Friday, February 08, 2008

Herbert West in Pulp Cthulhu

As promised, here is another -- almost monthly in the gaming world -- update on Pulp Cthulhu. A number of people have inquired recently, and my thanks go to them for keeping in touch with the project. While I cannot state a release date, I can say that I'm working with a gaggle of artists from around the world on the inner art. Basically, providing details for spot art and supporting art. After that stage comes layout, and the book will be printer ready. In that area, all I can say is that Chaosium is dedicated to getting the book released as soon as they can. And for anyone interested in playing Pulp Cthulhu, try by the CodCon convention if your in the neighborhood. I'll be a Guest of Honor, and there will be pulp.

For this months peek into the game, I thought I'd take H.P. Lovecraft's literary creation, Herbert West and transform him into an investigator for Pulp Cthulhu. For those who've read "Herbert West - Reanimator," you'll know that he is quite a devious and troubled character. For those who haven't read the tale, give it a try. It is quite fun. (And for those new to the blog wanting to find other Pulp Cthulhu articles, just go to the TOPICS heading and click on Pulp Cthulhu.

Dr. West is a very pulpy character by most any standards. However, as most everyone defines "pulp" differently, I've tried to keep the game mechanics flexible enough to allow "pulp" to be anything form a hyped action/adventure game to a super-hero game. The players tune the engine to meet their needs. In this case, I'm creating a High Pulp character, using 3-5 Traits. It will be the Traits that allow the player to bring out the aspects of Herbert West, and make him unique as compared to . . . say another player's Reanimator.

Herbert West Reanimater
Academic Lore, Academic Standing, Biology, Biochemistry, Chemistry, Conceal, Dodge, Fast Talk, Hide, Library Use, Medicine, Occult, Other Language: Latin, Persuade, Pharmacy, Psychology, Spot Hidden.
Traits: Agile, Haunted, Gifted, Weird Knowledge

I've selected 4 Traits that help Herbert gain needed skill levels and arcane knowledge to "become" the character he was in Lovecraft's tale. I'll gloss over the Traits to offer some insight about their selection and game use.

Agile will aid him with his surgery -- and it may be argued that West wasn't a very skilled surgeon. But, to stitch together body parts did take quite a bit of talent given he did it in the early 1900s.

Haunted is just what West was by the end of the story. In Pulp Cthulhu, this Trait adds personality to the investigator as well as provided roleplaying opportunities and some bonus points to the Cthulhu Mythos skill (needed for what West does). Keepers can have quite a bit of fun filling West's mind with nightmare's (part of the Haunted Trait).

Gifted provides some extra points for skills, and allows for the insane genius of Herbert West. Note, an investigator need not be insane if he or she is Gifted. I'm using Herbert West as a model, so the abundance of intelligence in this case were used for sinister endeavors.

Weird Knowledge is a broad Trait. It basically grants the investigator pre-game knowledge about the occult and Mythos -- not much, but a mild insight. As with most Traits, there is a price to pay with Sanity Points. From a roleplaying standpoint, this makes the investigator quirky. He's seen things other humans have not. He has a deeper understanding of the uncaring universe, and this shapes or re-shapes him.

The important thing to remember is that Traits do provide game mechanic advantages or disadvantages, but they also drive the role play. Traits are at their best when "played" beyond their game effects. A Haunted character will be suffered from night terrors, and when she has Weird Knowledge added to the mix, her fearsome dreams are all the more horrific! (Haunted investigators also have a basic talent at dreaming -- it comes from trying to avoid spooky dreams). Likewise, Gifted investigators can be subtle or annoying (having a super intellect has many facets).

So what I'm saying is that the Traits are both a part of the rules offering bonuses and alterations, but mainly they are elements that expand the personalities of the investigators. That is why I opted to use names such as "Weird Knowledge" and "Just Won't Die." These titles focus more on the roleplaying aspects than the "numbers."

As this is becoming a lengthy post, I'll continue the discussion in my newsletter. In Pulp Cthulhu there are some altered skills, such as Dodge and Block. These skills are very different in a pulp setting where the bullets are always flying.


Charles Gramlich said...

I like the Herbert West character, and always see him now as the actor who played him in reanimator. I know very little about gaming, though.

William Jones said...

The films, and Jeffrey Combs (the actor who played West), did quite a bit for the Herbert West character. The films also expanded him quite a bit while keeping the pulp (some would argue "campy") feel.

Badger said...

Hey William,

It's Badger! You might remember me from the Michigan gathering a few years ago. Do you still need more artists for the book? If so, i'd be happy to lend a hand. Feel free to email me at badger(at) badgerswarren (dot) com.

William Jones said...

Hey Badger,

Good to hear from you. I didn't know you did art. I shouldn't be surprised. You seem to be a man of many talents. I'll certainly contact you with information.