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Undigested thoughts

April 15, 2016 Leave a comment

Putting this out there even though it’s incomplete because the discussion may be more fruitful than me trying to figure it all out myself:

Benjamin Baugh has been asking about puzzle monsters – enemies which are undefeatable by conventional means… the heroes must improvise, investigate, or otherwise figure out clever ways around the monster’s invulnerabilities or dominant powers, where all their usual go-to stuff won’t work.

Call of Cthulhu obviously abounds with these, but the solutions tend to be obvious once you’ve found the ancient scroll – you follow the recipe, the thing happens, ruin is staved off. It’s like a special kung fu move.

In RPGs I hardly ever see that classic gambit from fiction, the spiked dose – attacking the vampire by poisoning its victim, or the corrupt politician by feeding them traceable money.  Luke activates the spiked dose in Vader – that treacherous poison of humanity and empathy that has lain dormant so long that the Emperor has forgotten it.

CoC seems to be crying out for this approach, or Carcosa with its unspeakable rituals (summon and poison Yog Sothoth), and it’s a perfect opportunity for dramatic self-sacrifice, which is popular in some circles. Has anyone seen it applied? Can anyone cite other actually inventive solutions to puzzle monsters, which are not just reading the instructions?

(Doctor Who is good at these, but a lot of his are not easily portable to your game of choice)

Ben also cites the hoary “we have to work together” Gatchaman/Sailor Moon/Power Rangers trope as a kind of puzzle solution to a monster.

I’ve never seen this one subverted, and that strikes me as odd, especially given how obviously it feeds into the ideology of the obedient salariman or even Communist propaganda. “Join me and together we will rule the world” is an obvious example of the poisoned team, but it tends to be presented as a one-on-one thing, Sith to Jedi (Satan to Saviour), and maintaining your individual identity and agency (soul) is the key to understanding why it’s a bad idea. What if there are multiple teams, each potentially made supreme by your membership? How would you choose which one to join? Are there games (or fiction) where a choice between teams is an actual dilemma, not a foregone conclusion/message? Are you going to saw off your feet to fit in that cockpit seat or find a divine gesellschaft better suited to your height?

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Are there times you wouldn’t want to do this? When you should, in fact, keep your team-mates away to stop it happening? How about just this once we don’t all catch on fire and, like, try to talk things out or anything else, really?

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