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Steve-O

Top 10 "Lovecraftian-est" Investigators

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I'm curious to get people's opinions on this. Among all the investigators that have been added to this game over the years, which would you say are the top 10 "most iconic" for the Lovecraftian mythos setting?

I'm thinking in terms of visuals for their art, but we could also be talking about most appropriate back stories or most fitting abilities, etc. As far as I know, none of the investigators are actually taken from Lovecraft's actual stories, but if some of them are I don't mind being corrected on that :P

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They're all pretty Lovecraftian, and many do seem to have been loosely based on various stories (hey there, Patrice), but the ones that most stand out for me are Leo Anderson and maybe Mark Harrigan, for reasons that are hard to articulate.  Probably because the former is a stern looking old man with an anthropological bent, and the latter had a brush with something deeply horrifying that drove him mad.

Edited by subochre

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Steve-O,

 

     Personally, the Professor, Harvey Walters strikes me as the most Lovecraftian of all the Investigators.  His desire to learn the truth about these strange and malevolent forces, coupled with his intrepid investigations around the city of Arkham and its environs.

 

Cheers,

Joe 

Edited by The Professor

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Steve-O,

 

     Personally, the Professor, Harvey Walters strikes me as the most Lovecraftian of all the Investigators.  His desire to learn the truth about these strange and malevolent forces, coupled with his intrepid investigations around the city of Arkham and its environs.

 

Cheers,

Joe 

 

Hi all,

 

long time I did not post anything, but I am still reading the news from time to time :-). And believe it or not, I even played a game (after two years off) recently and found it quite nice.

 

Interestingly, Harvey Walters was the example character sheet in the CoC rpg. Another one that has an CoC origin is Montery Jack (see here).

 

The ones I like most (in terms of story/visual art/story) are:

Ashcan Pete

Joe Diamond

Dexter Drake

Rex Murphy

Silas Marsh

Tommy Muldoon

 

(maybe I could add some other ones)

They have something that appeal strongly to my mythos sensations.

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Thanks for all the responses so far!

I definitely agree with a lot of the names mentioned, too. Harvey Walters, for sure. Joe Diamond has that roaring 20s vibe. Ashcan Pete is another who always jumped out at me. Something about his face reminds me of Bruce Campbell, and I can just imagine that guy hamming it up in a 1920s-era horror spectacular.

Others that I like include Darryl Simmons (the photographer) and Gloria Goldberg (I think she was one of the investigators in the 80's version of Arkham Horror?)

I never really thought of Mark Harrigan as particularly fitting, but now that he's been mentioned, his back story is certainly extra-creepy :)

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I think Luke Robinson is one of the most lovecraftian, I think that he really fits the dreamland works (which are often overlooked when people think of the Mythos).

Primarily because despite the dreamland just being more interesting he still feels drawn to help defend his home. Which I think reflects the ties to the waking world that all the dreamers seem to maintain at all times unquestioned. 

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Rex Murphy for sure. Something about him very much reminds me of the deceased reporter in The Haunter of the Dark. Amanda Sharpe reminds me of the main character in Cool Air.

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Honestly, I have to agree that most all of them feel very Lovecraft, though, I think it would be easier to pick out who DOESN'T feel as Lovecraft. That would be Lili.

 

I just--I can't even fathom what they were thinking. She is so--very much NOT Lovecraft it boggles my mind. It's like someone from Delta Green snuck into the planning stages for the expansion, gave their two cents and then vanished without a trace.

 

As for my picks for MOST Lovecraftian, can't go wrong with the original base box's characters--all of them are more or less ripped from stories, from Harvey Walters all the way to our favorite mobster, who could have just as easily been one of the 'robust men' from The Lurking Fear.

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I agree with Dr. Faust on this. I'm not sure what Lilly is doing in the game. But to be fair, investigators of color feel very strange in this game. They are either stereotypes or anachronistic. Jim fits in historically, but would Rita Young really be on a scholarship at this point in history?  I'm not a history buff, but it seems odd (also, of COURSE she's a track runner :rolleyes: ...). Same thing goes with Lilly and to a degree Mihn. Asian istantly equals Kung-fu and Personal Assistant. Black equals Jazz musician, African Shamanism, and Track Star. I can forgive stereotyping if it is historically accurate, but some of these seem tasteless (even if I like the characters).

 

Not that they CAN'T have these professions or stories, but they do seem oddly pigeon-holed. And maybe not historically accurate. To be honest, if he had written them, I'm not really sure how Lovecraft done it. Early in his career he was pretty racist (like the majority of people then).

