
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Lovecraftian Horror thoughts

#1 Postby opey2dope » Mon Nov 03, 2008 1:04 pm

These are some thoughts I had about a conversion of lovecraftian horror gaming, like call of cthulhu, to savage worlds. I know that a proper licensed version is in the works, but I'm too impatient to wait, so I had these thoughts of my own. Of course, I will purchase the savage worlds cthulhu book, realms of cthulhu, when it is released.

Any feedback would be awesome, as these ideas are untested.

1. To be like CoC, you need to add sanity. There are rules in the horror GM toolkit, so I'll use those.
2. the initial derived stat is your maximum sanity; your current sanity fluctuates during play. Each level of spirit advancement restores one sanity point, and increases your maximum at the same time. (this is more of a clarification)
3. Eliminate the guts skill, just use spirit. This frees up some skill points from a skill that I believe to be redundant.

Characters in Savage worlds always seem more competant than in horror games like CoC , so we'll make some changes.

1. Eliminate the wild die on all trait rolls. That will make success much less likely.
2. Add professions. Instead of adding levels to skills, each profession will specify certain "wild skills." On these rolls, you get a wild die.
3. Bennies can no longer be used to soak wounds. They can only be used to eliminate shaken levels or to re-roll tests.
4. Horrific monsters will have a "terror rating" that denotes a penalty to spirit rolls made when viewing them. (some type of adversaries will not have these, like those adversaries that are human in appearence) Failure results in lost sanity.

We'll also need a "mythos" type skill, so here's my ideas there:
1. The mythos skill is a sepcial skill. It cannot be purchased during character creation.
2. This skill can be gained during a session, not just at advancement. It takes a great revelation of the mythos to raise this skill, however.
3. The first level most characters get is when they encounter a major force of the mythos.
4. Reading tomes usually only gives a bonus to your next mythos roll; prolonged study of a major tome like the necronomicon is required to actually raise this skill permanently.
5. Each time you gain a level of mythos, your maximum sanity goes down by one. If you are at maximum at this time, you lose a point of sanity (so you stay at your maximum; this means it is actually possible to have a maximum that is negative)
6. this skill is always considered greater than its linked attribute.

Any thoughts?

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#2 Postby jamused » Mon Nov 03, 2008 2:24 pm

I like the idea of adding a Sanity score much like Charisma that only records deviations (there might be some Edges that let you improve it, either at the start or to restore lost sanity), but I don't think much of the rest is needed. In particular, it seems utterly unnecessary to make the Investigators incompetent or fragile...the whole point of Lovecraftian horror, to my mind, is how far beyond the scope of what human beings can deal with all of it is. If you're running a scenario and the players are thinking "We could have beaten it if we'd had better stats" or "those Shuggoths wouldn't be so scary if we could actually soak wounds" then something has gone terribly wrong.

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#3 Postby sulfurdown » Mon Nov 03, 2008 2:46 pm

How timely! I've been trying to put together a Sanity system that I like within the SW framework for a while now and was just coming onto the boards to dig up references.

My gut reaction is that it's overly complex of a system for SW, with the FFF stance begging a relatively simple system (though not necessarily as simple as using just the Fear rules which don't allow a 'decent into madness' very well). I'll note that the standard SW has the Fear trait for creatures that can apply penalties just like your proposed 'Terror' trait. I'll have to think on it more before I could offer any advise on refining your system. Good luck though!
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#4 Postby jamused » Mon Nov 03, 2008 4:57 pm

The Fear Effects table from SW:EX seems pretty well-suited to "descent into madness" if you keep running into things...that's not to say you couldn't make something more elaborate if that was going to be a central feature of the game, but it already has provisions for permanent potentially crippling effects just from being frightened, which is more than you can say for a lot of systems. I might be inclined to assign Delusions as well as Phobias, just for the sake of variety, and possibly force them to roll Guts when reading one of the more ghastly books, but I don't think I'd do much more than that until I'd seen how some adventures played out.

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#5 Postby opey2dope » Mon Nov 03, 2008 6:26 pm

the biggest difference is that the fear effects table isn't progressive (IIRC), you can get a problem if you fail badly, but it doesn't build up over time like sanity loss can.

