So, Cthonian Stars.

Discuss the Traveller RPG and its many settings
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So, Cthonian Stars.

Postby TrippyHippy » Wed Jun 02, 2010 10:59 am

Any thoughts on this?

To me, it looks interesting. I'm not entirely convinced by the obsession the rpg community has with Lovecraft, but a Cthulhu based future, utilising Traveller rules (and inspired by movies like Alien and Event Horizon) has an awful lot of mileage to it.

To be honest, I struggle to get into the OTU, in the same way I struggle a bit with RQII's Glorantha. They both just seem to have so much baggage tied into their history - I sometimes feel like I'm a late gatecrasher at a party that's been going on for donkeys.

I do like the 2000AD stuff too, for the comic strip feel, but it's not really a sci-fi setting proper - and I'd like something a bit more hard hitting and down to earth.

The Cthonian Stars book looks like it will be attractive enough, and I have always liked the Traveller engine - so this could be a winner for me. Anybody else?
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Postby Stainless » Wed Jun 02, 2010 11:13 am

Sorry. I'm a CoC and big Trail of Cthulhu player and GM (currently deep within the Aramitage Files as a player), but Cthulhu in space just doesn't do it for me. There's something too humerous about the whole cthulhu mythos for me that makes it only tolerable in a noire pulpy flavour. For me sci-fi is Bladerunner.
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Postby TrippyHippy » Wed Jun 02, 2010 11:26 am

To me Sci-Fi is 2001: A Space Odyssey primarily - complete with weird aliens making contact. I wasn't that enamored by CthulhuTech, but I dunno, 'Cthulhu in Space' has been done before pretty successfully - Cthulhu Rising and Once Men - and Mountains of Madness is basically a sci-fi story set in the Antarctic, which surely had an influence on the Alien and The Thing movies.

Indeed, one could make a toss up between your favourite Ridley Scott sci-fi movie, and at least as many Alien fans would make as good a case for it as Bladerunner. If Alien, and to a lesser extent movies like Sunshine, Event Horizon and Solaris work, then why can't they work as a RPG setting?

Moreover, the Traveller engine will benefit by the inclusion of a Sanity system, if nothing else. Me? I'm looking forward to seeing what they produce before I dismiss it. The blurb certainly looks impressive.
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Postby Egil Skallagrimsson » Wed Jun 02, 2010 11:56 am

Always find it very hard to keep a straight face in Cthulhu games, I suppose because of the irony of setting up a fiction based on monsterous primeval terror, that then get listed and itemised like avians in a twitchers guide.

That said, well GMed, and perhaps after throwing out the official monsters and mythos (so creating something the players don't know about, and is therefore more unsettling) this can work. Not so sure about Chtonian Stars, but will certainly take a look (parts of it might end up in the Reft Sector!). Slightly concerned that the article in S&P seems to suggest reducing the lethality of trav combat, surely the point of Cthulthu is that mere humans are completely over matched by the Old Ones.

Funny really, I can accept the "Alien" (even after Alien 3) as a serious threat to humanity without any problem, but "Cthulhu" always starts me chuckling!

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Postby TrippyHippy » Wed Jun 02, 2010 12:03 pm

Egil Skallagrimsson wrote:Slightly concerned that the article in S&P seems to suggest reducing the lethality of trav combat, surely the point of Cthulthu is that mere humans are completely over matched by the Old Ones.
Yes, I wasn't sure I agreed with that - although it would probably be easy to ignore it. I wasn't sure about the inclusion of advantages/disadvantages either. I thought their view about a Storyteller style system being more 'modern' in the CthulhuTech was a little skewed too. That said, if the core of the Traveller system is retained, I'd like to see what it could do.
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Postby crossmlk » Wed Jun 02, 2010 3:37 pm

The StarDrive setting I thought did a good job with Cthulhu in space. They never called it that but it was essentially what they were doing. One of the things they did well was not tell anyone they were doing Cthulhu in space. They just kept introducing creepier and creepier elements to the story until they did a big last reveal before Wizards pulled the plug. It would have been interesting to see where it would have ended up.

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Postby Twin Agate Dragons » Wed Jun 02, 2010 11:43 pm

Is there product info for this already?
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Postby TrippyHippy » Wed Jun 02, 2010 11:54 pm

Signs and Portents 81 - Full preview.
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Postby OddjobXL » Thu Jun 03, 2010 1:41 pm

There was a time a game called Shadowrun came out. I thought it was just cheesy, shameless, pandering trying to splice Tolkien-Gygax together with the then fashionable cyberpunk setting. I wouldn't even look at it. How could such naked pandering and fan service ever be good? Well, a couple years later, I sat down and played it. They did a pretty amazing job creating their own set of sensibilities and evoking a setting that actually felt rather unique. Oh, and by the way, it ended up being huge as I'd bet most of you know. Years later the Wild West got spliced onto then fashionable White Wolfian horror dna to create Deadlands. Also creatively acclaimed and a big hit.

So, I'm willing to suspend disbelief on this product as well. Ya just never know.

