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10 September 2007 @ 02:05 pm
 
I've been thinking about role-playing games a bit more, recently. I very nearly got to run a Call of Cthulhu session, though it turned out to get cancelled at the last minute (ah, scheduling). So, semi-relatedly, here's a lovely little excerpt from DM of the Rings about place names, which is part of the reason I enjoy Call of Cthulhu -- it's most frequently set in the mystical and fantastical land of Eastern Massachusetts, in the dark, obscure and perhaps wholly legendary years between 1920 and 1930 AD.

Nobody wants to play a campaign with Emporer Fred or High Chancellor Gary, and so the usual approach is to give everyone high fantasy names like King Geon’ai, Sir Lua’an-Eradin, or Lady Alaain Mera-Dovrel. You know, strange and fantasy-ish. Of course, this means the names will all be unpronouncable, difficult to spell, and easily confused. For fun, have your players describe the plot of your campaign after it’s over. I promise it will sound something like this:

The dragon guy with that black sword was oppressing the people that lived on those hills. Then that one king with the really long beard got that one chick with the crazy hair, and she went to that one lake. Then she got corrupted by that curse thing that made her attack that group of guys we found dead. You know, the ones that had that +1 sword and the bag of holding? Once we broke her curse she told us about the dragon guy and gave us that thing. And the map. Then we found the dragon dude and kicked his ass.

It’s like living in a word without proper nouns. I’ve always wanted to make a campaign like this:

The Dark Lord Walter, wielder of the Black Sword of choppery, was oppressing the peoples of Pittsburgh. Then King George Washington enlisted the help of the Warrior Princess Rapunzel. Sadly, in the Land of Yellowstone she fell under a spell and slew the Steelers, Knights of Pittsburgh. At last the heroes freed the princess, traveled through the kingdom of Barstow, and confronted Walter in the land of Spokane.

Sure, it sounds stupid, but you have to admit: your players will be able to remember, pronounce, and even spell all of the important people and places.
 
 
 
(Deleted comment)
Noahangelbob on September 10th, 2007 09:49 pm (UTC)
Oops! Fixed. Thank you.
taoflaherty on September 11th, 2007 12:32 am (UTC)
One of the best excerpts ever
I find the scariest part of the Call of Cthulhu to be that those Hospitals, and the Things for Treating Crazy People within them, might've existed. Can you make fear of the fantastic stronger than fear of reality.
Noahangelbob on September 11th, 2007 01:54 am (UTC)
Re: One of the best excerpts ever
Call of Cthulhu has a supplement called "The Taint of Madness", which contains a few random game statistics at the end, but consists almost entirely of actual psychiatric treatment from the 1890s to the present. While there are statistics, they are things like yearly death rate, by gender and hospital, in actual hospitals for actual historical years...

Luckily for gamemasters, the fear of the fantastic can be augmented, rather than replaced, by fear of reality.
Kittycyclothemia on September 11th, 2007 06:54 am (UTC)
Re: One of the best excerpts ever
Ooh, yeah. Mental treatment has sucked for a good long while, esp for the poor, and for women. Still does, to be honest.
Noahangelbob on September 11th, 2007 01:33 pm (UTC)
Re: One of the best excerpts ever
Yup. This just gives statistics, and various older treatment methods. ECT (electroconvulsive therapy, though not the same thing as *old* old "shock therapy") was actually fairly humane in its day, when it shared a category with things like insulin coma therapy, hydrotherapy (long duration immobilized immersion), and spinning people around forcibly in a big wooden wheel to "calm" them.
Kittycyclothemia on September 11th, 2007 05:54 pm (UTC)
Re: One of the best excerpts ever
Don't forget slave labor... oh, sorry, "work therapy", or drilling holes into the brain! Whee!
And whether hospitals will admit it or not- there's still old electroshock equipment being used, at least in MA. It makes me so angry.
Hillary: Emo Llamacoyotegrrrl on September 12th, 2007 06:33 pm (UTC)
Re: One of the best excerpts ever
Um, electroshock in small, humane doses has been proven to help incredibly depressed people, perhaps by resetting their brain. I don't know whether or not that can be carried out on old electroshock equipment though.
Noahangelbob on September 12th, 2007 06:51 pm (UTC)
Re: One of the best excerpts ever
I'm assuming the old electroshock equipment still being used is for ECT, the kind you're thinking of. Older, "original" electroshock therapy didn't run current through specific hemispheres of the brain, but rather through most of the body. It was pretty much pure quackery, though there are a few benefits physical therapists can get from using it properly (it's not the same thing as TENS, though).
Hillary: Anyacoyotegrrrl on September 12th, 2007 06:31 pm (UTC)
Heh, I was skimming your LJ and as soon as I saw the regular text above italics, I went "BrezsneyScope!"
Hillarycoyotegrrrl on September 12th, 2007 06:41 pm (UTC)
Damnit. This is like the 6th comment from me now. Let's see if I can get it right.

Nobody wants to play a campaign with Emporer Fred or High Chancellor Gary, and so the usual approach is to give everyone high fantasy names like King Geon’ai, Sir Lua’an-Eradin, or Lady Alaain Mera-Dovrel. You know, strange and fantasy-ish.

This sounds like an excerpt from Diana Wynne Jone's Tough Guide to Fantasyland. The intro was so funny, I was hoping the rest of the book wouldn't be as humourous so I wouldn't die laughing when I read it in public.

Diana Wynne Jones describes (starting, of course, with a map) every sword-and-sorcery cliché in wickedly accurate detail, arranged alphabetically. Elves sing in beautiful, unearthly voices about how much better things used to be. Swords with Runes may kill dragons or demons, or have powers like storm-raising, but they are not much use when you're attacked by bandits. You can only have an Axe if you're a Northern Barbarian, a Dwarf, or a Blacksmith. Jones also tackles hard-hitting questions: how does Fantasyland's ecology work when there are few or no bacteria and insects and vast tracts of magically irradiated wastelands? Why doesn't the economy collapse when pirates and bandits are so active and there is no perceptible industry?