The King of Shreds and Patches

January, 1603. Queen Bess is on the throne, Shakespeare is on the stage, and the black death casts its shadow over London. And, of course, in his house in R’lyeh, dead Cthulhu waits dreaming, as he has for eons. Based (with permission) on a scenario for the Call of Cthulhu tabletop RPG, The King of Shreds and Patches throws all of these things together into a single story. Which is kind of like writing a modern-day Cthulhu story about Barack Obama, Pixar, and swine flu, but that’s period drama for you.

Any substantial work of Lovecraft-based IF invites comparison to Anchorhead, the classic of of the genre, but playing this game really reminds me more of playing Call of Cthulhu. And not for obvious reasons — it doesn’t have what I normally think of as RPG elements, such as upgradable stats or skill checks or randomized combat. Rather, the structure so far is more what I associate with the live CoC sessions I’ve tried: you’re presented with lots of leads to follow up on, but not enough time to follow up on them all before bad things start happening. The game has a day/night cycle, and unless I’m misinterpreting things, it seems to be linked to the number of turns taken, rather than (as in Anchorhead) linking days to progress in the story.

Also reminding me of CoC is the way it throws lots of recognizable Cthulhu Mythos stuff at the player from early on. Anchorhead didn’t use any established Mythos material at all; the fact that the Lovecraft inspiration was clearly recognizable despite this is a sign of how well it achieved its aims. But also, using entirely new stuff preserved a sense of mystery. In TKoSaP, when I find the Yellow Sign depicted in one of the game’s rare uses of graphics, I immediately recognize it as the Yellow Sign. The character I’m playing doesn’t know what “Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn” means, but I do, and it’s going to affect how I play that character.

But then, given the decidedly non-Lovecraftian setting, would it be recognizable as a Cthulhu Mythos story without these touches? Even in the game as it is, an episode of supernatural disruption of a performance at the Globe put me more in mind of a certain Doctor Who episode than anything else.

3 Comments so far

  1. Lucian Smith on 9 Nov 2009

    a modern-day Cthulhu story about Barack Obama, Pixar, and swine flu

    Holy smokes that is *brilliant*

  2. Pearce on 26 Apr 2010

    Is Pixar really the modern-day Shakespeare? That’s a slightly depressing thought.

  3. Carl Muckenhoupt on 26 Apr 2010

    In the same sense that Obama is the modern-day Elizabeth I, anyway. Which is to say, it’s not a very exact translation.

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