Saturday, 4 October 2014
Designing cosmic horrors for USR Mythos
Posted by Scott Malthouse
Welcome to USR Mythos Month, where all October long I wax lyrical about the upcoming USR Mythos setting.
What kind of stats should unknowable cosmic gods have in USR? The game is designed so that if you're at the appropriate level, or even under, you should still have a chance of defeating whatever enemy you're wailing on at that point in time. While this works well for orc tribesmen, galactic bounty hunters and steampunk cowgirls, cosmic entities sort of screw all that up. The point of things like Cthulhu, Dagon and those other physical gods are that they're just completely unstoppable once they get going. When the stars are right then there really is no hope for humanity (no matter what that episode of the Real Ghostbusters said).
It poses an interesting design decision. Chaosium's Call of Cthulhu, honestly one of the best games I've ever played, do have stats for each of these horrors. Granted, they are meaningless when you get to elder god level. In fact, it says in the rules that you're pretty buggered if you ever come across even a lesser being. After all, what's a revolver going to do to something that's not of this dimension?
Conversely, ultra-lite RPG Cthulhu Dark foregoes stats for creatures altogether in lieu of an attitude of 'if you fight something like that then you're going to die'.
With USR Mythos, I want to strike a middle-ground. I don't feel that there's much point in giving something like Dagon an Action, Wits, or Ego stat. You're not going to go up against it with force, so that's Action out. There's no way to outwit or reason with something of that magnitude, and just try flirting with an elder god and see how that turns out, so that's Wits and Ego out too. Screw it, just throw Hits out there too because they would be so vast that it would be difficult to comprehend hurting it.
Instead, you have sanity effects that forces players to roll on their Wits. You have other features such as 'portal gatekeeper: Yog-Sothoth is able to spend three rounds opening a dimensional gate. At the end of round three, the gate opens and 10 Starspawn appear.' Or something along those lines. These entities will also have alliances (i.e. Dagon and Deep Ones) and enemies. They with have methods and goals, which could be as simple as 'Goal: destroy all life aside from itself'.
At the end of the day, once a great old one is loose on the world then the players have already failed. The world is doomed in some way and to fight it would be folly. In USR Mythos players must use their cunning to prevent an event like this happening in the first place.
Help me fund USR Mythos and get yourself some cool stuff.