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What is at stake for the PCs?

Numidius

Explorer
Would you abe able to elaborate on these two things ie (1) your rules changes and (2) how their PCs have revealed themselves to be bland and ineffective?

The only CoC I've played recently is Cthulhu Dark, which (as the name suggests via word-play) is very "lite" with a simple but (as I've experienced it) effective resolution system and rather colourful PCs.
Sure.
"Bland & inane" because of poor Player choices during char gen and attitude during play. Not everyone, not all the time, but mostly.
Pcs are actually very capable from the get-go in this game, Gumshoe's Trail of Cthulhu, and I admit I like it a lot.

Usual problems IME with new Pcs: not much investment in background, personality and, more important, in relating to Npcs.
That's why I started focusing, on my part, on Npcs, and how they relate to Players' investigation, out of curiosity, greed, personal interests. Also to teach them that the course of the game might change drastically if they don't take measures pro, or against, the Npcs involved.
We're getting there, I hope.

(To be cont...)
 

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Numidius

Explorer
(...)

The game provides Pc with starting Drives (curiousity, thrill of adventure, sense of justice, vengeance, overcoming apathy, etc) to propel the will to investigate if needed,
and Pillars of Sanity, personal creed as statements that players make up by themselves:
"Logic will prevail on chaos", "Never underestimate the power of emotions", "An armed gun solves any problem", "a loved person", whatever.
These latter are meant to be eroded in the long term as a measure of losing humanity while becoming more and more aware of alien Cthulhu mythos.

So, there's plenty to work with about backgrounds, motivations and insights for Pc, but to speed up things we agreed to elaborate more on those in the course of play, if needed.

Since the adventure is derailing and widening into a sandboxy scenario (thanks to the very well written set up from the author), it's about time we focus more on the Pc depth and interactions with the many Npc and convoluting storylines emerging.

(...)
 

Numidius

Explorer
On the "ineffective Pc" side of the argument: That is by no means a fault of the system but an issue with inexperience of character generation in order to create Pc ready to investigate on their own.

I informed the players, as game suggests, to take a wide variety of skill between them to cover broadly all areas of possible investigations.

I overlooked this a bit, only to discover at the table that a whole lot of skills were missing on their sheets.

My bad, but I continued running the game introducing more and more Npc to cover those areas.
Particularly from the accademic player character stuff like arts history, archeology, anthropology, architecture, were completely missing.

Now they need to interact with many Npc just to uncover the starting clues out of the items they initially found.
After that they will need to draw conclusions on their own to proceed further, of course.

Such a slower pace of examining things, lends to uncertainty on which line of investigation is the "main" one, so the party prefers to split and have different "encounters" at a time.

A story that could have had only the Pcs going around, now has twice the number of Npcs aware of the investigation, willing to actively take part in it, and "factions" in town are getting involved also ( mafia families, rich heads of industry, mexican gangs and their aztec goddess vine/plant monster Coatlique, criminal underground, occult experts, Elliot Ness in person! ten years after Al Capone and Chicago :)

Cool stuff
 

John Dallman

Explorer
In the GURPS Cabal campaign I'm currently running, the PCs were recruited to explore the multiverse and find out why it's so baroque. They were assigned this mission by the Grand Master of their Cabal lodge, Sir Isaac Newton. It's been quite interesting, as a campaign of exploration and discovery, without much fighting, and they have managed to incorporate their individual interests (wealth, power, arcane philosophies, immortality - the usual kind of things) into this mission.

It appears that they are about to install a new multiversal demiurge, to displace the existing one. This seems to be a necessary side-effect of someone achieving a sufficient understanding of the laws of the multiverse; they have been cautious enough to allow an NPC to do the job. That will be the dramatic climax of the campaign, although there may be some epilogues.
 

John Dallman

Explorer
In the GURPS occult WWII campaign I've been playing since 2006, the characters' original motivation was "Defend the United Kingdom against magical attacks, and try to help win the war." They'd been recruited by an obscure branch of MI5 to do this, and willingness to do it was mandatory for character creation.

