Thursday, February 10, 2011

What Ron Edwards taught me about Call of Cthulhu

In the comments I got on my post from yesterday I could see that the idea of house ruling CoC might not be the most immediate idea for some, and also what you focus on to be worth focusing on. Basically, my interest in the idea of a Drive and Pillars of Sanity is to codify the System. Let me expand a bit upon that last point, it's important.

A while back I listened to an interview with Ron Edwards, on the Walking Eye podcast, I think. He talked about what constitutes a System. I remember thinking I should post something about it, but don't remember if I got around to it. Anyway, the idea is that one reason the early games look so sketchy is that there were a lot of common experiences which everyone could be counted upon knowing. Thus, there are procedures and "rules" which never end up in the book, since they are just "how you do things". Ron calls the whole of that the System. One of the great achievements of the Forge is to codify, and analyze how those invisible rules enhance and influence play, and then use that for deliberate effects.

So, why would a CoC Investigator go down into that crypt again? Why would that Investigator looks for clues to a disappearance just after getting a letter from a NPC relative? There are no System for it, yet everyone does it and expects it to be part of the game.

Now, the idea of having rules about Drives supplying reasons to go investigating, or Pillars of Sanity as reason to go on fighting, is just such a System - codified.

The conclusion is of course that even though I still think it shoddy game mastering to make a game falter because of a failed but vital die roll, I have changed my mind and think that the "autoclue" rule together with Drives and Pillars of Sanity would make a lot of sense in a Call of Cthulhu game. Finally, all of the System is written down.

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