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Old 07-05-2010, 02:56 PM   #1
macphersonrants
 
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Default Modern (Action!, Cliffhangers, ___ Ops) Weirdness?

What sorts and levels of weirdness do you like in your pulp through modern games?

What sorts of occult power options do you like?

Do you prefer Lovecraftian baddies or something more like Conspiracy X, WOD, or Cabal?

What sort of elements would sell you on a modern-ish secret magic, conspiracy, or horror setting?
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Old 07-05-2010, 04:00 PM   #2
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Default Re: Modern (Action!, Cliffhangers, ___ Ops) Weirdness?

Honestly, I love it all. I'm less a fan of Conspiracy X and more a fan of Cabal, though, if that gives you any idea. Although, that may be mainly the fault of the horrible fan-fic intro to GURPS Conspiracy-X than the actual game itself.

I like my modern occult stuff in layers. There's independents out there a la supernatural fighting lone occult threats. There's federal agencies aware of and dedicated to fighting larger occult threats. Then there's the lower levels of the illuminated, ancient secret societies dedicated to long, slow, subtle wars against supernatural threats. And at the top, even the most powerful supernatural threats are trying to keep even worse things out of our reality. Oh, and all of these powers utilize the lower ranks as pawns, and very few of the various players on similar power levels trust one another. The FBI might have a unit dedicated to dealing with the supernatural, but there's no way they're sharing their intel with the KGB, and they barely even trust the CIA.

But really, for me, a modern occult game needs a couple things to sell me:

Secret conflict
Weird powers
Balkanized world

I don't want it to be a world where everyone knows about the weirdness, or a world where all humans can muster against the supernatural is guns (though harnessing otherworldly powers should certainly have it's costs), or a world where one vast omnipresent power can smoosh you like a bug whenever it wants.
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Old 07-05-2010, 07:24 PM   #3
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Default Re: Modern (Action!, Cliffhangers, ___ Ops) Weirdness?

In my world, the setting roughly from 1919 through the present looks pretty much as the real one does, but there are psions running around, some of them immensely powerful, and there are a handful of beings powerful enough to satisfy a munchkinish player (assuming I allowed someone to use one as a PC). There are people in my world who are effectively immortal, as well, or at least who have been around for thousands of years. It's a mix of hard SF and semi-hard science-fantasy, but paranormal powers do exist of such potential scale that they could wreck the world, under the wrong conditions.

There are also some conspiracies going on, some secret societies in play, and they have had their influence on events. However, they don't run the world. Most of what happens is the work and action of ordinary men and women, in the open light. Even the superpowerful, near-immortal psions are flesh and blood, and can be killed by a bullet if somebody is skilled or lucky, and combat is realistically deadly, and sheer luck plays a big part in all events.

I guess you could call it 'gritty soft conspiratorial'.
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Old 07-05-2010, 09:09 PM   #4
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Default Re: Modern (Action!, Cliffhangers, ___ Ops) Weirdness?

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Originally Posted by Crakkerjakk View Post
Honestly, I love it all. I'm less a fan of Conspiracy X and more a fan of Cabal, though, if that gives you any idea. Although, that may be mainly the fault of the horrible fan-fic intro to GURPS Conspiracy-X than the actual game itself.

I like my modern occult stuff in layers. There's independents out there a la supernatural fighting lone occult threats. There's federal agencies aware of and dedicated to fighting larger occult threats. Then there's the lower levels of the illuminated, ancient secret societies dedicated to long, slow, subtle wars against supernatural threats. And at the top, even the most powerful supernatural threats are trying to keep even worse things out of our reality. Oh, and all of these powers utilize the lower ranks as pawns, and very few of the various players on similar power levels trust one another. The FBI might have a unit dedicated to dealing with the supernatural, but there's no way they're sharing their intel with the KGB, and they barely even trust the CIA.

But really, for me, a modern occult game needs a couple things to sell me:

Secret conflict
Weird powers
Balkanized world

I don't want it to be a world where everyone knows about the weirdness, or a world where all humans can muster against the supernatural is guns (though harnessing otherworldly powers should certainly have it's costs), or a world where one vast omnipresent power can smoosh you like a bug whenever it wants.
My preferences are very similar. What are your thoughts on power levels for PCs? I'm also curious what you like in the way of cosmology and metaphysics?

Regarding Conspiracy X, I had a similar reaction to the Powered by GURPS product. The non-crunchy elements of the stuff they did for their own system was better in my opinion. It's one of the few RPGs where I would consider running published adventures without heavy modification.

My one real regret with GURPS and Conspiracy X is that some of the stuff incorporated in 'Pulling Strings' was never incorporated into the 4e canon. I could see the concept being applicable to almost any genre.
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Old 07-06-2010, 12:04 AM   #5
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Default Re: Modern (Action!, Cliffhangers, ___ Ops) Weirdness?

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Originally Posted by macphersonrants View Post
My preferences are very similar. What are your thoughts on power levels for PCs? I'm also curious what you like in the way of cosmology and metaphysics?
Vis a vis power levels, the reason I like my modern occult in layers is that you can do pretty much anything with it. 50 point normals, 150 point occult investigators, 200 point government agents, 300 point spec-ops or lower-level cabal types, 500 to 1000 point monsters, etc.

