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Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu / Tabletop Games

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  • Making certain entities statless for this reason shows up in a number of other RPGs, such as Unknown Armies and Planescape. In Vampire: The Masquerade there is only one rule for fighting Caine, the first vampire: "You lose".
    "Tenth level disciplines require no roll to activate and no blood to be expended in their use. They work because the GM wants them to." — Gehenna, Time of Judgement
    • Of course in Caine's case this is not just his absurd power level but also the Sevenfold Curse, which means that, by divine mandate, any harm done to Caine is reflected seven times as bad on whoever did it. So yeah, you lose, since even if you had the power to kill him (which is quite possible) it'd kill you first.
  • The boardgame Arkham Horror, a spin-off of the Call of Cthulhu RPG, involves the players trying to close interdimensional gates opening around the town of Arkham. If they fail, a Great Old One awakens and the players have to fight him. It's possible, but extremely difficult, to defeat the Great Old One (unless it's Azathoth, who automatically ends the game with a loss for the players if he awakens).
    • Fantasy Flight's sibling game Mansions of Madness allows this as well, including unarmed combat with Eldritch horrors. Depending on what the players are fighting this may not be such a good idea. But the Sanctum of Twilight Expansion adds in a martial artist character that has stats better suited for unarmed combat in addition to getting guaranteed extra damage whenever they hit in unarmed combat. This makes her very well suited for literally punching out Eldritch horrors. Doing this to a Star-spawn is as close as one can get to punching out Cthulhu itself within this game however.
  • Handily averted by just about every other Call of Cthulhu RPG. In the original rulebook by Chaosium (and from 2nd Ed. onwards), Cthulhu's stats are so high that he's essentially Nigh-Invulnerable (although a big enough attack, say six tanks firing at once, has a reasonable chance of dropping Cthulhu for up to 20 minutes), and he "devours 1D6 characters per round"; in the GURPS version Cthulhupunk (which mixes modern-day Call of Cthulhu, Cyberpunk and High Tech Sci-Fi genre), a note indicates that vaporizing the big guy with an A-bomb would only get rid of him for two days, after which he would return... radioactive.
    • Of course, even with this there are exceptions, the most famous being the tale of Old Man Henderson, the only person to ever have won at Call of Cthulhu, by using the trick of 1. Becoming Hastur's greatest foe, thus allowing him to personally summon him by chanting his name. 2. Knowing that when an Elder God is summoned, there is a very brief window where they are weak enough to be permanently killed. 3. Wiring a building with enough explosions to make Michael Bay blush. This is followed by Did We Just Have Tea with Cthulhu? when, buried beneath the building wreckage, Henderson and Hastur have a friendly conversation and share Henderson's last joint before they both die from their injuries, with Hastur being very impressed that a human actually managed to kill him.
  • In the early Call of Cthulhu by Chaosium the Headbutt skill allowed you to stop anyone acting for one turn. A starting character had a 95% chance of pulling this off. Apparently, even Great Old Ones are affected by the Headbutt. (Most versions of the rulebook mention that non-humanoid creatures are completely immune to all knockout attempts.)
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  • In Changeling: The Lost, Sam Noblood chased down Summer itself and used a tree-branch of autumn leaves as a spear to force it to make an exclusive pact with him.
  • The tabletop roleplaying game CthulhuTech, which is a mashup of Neon Genesis Evangelion and Call of Cthulhu, both averts and works this way. The Old Ones themselves pretty much automatically win if they actually bother directly fighting any number of protagonists, and the awakening of Cthulhu would officially screw over not just the human race, but an alien race trying to invade as well. Even the avatar of Hastur, horribly crippled to work within our limited sets of dimensions and weakened by improper summoning, is set as outgunning every other army on the planet combined. Thankfully, he stays at home. On the other hand, you can easily beat up a few Humongous Mecha or even an Engel with luck and some simple soldiers, or survive exposure to the infinite dimensions without being fried instantly. Seeing an Old One directly can't even drive you irreparably and instantly insane on its own, and lucky individuals can stroll up to the body of Cthulhu, take a picture, and leave without taking a single point of insanity.
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  • Pinnacle's Deadlands got to it with Stone in the Devil's Tower trilogy, who was completely untouchable up to that point. Later on in Reloaded, after abandoning their "if you stat it they will kill it" mantra, the Plot Point Campaigns made it so you could permanently kill Reverend Grimme, kill Young Stone, beat a Last Son with Raven's stats and talk Hellstromme out of being evil. Taken Up to Eleven in Hell on Earth's the Unity when you help Hellstromme punch out all of the Reckoners, seal them in a device and send them all the way to Banshee.
