Lovecraft, Exploration, and Motivation

The classical Lovecraftian story is set around the time of Lovecraft’s life. Very few of them occur in the deep history, even as they are about the deep history, told through the voice of a person in Lovecraft’s now.

Lovecraft wasn’t a man who saw politics too clearly. I mean, he was a racist, and an anglophile, and he thought World War I was really important because America owed it to England, America’s homeland, but when he looked to the future and around him he was not horrified by the closing entanglements of European politics and the industrialisation of war, nor was he particularly horrified at the coming nuclear age. I mean, from the perspective of a dude born in the 1890s, nuclear power seems pretty out-of-context.

If you look through Lovecraft’s work there’s a strong view towards discovery. There’s the deep sea, there’s the stars, there’s ancient archaeology and there’s the organised cataloguing of unread tomes in old libraries. The protagonists are explorers – they are people who, without needing further motivation, want to learn and discover.

Interestingly, most Lovecraftian stories are kind of one-and-done affairs; someone discovers the edge of the darkness, and then is either consumed and destroyed by it, or they run and escape it, forever scarred by the experience. They are people who start out exploring for the sake of information. Their motivation is intrinsic.

Thing is, that’s not – usually – how Lovecraft stuff works in games. One of the challenges in these play spaces is motivation. Most Lovecraft games want to have multiple encounters, multiple excursions dealing with the unnatural. It’s hard to build a game – especially one about change over time – around singular experiences and that leaves you with a problem of representing a character who has some reason to want to repeatedly expose themselves to this problem.

I think this is a cool idea to work with in character creation. I know Delta Green requires you to build a set of connections that will get worse and fail over the course of the game.  I think that’s a good start because it shows you a think worth losing – but I wonder if there’s also room to build into character building a space for a fatal, consuming drive. A reason to go back.

Repeatedly.

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