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VtM and Lovecraftian themes

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  • VtM and Lovecraftian themes

    How would you incorporate Lovecraftian themes into a VtM game that uses the Tremere?
    The WoD presents a great deal of magic, and some of that is infernalism. But the infernalism relates to fairly typical demons, fallen angels, and similar creatures. This is tonally different that Lovecraftian magic and themes.
    What are your thoughts on incorporating Loecraftian themes into a VtM game? How would you do it? Would it just be a name change, or something deeper?


  • #2
    I think it would relate more to presenting the Abyss in a different tone. Lovecraft stuff focuses on cosmic horror and the unknown, so you want to emphasize them being out of their depth. Far reaching implications, but a degree of uncertainty. Highlighting their insignificance, degrees of hopelessness, insanity, and dread.

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    • #3
      The Antediluvians often have a very Cthulhu vibe to them.

      That said, it depends a lot on which Lovecraft theme/tone you're going for.


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      • #4
        I think Lovecraftian horror is both rather easy and pretty hard in Vampire at the same time.

        What are typical themes? The alien, the unknowable, the things-that-shouldn't-exist, existence defying natural law, maddening lore, the knowledge that humanity is just a footnote in someone else's story. Combine that with alien realms, dilapidated mansions, degenerated communities, tentacles and body horror and you've got Lovecraft.

        In other words: Lasombra and Tzimisce. Full stop.

        And on the other hand side, they're also what makes Lovecraftian horror so difficult, because the two clans are part of the Core 13. Every player who has read the VRev or V20 corebooks knows who they are, what they believe and what they usually do. And thus, when Lovecraftian horror requires the alien, the two have become mundane.

        Removing the two from the V5 core and reshaping the Sabbat from a massive faction with territories into a roving bogeyman may have been a step towards reestablishing their other-ness, but of course, that likely won't work on veteran players, depending on how much the two clans are changed. We'll find out when they reappear.
        Last edited by Cifer; 12-07-2018, 03:37 PM.

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        • #5
          I would agree with Michael that the Antediluvians and certain Methuselahs (as in, the direct childer of Antediluvians) would be the closest thing to approaching Lovecraftian horror. They are so old and so inhuman as to be completely alien to humanity today; in this respect, they're not so different from the "Old Ones" from the Cthulu Mythos. They have cults that worship them, even though they themselves seem to want little more than to end the world when they awake. What's worse, they're essentially unkillable; anything that would kill them would mean the end of the world. Obviously, this sounds exactly the Antediluvians, especially Set, but to a certain extent Haqim and Saulot too.

          You mentioned the Tremere... Well, that clan is probably the Lovecraftian of all because they're (1) the occult nerds clan and (2) their founder has literally been taken over by an Antediluvian, Saulot. The underlying storyline of your chronicle could be "Tremere" directing the Council (and by extension the PCs) to do certain things in motion that would help "Tremere" awaken and return to full power, but (duh) "Tremere" is Saulot. In one of the books (I think CB Tremere Revised) it's stated that "Tremere" presently takes the form of a giant gyrating white worm, which is itself pretty Lovecraftian.

          Cifer mentioned the Tzimisce... Also very Lovecraftian, and their Antediluvian is also around, underneath New York City, itself a living and alien monstrosity. The Tzimisce also have an ancestral grudge against the Tremere, so you could very well interweave the Tzimisce (not just the clan, but the Antediluvian itself) into the storyline. Saulot may seek the Tzimisce Antediluvian as an ally against Tremere since they both have reasons to want the Tremere wiped out.

          Lastly, I personally think Werewolf is better for "cosmic horror" stories, because that's the very nature of the Wyrm and Banes. Vampire was originally geared more toward "personal horror" (the very opposite of cosmic horror) but that changed as WW developed the Caine and Book of Nod stuff, and then the Final Nights/Gehenna. But by all means you can certainly do a very satisfying chronicle directly pulling in the Antediluvians and using them in a Lovecraftian way; in fact, I think that's the only way to handle them if you're going to use them. You certainly can't treat them as any normal NPC.


          "I am a prophet. I bring chaos and unrest to the foolish and wicked. I am no fit prince for Cainites, and I am no fit shepherd for the souls of men."

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          • #6
            Well, the obvious answer is the Baali and the Children.

            I feel like using the Lasombra and Tzimisce isn't actually going to help HPL because they're different sorts of evil to Lovecraft.

            Tzimisce is Lumleyian Evil.