Regarding cosmology and metaphysics, the most important thing to me is honestly that it's mysterious. In a modern occult game, unless you're running at very high level, it should only rarely be "oh that? Sumerian hunger demon." It should be "What the **** was that and how do we ****ing kill it?!" I'm also a big fan of mythological creatures. I don't like everything boiling down to "demon" or "angel." Buffy and Angel did this, where EVERYTHING was a demon, and it took all the flavor out of the word. Same with the later seasons of Supernatural, where it's all part of a war between Heaven and Hell. Once you explain it, all the mystery goes away. That's a large part of why I like layers. No matter how much you've figured out, there should always be something else that raises new questions.
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Old 07-06-2010, 01:12 AM   #6
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Default Re: Modern (Action!, Cliffhangers, ___ Ops) Weirdness?

Low-level occult weirdness. The Cabal exists, but it is much over-rated (or at least so it seems), among those who know about it, of course; it's more like an organization for mutual help among not exceedingly powerful freaks. Really powerful vampires, demons, etc. are very rare and thus one-off loners, not members of any organization. Utter secrecy is needed exactly because the normals, if they came to know about the occult, would be scared enough to stomp the "monsters" out _and_ powerful enough to actually do it.
Of course there is the occasional mage who does believe in the much higher power that would be available if only he found the right spell/gate/transplanar dimension etc. For the time being these have always failed one way or another, but you can never tell...
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Old 07-06-2010, 01:31 AM   #7
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Default Re: Modern (Action!, Cliffhangers, ___ Ops) Weirdness?

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Originally Posted by Michele View Post
Low-level occult weirdness. The Cabal exists, but it is much over-rated (or at least so it seems), among those who know about it, of course; it's more like an organization for mutual help among not exceedingly powerful freaks. Really powerful vampires, demons, etc. are very rare and thus one-off loners, not members of any organization. Utter secrecy is needed exactly because the normals, if they came to know about the occult, would be scared enough to stomp the "monsters" out _and_ powerful enough to actually do it.
Of course there is the occasional mage who does believe in the much higher power that would be available if only he found the right spell/gate/transplanar dimension etc. For the time being these have always failed one way or another, but you can never tell...
I favor what I think the book calls "the shattered Cabal" myself, or some sort of hybrid with the groups in Voodoo.
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Old 07-06-2010, 01:37 AM   #8
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Default Re: Modern (Action!, Cliffhangers, ___ Ops) Weirdness?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Crakkerjakk View Post
Vis a vis power levels, the reason I like my modern occult in layers is that you can do pretty much anything with it. 50 point normals, 150 point occult investigators, 200 point government agents, 300 point spec-ops or lower-level cabal types, 500 to 1000 point monsters, etc.

Regarding cosmology and metaphysics, the most important thing to me is honestly that it's mysterious. In a modern occult game, unless you're running at very high level, it should only rarely be "oh that? Sumerian hunger demon." It should be "What the **** was that and how do we ****ing kill it?!" I'm also a big fan of mythological creatures. I don't like everything boiling down to "demon" or "angel." Buffy and Angel did this, where EVERYTHING was a demon, and it took all the flavor out of the word. Same with the later seasons of Supernatural, where it's all part of a war between Heaven and Hell. Once you explain it, all the mystery goes away. That's a large part of why I like layers. No matter how much you've figured out, there should always be something else that raises new questions.
I'm not a big fan of the Lovecraft Mythos for a similar reason. Players know the Mythos, so they assume they know what is going on, which does indeed take the mystery out of it. I also favor at least some monsters that are anthromorphic enough for the characters to have a conversation with them.

I tend to gravitate towards the 150-300 point power levels myself, but I've run the genre at every level except for the 'normal' one.
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Old 07-06-2010, 07:33 AM   #9
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Default Re: Modern (Action!, Cliffhangers, ___ Ops) Weirdness?

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Originally Posted by Crakkerjakk View Post
I like my modern occult stuff in layers.
One of the most important realisations for me was that organisations are not monolithic. It's not "the FBI" that knows about the Bad Things; it's one unit of the FBI, who can sometimes get help from elsewhere in the agency, but chances are at least one other unit is actively in league with the Bad Things. And as for the NSA, well...

At least in my games, this has helped to shift the focus from "here is a big scary organisation, we stay clear of them" to "there are some bad people who can wave FBI badges at us, but not everyone with that badge is a bad guy". In other words, back to human interaction.
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Old 07-06-2010, 10:37 AM   #10
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Default Re: Modern (Action!, Cliffhangers, ___ Ops) Weirdness?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Michele
Low-level occult weirdness. The Cabal exists, but it is much over-rated (or at least so it seems), among those who know about it, of course; it's more like an organization for mutual help among not exceedingly powerful freaks. Really powerful vampires, demons, etc. are very rare and thus one-off loners, not members of any organization. Utter secrecy is needed exactly because the normals, if they came to know about the occult, would be scared enough to stomp the "monsters" out _and_ powerful enough to actually do it.
More like the Cabal as it appeared originally in Horror, then? Less monolithic and less threatening, at least on the surface, though the potential for hidden layers, a la Hite, can remain.
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