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Lovecraft Country: A Radical Re-Visioning

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  • Lovecraft Country: A Radical Re-Visioning

    I sent a variant of this as a letter to I haven't received a reply, and I don't expect that I'll receive one. I'm posting it here (with some modifications) because I think the game as it was originally conceived isn't working and needs some "perking up". I invite responses, but please keep it civil. My proposal is just a suggestion.


    Having played and worked in LC for several years, and having for a time been Lead StoryPlotter, it became clear to me that most of those who logged onto LC were not at all interested in horror. In fact, only about one or two percent of those with whom I interacted had any knowledge of the work of Lovecraft or of the Cthulhu Mythos. The general impression I got was that players logged in for one or a number of the following reasons:

    1) They had friends who were playing and wanted to schmooze and RP with their pals.

    2) They were bored and just wanted to RP without being bothered by horror or insanity or anything else. (I discovered, during my time as LSP, that when I presented horror, players tended to run away from the game. They obviously didn't want horror.)

    3) They wanted to RP "bad boys" or "bad girls" who engaged in antisocial (and non-period) behavior, and all that Lovecraft stuff could go hang itself.

    4) They were remnants of the original LC playtesting PCs who had come over from Castle Marrach and enjoyed the fact that, for all intents and purposes, Lovecraft Country was their private fiefdom.

    Needless to say, the above four categories of players has shrunken drastically over the years. Where back in the early 2000s, we could see perhaps as many as two dozen PCs logged on for an evening of horseplay (please, no horror: we're having fun), now, in 2018, we have zilch. Believe me, I have looked.

    A large part of this, I think, stems from LC being "a niche market of a niche market". Perhaps even more than that. LC, as originally conceived, was designed for players who embodied all four of the following:

    1) wanted social role-playing, AND

    2) were interested in "noir style" RPing, AND

    3) wanted a little horror and fright in their interactions, AND

    4) were interested in Lovecraftian motifs.

    It is my contention that such players are few and far between, and that the abysmal turnout of PCs night after night bears out my opinion.

    So what to do?

    What I am going to suggest is radical surgery. This might seem utterly dreadful in light of the work that Wells and Willow put into bringing Lovecraft Country into existence, but given the predilections shown by the players over the years (and the relative success of other Skotos games like Castle Marrach and Ironclaw Online), radical surgery may be the only way to salvage all the work that has gone into the game. Otherwise, we might just as well shut down the servers and save the electricity.

    So this is my proposal:


    Concept: We have a sleepy (or not so sleepy) New England town that's basically a haven for all kinds of gangsters and gun molls. The big cities are where the really mean stuff goes down. This town, however (we'll call it Arkham for now), is a kind of vacation resort for the baddies. But that doesn't mean that the baddies give up their evil ways. By no means! It simply means that ambushes, kidnappings, thievery, and other skullduggery goes on at a more relaxed pace. PCs start off as small-time crooks, bad boys and bad girls. They can just schmooze, or they can work their way into a local gang or a syndicate. These organizations are involved in smuggling, rum running, nefarious activities involving protection rackets for the local stores, and so on. And yes, there are guns and knives. But there are limits on guns and knives.

    Let me explain these limits.

    New PCs cannot have guns. They don't have enough status. In order to acquire weapons, one has to have both an IC and an OOC investment in the game: a paid account, maybe even a premium account. More than this, though, in order to obtain weapons, a PC has to be a member of a gang or a syndicate, and this takes IC time. (Maybe the academic system of the current LC can be repurposed for this.) One has to be "trustworthy". This way, we don't have some cowboy logging on with a trial account, buying a gun, and killing everyone he or she can find. (More on this below.)

    Along with this, the game doesn't allow you to kill unarmed citizens or newlies. Even if you could, doing so would demonstrate that you have no class. So your reputation suffers. It shows you're not a stand-up john/jane, and you get drummed out of your organization (and lose your access to weapons).