That said, while I like horror and fantasy in my sci-fi I'm not sure a known quantity such as Cthullu will work. Delta Green did a pretty good job bringing that into the, then fashionable, X-Files context. But pure sci-fi and horrors from beyond the stars?

What's the storyline here? "We're taking the fight to their home turf!" Really? Is that horror or a giant monster movie? And how is it that we haven't bombed R'lyeh from orbit yet?

Horror worked fairly well in Fading Suns because it was mysterious and unknown for the most part. How do you make something scary if the most likely players to encounter the content probably know the contents of Petersen's Field Guide backwards and forwards. Is this aliens then? Colonial marines up against the, uh, Fungi from Yuggoth? How is it I can't even say that with a straight face?

Hmm. I'd rather just see a flat out Fading Suns conversion. Maybe, though, it's possible for me (in my own personal Dreamlands) to see this as, win or lose, a potential stepping stone towards a Fading Suns license for Traveller. Once they have systems for managing horror and telling tales of fear incorporated that's probably easily ported over.
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Postby Lord High Munchkin » Thu Jun 03, 2010 4:04 pm

OddjobXL wrote:And how is it that we haven't bombed R'lyeh from orbit yet?
Because everybody knows that all that happens when you nuke Cthulhu, is that he reforms really pissed-off, and now radio-active!
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Postby kafka » Thu Jun 03, 2010 6:15 pm

Cthulhu like Science Fiction is all about creating mood***. Once you realize that these are intelligences far greater than our own...the time in which they are set is irrelevant.

Just as earlier epochs made Gods out of Lightning, Fire and Water. The modern age describes these alien beasts. The postmodern would have us believe these are memes from a forgotten age. So it is with the Mythos. Lovecraft/CoC is at its worst when it gets relegated to Monster bashing a la D&D.

Again, I stress, I would very much like to be a Playtester for this line...

**Mood, for example, from an upcoming Corporation product (modified for Traveller)

Before the rise of the Third Imperium and their conquest of the Chartered Space, millions died in the name of peace and progress. The different races exterminated countless victims in their centuries of war, burning their names from the history books. But entire races are hard to kill... and the dark corners of the world conceal many secrets.

Beyond the gaze of the Imperial Sunburst and their plodding research programs, a sickening subculture of twisted science breeds and thrives.

The Imperium and the megacorporations blunder into the
endless void of space and the icy murk of countless oceans, heedless of anything that will not sate their rapacious greed. But others obsessively seek to understand the unknown... and hide their forbidden studies from prying eyes.

Beneath the veneer of civilized discourse, Nobles and their little empires, an old and lightless world spans endless miles of labyrinthine gloom. The Imperium no longer go down here, into the freezing black, where too many have already been lost. But this place is not deserted... and whatever happens, your screams will never
reach the world above.

The Imperium has sent you into ancient darkness, Agent... and it does not care if you come back.

Behind Gate 22 is the horror of the truth.
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Postby apoc527 » Thu Jun 03, 2010 6:37 pm

crossmlk wrote:The StarDrive setting I thought did a good job with Cthulhu in space. They never called it that but it was essentially what they were doing. One of the things they did well was not tell anyone they were doing Cthulhu in space. They just kept introducing creepier and creepier elements to the story until they did a big last reveal before Wizards pulled the plug. It would have been interesting to see where it would have ended up.

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Agreed. It was totally "Cthulu in space" but it wasn't Cthulu, it was the I'kryl. Nobody knows what they are, so it was cool. I had a great campaign that went through a heavily modified External War. Great setting still, even if the stardrive is a renamed jump drive.
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Postby SnowDog » Fri Jun 04, 2010 8:08 am

I'm a bit torn here as well. While Cthulhu mythos, as a game setting, is not too familiar for me, there are already lots of Cthulhu based games out there. There are Cthulhu in Rome up to CthulhuTech and Cthulhu Rising. So yes, having Cthulhu mythos in a game setting is so common that it's almost a cliche in a horror setting.

Still, I don't see why this could not work. It has worked with Mutant Chronicles and WH:40K (at least). Granted, those settings (like Fading Suns) have had technological regressions unlike in this setting but their all still scifi. I can still see that with an impressive firepower that scifi characters can have in possession and despite it they are not omnipotent can be a pretty scary experience. If Dead Space is one of the inspirations for the atmosphere of the game, I'm sold :)
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Postby kafka » Fri Jun 04, 2010 2:13 pm

Again, this begs the question what is your Traveller game like? Can things slide into the horrific without being horror? For sure, Traveller can deal with madmen and aliens that would cause the most hardened to sh*te in her/his pants. For me, I found the whole B5 storyline (minus Crusade - although there were elements there) to be Lovecraftian and JMS did confirm this when I interviewed him.

Can there be a science in Horror? That is beauty that I see see in Lovecraft's writing, he was writing at the edge of his society's understanding of science. While there was still much snake oil in his recipes much of the basis of his writing could easily be transplanted elsewhere. For example, what if the pillars of Irem were on Mars to use the Cthonian Stars setting and dreamers on Earth connected with a primeval consciousness via psionics. The secret as I as a said earlier for both Science Fiction is to substance without form and form without substance. There are things that are just moods. Like the twin suns of Tattoine, it was just the immediate feeling the confirmed we weren't in Kansas (or Tunisia) anymore...
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Postby Nathan Brazil » Mon Jun 07, 2010 6:50 pm

Well, my question is given the character generation and advancement system in Traveller, does your character get something for your efforts?
The big cthonian game, Call of Cthulhu, has game mechanics to advance characters more quickly perhaps and watch them slide into madness just as quickly :twisted: The game mechanics in CoC allow for example allow you to use power from beyond while mentally degenerating.