The sanity system covers all this. Sanity is basically an expansion of the existing horror system, with this added degradation effect. (the system is actually pretty light, it takes up less than a page of text)

The other suggestions are mostly to make the characters weaker, as characters in horror games tend to be. Especially in CoC, where direct combat with monsters and other adversaries is usually fatal. The alterations were made to capture that feel.

Now it is possible that I went to far, and made the characters too weak. But as I said, this is untested.

Now some CoC games are very "pulpy" and these suggestions would be innapropriate, as you are expected to engage in a stand up fight in those games.

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#6 Postby jamused » Mon Nov 03, 2008 8:54 pm

See, I think that weakness would be covered by the fact that many CoC characters are academics and the like, who would not have any dice in Fighting or Shooting, and possibly low scores in Vigor and Spirit. But they're not incompetent at their actual specialties like research, history, and so forth. Taking away their Wild Die drastically scales down their probability of doing things like translating an obscure text or persuading the coroner to let them take a look at the body, which I think gets in the way of them investigating. If you want them not to fight the monsters, it's pretty simple to make the monsters essentially invulnerable (say by giving them the equivalent of Heavy Armor or making them immune to everything except certain magic like the Elder Signs) all without making it so that of course they can't fight the monsters because they can't fight anybody...ordinary gangsters would be more than they could handle, let alone mad cultists.

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#7 Postby opey2dope » Mon Nov 03, 2008 9:27 pm

that's a good point. I had hoped that the profession idea would help to alleviate this, but you are correct that then even weaker enemies would just mop up.

Maybe I could use the "gritty" damage rules from the crime city supplement to make combat nastier. Mythos baddies could use existing rules to make them particularly tough (like heavy armor).

My knowledge of CoC is from CoC d20, not BRP, where characters are pretty wimpy compared to the characters from other d20 products, and I was looking for a way to limit them somehow. In that system, guns kill all the time, and violence is generally a mistake.

I'll have to introduce some of the mechanics gradually, testing them as I go.

Any opinions of the mythos skill? It is intended to emulate the "cthulhu mythos" skill in CoC.

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#8 Postby jamused » Mon Nov 03, 2008 10:29 pm

Kn: Mythos seems reasonable... I might be inclined to make it only attainable in play as a plot award rather than something you can spend advances on.

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#9 Postby Sitting Duck » Tue Nov 04, 2008 6:28 am

There's a Call of Cthulhu conversion over at Savagepedia with a Sanity mechanic and a Cthulhu Moythos skill that might work for you.
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#10 Postby MountZionRyan » Tue Nov 04, 2008 8:34 am

Don't forget that eventually we'll have an official Cthulhu game from Reality Blurs: Realms of Cthulhu
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#11 Postby opey2dope » Tue Nov 04, 2008 9:32 pm

trust me, I haven't forgotten; the notes I've read make that look awesome. I will definitely be purchasing that.

I'm just impatient; I figured I'd work something up for now.

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#12 Postby CAM » Sat Feb 28, 2009 11:23 pm

I would definately not go for a point based Sanity tally, its not SW at all; even the magic systems in later works (ie Solomon Kane) don't use Power Points in favour of a skill modifier approach

I would deal with Sanity thru the Edges/Hindrances (perhaps make a few up if no preexisting ones can be utilised or tweaked), and use the already existing Fear rules - repeated use should bring about suitable eccentricities and derangements for investigators continually in shock by Mythos exposure

Perhaps limiting wild dice useage would have merits to take out a pulp adventure approach; however bennies should be kept, as investigators need some ace up their sleeves if they're going to survive long enough to be deranged...

Thats my five min worth of thoughts, good luck with it all

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#13 Postby Sitting Duck » Sun Mar 01, 2009 8:56 am

CAM wrote:I would definately not go for a point based Sanity tally, its not SW at all


So that means Tour of Darkness isn't SW? Teller will be so despondent. :P
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Re: Lovecraftian Horror thoughts

#14 Postby Adam Baulderstone » Sun Mar 01, 2009 3:40 pm

opey2dope wrote:
1. To be like CoC, you need to add sanity. There are rules in the horror GM toolkit, so I'll use those.
2. the initial derived stat is your maximum sanity; your current sanity fluctuates during play. Each level of spirit advancement restores one sanity point, and increases your maximum at the same time. (this is more of a clarification)
3. Eliminate the guts skill, just use spirit. This frees up some skill points from a skill that I believe to be redundant.


