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Lovecraftian Dungeons?


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#1 BigJackBrass

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Posted 27 February 2015 - 02:09 AM

Here's a simple topic for discussion: do you think it's possible to run a Lovecraftian dungeon adventure, or does the nature of dungeon-bashing fantasy run counter the themes that make a story "Lovecraftian" in the first place?

Examples welcome :)
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#2 Pencil-Monkey

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Posted 27 February 2015 - 04:47 AM

Frankly, many people already play Call of Cthulhu as a dungeon crawl, or at least as a hack 'n' slash adventure. :) The Investigators head out, heavily laden with shotguns and dynamite, itching to kill as many cultists and minor gribbly creatures as possible, until they eventually meet their gory glorious demise at the tentacles of an Elder Being. That's not far removed from a traditional dungeon crawl, although with a higher lethality rate than many modern RPGs offer - it might be more accurate to compare it to old-school 0D&D games, where TPKs were an everyday occurrence.

If your whiney little cry-babies players want a Cthuvian dungeon crawl with less risk of being cosmically disemboweled, you could try a reverse-dungeon approach. The players take the role of Cthultists and Deep Ones, going on "city crawls" where they try to sacrifice/devour as many orphan baby paladin nuns as possible, to increase their own power level.

You may also wish to take a look at Machina Arcana, which has been described as a Steampunk Cthulhu-esque dungeon crawl board game.
 

Machina Arcana is a cooperative steampunk horror board game for 1-4 players. An immersive and dark, turn-based tactical game.

Players take on the role of explorers that are thrown into dreadful halls, scratching for survival and progressing through the chapters of one from many horror stories. Even if they manage to stay alive till the end of the story, they will face a special mini game at the finale of each scenario.

A novel way of interacting with environment, inventory, combat mechanics, tactical and storytelling experience all connected in order to give you a complete immersion and replay value. But beware! A horde of unique and terrifying monsters are bent only to destroying your party. If that isn’t enough, Horror itself disrupts and hinders any remaining hope in these comfortless chambers.

Enjoy the stunning art and dark visuals of the game, let yourself be entranced in the gripping story and peculiar events. There is no need for game master, no special conditions based on player count, a modifiable duration and difficulty setting. But one thing is always certain - every session is different, huge content and a game that is easy to learn but hard to master.

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#3 Hafwit 2.0

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Posted 27 February 2015 - 05:28 AM

I think what's needed to make dungeon crawls (sorta) Lovecraftian is a change in mood more than anything else. The characters should very much be going into the unknown every time they go 'crawling. Their adversaries should be alien, and the rewards should be strange and somewhat of a double-edged sword.

 

Cleric: "I can't find an exact passage, but I'm pretty sure the Lord frowns on a glowing green blood-drinking rock".

 

Thief: "Did you SEE the hole it blew in the baron's tax collectors? KA-BOOM and you were exempt!"

 

Rock: "Feeeed meee!"


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#4 BigJackBrass

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Posted 28 February 2015 - 12:35 PM

I posted this topic from my mobile 'phone, which seems to have occasional issues with double posting. Sure enough, looking at the forum on my PC I see that the topic has appeared twice! Because of that I've combined the two threads.


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#5 Hafwit 2.0

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Posted 28 February 2015 - 03:43 PM

Do you think that system of SAN/fear checks/mental stability would make a game more Lovecraftian?

 

I don't personally think it's needed (although it can be fun!) Some things I think a 'Cthulhu-crawl' game should consider:

 

- Magic should come with risk and with a cost.

- There should be a real feeling that the PCs are on their own. As such clerics should probably have a different role (or being a person of the cloth should just be background)

- There should be an element of mystery and investigation. A gradual revelation of what's really going on.

- No 'standard monsters'.

 

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#6 Lucky_Strike

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Posted 28 February 2015 - 05:23 PM

More thoughts on this later but the the horror at alien strangeness can fit in many places.

If you chose to run it with a slant to the descriptions Expedition to the Barrier Peaks could be very lovecraftian.
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#7 Pencil-Monkey

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Posted 02 March 2015 - 12:35 PM

I posted this topic from my mobile 'phone, which seems to have occasional issues with double posting. Sure enough, looking at the forum on my PC I see that the topic has appeared twice! Because of that I've combined the two threads.