            Lasombra are a kind of dark Catholicism.


            Author of Cthulhu Armageddon, I was a Teenage Weredeer, Straight Outta Fangton, Lucifer's Star, and the Supervillainy Saga.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by CTPhipps View Post
              Well, the obvious answer is the Baali and the Children.

              I feel like using the Lasombra and Tzimisce isn't actually going to help HPL because they're different sorts of evil to Lovecraft.

              Tzimisce is Lumleyian Evil.

              Lasombra are a kind of dark Catholicism.
              But as Grumpy noted, infernalism in WOD is treated as much more mundane (Faustian) than the cosmic horrors of Lovecraft. In WOD you sell your soul to a demon. In the Cthulu Mythos, you go insane if you even peek over the mountain's horizon, etc.


              "I am a prophet. I bring chaos and unrest to the foolish and wicked. I am no fit prince for Cainites, and I am no fit shepherd for the souls of men."

              Comment


              • #8
                Two of the recurring themes of Lovecraft's works is the general insignificance of human beings and that his protagonists tend to detached, reclusive and socially isolated. This actually works pretty well with aspects of Vampire, in which the PCs would feel increasingly isolated from living humans, and start to see them as less and less important as they go deeper into the world of the Damned. Human contacts and avenues of influence gradually come to be seen as faceless pawns, and the general public as little more than a food source. In a lot of ways, being one of the Kindred is like finding out that you're actually descended from the Deep Ones, Ghouls or the Tcho Tcho.

                Another theme is a sense of hopelessness. Even when the protagonists succeed, it tends to be temporary and often comes with a high price to be paid later. (A prime example is "The Call of Cthulhu", in which Johansen drives Cthulhu back into R'lyeh by ramming it in the head with a boat, only to later be murdered by cultists.) In Vampire, one of the biggest examples of this is the ongoing struggle between Humanity and the Beast. Any success to hold on to one's Humanity is ultimately futile, with Humanity inevitably eroding in the face of the endless moral challenges and compromises the Damned have to make just to survive. In addition, no matter how high one climbs among the Kindred, they'll still be at the mercy of Elders and Methuselah. This culminates with the potential doom that is Gehenna.

                Tied into this is the theme of how fragile sanity is. Many of the things Lovecraft's protagonists discover and witness are extraordinary if not incomprehensible to human beings. The strain of trying to cope can be impossible, and insanity is the result. In Vampire, you can see this in the insanity that often accompanies Humanity loss. The ugly truths of the Beast's inevitable triumph, the brutal existence of the Damned, and the separation from the living all take their toll. On top of this comes the unwanted knowledge of the secret puppet masters behind society and the existence of immortal monsters, including ghosts, demons and other creatures. Lovecraft also has a recurring theme of the protagonists never being able to fully understand what's going on and being left with unanswered questions. Vampire characters very well may never really understand the truth behind things like the Antediluvians, Caine, the true origins of vampires, Golcanda, the machinations of Methuselahs or Elders, True Faith, where the Daughters of Cacophony come from, etc. (An irony is that the Malkavians, who are driven insane by their embrace and clan curse, seem to have an instinctive insight into some of these unwelcome truths, which might actually help protect them from further mental degradation.)

                A lesser recurring surface detail is Lovecraft's slightly antiquarian writing style and his preference for British spellings. Vampire plays on this, with ancilla and elders often being behind the curve with technology and culture.
                Last edited by No One of Consequence; 12-07-2018, 07:06 PM.


                What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly. That is the first law of nature.
                Voltaire, "Tolerance" (1764)

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Anatole View Post

                  But as Grumpy noted, infernalism in WOD is treated as much more mundane (Faustian) than the cosmic horrors of Lovecraft. In WOD you sell your soul to a demon. In the Cthulu Mythos, you go insane if you even peek over the mountain's horizon, etc.
                  Yeah, but the Baali aren't treated as Infernalist in their handbook.

                  Their goal is to keep the Sleeping God-Demons asleep.

                  Not to make deals with them.


                  Author of Cthulhu Armageddon, I was a Teenage Weredeer, Straight Outta Fangton, Lucifer's Star, and the Supervillainy Saga.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by CTPhipps View Post
                    Well, the obvious answer is the Baali and the Children.

                    I feel like using the Lasombra and Tzimisce isn't actually going to help HPL because they're different sorts of evil to Lovecraft.

                    Tzimisce is Lumleyian Evil.