    More than this, though: if you are trusted enough to have a gun, you are also valuable enough to the mob to have a bodyguard, a CNPC who is with you at all times except if you send him/her away. The CNPCs firearm skill is slaved to your own: if you are good with a gun, the CNPC is equally as good. And firearm proximity is a factor: if someone points a gun at you and the system picks up that point that that trigger pull, your bodyguard responds instantly. Roll the "dice": success is measured in firearm skill vs firearm skill plus a random number. That is, if you try shooting (or knifing) someone, you stand a non-trivial chance of getting killed. (If the CNPC bodyguard proves too cumbersome, then the CNPC could be done away with, but a PC's firearm response is automatic: if the system detects a gun pointed and fired at you, you automatically draw and fire yourself. Same skill vs skill, plus random chance. The CNPC just adds another level of difficulty for those who want to assassinate someone: they have to deal with the bodyguard AND with the PC, or else get the PC alone without the bodyguard.)

    Let's go on. LC is a night game. So we hypothesize that a lot of the real crime takes place during the day. At night, however, we can have illegal stills bubbling away on the Island and around the Reservoir area, smuggling (the boating skill lessens your chances of getting stopped by the municipal shore patrol), poker games (wouldn't it be fun -- and profitable -- to knock over a high stakes game?), RPing the bad-boy/bad-girl stuff: drinking, parties, vulgar gangsters in fancy tuxes and gowns in the nightclub. (I should perhaps add that, in my experience, players don't want to play innocent, 18-year-old freshmen: they want to be nasty, worldly adults. Fine, let's give them exactly that.)

    Someone gets killed? No, the player doesn't have to restart from scratch. He/she can come back as a new character with a new name, and maybe one or more of their skills takes a hit, but they can join up with another gang or just play Joe-schmoe on the street. They do, however, lose their weapons (and are invulnerable to weapons) until they work their way into an organization and once again become the IC version of a Mafia soldier. Vendettas against previous character kills are not forbidden: the new PC can be the brother/sister of the slain character, working his/her way up the organizational ladder until the time is ripe for payback. (Of course, payback has its hazards.)

    "Bosses" of the gangs and syndicates can be played by staff or VPs. We can have law enforcement in there, too, if players want to play cops. But being a cop in the 1930s is chancy work, particularly when the criminals essentially run the town. Arresting the wrong person could well get a cop fired, at which point he/she becomes Joe-schmoe on the street. And maybe the mob tries to solicit him/her for a new member: always a good thing to have someone on the payroll with friends in the police department. And then there's always graft, corruption, fixed trials, bribes, and so on.

    If nothing else, watching the PCs in LC caused me to come away with the feeling that players want conflict and organizations and rivalry. LC didn't and doesn't have anything like that. I remember there was an attempt to get fraternities and sororities started, but belonging to one didn't seem to benefit the PC, and it was just "a thing to do". No one got any real buzz from the game.

    So I'm proposing a radical shift. No more students. No more struggling toward academic degrees that don't give the player anything except the right to put "professor" or "doctor" in front of their IC name. With the revamp, we've got the bad people fighting each other subtly or not-so-subtly. Oh, a PC might go to the library to study up on chemistry, but only so he/she can make better booze or spike someone's drink. (Needless to say, "sneak" and "hide" take on a whole new IC lease on life!)

    This revamp could be sudden or gradual. When I started playing LC, we had only...maybe...six square blocks of playable area and a handful of stores. I went ahead and, over time, finished the map and added stores, so we eventually had the whole area south of the river available for RPing. The town just slowly expanded, unannounced, though we opened Farmer Pickman's field and the Reservoir area with a bit of fanfare. (The Island opened before I became staff.) Incremental changes in character generation could be implemented, and descriptions of rooms and areas could be changed over time. Or we could shut down the game, open a can of elbow-grease, and get everything altered for a big rollout (good PR possibilities here). We already have CNPCs: we just change their emits. Things might be a little rocky at first, but the attractions of "badness" will, I suspect, make the players put up with the rough places.

    We would need a dedicated staff, though. People who are really going to put some effort into the game. As I myself put a lot of sweat and effort into LC, I'm not going to suggest something, that I'm not willing to undertake myself: if you need me, I volunteer.