 

SIDE NOTE: Did anyone notice the pre-painted figurine of Rita Young is, in fact, white (http://store.fantasyflightgames.com/productdetails.cfm?sku=ah24)? What does this say about the way people see their world? Add a little color to a grey figurine and it's automatically white (unless the person applying the color happens to be a person of color).

I would say the investigators I could see Lovecraft writing are many, but the ones that stick out to me are:

Silas Marsh

Norman Withers

Agnes Baker

Bob Jenkins

Sister Mary

Patrice Hathaway

and of course Harvey Walters

 

EDIT: Sorry if any of that was off-topic, I thought it belonged as part of the conversation considering the time period. Also, @ Jake yet again:  Kate is supposed to be German?

Edited by Soakman

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Sorry for straying further off-topic, but I always assumed Rita was asian, though I seem to be in the minority (er, as it were).  Not that this matters to your point, of course.

 

(Trish also seems kind of out-of-place to me, in much the same way as Lily.  edit: actually, I think it's not even necessarily her backstory so much as the fact that she looks like Emma Peel)

Edited by subochre

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Re Stereotypes: In fairness, the stereotyping is just playing up to pulp tropes. Not all mad scientists are German and not all aristocrats are English or Romanian, but I wouldn't be surprised to see either of these characters in a pulp milieu.

 

Back on topic. It might be wise to clarify what you mean by the term Lovecraftian. Lovecraft was more than just a pulp author, and it's the sheer nihilism of his work which many will associate with him. Nevertheless, to portray Lovecraft purely as a nihilist is to misrepresent him. Yes, there are many nihilistic stories, where, at best, the heroes don't live, so much as survive. (e.g. The Rats in the Walls) However, there are also plenty of other examples of where evil (an emotive term which might be better expressed as amorality) is discovered, faced and thwarted (e.g. The Dunwich Horror).

A nihilistic story can make for good drama and (moreso) tragedy, but it makes for a fairly mediocre game, since the players cannot reasonably expect to win. I cannot think of many games which follow this model, as the players need to feel that they have a chance. Whilst it is feasible in a solo experience (e.g. Dwarf Fortress), a co-operative board game has multiple participants, and you are ultimately asking the players to sacrifice time for entertainment. If there's no real opportunity to win, why bother playing at all?

 

The proactive story makes for a better board game, since the players know that they have a good chance of winning, but doing so is a challenge and the outcome is at least partially dependent on their choices and actions. The balance between challenge and success rate will ultimately be a subjective measure which be dependent of the unique makeup of the play group, but a good game will allow players to compensate to match their own expectations.

At the heart of any good story is a conflict, and it is the resolution of this conflict which compels our attention. Presuming we are not acting out a tragedy, wherein the audience and/or the protagonist(s) is aware that the doom is unavoidable in advance, for our story to be compelling we must feel like the protagonists have a chance to success, however tenuous or slender. I contend that it is this latter model, and hence the latter type of Lovecraft story, which Arkham Horror utilises as its basis.

Edited by Jake yet again
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Back on topic. It might be wise to clarify what you mean by the term Lovecraftian. Lovecraft was more than just a pulp author, and it's the sheer nihilism of his work which many will associate with him. Nevertheless, to portray Lovecraft purely as a nihilist is to misrepresent him.

I have deliberately avoided defining precisely what "Lovecraftian" means because I don't want to pidgeonhole the conversation like that. As with any truly good work of art, Lovecraft's stories mean different things to different people. I'd like to know which investigators best fit with the atmosphere you feel from reading Lovecraft's works. If you have to take a moment and define what "Lovecraftian" means to you in the process, that's cool. =)

I'm not looking for a definitive answer that will stand for All Time. I'm looking for opinions, which are naturally as varied as the people who provide them.

A nihilistic story can make for good drama and (moreso) tragedy, but it makes for a fairly mediocre game, since the players cannot reasonably expect to win. I cannot think of many games which follow this model, as the players need to feel that they have a chance. Whilst it is feasible in a solo experience (e.g. Dwarf Fortress), a co-operative board game has multiple participants, and you are ultimately asking the players to sacrifice time for entertainment. If there's no real opportunity to win, why bother playing at all?

Well, I suppose that depends on the group you're playing with. While I agree there needs to be some chance to win, our crew has never felt the need for a particularly good chance to win in order to enjoy ourselves.

