dorchadas: (Great Old Ones)
I read, or rather listened to, The Litany of Earth when it ran on The Drabblecast, and I thought it was a good story that I really didn't like. Turning the people of Innsmouth into a metaphor for cultural appropriation and oppression due to government policy, like Japanese internment, meant that it wasn't really deep ones in the story, just fish people, and it ran into the main problem with any attempt to equate an oppressed group with superheroes or mutants or wizards or anyone else with supernatural powers--supernatural powers themselves change the equation. As Charles Stross wrote in The Rhesus Chart:
"There's a fundamental difference between a vampire and a regular human minority, Pete: normal people don't have super-strength, mind control powers, and a thirst for blood."
Normal people don't live forever, transform into fish creatures, or having living gods they can call upon for aid. The story doesn't really address that, except in a kind of condescending, "They feared us because they didn't understand us," way.

And now I'm reading "The Same Deep Waters As You" by Brian Hodge from New Cthulhu 2, which I think covers the issue much better without turning the deep ones into fish people and Cthulhu into just another religion. It raises the question of whether the deep one are, if not people, at least close enough to people to be understood by humans and comes to an inconclusive answer, but it made me think about human rights and the mythos.

Cthulhutech handles this by saying that anything that's not human isn't entitled to human rights, but the game is set during a war when rights would be curtailed anyway. One of the most compelling reasons I've heard not to extend human rights is that the receiver is either unwilling or unable to grant them those to others, which is why we limit the rights of criminals (in the first case) and don't give them to animals (in the second case). Which is it in the case of deep ones? The first or the second?

Many deep ones were once human, which would imply the first. When they sacrifice humans to Cthulhu at Devil's Reef as is their custom, they're doing it with full knowledge of human moral codes and should be treated as murderers, but only when convicted in a court. They should thus posses full rights. But that assumes that the process of going into the water doesn't produce mental changes as well as physical ones, and the stories don't actually provide an answer to that. I mean, deep ones practice human sacrifice and sing praises to gods that modern humans would consider horrific, but so did a lot of real-world human cultures. That doesn't make them innately monstrous, it just means they have monstrous cultural practices. And maybe that's just the deep ones at Innsmouth, Massachusetts, and the deep ones in, say, Innsmouth, England, are much more convivial.

On the other hand, deep ones can live indefinitely until killed. We don't really have any precedent for that in human law or psychology. How much does someone like Pth’thya-l’yi, who's eighty thousand years old, care about human life? About the existence of any particular human city or nation? Is it something they are even capable of caring of? What kind of deterrent is even forty or fifty years' imprisonment to a being that has already lived 200 times that span? It'd be the equivalent of three months in jail for first degree murder for a human.

And that's discounting the Delta Green-style idea that the mythos is psychic cancer, and is innately damaging to human mental stability. If that's true, then the whole thing becomes tragic. Whether deep ones are capable of following human mores or not, we cannot afford to grant them human rights because interaction with deep ones results in humans who cannot follow human mores. That's a real horror game, at least for me. It's like a less over-the-top version of Warhammer 40K, where the universe simply does not allow mercy because the cost of granting it is too high.

Tentacles and chanting are all well and good, but this kind of thing is what I like to read about in my modern mythos fiction.

Cthulhutech remix

2014-Jul-02, Wednesday 14:18
dorchadas: (Nyarlathotep)
So, I like Cthulhutech...or at least, I liked the idea of it back when the creators were teasing it almost a decade ago. When it came out, there were some sour notes, and it got worse and worse as the supplements increase, with a super-creepy focus on sex as a (maybe the) source of horror and a view of world culture taken straight from suburban WASP America, until I basically threw it all down in disgust. But just based on the first book and the companion book, I ran a relatively long game (20+ sessions) with just [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd as a player, chronicling the tale of a psychologist providing counseling to Engel pilots in the NEG military. You can find the Actual Play thread I wrote here, if you're interested--it has one of the best plot twists I've ever done in a game, which I'll put here in a cut for people who don't want to wade through the thread:

Read more... )

It's a good thread, though. I spent a bunch of time on it, back in the day, so I'd love it if you read it.