    Harvest Wheatly
    (former LSP)

  • #2
    This makes me sad. Not the proposal, but the way the game went. I loved the insanity, I loved the horror. I know Beckers was relatively unscarred compared to her friends. But being locked in the Orne library the night it opened, kept me up for hours I was so enthralled in it. Same with the sleepover at the museum. The fact you could walk around town and never know what was going to happen always had me logging in.

    The one reason I don't play anymore is the cost. It's close to $20aud for me to play a month and there's no one logged on. If it was freemium like CM, I would be there in a heartbeat. LC was my first ever experience of RP, and would hate to see it go.

    In saying that. I also love the idea of gangsters and mob. It certainly leads to a lot more rp, and a whole slew of different characters.


    • #3
      Disclaimer: Old player here who tinkered as Staff until recent hiatus
      Also, slightly high-jacking this post to pitch opinions

      I like the idea, but I think it could very easily be an addition to the game rather than a revamp, as gang activity fits right into the time period. For me, a lot of the reward in Lovecraft's stories is not knowing what is going on until the big reveal, at which point it is far too late to turn back. I believe one reason that players might run from horror is that they have likely put a good chunk of their time and effort into their character backstory, and it is well known that if you go too deep into the core of Lovecraft's mythos you run the very likely risk of having your character killed, or worse. It's hard to get around that, and I am not even entirely sure if some sort of reward system would change that.

      Personally, I didn't care for the perspective of a student character, mostly for having to keep track of classes/lessons and the way it sorta tunnel-visions your roleplay from the start. I feel bad saying this, because I know that a lot of time and effort was put into that system, but knowing I had tend to something that had very little impact on the game discouraged me just a bit. Rather than starting out as a student, I would rather come into the town as a graduate. Perhaps a freshly graduated student, very similar to how the current setup stands. Maybe as a well-traveled archaeologist. Or as a washed-up detective who can't get a job elsewhere. Could just even be an average Joe who strolled into town! Less locked-in options might help more people feel in control of their characters, and thus more in control of the game and less like they are just logging in to watch.

      Or, maybe players can have the option to have a specially designated 'NPC' slot, where they can have one very-basic unnamed-practically-anonymous character at a time, such as being able to create a policeman character, a gangster character, a reporter character, and so on. This can give the player a loosely-defined role to play with, and a small amount of theme behind their character as well, saving them time and effort with designing a personality and life goals from scratch. This 'disposable' character could encourage investigation of things that normal students wouldn't, either for RP reasons or the aforementioned risk of losing a hard-earned character. Maybe a young boy selling newspapers convinces a policeman to check out a strange noise coming from that house, or maybe a gang of thugs goes trolling in the sewer looking for a new hideout. It also might be best if these were given out via @assist instead, so that there is less potential for abuse.

      Purely from my standpoint as a player, I would like to log in and have something going on that I can personally investigate and maybe kick off a plot, since uncovering the clue is the first step! Everything in Lovecraft's work seems normal... until you decide to peek through that door that is now unlocked and ajar for some reason. For instance, if noone is online, I want to use my skills to go around town, looking for stuff. Maybe I walk into an alley just like 100 times before, but this time, I notice something in the filth at the bottom of the wall ... a small carved stone. Or maybe I didn't even notice it, and I had to dig around a bit until my investigation skill turned something up. Where did it come from? Did it get here on purpose or by accident? Why have I had a few dreams about it? Maybe I should take it over to the curiosity shop to have someone take a look at it. And it does kinda look like the same material that strange rock in the museum is made of.

      As for me, I'd like more spine-tingling. I want to walk down the street, register that there is a policeman NPC, for some reason decide to look at him, realize his face is missing, do a double-take, look again and it's normal. Peer into a boarded-up window and see a chilling description putting my character inside the room. Find a sandwich in my hands that wasn't there before. Do I eat it? Did that door just open and close on it's own? Is that the exact same cat from before? Hmm, identical markings.. but on opposite sides. Oh well, I'll just go back into the Caf- um, why is the door locked? Try it again? Wait, it just swung open..! It might not be easy to implement things like this code-wise, but skeletons of ideas don't do much on their own, so feel free to run with it or turn it another direction.
      ~Ser Talic, H.G.~


      • #4
        First of all, I want to say that I'm super delighted with your very cogent and apropos remarks. That players are reading posts and responding on this forum is a big plus and a good first step toward reviving (reanimating?) LC.