Along the path from September 1939 to January 1945, the characters have undergone a great deal of development, both at player level and in terms of game mechanics. Magic and the occult have become public knowledge within the setting, and it seems likely that the characters will become significant people in the post-war world, if they survive. One character in particular, who began the war as a junior RAF fighter pilot, having been a Hollywood actor of no great significance, has found it necessary and practical to marry into the British Royal Family. He's doing this to keep an eye on a German plot that is probably a failure, but might just be very subtle.
 

Numidius

Explorer
Would you abe able to elaborate on these two things ie (1) your rules changes and (2) how their PCs have revealed themselves to be bland and ineffective?

The only CoC I've played recently is Cthulhu Dark, which (as the name suggests via word-play) is very "lite" with a simple but (as I've experienced it) effective resolution system and rather colourful PCs.
Yeah I remember you talking about Cthulhu Dark. I have a copy as well.

We left Trail of Cthulhu, the italian edition, translated, waiting for ages on the shelf, and I've been asked to run it and see how it goes.

Well, first off, let's say a Pc starts with a Profession, and has three main status indicators: phisical health, emotional balance and the usual sanity-vs-mythos-awareness.
So you could have an expert on mythos (almost non human anymore intellectually ) with a strong focus, mental balance, reason; otoh a completely occult ignorant on the verge of madness, irrational personality wise.

Pc is basically made of Skills; these are expressed as a number (of points): Archeology 4; Firearms 8; Intimidate 2...

Skill are divided in Investigative ones and General (action/non-investigative) ones.

Investigative skills don't roll dice for resolution: if you use the right skill (or a reasonable different one) in the right place, you get the core clue (if present of course, or if the gm improv it).
Points from the skill can be spent to get additional info (if any): that means spending more time and effort in the fiction, sometimes.
These points spent never refresh during the "adventure".

General skill, on the other side, mean failure is an option, so you roll a D6 with a target number ranging usually from 3 to 5. Points can be spent to raise the odds, or downright meet the target number without bothering to roll. These points do refresh once in a while.

Ok, thing is: Combat by RAW is resolved in the most traditional way. Sides takes turns, roll to hit, difficulty depending on opponent ability, roll for damage, add weapon damage modifier, check health, repeat, eventually see how much health goes below zero for stuns, injuries or death.

What I did is, for now, to simply reject the above and just declare what someone is doing followed by another declaration by the opponent. Points can be spent to make a declaration stick in order to gain advantage, or any else fictional positionong to alter the scene. Eventually dice are rolled by the Pcs when it seems appropriate, or to end the combat.
eg: a Pc wanted to spend a point to intimidate an opponent when both had already raised their guns against each other: this allowed the PC to fire first, then he had to roll a die to see the outcome: miss, injured, etc.

When a Pc must defend may spend Health itself to roll for... defence ;) So I changed health from status to actual skill.

That's basically it.
I have a look at opponents Stats (when provided) to use them descriptively, but I don't roll dice as Gm.
 
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This reminded me of a PC in a 1990s RM game I GMed. The character was a wizard who had been born a slave, bought his freedom, become a lawyer, and wished to become a magistrate in his city (it was at this point in his life that he entered play). But various turns of events led to him becoming addicted to an expensive magic-enhancing drug, as a result of which he lost his house, and that plus some other misfortunes meant that he lost his dignity. In the end another PC. also a wizard and from the same city but who was plotting with Vecna to conquer said city, persuaded the first PC to join the plot in exchange for the guarantee of a magistracy.

I think the quest for status (which doesn't have to be nobiity, though of course it can be) can be a powerful driver in RPG play.

Yeah, absolutely. That’s largely what Blades in the Dark is all about. Hacking out a place for you and your crew in the city. The type of crew you decide to be will influence exactly what you’re seeking, but it all goes back to status.
 

pemerton

Legend
@Numidius

I have Trail of Cthulhu and have read the rules but never played it. I don't know if I've ever read the introductory scenario, but from what you're saying it seems worth looking at.
 

Numidius

Explorer
@pemerton

Definitely yes. The main plot is ok, something has to be filled in by the Gm to make it work properly, perhaps, but the scenario bits, the collateral fluff, are very interesting. It is based on real life events I had never heard about.
 

My current campaigns are both ALIEN ... both are space trucker mode.

The players reasons for play are different from their characters...
Several of the players are looking at it as the RPG-horror spiral into madness of the character, and seeing just how far before they get done in my total mental break or by being lunch for something mankind was not meant to meet.