We play a lot of games like DungeonQuest, Minion Hunter (with all the expansion rules mixed in) and the original Arkham Horror. There is a chance to win these things, but when Cthulhu is camping on the last open gate and Arkham is being overrun with impossibly difficult monsters, we still have a ball kicking at the darkness until it consumes us. =)

Of course, the original intent of this thread was not to get into game mechanics (not that I mind the tangent at all, btw.) I think you can pick your Top 10 Most Nihilistic Investigators without involving mechanics. Just pick 'em by who seems most likely to go raving mad in the face of impossible odds. =)

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I would say the investigators I could see Lovecraft writing are many, but the ones that stick out to me are:

Silas Marsh

Norman Withers

Agnes Baker

Bob Jenkins

Sister Mary

Patrice Hathaway

and of course Harvey Walters

The main reason why I chose these investigators is precisely because of the the way that they "stumble" onto something much larger than they even knew existed. All (possibly rewritten with an extended and detailed "story so far") really very much feel as if they begin to see how insignificant they are in the grand scheme of things. 

Silas, Norman, Bob, Patrice, and Sister Mary catch glimpses into the unknown. Norman suffers from the Cassandra Complex and thereby reinforces the microcosm of humanity that exists in a bubble oblivious to reality in an attempt to escape the recognition that we, as a species, could be annihilated by something we fail to be able to comprehend.

Agnes is doomed to repeatedly attempt to stave off the higher powers only to fail over and over, living various iterations of the same story of human failing until the end of time. It is unsurprising that she fails, and if you play as her and win, there is even then a sense that one day, in this life or the next, another Great Old One will siege the universe again. The fight is endless and incomprehensible to those outside the bounds of a certain esoteric knowledge. How many times has Agnes repelled the GOO's?  How many times has she failed?  Does it really matter? The best humanity can hope for is for their return to slumber.

These are the themes that make Lovecraft Lovecraft for me: the sense that winning is simply a better alternative to losing; the feeling that we are small--and will always be small--and that we do not want to accept that as truth; the concept that our bodies censor our perceptions to reality in such a way that we can continue to function, because knowlege is a heavy burden; the moral question of responsibility for that burden--do we bear it because it is too threatening to ignore? Or do we turn our backs, question our sanity, and leave it to be rediscovered by another and with the hopes that it won't be?

Edited by Soakman

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I--have changed my view of Lovecraftian. It's funny, but I would say I don't like the work of his 'disciples' since they are far TOO pulpy and action-packed adventures, rather than explorations of the nihilistic themes. However, I LOVE adventure stories where the good guys do win, which is why Dunwich Horror is actually one of the top three favorite Lovecraft stories. While yes, they are only 'delaying' everything, they still not only score a decisive victory but all the heroes walk away relatively unscathed both physically and mentally. It's why I like Arkham Horror--because in the end, you can get a 'perfect game' where not only does no one die but the Ancient One is defeated. It's why I take character deaths so seriously; I feel like I've failed the narrative of the game by simply saying, 'Oh well, I'll just get a new character'.

 

It's why I run the types of Call of Cthulhu games that I run as well--I make them that sort of 'connect the dots to solve the end problem'.

 

Getting back to characters, I do think that, first, Lovecraft likely wouldn't have written stories about characters that weren't white. Remember Juan Ramirez. That was--a very odd story but in the end, the racial minority was still treated as less intelligent than the presumably caucasian narrator. But that was a product of the time--Lovecraft himself did lose a portion of his xeonphobia as he grew older so perhaps the real question would be:

If Lovecraft had lived within the past 20 years, would he have written pigeonholed stereotypes?

 

ANYWAY.

 

Lilly still just stands out as being 'wrong' on a class basis. She smacks of Smith or Derleth, which I suppose was to be expected. At least it wasn't Ersatz Conan... >.>

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I haven't ready much of H.P.'s "disciples," and I think our views somewhat conincide. I'm not huge on the pulpy action-adventures either (while I can enjoy them, they are just not as satisfying). And Dunwich DOES stand out as a story where there are victors. This outlier really stands out for that reason, and I think it's pretty great. I can't say I prefer victories over utter failures in this "genre," but I find it very difficult to get lost in the story if I know the inevitable conclusion before it even begins.

 

I have this problem with Laird Barron. I really enjoyed a few of his works at first reading, and then I slowly realized the stories were very formulaic and after mutliple reading begin to feel like weak retellings of the same content.

This general feeling is why I like Agnes Baker's story so much. It's really up to the player and/or game session (depending on your perspective) to fill in the gaps. Futile unending cycle? Only hope for humanity? Or maybe she's just plain crazy... haha.

