RPPR Episode 126: Scenario Chop Shop

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Synopsis: Caleb, Dan, and I discuss scenario design as we workshop a scenario idea I developed after running a few different games for both the RPPR group and the Patreon. We focus on player engagement – the idea that the players have as much agency as possible in the game. We want to avoid ‘cut scenes’ and railroading, among other problems. Plus, there are shout outs and anecdotes.

Shout Outs

  • Delta Green: Need to Know – a free quick start PDF rulebook.
  • Layers of Fear: An architecturally-themed horror video game. Beautiful and scary.
  • Lisa: An indie video game RPG inspired by Earthbound.
  • Populuxe: A history of the unique 1950s style we associate with the Fallout video game series.
  • Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits: A sci-fi novel from the writer of John Dies at the End.
  • Knee Deep: an adventure game about a murder mystery in Florida. Looks quite cool!
  • Gurgamoth: A couch co-op game about various deities trying to kill each other.

Song: Imperial Thought by aliceffekt

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  1. IN BEFORE CRAWLKILL! The rat ship referrence is awesome.

  2. With regards to unpredictablity of Pappa Shoggoth. Maybe write up a n AI decision tree with lots of random tables.

    PC shoots shoggoth roll 1D6:
    1 eats the arm of one pc
    2 utterly ignores the attack
    3 leaves and kills that pcs family
    4 kills the attacker.
    5 kills another pc
    6 kills 1D20 random people.

  3. IN BEFORE CRAWLKILL! Caleb does infact have the best games. This is fact.

  4. Did episode 126 get chopped? (Masks post-mortem was 125 and this is 127.)

  5. Author

    That’s weird – there are 127 posts in the podcast episode category, so this is the 127th episode made – I wasn’t looking at the last episode number when I recorded this one.

  6. Can you please write this scenario and post it for free on the site by April 30th so I can run it Strategicon in May? Please Ross? You’ll do it for you’re fans right? You’re not a horrible monster, right?

  7. KenR, wasn’t episode 100 so big that it needed to be split between two separate posts? That would explain the extra post.

  8. I look forward to your Gary Old-One/ Wilson Fiske Shoggoth idea coming to fruition.

  9. look how slow I was! my old bones

    huh. I’ve actually encountered shoggoth lords in a short story. I thought they were just some goofy unthematic thing the author had made up, but no, they were a goofy unthematic thing that CoC made up. somehow that’s more depressing. they wrote shitty little poems about themselves CALLING themselves shoggoth lords, which is just…I mean…that breaks so many rules

    you can be proud of what you’ve done, Caleb! Caleb 2016! maybe you should have the history of Red Markets diverge from ours starting from Trump’s winning the election, that’d probably lead to a zombie apocalypse in real life, too

  10. @BurningHeron, it is exactly that. The episode number has been updated in any case.

    I enjoyed seeing the real time brainstorming/refining of the scenario – this feels like a continuation of the “Agony of Choice” episode.

    There’s a balance between freedom and focus that comes into scenario design. It seemed like a lot of the episode was adding details and finding the right balance between the two.

    This initial pitch favored freedom but with less focus on the type of horror or tone. Personally, I think too much freedom can be disorienting for players, especially with an unfamiliar group, setting, or ruleset. It’s reassuring to be given a strong direction or prompt to respond to. And most (non-geologist) players won’t rebel against the concept of the game.

    “Burner” is a good example – easy setting (strip mall), clear cut problem (bleeding FBI agent, then…). The engagement comes from trying to figure out how to respond with what’s available.

    The element of responsibility/abusive relationship improves engagement by immediately investing the characters in something bigger than themselves. Certainly shoggoth boss could eat them but you know that going into a CoC game. The artifact’s threat seems abstract, but what the shoggoth boss might do *right now* if they don’t keep him directed involves other people facing the consequences for the characters’ actions.

    Plus the players feel like they have a very dangerous toy/ally if they can influence the shoggoth – which tends to get the mental wheels turning that lead straight to trouble. Caleb’s suggestions showed how it could be played for black comedy (Better Angels) or some actual dread (more like Augustine).

    It didn’t seem like either Ross or Caleb had read “Fat Face” by Michael Shea, which I think is where the Shoggoth Lord first shows up. While the idea of the human suit can be a bit ridiculous, the short story has some good creepy moments all the same. (I assume crawlkill and I are talking about the same story though I liked it more. Can you imagine telling a shoggoth lord that you didn’t like its poems?)

  11. I seem to recall kind of liking it in general but reeeally disliking that the shoglord had apparently read its Monster Manual entry

  12. Hey Ross, just a heads up, download for this episode gets a 404.

  13. Definitely sounds like Ross might want to wait for the pulp Cthulhu book from Chaosium for the one scenario, that or make the shoggoth lord an absorbed relative of the PCs to help cut corners to get them in helping.

    Also look at Miskatonic University Podcast #97 where they talk about the shoggoth lord for some ideas (might have brought on the idea to Ross but just in case that & the forums for that episode might have some ideas)


    Also as they were mentioned in the episode, what kind of process is used to go from normal asphalt eating cultist to professional cultist?

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