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Viewpoint Why can't RPs seem to get Eldritch Horror/Cosmic Horror/Lovecraftian Horror right

Sera

Level 1 Chaotic Smug Rogue
Often times I see them boil it down to fight the weird tentacle hentai monster or it's Cthulhu, who happens to be just Dagon's bitch in the lore. It's like they never read any of Lovecraft's short stories.

Cosmic Horror is more than just blood and guts. It's about the all-consuming dread that we are so small and insignificant in the universe that there are beings out there in the farthest reaches of the cosmos that could destroy us without even realizing it as we are nothing more than specs of dust to them.

Also what's with them trying to make them actually malevolent? The only purely evil being in the Lovecraft mythos is Nyarlathotep. The rest of them are really indifferent.

Maybe Lovecraft could work as a Dice RP... I mean it worked for the Tabletop Call of Cthulhu games... Just minus actually stating the old ones, outer gods, ect.

PS. Never EVER have Azathoth in your RP as an antagonist if you want to go full Lovecraft.
It's about whatever you want it to be about, and there isn't a right way.
 

AnnJam

everyone needs good snood control!
IMO I feel most people don't understand that [Cosmic Horror/Lovecraftian Horror] is about existential dread and a sense of futility, a phycological horror seeded in something so vast, terrifyingly unknown and powerful beyond comprehension; and that is what makes those kinds of horror HORRIFYING. While most people are use to the "scary / gory" horror that is more common in media and often conflate this type with the Cosmic/Lovecraftian style of horror.
 

Sera

Level 1 Chaotic Smug Rogue
IMO I feel most people don't understand that [Cosmic Horror/Lovecraftian Horror] is about existential dread and a sense of futility, a phycological horror seeded in something so vast, terrifyingly unknown and powerful beyond comprehension; and that is what makes those kinds of horror HORRIFYING. While most people are use to the "scary / gory" horror that is more common in media and often conflate this type with the Cosmic/Lovecraftian style of horror.
It's about tentacles.
 

Dr Laudanum

𝕬𝖓𝖌𝖔𝖗 𝕬𝖓𝖎𝖒𝖆𝖎
Call of Cthulhu is one of my favourite TTRPGs. Cosmic horror works wonders when it comes to TTRPGs, because when you create the characters you know for sure that they will have sanity damage: it is inevitable, it is going to happen, and people create their characters with such in mind.

Something different happens when it comes to text based freeform roleplays though: as it was pointed, to some, writing down characters descending into a spiral of madness and dread is draining and exhausting. That's my type of thing, but most part of roleplayers are not down for that, at least not in roleplays.
There are types of media that work best to represent Cosmic horror than roleplaying. Plus, when you are roleplaying you kind of have an idea about what is going to happen immediately, and, as suspense is used in horror to settle in an atmospheric ambience of fear and anxiousness, if you know what's going to happen then the effect is diluted. This is transversal to horro roleplays in general.

The fact that an ending exists in books and TTRPGs, as normally opposed to what happens in roleplays, has also influence. The progressive deterioration of a character's mental health in Cosmic horror leads to them becoming insane in the end, and that is one of the consequences of the story. When roleplaying in freeform text based roleplays, we often don't think of an ending per se, and that conclusion might never come, which makes all that suffering and madness rather pointless, in a way.

Nevertheless, I find it interesting to incorporate Lovecraftian influences on my roleplays/writings in general, and I think that we can create fantastic ambience by using Cosmic horror elements.
 

ZeiruliousMakavar

The Archon of Madness
Much like what AnnJam AnnJam said, it's mostly because a lot of people don't understand exactly how to write Existential Dread. I say the same thing about why so many horror movies/games feel so lack-luster and almost feel like someone just copy-pasted a plot, but changed a few things. Usually it just being location and names.

We can remember almost every scene from The Shining, but don't remember almost anything from Paranormal Activity for that very reason. It's the difference of writing suspense, and writing jumpscares. Don't get me wrong, Jump Scares can work, but not when there is one every five minutes.

Getting back on topic, it's the same thing with existential dread. The very idea of it, is that it's the underlying "WTF" of the universe. Something known of, but not knowable. I think the book "The Restaurant at the end of the Universe" by Douglas Adams put's it perfectly. Everyone knows that the universe is insurmountably vast, but knowing EXACTLY how vast would drive anyone insane.
 

Grey

Dialectical Hermeticist
Here's a more fun line of consideration: the Lovecraftian conceptions of both existential terror and madness are now horribly outdated, and if you don't find ways to actually account for that the result lacks impact.
When Lovecraft was writing, particularly in the US, the notion of living in a godless, uncaring universe was pretty new. Nietzche only died in 1900, remember. Of course such a powerful re-framing of our smallness and insignificance would be horrifying as it forced people to completely reconsider their entire understanding of the world right down to unconscious bias.
Nowadays I'd contend nearly everyone is lowkey cognizant of our irrelevance to the universe because that's how atomization works. What else can you do in the face of a reminder but shrug, mutter 'well duh' and continue with whatever grab-bag of philosophical assumptions you use to deal?

When it comes to dwindling sanity we also have a broader understanding of how mental illness works, and generic 'insanity' doesn't feel remotely verisimilitudinous. I think you get a more interesting and impactful result from having the character remain 'sane' and everyone treat them otherwise because they know a terrible truth; the world isn't the way anyone believes, and you can't go back once you know, you can't stop thinking about it, and everyone else is still enraptured by the shadows on the cave wall.

Also Dr. Laudanum (10/10 username for the discussion) makes a good point to which I'd append that the TTRPG format assumes a degree of failure and powerlessness, neither of which are ingrained in a freeform RP the same way.
 

Mirgris

Senior Member
I would point out that the nature of an RP and the nature of the mythos are inhernetly at a contradiction.

Which is a lack of agency.

Being so small, so insignificant so powerless, works much better in a story where the reader is powerless, they are just along for the ride, they can't change the story, they can't come up with a solution, but that's the nature of simply reading, it isn't a limitation it's the nature of the medium.

To be powerless in an RP to not have agency, to not be able to change things meaningfully, is quite different.


Now these can be reconciled. It is something you need to think of carefully though. One version of the RPG used a jenga tower as a mechanic where each risky action involved moving a block until the tower fell and you either died or went crazy. That was a good mechanic, for horror and managed to balance a lack of control (the tower falling) and agency (Avoiding risk IC and playing the jenga game well).


So it can be done. It's just a mythos that has a large number of hurdles.


Horror is a less popular RP genre
It's a setting about lack of agency
It's a specific sub set of an already kind of niche thing
 

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