Others are in it for the accomplishments of survival and the exploration of the setting...

For the characters, the motivation is varied, but for several, "Another day, another dollar, and another meal." In at least one case, it's find out what the datastick is holding. In another, it's clinging to the new family, since the old one, the birth-based one, is dead.....
 

Sadras

Hero
Lives - Long standing characters with goals
Appearance - Permanent disfigurement
Prestige - Bruised ego, title loss, decreased influence
Personality Traits - Altered, additional flaws...etc
Items (Coin, Personal or Other) - Self-explanatory
Assistance (Information/Travel) - PCs wish to travel to Sigil next.
Abilities (Mechanical/Natural) - Self-explanatory
 

darkbard

Explorer
What drives the action in your RPGIng?

It has been some time since we have gotten back to the action of our game (though maybe not quite as long as your 4E game), but:

For the Drow Cleric who renounced the internecine strife of her home culture and discovered a world of stars and moonlight on the surface: will she be able to rescue her kinsman, the only remaining connection to her past, who was dragged through a portal into the Shadowfell? Will she make a place for herself among these surface dwellers, or will she be treated with the mistrust and suspicion that plagued her early life?

For the Half-elf Warlock of the Raven Queen: will he steal the heirloom family sword that beckons to him with promises of dark power, though he has renounced his family and their noble privilege? Will he learn the nature of the Raven Queen's patronage, why he was chosen by her, and make peace with the assemblage of voices from the past that hammer a cacophony in his head?

For the Half-Orc Ranger: will he uphold his vow to restore the rightful heir to the throne? Will he keep his brother from yielding to the dark forces that seek to claim him? Will he die a hero, falling in battle in an attempt to prevent some injustice?

For the Halfling Rogue: will he find a meaning, a raison d'etre of his own, outside the interests of his companions? Does he have a belief system that he is willing to make a stand for? Or is he but a feather in the wind, blown about by forces greater than he and never finding a way truly his own?

As a group: will they halt these seeming encroachments of the Shadowfell into the natural world? Or do their actions hasten a planar apocalypse?
 

pemerton

Legend
For the Drow Cleric who renounced the internecine strife of her home culture and discovered a world of stars and moonlight on the surface: will she be able to rescue her kinsman, the only remaining connection to her past, who was dragged through a portal into the Shadowfell?

<snip>

For the Half-elf Warlock of the Raven Queen: will he steal the heirloom family sword that beckons to him with promises of dark power, though he has renounced his family and their noble privilege? Will he learn the nature of the Raven Queen's patronage, why he was chosen by her

<snip>

As a group: will they halt these seeming encroachments of the Shadowfell into the natural world? Or do their actions hasten a planar apocalypse?
I'm always up for a good drow-returns-to-the-surface-of-the-world story!

What sort of Warlock is that? Fey? Dark?

What sort of system/adjudication do you use to determine what happens vis-a-vis planer encroachments and apocalypses?
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
I started running a new campaign recently. "Session 0" ended up being lots of conversations instead of a defined session, but it gave me great ideas for the character such that I could plan adventures that would hook them. Then the first session instead of throwing them immediately into an adventure they organically came on the hooks of three different adventures, plus several short (<1 session) side-quests. So they are going on the adventures that interest them the most. This is a technique I continue - there's always too many plot hooks open. Some new, some existing that have grown with inattention, some that have polymorphed with time, such as a goblin problem that has turned into a rival adventuring party issue when they cleared them out.

I have ideas for character arcs for each based on backstory & session 0 that I will interweave among everything else, but I want to let them get settled into their new characters first so their personalities can crystallize and I best know how to pull those hooks.

Also my campaign arcs start and stay fairly fluid - nothing is "true" until it hits the table even if I had been planning it prior to start of play, and I'm willing to "kill my darlings" - change or even discard things I like if they won't work out for this group. I start with strong ideas what I want so I can lay foreshadowing and start to plant clues, but it can and does change.
 
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Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Also something I found a while ago:
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darkbard

Explorer
I'm always up for a good drow-returns-to-the-surface-of-the-world story!

What sort of Warlock is that? Fey? Dark?

