Purity and Pulp

Asmodeus has been put on the back burner in favor of Kenneth Hite, who writes in response to my anti-purity in Call of Cthulhu rant to point out this anti-pulp in Call of Cthulhu rant I wrote a while ago. Which one of me will I defend?

Obviously, both of us will defend each other and go on to conquer small European nations.

In other words, I don’t think that there is a continuum between “purist” Mythos gaming and “pulp” Mythos gaming. Yes, I did deplore the influence that a pulp sensibility a la Indiana Jones has had on the game, and I did call for a return to a Lovecraft-inspired game.

Nonetheless, that’s not the same as a “purist” game. Having considered the issue, I’m convinced that “purism” is less based on an examination of Lovecraft’s writing than a reaction to the “pulp” genre that is integral to the mindset of Call of Cthulhu players. The “purist” attitude seems to be a selective combination of Lovecraft’s fiction, his philosophy, and individual likes and dislikes, as these concepts are applied to material already circulating. When confronted with a medicine man in a scenario, for instance, their reaction is inspired by their own recall of Lovecraft’s skepticism toward magic and their own desires for the game, rather than examining HPL’s fiction to find if he incorporated such figures into them (he did).

Thus, I disagree with one of Ken’s propositions:

What I attempt to do is signpost rules decisions that Keepers who want to emphasize one or the other can use, while explicitly pointing out, as the Pelgrane website puts it, that Lovecraft used both modes, often in the same story.

Bear in mind, I’m not saying that purist and pulp versions of Lovecraft’s universe are The Bad Fun, or that there isn’t an audience for both that will really enjoy this game. Nonetheless, if on one hand we have a fascinating reinterpretation of Lovecraft, and on the other a reaction thereto, I don’t think we can take it for granted that Lovecraft lies somewhere between the two.

The main point is, I need to buy this game.

UPDATE:   This isn’t proof by any means, but I’m amused by the possibility that the pulpish cross-continental adventures of cosmic horror and doom might ultimately have their roots in a talking duck.

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Published in: on December 14, 2007 at 8:44 pm  Comments (4)  

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hmmm… I can see it now, a bunch of reformed Cthulhu Cultists, who have now been born again, in the name of Jesus Christ, start their own anti-mythos organization with the secret symbol of a duck within a pentagram of dollar signs. Tim Conway can play the head of the organization.

    As their sanity continues to drop the wackiness will rise to greater levels of hillarity.

    It can be a season replacement for “Everyone Loves Asenath” since that’s been cancelled.

  2. The Pulp/Purist spectrum we offer is primarily in response to the 600 responses we got from a survey I did before development began. There certainly is such a spectrum amongst gamers, judging by the response.

    Ken gives a number of examples in the ToC text where pulp-like elements enter his fiction, and he contrasts these with those gamers consider to be purist but I’m not the one to argue with you about that!

  3. Simon,

    I just wish a different term would’ve been used here – maybe “cosmic horror” or something along those lines. To me, calling it “purist” only reinforces the belief on some people’s part that what they’re playing is faithful to HPL, which it isn’t.

  4. [...] of Cthulhu: Pulp versus Purist Back in this post, we had a debate regarding the pulp and purist takes on Lovecraft’s work in Trail of [...]


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