 
Having trouble with all these new-fangled doohickeys, eh gramps? :P
 
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("Call louder, I'm half deaf!")

- Cthulhu, the Great Old One.


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#8 Hafwit 2.0

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Posted 03 March 2015 - 03:25 PM

Awww. Lookit the spawn. :)


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#9 Pencil-Monkey

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Posted 04 March 2015 - 12:35 PM

Here's another Lovecraftian dungeon crawl board game, this time with a Western twist: Shadows of Brimstone.

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Players create characters, taking on the role of a classic Western Hero Archetype, such as the Law Man, Gunslinger, or Saloon Girl. Forming an adventuring posse, the Heroes venture down into the dark mines, overrun with all manner of ancient demons and foul creatures from another world. With tactical gameplay, lots of dice, and a robust card-driven exploration system, no two games are ever the same as the Heroes explore the mines finding new enemies to fight, new Loot to collect, and new dangers to overcome. Players can even find portals to other worlds, stepping through to continue their adventures on the other side!

An exciting campaign system allows the Players to visit local frontier towns between adventures, spending their hard-earned Loot and building their characters from game to game! As players find fantastic Gear and Artifacts to equip their Heroes, they also gain experience from their adventures. This experience is used to level up, guiding the Hero’s path through an expansive, class-specific upgrade tree of new skills and abilities, allowing each player to develop their Hero to fit their own play style.

So load up yer’ six shooter, throw on yer’ hat and poncho, and gather the posse, the darkness is coming, and all hell’s about to break loose... in the Shadows of Brimstone!

 
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#10 Hafwit 2.0

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Posted 09 March 2015 - 08:49 AM

That does look like great fun. The guy with the rifle looks like he's a wild west Cacofonix/Trubadurix.


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#11 Lucky_Strike

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Posted 09 March 2015 - 09:39 AM

That does look like great fun. The guy with the rifle looks like he's a wild west Cacofonix/Trubadurix.


Now I'm going to have to find a way to incorporate an Armorican archaeological dig into my next Call of Cthulhu game.
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#12 kendoyle659

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Posted 09 March 2015 - 12:36 PM

Now I'm going to have to find a way to incorporate an Armorican archaeological dig into my next Call of Cthulhu game.

 

Will they find lots of wild boar bones and a mysterious potion gourd?


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#13 Pencil-Monkey

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Posted 10 March 2015 - 08:28 AM

They might discover ancient remains of Roman legionary soldiers, who appear to have been frightened to death by an eldritch horror summoned by Celtic druids. Oh, and above the mass grave there's a menhir bearing a message carved in Gaulish: "They're crazy, those Romans!"
 


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#14 Lucky_Strike

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Posted 10 March 2015 - 11:33 AM

They might discover ancient remains of Roman legionary soldiers, who appear to have been frightened to death by an eldritch horror summoned by Celtic druids. Oh, and above the mass grave there's a menhir bearing a message carved in Gaulish: "They're crazy, those Romans!"


And a shield inscribed "I don't know where Alesia is!"
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#15 Slartibartfast

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Posted 13 March 2015 - 12:35 AM

By Toutatis' tenticles!


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#16 Hafwit 2.0

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Posted 14 March 2015 - 10:24 AM

Darkest Dungeon sounds like it's close to being the thing we're talking about.

 

Description

Darkest Dungeon is a challenging gothic roguelike RPG about the psychological stresses of adventuring. You will lead a band of heroes on a perilous side-scrolling descent, dealing with a prodigious number of threats to their bodily health, and worse, a relentless assault on their mental fortitude! Five hundred feet below the earth you will not only fight unimaginable foes, but famine, disease, and the stress of the ever-encroaching dark. Darkest Dungeon focuses on the humanity and psychological vulnerability of the heroes and asks: What emotional toll does a life of adventure take?

 

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#17 BigJackBrass

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Posted 14 March 2015 - 10:29 AM

Darkest Dungeon sounds like it's close to being the thing we're talking about.

 

That does seem to lean in the right direction. The key problem with most of the so-called Lovecraftian dungeons I've seen - and it goes right back to AD&D and the Deities & Demigods supplement - is that of turning Lovecraft's creations into simple physical threats. In that respect they became little more than unusual monsters, but these days they're so familiar that even that novelty has faded. A Lovecraftian adventure has to focus on something other than how many tentacles the monster has.