What sort of system/adjudication do you use to determine what happens vis-a-vis planer encroachments and apocalypses?

I too am a sucker for a good cliche. If it ain't broke.... (In all seriousness, the only difference between a tired cliche and a rich trope is the approach one brings to it!)

The Warlock is a Vestige Warlock, with the vestiges being various souls under the Raven Queen's care, the aforementioned "voices in his head" (to go along with the Ghost of the Past theme, with similar implementation).

PC success or failure at declared actions (often of the Skill Challenge variety) with regard to salient narrative elements determines whether the planar encroachment waxes or wanes, with the ultimate question of apocalypse unknown to any of us. It may never come to pass, manifest after several years (in the game world), or blacken the earth next week (should the PCs attempt many Shadowfell-related tasks and routinely fail at their checks).
 

Sadras

Hero
For the Halfling Rogue: will he find a meaning, a raison d'etre of his own, outside the interests of his companions? Does he have a belief system that he is willing to make a stand for? Or is he but a feather in the wind, blown about by forces greater than he and never finding a way truly his own?

Interestingl,y we have a halfling sorcerer at our table and he too follows the interests of his companions and the overall campaign storyline with no actual belief or purpose of his own, whereas every other character - 2x humans, an elf and a pair of half-elf siblings all have a greater calling or some fleshed out background that drives their own journey forward.
 

darkbard

Explorer
PC success or failure at declared actions (often of the Skill Challenge variety) with regard to salient narrative elements determines whether the planar encroachment waxes or wanes, with the ultimate question of apocalypse unknown to any of us. It may never come to pass, manifest after several years (in the game world), or blacken the earth next week (should the PCs attempt many Shadowfell-related tasks and routinely fail at their checks).

I should probably say a little more about this. Again, it's been months and months since our last session, and I had only begun working out the details of how this works, but my general idea is to borrow the Clocks mechanic from Blades in the Dark. I have several clocks of various unclicked slices (anywhere from four to eight) running, and whenever a significant salient skill check fails (or, even more likely, the group fails a related skill challenge) I check off a slice of the relevant clock. Also, a relevant PC success can tick off a slice of the clock should their successful action contribute meaningfully to bringing about the Shadowfell Apocalypse.

Example: I have a six clock for Weakening Passage betweeen Planes. If the Cleric attempts to use Religion in battle against creatures with the Shadow keyword and fails, that will check off a slice of the clock. If the PCs fail a larger skill challenge of similar structure and import, I will check off two slices on the same clock. And if the PCs attempt to use a ritual to shift through the shadows for faster travel, that too will check off a slice of the clock, even though there is no attendant failure. (The latter would only be the case if before the ritual was enacted the PCs were aware of and agreed to the trade off.)

Then, if and when all the various related clocks are filled, the Shadow Apocalypse becomes real.
 

darkbard

Explorer
Interestingl,y we have a halfling sorcerer at our table and he too follows the interests of his companions and the overall campaign storyline with no actual belief or purpose of his own

I wonder if this is related to what I say above about cliches and tropes. Whereas many other races have a number of compelling tropes associated with them in literature, folklore, and so on, Halflings have nothing really beyond the hobbits of LotR and Tasslehoff the kender of Dragonlance to build from. The former examples are rather specific in their motivations (destroy the ring, protect master Frodo), while the latter has very little built-in motivation (unless one counts annoying other characters--and thus their players--as motivation).
 

Sadras

Hero
I wonder if this is related to what I say above about cliches and tropes. Whereas many other races have a number of compelling tropes associated with them in literature, folklore, and so on, Halflings have nothing really beyond the hobbits of LotR and Tasslehoff the kender of Dragonlance to build from. The former examples are rather specific in their motivations (destroy the ring, protect master Frodo), while the latter has very little built-in motivation (unless one counts annoying other characters--and thus their players--as motivation).

I believe you have struck the nail on the head - my thinking was along similar lines, I just didn't post it because I was trying to prevent a situation where a dozen posters replied informing me of how their halflings at their table have their own purpose and/or backstory. :) But you have articulated it well by highlighting the only two instances (that I can think of) where fantasy literature/meia provides us with something (however meagre it may seem).

Oh and there is Willow of course (my profile pic being the obvious clue) :D
 

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