I've run CoC with SW, so I thought I'd throw in my thoughts. I found the Sanity mechanic in the toolkit worked well. It had a good pace of Sanity loss. I also liked the aside from the unlikely result of permanent catatonia, for the most part, these rules never specifically took the character away from a player. I always disliked that in BRP CoC. It seemed unfair to be role-playing a character's descent into madness and then have them snatched away when you reached your peak.

In the SW system players still unravel, but it's the players call when to retire the character. Not to mention the rest of the groups. It led to a lot of interesting roleplaying between characters, when one of them became dangerously unhinged and a potential threat to the group. It was a lot more interesting than characters being whisked over to NPC status for a poor dice roll.

I tend to eliminate guts in a lot of setting, but CoC was my exception. You mention the trying to represent the more fragile nature of CoC characters, but you'll be making it far easier for them to make mentally tough characters, by eliminating that skill. It also make certain interesting character build impossible. For example, a hardened WWI Vet, turned hard-boiled detective who never loses it in a fight (high Spirit), but who loses it when confronted with the supernatural forces he can't deal with physically (low Guts).

One thin

Characters in Savage worlds always seem more competant than in horror games like CoC , so we'll make some changes.

1. Eliminate the wild die on all trait rolls. That will make success much less likely.
2. Add professions. Instead of adding levels to skills, each profession will specify certain "wild skills." On these rolls, you get a wild die.
3. Bennies can no longer be used to soak wounds. They can only be used to eliminate shaken levels or to re-roll tests.
4. Horrific monsters will have a "terror rating" that denotes a penalty to spirit rolls made when viewing them. (some type of adversaries will not have these, like those adversaries that are human in appearence) Failure results in lost sanity.


I think losing the Wild Die is a game-breaker. The Wild Die doesn't exist to boost characters as much as it exists to provide a more even probability of results. You'd have have characters with an average level of competence (d6) failing half of the time.

And it's not like characters in the BRP version are poorly skilled. Quite the opposite. Like in Savage Worlds, it's very easy to start with a character who is very competent in their main field. It's also not hard to make a character highly skilled. It's really more of a question of whether those weapons will do anything for you.

The real weakness of BRP CoC characters lies in how much damage they can take. The gritty damage rules can easily fix that.

What I did was to vastly reduce the number of extras I used. Most NPC's were Wild Cards, which kept the playing field level, without making th PC's a complete joke.

We'll also need a "mythos" type skill, so here's my ideas there:
1. The mythos skill is a sepcial skill. It cannot be purchased during character creation.
2. This skill can be gained during a session, not just at advancement. It takes a great revelation of the mythos to raise this skill, however.
3. The first level most characters get is when they encounter a major force of the mythos.
4. Reading tomes usually only gives a bonus to your next mythos roll; prolonged study of a major tome like the necronomicon is required to actually raise this skill permanently.
5. Each time you gain a level of mythos, your maximum sanity goes down by one. If you are at maximum at this time, you lose a point of sanity (so you stay at your maximum; this means it is actually possible to have a maximum that is negative)
6. this skill is always considered greater than its linked attribute.


Those rules look perfect. I also did away with Arcane Backgrounds. Magic was simply a matter of knowing the right ritual in many cases, and certain spells required the caster to have sanity of zero or lower. This meant the initiations magicians would go through (being buried alive, use of powerful hallucinogens, and so on) were basically way of driving the character insane enough to understand the deeper mysteries of sorcery.

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Responding to Sitting Duck's comment 01.03.09

#15 Postby CAM » Tue Mar 17, 2009 7:18 am

What I meant was that any tally system doesn't feel right for SW in my opinion, including the Power Points system in the standard rules and the Sanity Point system in Tour of Darkness

Tour of Darkness was an early product and I feel the system has fleshed itself out a little since them; a system that measures capacity and impairment works better than a point tick off system for me

No disrespect for those rules however, I was just describing my preference. Overall this is a great little rpg, and its good to see some many views expressed, it just shows how good the core system actually is.


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