  • Following in Moorcock's example, every single monster in the various Monster Manuals of Dungeons & Dragons, up to and including demons and horrors from the Far Realm, can be defeated by bashing it to zero Hit Points (in every edition).
    • Not all of them can be attacked with normal, everyday weapons, however. Some can only be defeated by spells and magic weapons. (And in the case of the Tarrasque, it needs to be reduced to 0 or lower HP and then permanently dealt with via using the Wish spell to make it Someone Else's Problem, but that doesn't stop people from trying to make builds that can kill Tarrasques.)
    • Both the first edition and third edition of D&D's Deities And Demigods assigned hit points and combat statistics to god-like beings. The d20 Call of Cthulhu, a sister product to D&D, allows players to specifically fight and to kill Elder Gods. Their stats are tough enough that only epic D&D characters — themselves nigh-unto gods — could stand a chance against them, though. (Monk classes fit this trope literally: Being unarmed classes, an epic-level Monk could REALLY punch out Cthulhu.)
    • Averted in the 3.5 book Elder Evils with at least some of the evils. They don't have stats and can't be fought directly, you can thwart efforts to rouse them or make them manifest. In some cases, this does involve battling their spawn which are statted but still usually require high level or epic level characters to beat. If one of the actual Elders does arise/manifest/wake up, the world is screwed.
    • Averted by the Fourth Edition. Evil gods are given full stats, but they ignore attacks by characters who are not themselves also epic level and thus on a path towards immortality themselves. Even with damage from an epic-level threat, they cannot be killed by normal means, as they "discorporate" when they take enough damage to be considered bloodied. Each god's listing comes with a few idea seeds for ways the being might be slain, but that's left to the dungeonmaster's judgment. Lower-level "aspects" of the gods can still be punched out, though.
    • There is a collection of D&D jokes somewhere on the Internet that invokes this trope. "You know your character is too powerful when...". In particular, there was the series on jokes about the demon lord Orcus, who was in the early Monster Manual stated to be so strong that he'd deal damage with a slap with his open palm. The jokes went something like this: "You know your character is too powerful when... ... You slap Orcus on the back, and Orcus dies. / Orcus slaps you on the back, and Orcus dies. / You think "Maybe I should kill Orcus" and Orcus dies..." And so on.
  • Exalted has a good number of ineffable, horrifying beings out there on the periphery, all designed so that your characters will inevitably beat the snot out of them. A lot of gods in Exalted are weak enough for starting characters to kill them without much trouble (granted, many gods are "Least Gods", whose dominion encompasses things like individual blades of grass). Scion, by the same company, follows the same design philosophy.
  • In the GURPS horror supplement The Madness Dossier, the Red Kings, literal god-kings of the Earth in an alternate history, are generally assumed to be functionally unkillable; they could conquer our world merely by coming into full existence in our reality. Except... in 1961, the heroes of the setting, Project SANDMAN, used a French nuclear test in Algeria to close up a dimensional rift and possibly even kill a Red King. Okay, using a nuke is hardly trivial, but still — they basically killed a god (they hope) by political shenanigans. And all it cost was two decades of psychic disruption in human society.
  • Leviathan: The Tempest: In the setting's backstory, the god Marduk managed to cast down Tiamat, the mother of the titular Leviathans, liberating humanity from her thrall. And in the modern day, her children may be EldritchAbominations, but they are still very definitely killable even by mundane humans.
  • The cover of Summoners for Mage: The Awakening probably deserves mention here.
  • Magic: The Gathering:
  • Monsterpocalypse features the Lords of Cthul, who have "We were inspired by H. P. Lovecraft" written on them in the maddening tongue of R'lyeh. Complete with tentacles. In the backstory, they're avatars of cosmic forces and are here simply because they like making people dead. These avatars can be taken out by tank fire, kamikaze cyborg alien birds, and 60-foot-tall Highly Visible Ninja bodyslamming them.
  • Munchkin has a Cthulhu version, as well as a variety of others. It has been stated in the Internet-based epic rules that with these rules in play, at high levels, you can have enough personal power to kill a radioactive Cthulhu and his clone. Presumably, by this point you have six hands, and they're all on fire.
  • Mythender is all about this. To quote the game's introduction:
    It's all about leaping off of mountains with your massive, flaming sword drawn and splitting open a giant's face.
    At least, it was a face before you showed up to fix that.
  • In Pathfinder like the above mention of First Edition, As of Bestiary 4 Cthulhu once again has stats... and is once again killable by players.