                    Lasombra are a kind of dark Catholicism.
                    Eh, in Tome of Secrets, Lasombra come off quite 'edlritch horrors of the Abyss' than 'dark Catholicism'. Baali aren't necessarily a bad direction. But really, I think any can do fine, it just needs certain presentation.

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                    • #11
                      This is kinda what I was referring to by asking what tone or theme we're actually talking about. There's arguably a certain level of 'Dark Christianity' to Lovecraft.

                      The underlying issue is that Lovecraft wrote stories with quite different styles of horror to them but which refer back on each other and reinterpret themselves. So for example, The Call of Cthulhu does the whole insignificance of Humanity thing straight, then later we get At the Mountains of Madness where we see the same theme again perhaps even more explicitly, but the narrator doubles back on it and ultimately empathises with the Elder Things.

                      I think there's potentially a useful parallel between the city in At the Mountains of Madness and Enoch. Assume something clears out the True Black Hand and go from there, exploring a ruin trying to work out what happened to the inhabitants before it happens to you.


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                      • #12
                        The obvious path with the Tremere is the dawning horror that they are, in fact, a bloodline of the Tzimisce and, therefore, progeny of a cursed heritage. Alienage was a big... and problematic... theme in HPL's fiction. Have the pcs discover the whole "Tzimisce are nothing but extensions of the Eldest's body and will" lore, then have them realize they themselves are also part of the collective. Ticks a lot of HPL boxes.

                        The less obvious way to play it is with Malkav. The Tremere have Auspex, and a habit of looking into things better left undiscovered. If you assume that Madness (not just garden variety mental illness), is a palpable force as real and inexorable as gravity, gathers in eddies and currents, and is always seeking a new host, then the Malkavians become more than just bunny slipper wearing fools. They become the heralds of an ancient evil which eats away your mind and, indeed, your very soul. Malkavians, as a clan, could easily be portrayed as the servant race of their Ante. The pcs must risk contact with the Lunatics to fight them, but each contact risks deeper infection with the mental corrosion inflicted by the Ante.

                        Picture Village of the Damned, the Crazies, or even Jasmine from the Angel tv series. Canon was fumbling towards this portrayal with Dementation, but never really managed to lose the bunny slippers.

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                        • #13
                          There used to be a theory that Dementation was Malkav.


                          What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly. That is the first law of nature.
                          Voltaire, "Tolerance" (1764)

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                          • #14
                            I think a big thing to note is the themes of Vampire: The Masquerade and HP Lovecraft are related but sometimes contradictory. Being a vampire is about your humanity being lost and the horrors of losing your humanity while the horror of HPL is that humanity itself is insigificant as well as unimportant so does V:TM make it all important.

                            If I were to make it a Lovecraftian work, I would have the vampires deal with people's shock and existential horror from the perspective of mortals.

                            They are the monsters in the night so human Touchstones or associates seeing the truth of reality and being driven insane by the results or suicidal is a case.

                            Another good use would be Revenants who have the "cursed blood" thing going on.


                            Author of Cthulhu Armageddon, I was a Teenage Weredeer, Straight Outta Fangton, Lucifer's Star, and the Supervillainy Saga.

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                            • #15
                              You can always include incidental elements to the game that are Lovecraftian. If your WoD is influenced by cosmic horror (as my chronicles are) then they can seep in anywhere. Although Vampire is probably the game that is least susceptible to those elements because so much of the game is recursive - vampires interact with other vampires, unlike the other game lines where the PCs routinely encounter people and creatures unlike themselves.

                              However, the easiest way to introduce thematic appropriate Lovecraftian elements is to think of what exactly the antedeluvian world was like. Although the books base it on Christian mythology, there is absolutely no reason why there can't have been a real antedeluvian world, but one based on the works of the old masters (Lovecraft, Smith, Howard) and others. Maybe the antedeluvian world where vampirism was born was Atlantis and "Cain" was the head of a sorcerous cabal with the clan founders as his disciples, and they inadvertently created vampirism (the canonical origin of vampires in the Marvel Universe is very similar to this). Then when vampires go on Noddist explorations, they encounter artifacts and lore that introduce cosmic horror.

                              And of course if you have cosmic horror "gods" and such, any occult oriented PCs are going to run into that along with the more familiar infernalism. How well you blend those various elements together just depends on your skill. But it has been in Hellboy and the Dresden Files among many others. So you can look at them for inspiration.

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