So...I kind of want to run a Cthulhu Live (or maybe "semi-live") game. Some thoughts, concerns, plans...

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Summary: I kind of want to run a Cthulhu Live game. Or maybe I should call it semi-live because I have a slightly different experience in mind. Some thoughts and concerns and such.

BLOT: (23 Feb 2014 - 11:52:56 PM)

So...I kind of want to run a Cthulhu Live (or maybe "semi-live") game. Some thoughts, concerns, plans...

I have role-played, in various capacities but generally as the Game Master (i.e, GM, Dungeon Master, Keeper, Storyteller, etc) for years, but have very little experience in the LARP (Live-Action Role-Play) side of things. Various degrees of LARP have various formats, ranging from large groups of people playing out in character in a semi-structured plotline to a group of people basically performing a script with a mixture of cues and adlibs. After reading Lizzie Stoker's book on American Freeform, I have developed a strong interest into something more like the latter. Live-Action (meaning the scenes are acted out rather than just played out through dialogue and discussion) Role-Playing (meaning players play a role rather than interact directly as themselves) but where immersion is tempered with the collective agreement that they are playing a game and so certain actions/mechanics are about taking part in the game itself and are thus exposed readily to the players, and not covered up [per se], and this is part of the game rather than a perceived limitation.

Imagine a stage show where there was a script, and actors, and roles, and events, and plot, but then right in front of the audience the director might call, "HOLD!", and then everyone would debate how to do the next scene and some actors would change role, slightly, or maybe would switch to be villains, and then the director calls, "GO!", and everyone goes off in that direction. If scenes fail, or if the plot goes weird, there might be on-stage discussion about them, including replaying. That's sort of what I want. I'll call it "semi-live" or "structurally-exposed live-action" for now1.

In this same vein, I've been reading Cthulhu Live (3rd Edition) and appreciating the general flow of the rules and their structure. It is a neat mix of simplified rules and old-school RPG meat that seems to balance the overall things you need to know and play a scenario without having too much block the experience. If I were at a convention and had twenty or thirty people to play in and run a game and most of those people were fine with staying in character for hours, I'd say let's do it. At least once. Except I don't, and I'm not 100% sure that's what I want. I'm more interested in a core group of six or so people (with maybe two or three "extras" that help with the set-up and behind the scenes) and I would rather rather have a group of people work out, real-time, the distinct moments to play and to find the overall vibe of how the stage is set, Fiasco-style, by active discussion of all involved [with the added element that certain plot elements are developed and thrown in]. That "HOLD!" and "GO!" scenario from above. There is very little in the core of Cthulhu Live that will prevent this, outside of the way it pitches itself, so I think it is doable with very little change outside of having people ignore much of the [rather good] early RP advice and come at it from a different approach. I'm thinking of maybe having the Sanity rules also apply to damage [rather than threat levels for one, and hitpoints for the other] and also about a few other nudges.

I have a scenario in mind that would be fitting for the number of people and the method I'm thinking. It would go like this: about every twenty years, since the 1930s, there has been a group suicide in the area. 1930s, 1950s, 1970s, 1990s. Meaning, assuming the present day, the suicide might happen again. A film crew, highly tied to the local college, is investigating. The general cast would be something like

And then there would be a handful of NPCs, such as

With the extra twist that all of the PCs have a secret handed to them, randomly chosen. Some will be more involved than they are letting on, some will some distinct weakness that will come to haunt them, and some will be over-assuming their role. But each time the scenario would be played, there would be different patterns of the secrets, so that sometimes the blind historian might be part of a cult and sometimes she might be going along and hamming it up because she needs a paycheck.

Despite the use of "cameraman", the current plan is to have all six main roles be gender-agnostic, with relationships and such being whatever fits the current play-style [sometimes deeply in love, sometimes casual affairs]. And then, in a nod the aforementioned American Freeform, to have some of the events and interviewees decided by some mechanic like cards drawn by a deck of cards or to have some sort of paper-rock-scissors style action. Basically, it would meld Cthulhu Lives conflict resolution with something sort of like Fiasco's (or maybe Everway's) kind of free-form plot-element generation.

Anyhow, as I'm thinking about it, not only am I nervous about trying to set up a game with at least 6 other people besides myself [presumably, most of the NPCs could be played out by the GM or through the imagination or through one of the PCs switching roles] but trying to figure out where to host it. The college campus I work on makes an interesting choice, but getting around between scenes might be detract enough that I'm half-wondering about just renting out some sort of convention space and using a mix of props and minimalist cues so that scene and time changes can be done more rapidly and we aren't then running around and shouting at, say, my place of business. Though, well, we'll see.

Any veterans to the form have any big ideas they want to chime in with? Tips? etc? I'll appreciate it, even if I end up ignoring it in my quest for an odd, new game.

1: By a complete coincidence, SELA (a working acronym for the form) is really close to the Hebrew word "selah", which means something like "pause" or "reflection" or "to hang". So, yeah, let's go with that.


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