 

But yes, Lilly's "role" seems very out of place. If a protagonist comes to see him/herself as the only person standing between the GOO's (or whatever monstrous subject of an H.P. story), it is usually an acceptance of that role for himself as a heavy and difficult ethical choice. Lilly had the role thrusted upon her by others, and I'm not sure how often (if ever) they are featured in Lovecraft, but propecies and destinies sort of seem out of place to me.

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But yes, Lilly's "role" seems very out of place. If a protagonist comes to see him/herself as the only person standing between the GOO's (or whatever monstrous subject of an H.P. story), it is usually an acceptance of that role for himself as a heavy and difficult ethical choice. Lilly had the role thrusted upon her by others, and I'm not sure how often (if ever) they are featured in Lovecraft, but propecies and destinies sort of seem out of place to me.

 

Isn't this the definition of a Mary-Sue?

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But yes, Lilly's "role" seems very out of place. If a protagonist comes to see him/herself as the only person standing between the GOO's (or whatever monstrous subject of an H.P. story), it is usually an acceptance of that role for himself as a heavy and difficult ethical choice. Lilly had the role thrusted upon her by others, and I'm not sure how often (if ever) they are featured in Lovecraft, but propecies and destinies sort of seem out of place to me.

 

Isn't this the definition of a Mary-Sue?

 

Not necessarily, Mary Sue's are characters that are unreasonably talented and somehow always win despite any qualities they might be lacking (which is usually few). Most do not have much in the way of character traits or personality as their actions are the prime characterization for them..however, the skill set they have would not match their presumed abilities. 

 

For example, at the last second, the 15 year-old babysitter applies advanced particle physics and saves the day from the mad scientist (insert back-pedaled reference to how babysitter's mother is a quantum mechanic professor). The next day Mary met with parliament to discuss political repercussions of a British mad scientist vaporizing young children.

NOTE: the term stems from trekkie lore - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Sue

Edited by Soakman

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Oh, I know where the term comes from, but my point is, placing a character, (Lilly is implied but it could be any character) into the Arkham Horror setting and marking them as being 'THE ONE' that is foretold to stop the ancient evil from breaking through eliminates in my mind the power of Arkham. What makes Lovecraft what he was and is is that his protagonists are not trained to fight monsters. Ever.

 

They're usually wimps who happen to stumble into the Mouth of Hell by accident or curiosity and either fight and barely succeed or die trying (or go mad).

 

Armitage is a vague exception but only because he happened to be prepped ahead of time because of his own studies, not through him actively saying, "Well, Armitage, time for some cocoa and the Necronomicon because lord knows eventually I'll need to know this stuff!" He just happened to have studied it.

 

Though, now that I think about it, quite a few of Lovecraft's narrators had read or at least skimmed a LOT of supposedly rare, mind-shattering books. The guy from 'Haunter in the Dark' leaps to mind especially, since he had read at least four and knew of several more off hand. But again, they weren't reading and training to be monster killers.

 

Lilly is a Monster Hunter. That's essentially what she is, in a setting that shouldn't, by and large, allow for a Monster Hunter of the world-saving magnitude. If anything, she should be an Ally. Maybe. Heck, it would have been better if in her backstory they had hinted that maybe she worked in a cult for another AO, like maybe Hastur and was trained to hunt Mi-Go or something. At least then it would feel a bit more in-tune with everything else and give her 'IMMA SAVE DAH WORLD' theme a bit more questionable reasoning behind it.

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Norman Withers seems Lovecraftian for much the same reasons as Harvey Walters- he's an elderly scholar. 

 

Silas Marsh (of course, he's a Marsh)

 

Darrell Simmons and Rex Murphy seem like the sort of news people who'd get mixed up in all this.

 

George Barnaby, Vincent Lee, and Tony Morgan all strike me as Lovecraft characters- maybe because they're such weak Investigators. They're the type of protagonists who end up as raving lunatics or otherwise torn to shreds...

 

Leo Anderson should have been in Mountains of Madness!

 

Roland Banks (the Feds play a part in some of the stories)

 

Zoey Samaras- because she's crazy!

 

 

There aren't too many typical Lovecraft protagonists among the Investigators. No half-mad students of the arcane with weird family histories, unless that's what led Luke Robinson to the Dreamlands- and only two scholarly old antiquarians. 

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Norman Withers seems Lovecraftian for much the same reasons as Harvey Walters- he's an elderly scholar. 

