We’re back and we’re resorting to violence again. Combat is a large part of roleplaying games, arguably disproportionately so. Even in Call of Cthulhu, a game where academics, librarians and antiquarians carefully search crumbling ruins and pore over forbidden tomes in search of knowledge that will either save or doom humanity, sooner or later most groups load up on shotguns and dynamite, reciting their favourite lines from eighties action movies and bringing fiery destruction to all they survey.
Unlike our look at the combat mechanics of 7th edition all the way back in episode 23, this is more of a general discussion about the role violence plays in games. Why is combat such a huge part of RPGs, and Call of Cthulhu in particular? Why do many games have devoted combat sections while modelling genres where violence is a rare thing? Why do most characters in RPGs fight to the death as a matter of course when fictional characters or real people rarely do so? Why do fights in games tend to be long, repetitive and mechanical, and how can we avoid this? We dig into these questions, as well as offering ideas for making combat scenes more interesting.
We also take a little time to give our impressions of a short film called Shadow of the Unnamable. Our friend in Germany and terror of six-inch nails everywhere, Frank Delventhal, sent us a copy of the DVD last month, and we finally found time to watch it as a group. It’s an engaging and faithful adaptation of The Unnamable, another of Lovecraft’s frequent warnings about the danger of befriending Randolph Carter. The special effects in the film are a cut above most independent Lovecraftian shorts, and it’s definitely worth investigating if you have a taste for the uncanny.
After our singing extravaganza last episode, you will be relieved to hear that there are no songs this time. In case you’re one of the lucky few not to have encountered them, these songs are our idiosyncratic and discordant way of thanking Patreon backers who have been generous enough to sponsor us at the $5 level. We had been threatening Chris Clew with a song, as he raised his pledge level last month, but we have relented. We spoke to Chris over the weekend, when we all attended the wonderful Continuum convention in Leicester, and his heartfelt thanks at not being warbled at have swayed us. A non-singing thank you to you anyway, Chris!