        Talic: don't worry about hijacking the thread and expressing your own opinions: my suggestions aren't anything hard and fast, even though I confess I presented them that way in order to kick over a few sand castles and get people thinking about what they really want from the game...and thinking, too, outside the box.

        Becky: I'm all for the horror. That's what originally brought me to LC and what keeps me coming back to see what's happening. I did want to include horror aspects of my gangster proposal, but the 10,000 character limit on forum posts caused the following to wind up on the cutting room floor:

        "And there's always that chance that the criminals might venture a little too far into something they have no business venturing into. A very slight chance, mind you, but there's always the possibility of something...happening."

        In other words, one gang tries to get an advantage over another by calling up something they can't put down. Or they don't do it themselves: why bother, when there's a handy MU professor of archaeology they can kidnap to do the dirty work? (There's a plot seed right there!) Some plausible reason for other players to be in the vicinity of the summoning ritual could be found, so everyone would get a chance to see the heads explode.

        And, now that I've looked up the CM "freemium" plan, I can see that might do well for LC. Free = 1 character. Subscription = 2 characters. Premium = 3 or 4 characters (this could tie in the Talic's suggestion about "nobody" characters). With additional character types opened up, paid and premium become much more attractive.

        But, of course, going back to my original post, the wholesale revamp/shift in the game isn't necessary. We have lots of possibilities open with the systems we already have. But the key word is OPEN. I don't think I'm breaking any NDA agreements when I say that part of the original material Skotos licensed from the Call of Cthulhu tabletop RP games was a set of scenarios dealing with investigators as students at MU. I think, though, that the LC designers got target locked on students, and didn't take into account that not everyone wants to play a shallow, callow 18-year-old and stick it out for five years or so in order to work their way up to...what? Nothing that really pays off.

        One of the reasons the student track doesn't pay off is that the CoC material was designed for tabletop RPing: interested participants gather together on a particular night and RP a given scenario, a scenario with a given beginning, a middle that might go off in sundry directions, and an end. After which the players go on to another scenario with different characters. But that tabletop RPing technic doesn't work for LC: we're stuck with the characters we start with, we have no set time for players to be logging on, everything is pretty freewheeling, the mix of PCs changes almost from night to night...and then there's that inconvenient "real life" thing that always gets in the way. For this reason, a lot of the plotty stuff in LC depends upon the staff, VPs, and NPCs basically putting on a little play for whatever observers might be around to watch.

        And, in tabletop RPing, the midgame or the ending often results in the insanity or demise of several of the PCs. Insanity? Demise? No problem: in tabletop, just roll up another character. But note: in this sort of game, that new character doesn't have to start from bare scratch. Even a pre-gen has reasonable abilities, and in an ongoing game, a player whose character dies or goes insane always has the option (depending on the GM) of taking the part of one of the NPCs or fabricating a new character on the spot who just happens to stroll into the narrative. (This happens a lot in lengthy campaigns).

        But, again, the player doesn't have to start from scratch. And I think that this should be a "soft landing" option for LC: yes, your character gets killed or goes insane (and insane characters, a la tabletop CoC, should, to my mind, just be taken off the board: they become staff characters -- at least for a while: until they "recover" -- and the player gets a new character. I'll talk more about what I envision for insanity in a minute.) But if you lose your character, you get a new one with a couple penalties in the form of losses of abilities (that can be worked up with a few months' worth of playing) or maybe with entirely different abilities with roughly equivalent levels. And having different kinds of character slots would really put some punch into this: lots of variety. (I should mention that this has already been done ICly to some extent with @careers. You can drop out of school and become a townie under certain conditions, but the system isn't really developed enough to be attractive, and we're still stuck with the "becoming a student" start story.)