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#18 Hafwit 2.0

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Posted 14 March 2015 - 11:54 AM

Agreed. I think the GM needs to give some thought to how the monsters are supposed to horrify. the nature of a monster might be mysterious, but how it's supposed to 'hit' shouldn't be. I've made a list, based on one in the game Silent Legions. They overlap more than a bit.

 

Body horror: Loss of body control, bodily changes and revulsion at own body.
Consumption horror: The horror of being devoured, of being food.
Contamination horror: Disease. Become one of the infected.
Debility horror: Weakness, loss of power.
Domination horror: Loss of control, of self. Mental violation.
Expulsion horror: The horror being cast out, of being disbelieved and ostracized.
Impostor horror: The known is revealed to be alien, dangerous. Something isn't what it appears to be. 
Mystery horror: The horror of the unseen and unknown. An ungraspable quantity.
Pursuit horror: The relentless hunter. The tireless killer. The fear of being prey.
Revulsion horror: Carrion, excrement, decay and filth. 
Sexual horror: Violation, distortion of sex acts and acts related to procreation. Easy to do badly.
Violence horror: Dismemberment, death, aggression and brutality.

Psychological horror: The awful revelation of one's own true nature, impulses or actions.
Existential/Cosmic horror: The horror in uncovering the terrifying nature of reality. Things don't work as they're supposed to, on the most basic level.


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#19 Pencil-Monkey

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Posted 25 March 2015 - 01:24 PM

Here's a post from 2 Warps to Neptune about the article ‘The Lovecraftian Mythos in Dungeons & Dragons’, from The Dragon #12 (February, 1978):

The idea of inserting Lovecraft into D&D sums up the glorious absurdity at the heart of fantasy role-playing: on the one hand, we want to escape to a fictional time and place that is less complicated than the real one, a world in which magic exists; on the other hand, we want our fantasy worlds to be systematically playable, and for that to happen, statistics must be applied to said worlds and the beings inhabiting them. It’s equal parts Romanticism and Enlightenment, art and science. Hence the brilliant entry for `Azathoth, Creator of the Universe':

  • If Azathoth is destroyed the entire universe will collapse back to a point at the center of the cosmos with the incidental destruction of all life and intelligence.
Talk about game over. And the creator of the universe only has 300 hit points!


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Check out the whole blog post, it makes for quite interesting reading - it also includes scans of the original article in The Dragon (which may or may not be a copyright violation, so: caveat emptor), as well as a concerned letter from a Mr. Guinn:

In The Dragon #14 (May, 1978), a letter from reader Gerald Guinn cheekily objected to a number of points made in the “Lovecraftian Mythos” article. J. Eric Holmes cheekily responded in The Dragon #16 (July, 1978). Both letters are below. Holmes’ response, along with the original article, are listed in Lovecraft scholar/biographer S.T. Joshi’s H.P. Lovecraft and Lovecraft Criticism: An Annotated Bibliography (1981).

A “Cthulhu Mythos” section (see tommorow’s post) expanded from the Dragon article appeared in the first edition of Deities & Demigods, but was famously removed from subsequent editions because TSR didn’t want to acknowledge its debt to Chaosium, which had acquired the rights—or the blessings of Arkham House, anyway, since Lovecraft’s works were and are in the public domain—for the Call of Cthulhu role-playing game.


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#20 Telemergion

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Posted 07 April 2015 - 09:12 AM

I recently experienced a DnD dungeon crawl that got fairly eldritch horror-y done, in my opinion, quite well. The fine folks over at http://www.loadingreadyrun.com (God, I cannot remember forum codes) ran an adventure after they got their final season of sketch comedy kickstarted. It was a fairly standard crawl through a volcano until things got super creepy for the characters. Like BJB pointed out, often in these situations DnD loses some of that edge because it's a system built around combating terrible, world-ending threats at a certain point. That was what made Jer's adventure so good: his unknowable horrors are never made physical and never an option for combat. 

 

Check them out if you like over nyah? https://www.youtube....SNEtC8PUQMblhQs

 

I'm going to try and figure out how to make my links not suck.


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