Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Unspeakable!


I caught wind of a new podcast through Yog-Sothoth.com about The Unspeakable Oath.  The Oath is an old magazine put out by Pagan Publishing in the 90's that resurfaced a few months ago under new leadership.  The podcast is mainly of interest to folks that do some Call of Cthulhu type gaming, but the primary interview on this one was with Jon Tynes, and he had some things to say about game design that are worth looking at in light of D&D (so I'm putting it here).

About Jon Tynes - he was the founder of Pagan Publishing, writer of the totally awesome 1990's Delta Green setting for modern Cthulhu, an ex-WOTC employee, co-writer of WOTC's Cthulhu d20, now a video game developer.  I would imagine anyone that's done Cthulhu gaming knows Pagan, they were Chaosium's major licensee and produced excellent stuff.

One thing that really stood out in the interview was the recognition from a video game developer how video games fail against the table top experience in creating "derived stories" through a shared world.  Through the table top's collective 'Socratic method' - asking and answering questions about the game world - a story emerges through actual play that can't currently be matched by the disjointed cut scenes and limited decision trees in the video game world.  He went on to hold out the table top sandbox game as the highest form of RPG gaming because of the degree of agency given to the players and the shared world that emerges from those player actions.

On making the Mythos Coherent:
Our goal  (as monster maker/adventure writer) should be to make an amazing experience, not write the missing page in the Cthulhu Encyclopedia.

This was wrapped in a larger section on keeping a sense of mystery in the game by not providing explanations around the horrors and monsters in your game, coming up with your own interpretations of Lovecraftian monsters, and getting away from using published bestiaries.  Trail of Cthulhu attempts to keep the Mythos creatures fairly ambiguous.  I'm pointing it out here because we're seeing OSR folks like James Raggi advocate 100% custom monsters, and I can see the value in keeping all those things beyond the realm of man strange and unknowable.

The rest of the podcast might not be as interesting if you don't follow the Call of Cthulhu RPG or the Lovecraftian gaming scene.  Otherwise, you can find it over on iTunes under The Unspeakable Oath.