Anyway, it's a rewrite of part of the timeline and a change in focus to mix up Cthulhutech with Wildfire's other RPG The Void, along with some influence from Ettin's Nyarlathotech. You can find the Cthulhutech timeline here (PDF warning) if you're not familiar with the setting and are curious.

Basically, everything in that timeline happens as written up until 2063, with the exception that the mi-go don't tell anyone, even the Nazzadi High Command, about themselves. The Nazzadi are set on Earth with entirely manufactured memories and that's assumed to be enough, but the genetic similarities and other odd cultural cues cause the same questioning of the war effort and a civil war in the Nazzadi fleet. In this version, the sides are much more equal, and fight each other nearly to a stand-still until the peace-favoring side strikes a deal with the NEG, who join the Nazzadi civil war on their side. The losing side takes a large portion of the fleet and flees to the outer solar system, settling around Neptune, Uranus, and the moons of Saturn.

There were over a billion Nazzadi in the fleet and twice that many humans died in the war, with massive destruction of property and life. The Nazzadi didn't exactly win, but still maintained massive orbital superiority, so a treaty is hammered out where most of the Nazzadi fleet travels to Mars and settles there, far away from the Barsoomian human colony and now vastly outnumbering them. About one-fifth of the Nazzadi decide to settle on Earth, forming a substantial but not overwhelming minority group here and there. They do not inexplicably throw everyone out of Cuba.

Things remain tense, with the occasional riot or hate crime since nearly everyone on the planet knows someone who died in the First Contact War and many Nazzadi still maintain their old religion that has them as the chosen people, perfect creations of the gods who are destined to rule over everything else, but the relative separation of Nazzadi on Mars and humans on Earth help keep things from boiling over until the Crysalis Corporation (which is not directly run by Nyarlathotep, although Stephen Alzis is the CEO) manages to arrange the summoning of...something in Tibet.

A psychic shockwave ripples out through South, Southeast, and East Asia, and about one in three people in a huge radius essentially goes homicidally insane. The NEG has a really hard time containing the threat, both due to shock and because it's indiscriminate in its effect, and ends up mobilizing the army and requesting aid from the Nazzadi on Mars. The Nazzadi gear up their war machine and get ready to come in when unidentified ship signatures are detected moving in from the outer solar system.

Then the mi-go cruise into orbit over Asia and unleash orbital bombardment until the rampaging hordes are nearly wiped out. Then, ignoring all communication from the Nazzadi and the NEG, they leave. All probes sent to the outer system are destroyed, either by the Nazzadi Empire in the outer system or by unknown means when they approach Pluto. Earth, with another billion or so people dead and almost an entire continent devastated, settles down and tries to recover.

And that's the state of the game. The Deep Ones, being a power with no air or orbital support, confine themselves mostly to deep-sea terrorism and infiltrating coastal communities, making them more of a target for covert military action and espionage rather than mecha-on-mecha throwdown battles. The Nazzadi Empire occasionally raids from the outer systems and there are frequent skirmishes around Saturn and Jupiter. The major problem are cults, like the Church of All, a front for the Esoteric Order of Dagon, and the Dionysis Club, a group of sybarites corrupting the highest levels of the NEG and Nazzadi governments, and weird occurrences, like the sudden appearance of an alien ecosystem on parts of Callisto, the occasional person living outside the arcologies snatched up by flying things in the night, or the Zone that swallowed Las Vegas and the bizarre monsters that occasionally emerge from it. The Tagers and their war against the Crysalis Corporation can be used essentially unchanged.

Gameplay thus can take similar emphasis to Cthulhutech, but with a different focus. A military game takes place in the colonies or under the waves, an investigation game can occur in the arcologies or traveling between planets, and there's plenty of space for lots of different games.

Oh, and I'd probably run this with Shadowrun, since Framewerk is so awful. I mean, look at the probability distribution. Success is incredibly random and basically impossible to predict, which pretty much matches my experience when I ran it. I'm not even going to try to fix that. I can work on the fluff, but the crunch is getting trashed. Shadowrun has its own problems, but it allows magic and cybernetic and biotech modification out of the box, which I like.

There's probably more than could be done with this, but I figured I'd get that much out of my head first.

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