Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Call of Cthulhu vs LOTFP

Jim LOTFP has been trending towards placing his LOTFP material in an alternate earth and featuring more explicit horror adventures.  It does raise the question, beyond system, what's the difference between LOTFP and a period-based Call of Cthulhu game?

The difference in tone is huge.

In Call of Cthulhu (COC), characters have a moral position.  COC characters investigate eldritch horrors from a sense of responsibility, thus the frequent "save the world" story lines in Call of Cthulhu games.  This lends a tragic undertone to the sanity mechanic - you are putting your character in harm's way and will eventually be driven mad or forced to retire.

In D&D style play, even with the horror theme, the party traditionally consists of roguish sorts motivated by treasure.  If they run into the occasional eldritch horror, it's an occupational hazard that turns the game into a desperate fiasco to survive.  Certainly not a mandate to do something heroic.  This is why the sandbox works so well for the one approach, while the other assumes the characters will see the plot through to a finale.

On a separate note, would you refer to a period-based horror game as "alternate earth", "secret history", "pseudo-historical", or something else?  These are the burning questions for which G+ excels, and I'll inquire there as well.


  1. Good point on CoC vs. LoFTP. I answered you other question on G+.

  2. I also agree with your analysis re the underlying, differing worldviews between CoC and LotFP.
    I would simply refer to period-based horror as "weird fantasy" just like Jim does. It _is_ fantasy after all.

  3. I was thinking this the other day, but I came to the opposite conclusion - that he is veering entirely towards CoC style play, and may as well be authoring for that system.

    Looking at Monolith and Death Love Doom, those are CoC. Treasure may still contribute towards levels in the rules, but levels have less and less impact on navigating LotFP adventures.

    Try stringing together more than one recent LotFP adventure in a row - if you're not playing a CoC-style campaign, I expect your players will become violent.

  4. Pat, you might be conflating horror with Call of Cthulhu. LOTFP has definitely swung full-gear into horror, but the default motivation for players in the two games is much different.

    COC adventures present this dilemma: how much is your character personally willing to suffer to stop an ancient horror?

    LOTFP adventures present this dilemma: how much danger is the character willing to endure to get some money?

    The great thing about a site-based sandbox is that the players control when they want to bail on the situation - they're (mostly) in control. This is why I think it's such an interesting vehicle for horror gaming.

    With COC's scene-based structures, the game's larger premise (stopping ancient horrors) compels the players to follow various clues through to the end of the adventure.

    I can imagine some COC scenarios that could be rewritten as sandbox sites for knavish D&D characters to exploit; I can imagine ways to embellish the hooks behind adventures like Monolith or Death Love Doom and provide a moral component so they could be used in COC.

    I do agree that too many brutal horror adventures in a row would burn out a group - plus, it's significantly more effort to put together a compelling horror adventure. "Mundane" adventures in the sandbox need to be mixed in.