        One of the reasons I advocate the "soft landing" approach is that, back in the 1990s, I played an aerial combat game called "Air Warrior". It was a pretty freewheeling form of fighter combat (it's probably on Wiki: you can look it up) in which you flew a WWII fighter plane and had dogfights with players from other "countries". But the scoring system was the thing: if you got a kill or kills and managed a safe landing, you got more points than if you got a kill and then got shot down yourself. Some players, indeed, played for points (they wanted to see themselves on the leader board), others just played to have fun: if they got shot down, they didn't care. But the purists among the AW crowd often joked about the "pucker factor" of the game. If you got shot down, your screen would go red and you'd wind up back in the ready room, sans points. "What if," they joked, "when you got shot down, the game formatted your hard drive? That would REALLY make for careful, "real life" playing!"

        It's that "formatting the hard drive" effect that I'm trying to avoid in LC. Admittedly, starting over as a freshman student isn't anywhere near as drastic as losing your HDD, but it's still pretty extreme: years of playing and skill leveling-up lost. So that's my reasoning there.

        Insanity: As I said, if your player goes insane, you lose the character, at least for a good long while. Why would Arkham allow insane people to go roaming around the streets? They'd be detained by the cops and wind up in the Larkin Institute. But I've always thought that the insanity system in the game is kind of a kludge: I mean, who wants to RP regular psychiatric sessions at the Institute, or, for that matter, being locked up? You're paying for LC, right? Why should you spend your playing time in a rubber room?

        Again, the soft landing. True, you lose your character and get another, but the insanity system could be changed to become a kind of cat-and-mouse IC problem: your character starts off with a certain level of sanity (random number within certain parameters); at the same time, certain IC things can cause varying amounts of insanity that is subtracted from your character's sanity. When the IC stuff runs your insanity down to zero, you're insane and you're off the board. So you have to play it cagey: how much weird IC stuff can you take without losing your character? An additional "pucker factor" might be that you don't really know -- you can only guess -- what your actual sanity level is. exploring the zombie tunnels going to put you over the limit? What about staring too intently at that strange stone you picked up? Spending a night at the museum...what might happen? As before, encroaching insanity can cause a given set of emits and emotes from the character, but the player is, in effect, rolling the dice every time there's weirdness: will this be enough to put his or her character over the line? How much more can the character take?

        Encroaching insanity can "heal" much like wounds. Just stay out of the zombie tunnels and the alleyways and the fog, and you'll start to feel more like yourself after a time. Getting drunk ICly might help. There could also be IC sessions with a shrink at the Larkin Institute which would allow for faster replenishment, but these sessions don't have to be drudgery: a properly programmed CNPC or a staff member could make for some good RPing here. (Consider: maybe the shrink is a little more over the edge than your character is?)

        All of the above are thoughts that I've had about LC and its gaming systems. Feel free to expand on them or make counter suggestions. Maybe the staff will read up on these posts and find some cool stuff they can do.




        • #5
          Old coder here! While I haven't touched LC in years (and probably won't be coming back) it makes me happy to see these types of discussions.

          The original game was designed around this idea that you are a student in Arkham, going to classes by day, getting into trouble by night. Fast forward four years, and you are a still a student, going to classes by day, getting into trouble by night. It all started to feel a little stale especially to those characters who have been students for 4+ years. That's when character progression was introduced as a means to populate the town with more than just students. However, as stated before, there is no reward for progressing. I can say that there were plans for it but it was just never finished.

          I believe LC differs from the other skotos games in that it requires more hands on storytelling from the staff. Whereas in ICO our focus is on developing self-sufficient systems so players have the tools to tell the stories THEY want to tell (with staff ran plots thrown in from time to time).

          To add to (and echo) the above suggestions for LC changes:
          1) Complete chargen overhaul. You choose if you want to start as a student or as a townie. Maybe you are "stuck" in that role with no option of switching.
          2) Support for townie characters so the whole game is not centered around Miskatonic University. Open up housing, offices, criminal areas, etc.
          3) The sanity system is the bread and butter. It's there and it works. It just needs to be implemented more. I don't believe we need monsters chasing characters 24/7, you just need characters to FEEL like they are being chased. Read a news article about people being abducted on River Street... +1 abduction paranoia. You hear footsteps behind you, something touches your shoulder, etc.
          4) Content, things to investigate. Everything that goes into the game should have a horror element even if subtle. We can have a convenience store. Flickering lights, creepy clerk, even creepier patron who comes in at the same time every night to buy rat poison. This is also where those pesky "knowledge" skills can be incorporated to have SOME use.

