King Arthur Pendragon

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Comedy of Horrors

Today I participated in a meeting of several roleplaying groups under the theme Horror and the Fantastic. Being so close to the Halloween, this was only fitting. I took a break from preparing Numenera to run a session of Trail of Cthulhu. I used a Purist adventure called the The Dance in the Blood. For those who don't know, in Trail of Cthulhu there are two modes: the Purist mode, typical Lovecraft, in which the investigators will never make a difference, their efforts are futile and all their beliefs will be rendered null at the end of the scenario, and the Pulp mode, in which the investigators have a fighting chance, they will go down but with guns blazing, it's a mode designed to simulate Robert E. Howard's Mythos stories. You can mix and match several modular rules to achieve the proper mode or anything in between.

As I stated, we were playing in full Purist mode (and the game was advertised as such), meaning the investigators would be trying to solve the case and reach the final revelation before going mad or dying. Everyone knew the story would not end happily, although the characters would have a chance to solve the case, they would not survive unscathed.

It's was a public place. I don't like playing Trail of Cthulhu with background noise. I like my Trail of Cthulhu sessions in a quiet place to achieve the proper mood and immersion. These notwithstanding, we did quite well. There were three players: two girls and a guy, not that it matters, but I think Mythos games tend to attract a higher ratio of girls. The girls were doing quite well, but for some reason the guy was not, breaking constantly the mood and telling jokes. I ignored some of it at the beginning for the simple reason that I was playing in a public meeting and we don't get to choose the players. It's a a demo session, after all. However, the silly behavior was annoying me.

I had to pause the game to remind the players (I avoided talking directly to THAT player) that they were also responsible for preserving the mood and horror of the game. Despite the many nods, he didn't stop. He wasn't being a jerk. He thought it was only natural since it's "just" a game, and people play to have fun. To him, fun obviously equates to telling constant jokes and distracting other players. He finally admitted it was a sort of defense mechanism much like when we say something funny when the tension is unbearable. Not that it was that, we playing in a public place and all.

He was also the first player I met who actively resisted the system. In other words, he didn't think his character should loose Stability EVER, he justified every Stability loss with some logical reason (in his mind). It went something like this:

Keeper: "You finally understand YOU are a monster beneath your human skin."
Player: "Ah, I would never lose Stability because I already had a dream about it so I'm used to it."

And this went on and on and on specially during the climatic encounter when revelations were coming fast and loose. Nevertheless, the girls were doing OK and much of what worked in that session was because of them. They were roleplaying their characters, they were investigating, the reacted adequately to every situation even in sanity-shaking moments.

My point being that some players don't really understand Call of Cthulhu or Trail of Cthulhu. It's not a game for everyone (worse still in Purist mode). However, some people also don't seem to get that their inability to play a certain game should never be an excuse to drag down the game and annoy the other players. Just walk away please or better yet, make sure you, at least, enjoy the premise before signing to play. I would be less miffed if he would be honest and say something like "Sorry guys, this game isn't for me, I'm bowing out".

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