Comments on Arthur B's Kickstopper: Turning the Lights Out On Those Who Most Need Them

The Cthulhu Dark RPG has its heart in the right place, but unintentionally ends up tripping over its own conflicting aims.

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Arthur B at 15:01 on 2017-11-27
A little update: apparently Walmsley has been to Mumbai - which is fair enough, but as said in the review I didn't really get much of a sense of the place in the setting writeup. (Writing which really captures a sense of the spirit of a place is hard; writing which captures that spirit for people who haven't necessarily been there is near-impossible. Though arguably, there's few more Lovecraftian skills you can work on, given how vividly Lovecraft portrayed places like the Vermont hills, or his own beloved Providence.)

Jaiwo is apparently based on a specific country. I'm not sure how I feel about that. On the one hand, it sort of makes sense to offer an African equivalent of "Lovecraft Country" - like how Arkham and environs riff on Massachusetts. On the other hand, using the real location would have not only put it at centre stage in a way which Western media doesn't often do for African countries, but also opened up a lot of scope to look to real history and news stories originating from there for inspiration.
Ashimbabbar at 19:47 on 2017-12-03
say what you want about Masks of Nyarlathotep, but IMO joining a raid of Chinese anarchists against one of the bad guys' main bases just rocks

( Otherwise, this article is an extremely interesting dissection of how one can defeat one's own aims )
Robinson L at 20:36 on 2018-01-18
It feels to me that in the age of austerity “Bad shit happens to those not in power because those in power don’t give a shit and aren’t paying attention” is an important and useful premise for this sort of social commentary horror

Hmm, I dunno, Arthur. Without wanting to kick off a long political digression, I’d argue the age of austerity constitutes constant interventions by those in power which either create or magnify much of said bad shit, which they insulate themselves from with their power and push onto those who lack it. In effect, they’re actively manufacturing the circumstances which allows the bad shit to arise and thrive.

From what I know, a better comparison might be the AIDS crisis in the 80s.

by mandating that there is no way to get a good ending

You toss this point out as if it’s a minor detail, but you keep coming back to it throughout the article, and from later remarks I gather that it’s not a standard feature of Lovecraftian tabletop games like Call of Cthulhu and Trail of Cthulhu. Does Walmsley ever explain the rationale behind this particular mechanic?

By definition, in Cthulhu Dark Insight is not merely an understanding of the immediate mystery in front of you - you can learn all sorts of stuff about it without necessarily raising your Insight, after all - but your appreciation of the ultimate cosmic nihilism underpinning everything. In other words, it represents a change in your worldview, and it seems strange that your worldview would have snapped back to what it originally was between investigations.

This whole thing reminds me of the trope in videogames where the main characters’ levels, equipment, and spells or abilities are reset to their starting point in between games.

Ashimbabbar: say what you want about Masks of Nyarlathotep, but IMO joining a raid of Chinese anarchists against one of the bad guys' main bases just rocks

Now that sounds like my kind of campaign.
Arthur B at 21:59 on 2018-01-18
Without wanting to kick off a long political digression, I’d argue the age of austerity constitutes constant interventions by those in power which either create or magnify much of said bad shit, which they insulate themselves from with their power and push onto those who lack it.

True that, though the upshot of this is that if you happen to hail from a privileged background you have the option of just not caring or paying attention to politics at all - and ultimately it's hard to tell the difference between conscious neglect and unthinking ignorance if it's your local infrastructure crumbling because of it.
Arthur B at 22:18 on 2018-01-18
In terms of there being no way to be a good ending - it's basically Walmlsey playing up to a very specific vision of how cosmic horror works.

To be fair, in baseline Call or Trail it's often stated that whatever victories the player characters accomplish may only be a temporary respite for humanity, rather than permanently ensuring its safety, but the way Cthulhu Dark reads it genuinely seems like Walmsley is advocating that for true full-bore cosmic horror you need to confront the characters with something terrible which ultimately they can't do anything about.

Thing is, whilst that works in a prose story - Thomas Ligotti does that a lot, and Lovecraft would write plenty of stories like that himself - that both ignores the occasional story like The Dunwich Horror where a victory against encroaching forces of chaos and dissolution is won and also feels like a frustrating way to run a game, unless it were going to be a one-off thing where everyone was going into it buying into the "no win condition" thing.

It's also another thing which isn't in the original 4-page pamphlet version of Cthulhu Dark, which I remain convinced is the best version of this game.
Robinson L at 22:02 on 2018-01-19
Okay. In the article you tossed that information out as if it was already established, but then the way you talked about it later made it clear this mandate to play up be endings was specific to the Cthulhu Dark module (though I'm aware the baseline for Lovecraftian storytelling is to have downbeat endings), so I was confused.
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