          I like the idea of throw away NPC characters where you can just roleplay that character without worrying about long-term effects of creating conflicts.

          I also like the idea of not having to start from scratch when your character dies.

          When considering free/standard/premium options, it doesn't just have to be # of characters. You can consider restrictions on learning (ie. free accounts can only learn from other PCs) or area access (ie. only premium accounts can access the sacred restricted area in Orne Library).

          I realize this is all easier said than done but as Harvest said, maybe staff will see it and take it into consideration. The fact people are talking about it means that the game isn't dead and definitely has an audience out there somewhere.

          The Coder Formerly Known As Jekyll


          • #6
            I think Roo brings up some excellent points, some of which are going to take a lot of coding.

            First, though, I want to state that I've never been entirely clear which model for insanity was finally adopted for the game. When I was an active participant, there were two in the running:

            Option #1) Your character slowly starts to go insane, and it's something like a really bad case of the 'flu: the character gets worse and worse until he/she is finally carted off to Larkin's for incarceration and treatment: there's no escaping the downward spiral into raving lunacy. My opinion: at this point, given that Larkin's is isolated and nobody seems to want to go out there, the PC is in the same position as if he/she were taken over by staff, because there's nothing for the player to do except stay in a straightjacket for the duration of "treatment", which, unless it's made automatic, will require a lot of staffly hands-on work and a commitment from staff to actually be there to do the treatment. Some sort of auto-treatment, indeed, might be possible to code, but that still removes a PC from the player's control for an indefinite period.

            (Re the above: there was a period when I was active during which Tom King got hauled off to Larkin's. He was in a straightjacket, and he was stuck there with very few visitors. Maybe he was RPing successfully with his few visitors, but I couldn't help but think that he wasn't getting his money's worth from the game during that time.)

            Option #2) Your character starts to go insane, realizes it, and "heads it off at the pass" by getting treatment at Larkin's or from another PC with psychotherapy skills. If there aren't any PCs with the psychotherapy skill (and with such a low PC population there probably aren't any), this also requires hands-on work by the staff and a willingness to commit to treatment sessions. Thus, the PC remains unstable but cogent and playable. My opinion: this is the better way...but when compared with option #1 above, it's rather like what I proposed, with the player and the PC playing cat-and-mouse with the level of insanity.

            Somehow, there has to be a way of keeping the PC "in play" for #1, whereas with #2 the PC can remain "in play" but unstable. RPing this instability might require more than emits: some counseling from a StoryPlotter might be necessary to plan out how the insanity symptoms might be expressed.

            (And then, when I was an active player, there was a kind of corollary problem: we had players who WANTED their PCs to go insane. All the time. As far as I could tell at the time, this was no more than the player requesting a license to do whatever he or she wanted to do, regardless of period mores or circumstances. Usually this "whatever they wanted" consisted in interfering with and/or hassling other PCs in unpleasant ways with the excuse, "Oh, I can't help it: I'm insane.")

            So, regardless of the insanity model that was finally chosen, I don't see it as inherently at odds with the proposal made in my previous post. With #1, the player is confined and might as well be out of the game. With #2, we have the cat-and-mouse game with degrees of insanity and the concomitant non-functionality/non-playability of the PC. Either way, though, provisions have to be made for treatment, and in the case of incarceration, for satisfactory RPing. (There was discussion at one point about giving the player whose PC had been locked up a temporary PC to play. I don't know what became of this, but given that the temporary PC would probably have to start from scratch, I can't see that it would be very rewarding from an RPing point of view.)