Other thoughts:
If, for example, only NPC's can use powers in Cthonian Stars, will guns work more often against those nasty minions or at least starship scale weapons (x50 Dice 8) , yea, fire at will!)

Will there be psycho-analysis, or reprogramming of peoples brains to recover from insanity (hmm and adventure in itself)?

Sounds like the human race is trapped in the solar system. How hard is the tech and what tech levels are in the setting? Powers could just be a bunch of 5th or 6th dimensional handwavium, but how does it interact with regular physics tech that wee mortals understand?

So, many questions, it's maddening! :idea: I guess I just fell for the setting1
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Postby OddjobXL » Mon Jun 07, 2010 6:58 pm

I'd be tempted to argue that Warhammer 40K doesn't have horror in it. There are demons and Alien-like critters but it's mostly window dressing for just another big bad to blow apart. I've never played the tabletop RPG or miniatures game but my experience in WH40K computer games isn't very creepy at all. Well, maybe with the exception of that old Space Hulk game. Lots of blind corners, dark places and fast creepy crawlies.

What's most frightening in a horror game is the unknown. Lovecraft makes an explicitly huge deal about the unknown and unknowable nature of his pet horrors. The rub is that, of course, they're really quite well known now. You can even buy plushies and bobbleheads.
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Postby SnowDog » Tue Jun 08, 2010 6:19 am

I have not tried computer games and I have not played minis games (well, there the horror aspect is quite hard to come by anyway) and I have only read Dark Heresy (mostly).

Still, I would argue that you can run the game as horror investigation game (as it was probably intended), survival horror or just plain shoot'em up if you like. It's all about how the GM and players want to play the game. The material for a good horror game is there like in WHFRP although we missed that one when we played that.
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Postby TrippyHippy » Tue Jun 08, 2010 9:04 am

OddjobXL wrote:I'd be tempted to argue that Warhammer 40K doesn't have horror in it. There are demons and Alien-like critters but it's mostly window dressing for just another big bad to blow apart. I've never played the tabletop RPG or miniatures game but my experience in WH40K computer games isn't very creepy at all. Well, maybe with the exception of that old Space Hulk game. Lots of blind corners, dark places and fast creepy crawlies.

What's most frightening in a horror game is the unknown. Lovecraft makes an explicitly huge deal about the unknown and unknowable nature of his pet horrors. The rub is that, of course, they're really quite well known now. You can even buy plushies and bobbleheads.
I think computer games are a different medium to rpgs and, to be fair, Dark Heresy was pretty much designed to be a CoC-style investigation game (in the 40K universe). The PCs are pretty vunerable, and the cults and demons they are pitted against quite awesome and nasty.
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Postby badpixie » Fri Sep 10, 2010 11:46 am

The problem I have had with Coc is that if you ran it as a straight Coc campaign is that looking through the printed adventures (and some were pretty good, but many totally dreadful), if you purely ran those the game would turn into a monster mash of the worst kind.

The only way do do it interestingly (for my interest anyway) would be to run a 1920s/ 1930s/ victorian etc general 'adventure' campaign, with (very) occasional horror or cthulhoid elements thrown in. In general the players should need to think 'what the heck is going on?' rather than 'Hm, yes Ghouls, they are resistant to bullets so we need to use the BAR or shotgun here for some extra punch'.

This problem will translate to Cthonian Stars. If the Wardens know too much it will likely turn into an awful monster mash. If they only know that strange things are starting to happen, but not what, and discovery type scenarios are mixed with pure investigation/science/criminal scenarios, I think you can make a game of it. Don't tell the players its Cthonian Stars, tell them its a Traveller varient set around 2300 AD.
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Postby kafka » Fri Sep 10, 2010 1:31 pm

Yes, there is a strong danger within Call of Cthulhu degenerating into a Monster Mash and I do believe the designers are aware of that. Which is where the Traveller part should kick in to prop up CS.

For instance, take the weather plutocrats that are running a corporation on Mars that have been taking women from Earth's slums and wiping their memories to act as servants on the expensive yachts that ply the rings of Saturn. So far, everyone takes a blind eye. But, when one of the high ranking daughters of the Earth Government goes missing and turns up dead with ritualized scarring on of those yachts. It is revealed that the daughter was only slumming it in the slums. But, where is her boyfriend/drug dealer? Why has he also disappeared? Lots of suspects? No clear answers. And, no Mythos involvement. As any good mystery shows evil comes in a multitude of forms - most of the monsters are ourselves. This was the best of what Lovecraft wrote and the best scenarios within CoC have portrayed.

For inspiration, any techno-thriller or mystery novel can be adapted with a futuristic spin and lay the basis for CS or CoC.
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