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How to Fix BtMoM?


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#1 Cuchulain

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Posted 08 February 2009 - 04:24 PM

Although the story is quite excellent, as an RPG campaign BtMoM is fatally flawed. It doesn't allow for choice.

How could this best be fixed? Are there any success stories out there from people who have done their own modifications?
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#2 eformo

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Posted 08 February 2009 - 06:11 PM

I'm not offering much of a solution, but just trying to think more about the issues here.

It seems to me that the issue in the adventure is that it's driven, not by a mystery that the characters can choose to pursue, but rather by a set of instructions that the characters are given to follow. Characters in CoC are called investigators for this reason, are they not? So it's deviating from the premise of the game already, no?
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#3 Hal

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Posted 08 February 2009 - 09:25 PM

I agree - having run the game I think the next time I gave it a go I would remove Starkweather entirely (or have him as a backer who does not actually go on the expedition in the end). Perhaps he can fall foul of some kind of sabotage in New York. He could still affect the game by telling others what to do via radio.

Moore can stay but not in a leader capacity, he could perhaps be another major financial party but more focused on the science. I would then have the investigators take a lead in the story.

I think the primary reason that they feel so railroaded is because they have no invested interest in the plot. Other than blond curiosity, why would they risk their lives after the first bad thing happens?

My group were discussing stealing the plane and taking their chances by fleeing around the mountains at one point. Which I think is a much more human response than the one the game is expecting. Especially as it paints Starkweather as an incompetent fool from the start.

If the party led the expedition they would have more to worry about. Perhaps they could have made an agreement with a wealthy benefactor (perhaps Starkweather after his "accident" in my version) to obtain money that will set them up for life if they come back with something ground breaking.

Perhaps there are threats involved. Perhaps someone has threatened their family if they do not deliver on what they find.

There are lots of things that could be done to make the party more invested in the plot. Also if they had more control they would be able to actually investigate rather than just be led about.

Its a great story - shame it plays out just like one :)

Hal :hal:
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#4 PrestoJeff

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Posted 09 February 2009 - 11:16 AM

Maybe the machine is in even worse shape, and stuff is escaping. The first survivor from the first expediton (Dyer?) guesses (or has visions) of the truth and recruits the party. This changes the goal from "find any traces of the last expedition" to "save the world". Dyer could come along to provide hints (and maybe sacrifice himself to the machine), or maybe he gets institutionalized just before sailing. The other survivor (Lake?) has the clues to the locations (he's the one who looked back, so he should know something more).

The real problem is that the environment is so harsh, the regular kind of characters that players might want to run just can't survive there (the same problem with Trail of Tsathoggua). Jenna was fun and could do stuff while still on shore, but once she got on the ship, there wasn't a lot for her character to be able to influence.
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#5 centauri

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Posted 09 February 2009 - 12:18 PM

I think the primary reason that they feel so railroaded is because they have no invested interest in the plot. Other than blond curiosity, why would they risk their lives after the first bad thing happens?

In short: because if they don't, who will? Someone else, who will then die, unleash destruction on us all, get all of the glory, or all three.

I have to admit to listening only to the first recording of this game. I also haven't played this game very much.

Second of all, the issue you mention above is a problem I've seen in almost every CoC recording I've heard on this site or Yoggie: Why should the players risk their lives?

The answer: because they're Investigators. It's like asking why a D&D character would go adventuring since the rules allow for much safer and more lucrative lines of work. They go because they are Adventurers. It's what they players have bought into and it's what makes an interesting game. The goal of a CoC game, as I understand it, is not to survive, but to gain as much knowledge as possible, and possibly save the world doing it.

Escaping the threat of horrific danger is the logical thing to do, but it's not the investigative thing to do. Lovecraft's characters are always going off toward cyclopian towers, mutant-filled villages, dark-spawn, drug-induced voyages, and meetings with their alien-persecuted pen-pals, when the rest of us would say "Nuts to that action" and retire in obscurity on the beach. Sometimes they do it to save humanity, though they don't really imagine any sane person will believe their reports, but often they're just doing it to satisfy their eccentric curiosity. Also, they usually don't seem to acknowledge the possibility of otherworldly dangers, and they enter places that the non-genre-blind would just nuke from orbit.

So, if a CoC player asks why they should proceed into danger, the question should be turned back on them. The player can decided if his character is blind to the danger, or just driven through the danger for some other reason. The point is that they DO proceed into danger, because that's the game. If they say their character wouldn't do that, they should be encouraged to make a character who would.

(I'm not trying to address or encourage rail-roading, here, but I think some forward pressure is appropriate, by both players and Keeper. The players can decide what they want to do, but it should be understood that retreat isn't really in the spirit of Cthulhu. If, say, the MoM crew wants to evacuate and rearm or just wait, fine, but in the meantime another expedition should go out and disappear or a derelict icebreaker with strange tentacle markings should appear off the Cape of Good Hope, or something. The players could then have new hooks to grab to make their characters move towards danger.)
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#6 PrestoJeff

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Posted 09 February 2009 - 02:16 PM

I agree that the whole point of playing CoC is to run characters who want to investigate; I think the problem with BtMoM is that there's no room to let the players do things other than what Starkweather and Moore tell them to do. That's appropriate at the start of the campaign, but not in every session. ("We do what S&M tell us to do." "Okay, this happens." "What do S&M want us to do?" "They want you to do this." "We do what S&M tell us to do.")
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#7 Guest__*

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Posted 10 February 2009 - 04:36 PM

I'd second the "make the party the team leaders" idea. I'd also compress a lot of the pre-Antarctic bit (although I have to say I did enjoy listening to it being played through...)

Perhaps some or all of the party could have links back to the previous expedition giving them reasons to go back and find out the truth for themselves? That might be neater than them just investigating because they are "investigators". One might have lost a brother in the first expedition, one has nightmarish dreams of explorers dying horribly in ice-covered cyclopean cities, another was actually there but has blocked it out due a san-blasting trauma and yet somehow feels compelled to return... that sort of thing.
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#8 Cuchulain

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Posted 10 February 2009 - 06:07 PM

There has to be something interesting about the long journey there. I'd be interested in some foreshadowing, some other plot points on the way rather than condensing.

I like the idea of connecting the PC's with the previous expedition somehow - family connections with the dead seem the most obvious answer, although other details could work as well.

Getting the PC's involved as expedition leaders is a great idea, but would need some work getting the hook right I think.
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#9 eformo

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Posted 10 February 2009 - 08:09 PM

I think that there's also an issue about the pacing because of the locations. Here me out...

In HotOE, the group is moving from place to place. It allows them to arrive, see some really freaky things and then there's a chance for a relief of tensions after a section climax and then to build that tension again in another place. From stop to stop, the overall tension rises, but it ebbs and flows a bit as they move along.

In BtMoM, we get WAY too much mundane-ness until the party gets down to the Antarctic, and once they get past the mountains, it's non-stop weirdness. There's really no relief of the tension while they are skulking about in a city built by aliens that are ancient beyond the human scope of time.

I think that a close-to-ideal balance was struck on the antarctic ice before crossing the mountains, because there's some weirdness in uncovering what happened to the previous expedition, but it's not constant.

Perhaps some relief could be worked in if there were reasons for the characters to go back over the mountains and perhaps have sabotage/intrigue type issues to deal with there. Put in a thread of whodunnit for the characters to investigate and maybe when they come back, they need to confront a specific individual or individuals about their nefarious deeds. I know that the Germans are supposed to provide a good dollop of this sort of stuff, but maybe it could be worked in over a broader interval?
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