A couple of weeks ago we published our interview with Brian Sammons, one of the foremost authors writing for Call of Cthulhu today. Response to this published interview was enormous, greatly exceeding our expectations. One thing that several folks suggested was that it would be great if, in light of his erudite comments, we could quiz Brian with a couple of followup questions. Hide though he may try, Mr Sammons doesn’t have Spot Hidden enough to elude us … so we tracked him down for a second visit from “State of the Tentacle.” Here’s what happened:
CthulhuReborn: Welcome back … ready for another couple of questions?
CR: One thing that featured heavily in early Call of Cthulhu products, but which has largely disappeared is gaming material themed around travelling to otherworldly or “Mythos” locations. Why do you think that exotic locales for Cthulhuoid adventuring have gradually been replaced by scenarios set in more mundane places, and is there a case for revisiting some of those outre places?
BrianS: Good question. I have no idea. Maybe because all the good otherworldly or strange places have already been done? Maybe because people want to make things more “real” or they think people just relate to such places easier? I guess doing that could shift the feeling of the game more towards horror at the expense of the fantasy or sci-fi elements that were also part of some of Lovecraft’s stories. Maybe it’s just because no one has been thinking of good ideas to go along with those cool places? Occasionally they will still get some mention and focus in a game. I did a scenario set in Irem for the upcoming Chaosium book; Houses of R’lyeh, but honestly, the majority of stuff I have done has also been set in real world locations. Here’s hoping that more of those exotic and terrifying locales get some love in future releases.
CR: How much priority do you think publishers of Lovecraftian roleplaying games should put on recruiting new gamers to the hobby? Any thoughts on what might make such games more attractive to new people?
BrianS: I think makers of all RPGs need to try their best to recruit new blood for the hobby, so Lovecraftian games should be no different. The RPG community seems to be shrinking dramatically, at least to me. The last GenCon I went to was noticeably smaller than the one I went to before that some years back. Around where I live there used to be 5 RPG game/comic book shops within driving distance. Now only one remains. Sure, I guess online retail is killing a lot of brick and mortar stores regardless of what they’re selling, but it seems especially evident when it comes to RPG games. Then there’s this: when you go to a RPG-centered convention, what’s the average age of those in attendance? If you do have a local shop that sells RPGs and runs games there too, what age are the folks rolling dice? On the RPG forums, how old are most of the members? For my experience, the vast majority of RPG fans I know, know of, or just see are all around my age, plus or minus ten years or so. And I’m not exactly a spring chicken any more.
So all this means to me that sadly, our beloved hobby is dying. Without an infusion of new blood it’s destined to shrink and shrink and shrink. I hope I’m wrong, I don’t like to be that pessimistic towards something I like so much, but there it is. So yeah, RPG game makers should do anything and everything possible to get new people interested in trying out their games. And if you’re a parent of children old enough to understand the basics of role playing, by all means, invite them and their friends to the game table and get them involved. Maybe don’t start them off on Call of Cthulhu, but D&D has been the gateway drug for many a gamer, so start there.
As far as what can RPG companies do to attract new players to their games, that I don’t know. I don’t think anyone does right now. If they did, this wouldn’t be a problem.
CR: Well, you’ve survived two rounds beset by the Flailing Tentacles From Sunken R’lyeh … I guess we’d better let you go. Thanks for your time!