 

Silas Marsh (of course, he's a Marsh)

 

Darrell Simmons and Rex Murphy seem like the sort of news people who'd get mixed up in all this.

 

George Barnaby, Vincent Lee, and Tony Morgan all strike me as Lovecraft characters- maybe because they're such weak Investigators. They're the type of protagonists who end up as raving lunatics or otherwise torn to shreds...

 

Leo Anderson should have been in Mountains of Madness!

 

Roland Banks (the Feds play a part in some of the stories)

 

Zoey Samaras- because she's crazy!

 

 

There aren't too many typical Lovecraft protagonists among the Investigators. No half-mad students of the arcane with weird family histories, unless that's what led Luke Robinson to the Dreamlands- and only two scholarly old antiquarians. 

Daisy Walker and Amanda Sharpe sort of fit the profile of the "half-mad student of the arcane with weird family histories" trope (as does Agnes Baker and Marie Lambeau).

Edited by Soakman

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I'll pull some out of my *** - I mean, 'back pocket' - and go with gut feelings on who I remember. 

 

Unfortunately since it's HPL we're talking about here, that means white men get almost every spot on this list.

 

Harvey Walters - like others have mentioned, seems to be the prototypical HPL old man scholar here. Plus he's in virtually every version of Call of Cthulhu since they invented the game.

 

Norman Withers - old scholar again.

 

Diana Stanley - she wouldn't have been written about, but if you look closely you could imagine her in the background or between the lines of an HPL story.

 

George Barnaby - mainly because he's an old white man, learned, and is rich enough to travel (he even has a boat in his picture).

 

Leo Anderson - did he become a background explorer in the Mountains of Madness?

 

Luke Robinson - can see him in the vein of Erich Zann or hanging in the House in the Mists.

 

Monterey Jack - MAYBE

 

Roland Banks - with the gang clearing out Innsmouth.

 

Silas Marsh - on the boat to R'lyeh

 

Vincent Lee - medical doctors seem natural. 

 

any female researcher, scholar, secretary, etc: I'd like to think so but not typically HPL.

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any female researcher, scholar, secretary, etc: I'd like to think so but not typically HPL.

 

Thanks for saying you'd like to, but agreed, not many female characters having a leading role in any of HPL tales (actually, I cannot remember ONE, but it's a long time since I read the tales, so maybe I don't remember)

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any female researcher, scholar, secretary, etc: I'd like to think so but not typically HPL.

 

Thanks for saying you'd like to, but agreed, not many female characters having a leading role in any of HPL tales (actually, I cannot remember ONE, but it's a long time since I read the tales, so maybe I don't remember)

 

True.  Many of the characters seem to me to have fitting backstories and archetypes if you were to ignore them being female or of color.  For instance, if Amanda Sharpe or Daisy Walker were male grad students, I could very much see either of them being included. Even if they were assistant to Harvey Walters (or any of his doppelgangers).

 

And although not a Protaganist, Agnes reminds me of the Witch from Dreams of the Witch House. Only less weird. Her story says she commands spriits not otherworldly rat-things and non-euclidean blobs of colors. Anyway, the witch-type could be sort of similar to Krysmopompas's assessment of Diana: someone you could find in the "background" of a story.

Edited by Soakman

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If Lovecraft had lived within the past 20 years, would he have written pigeonholed stereotypes?

 

 

The experts (S.T. Joshi etc) say he softened his bigoted views a lot towards the end of his life, so no, I don't think he would have stereotyped nearly as much had he lived. It's not just minorities who are pigeonholed: I believe he used the phrase "white trash" in at least one story, and his protagonists are usually from the same anglo New England caste- just as stereotyped as anyone else. 

 

The sad truth is, I think people were pigenholed into certain roles in real life back in the old days. Would a real-life Lili Chen have even existed? Cause I don't think the Far East was big on training women in martial arts back in those days. Lili would be an unlikely, remarkable person, almost a superhero- the more ordinary characters seem the most Lovecraftian to me. Jim Culver rings truer to me, cause there were Jazz musicians everywhere back in the Jazz age. I don't see where he's a stereotype, but if he is he's a positive one. 

 

I agree with the post about Amanda Sharpe- she should be a male grad student instead. Daisy Walker should remain female, probably cause I'm used to female librarians.

Edited by Fake Ghost Pirate

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Would a real-life Lili Chen have even existed? Cause I don't think the Far East was big on training women in martial arts back in those days.

 

The Wing Chun traditionally was created by Ng Mui, a female monk lived in the 17th century :P

Edited by Julia
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