            Roo brought up another excellent point about the constant nature of uncertainty and threat about Arkham. Yes, Arkham is inbred, and just about all the residents who have grown up there are "not right". In my experience, though, this being "not-right" often came off as hostility. Horror, despite its associations with gore and insanity, is really something of a delicate orchid: it has to be nurtured, and the half-seen almost always produces more of an effect than the wholly-seen. Twitches and grimaces and inappropriate behavior on the part of the CNPCs will go much further than surliness of unfriendliness. Maybe the shopkeeper is friendly...but friendly in a very creepy way: "Do you have your rain boots? Verrrrry important to have rain boots. Have to have rain boots. DO YOU KNOW HOW IMPORTANT RAINBOOTS ARE???" And all the while he's selling you a magazine or something. (If you can find some routines done by the late comedian Professor Irwin Corey, this might be a good place to start.)

            Roo's example of the guy who always comes in to buy rat poison at a certain time is excellent, but some PC has to be there to witness it, and that same PC has to be willing to spread the word. (This is where our slogan -- "Act as if nothing is wrong." -- works against us. Acting as if nothing is wrong can frequently get one killed.) Perhaps the rat-poison guy is even more unhinged than Roo's example: he invariably shows up when there are PCs online and hassles them about what store sells rat poison and where it is (because he's crazy enough that he can't keep track of it), and tries to get someone inappropriate -- like the most waifish girl present -- to guide him...and all the while he's periodically screaming at the invisible rats that are pursuing him. This brings the craziness to the PCs, and maybe someone starts looking for where all that rat poison is winding up. (This "bringing the crazies to the PCs" will be particularly important while the population of PCs remains low.) Of course, there has to be a place where the poison is indeed winding up...and maybe there's a very large cache of it right by the reservoir that happens to be the municipal water supply.

            This is also an opportunity for me to make a point that the assumption on the part of the plotters and staff should be that there are all sorts of antisocial and horrible things going on in Arkham that the players don't know about. Would-be wizards calling up things they can't put down. Guys trying to poison the water supply. Little old ladies who have offed most of their relatives with their elderberry wine. Things that "should not be" getting loose after a clandestine (and failed) experiment with dimensional doors. The PCs don't have to see the cause, they just have to deal with the effects. But any major effects should always tie into a hypothetical plot. If there's something invisible on the prowl, there should be a reason for it. (Which might cause some enterprising plotter to come up with a related plot or quest.)

            I'm glad that Roo likes my idea about starting as different types of characters, i.e.: student or townie. I'd go one further: the townie who decides he/she wants to become a student. There's material for a quest in here: the townie has to prove to the MU administration that he/she is worthy of enrolling. This might take character references (buttering up MU officials: more staff interaction as NPCs), writing away for high school transcripts, and/or producing sufficient records of "appropriate" life experience. Coding and staffly stuff again, but all this can be done gradually, with options available, when the code is in beta, for players to try it out with an additional test character, and of course the are opportunities for PR announcements on the fora about the "nifty new system in LC".

            One final thought: I can't but think that there ought to be some sort of "orientation" for new players that would involve an introduction to Lovecraft and his Mythos. A lack of familiarity with this material might cause a lot of in-game happenings to be utterly lost on a newlie. Honestly, though, I don't know how this might be done in some non-punitive way. I suppose it could be incorporated, bit by bit (like tips), into the "logon" messages that the everyone gets. Or there could be an in-game tutorial accessed by something like a @background command. Just a factual but interesting overview of Lovecraft and his writings, presented in small snatches. The player can bookmark a place in the information dump and come back to it later.




            • #7
              I've only read parts of this and will continue my readings of your posts later today. Many of our new staffers including myself have been dealing with RL issues, causing many things to be slow moving. Because of our many revamps and lack of player base, it is taking some time. I've already spoken with Shannon about making LC freemium, but there are requirements to do such and we have yet to meet them. Currently, we have about eight ppl who have joined with staff in some shape or form and more to join our crew. Many things need fixing to push us forward. I greatly appreciate thoughts and concerns given here and they will be taken in and spoken about with the rest of the staff.

              I have a few who are starting work on building and on plots to bring players in. Any idea given will be considered as I have said before. Any concerns or questions can be sent through assists;
              pms on the forums or to my email StoryHostLink