    • ...but not permanently. If Cthulhu is "killed", he discorporates into a cloud of green mist, then reconstitutes after a few rounds. For a few rounds after he reconstitutes, Cthulhu is stunned. If the PC's can kill him again during this period, he discorporates again and returns to sleep in R'lyeh. If not, they have to start all over again. All statted Great Old Ones have similar features, and it is explicitly stated that Great Old Ones cannot be permanently killed by any force mortals can wield. In short, the best that the PC's can hope for when dealing with Cthulhu is to punch him out.
    • There exists a theory crafting situation in which players take a single level 20 character and devise a means by which this character could defeat Cthulhu. Example include sentient ships and armies of outsiders.
      • It's surprisingly easy, really. The Great Old Ones aren't immune to polymorph effects, so as long as you can get Cthulhu to fail his saving throw, you can baleful polymorph him into a harmless animal. A harmless mortal animal, because of a loophole in the rules that makes the spell make him lose his immortality for the duration.
    • Several other Great Old Ones were also statted out in the same book, and there exist stats for several entities that are effectively gods, but can be killed by players.
    • That being said, Pathfinder draws a clear line between demigods (Great Old Ones like Cthulhu, as well as demon lords, archdevils and the like) and true deities. The former have stats, and can, at least theoretically, be killed by sufficiently powerful characters. The latter have no stats and are basically untouchable by even the most powerful PCs. Cthulhu can be punched out; Yog-Sothoth not so much.
  • Scion also averts this, however; yes, you can kill the Titans, but there's a reason the gods sealed them up instead of doing it in the first place. Remember the Ice Age? It ended the SECOND Ymir was killed. And flooded most of the Earth.
  • In Sentinels of the Multiverse, some of the villains include an extra-dimensional demon, an immortal nature spirit, a near omnipotent trickster, and of course, the upcoming OblivAeon. It's possible to beat them with purely mundane heroes like Bunker, Expatriette, and the Wraith. Depending on the cards used, the punching can be quite literal.
  • Averted in Shadowrun unless Cthulhu wants to be punched out. Dragons can't be punched out unless they're absolutely dumb, because they have Edge and can burn it in the same ways as PCs and then some, and one of those uses is to cheat death, notwithstanding the Chunky Salsa Rule. Even if you explode a nuke inside the dragon's gut, it's Only Mostly Dead and it'll come back and destroy your life from a place of complete safety, then have you for lunch once you're safely under control. Meanwhile, Harlequin, in the adventure he appears in, simply has no stats because the designers know that if you give it stats, the players will kill it, and that would screw up the setting.
    • Harlequin did finally end up getting stats in 4th Edition. The book came out a few years ago, so the smug, clown-faced bastard has probably died many times since.
  • In Warhammer 40,000:
    • The C'tan Physical Gods just need new bodies built for them if the shells are destroyed, although it is said that neither of the two active ones are at full power yet. They can actually be Cherry Tapped to death with sniper rifles, due to their crappy save and sniper weapons always wounding half the time.

      The Necron 5th edition book has Retconned this backstory so the C'tan, with the possible exception of the Void Dragon (who is implied to have been punched out by the Emperor), were ripped several dozen new ones by the Necrons, with the star-gods reduced to fragments rather like Khaine. Only worse, since Khaine was destroyed by other divine beings, and the C'tan dismembered by robots. We assume their expressions were rather like that of a chess player being beaten to death by their own pawns. Justified to an extent, since by that point the C'tan had badly weakened themselves with infighting, their gluttony having reached a point that they started devouring each other, which depleted their power.
    • Eisenhorn managed this one throughout his career, but the most notable is when he destroyed the daemonhost Prophaniti so thoroughly that even its warp presence was extinguished. With nothing more than a force staff and his own balls-out badassness.
    • The Ultramarine Space Marine Chapter Master, Marneus Calgar literally punches out the Avatar of Khaine, the bloody handed war god of the Eldar.
    • In the Fire Warrior game and the novels based on it, the Tau manage to defeat a Chaos greater daemon. In the book, it's killed by a team of Mini-Mecha, in the game it's killed by Kais himself. Alas, Kais goes a bit off his trolley afterwards, but hey, not many beings in the setting can boast about taking on a greater daemon single-handedly and coming out on top.
    • In the lore, Skarbrand tried to do this to Khorne after being prodded by Tzeentch into thinking he's more deserving of the title "Blood God". Khorne's reply to this is exactly why Skarbrand is the sole Bloodthirster unable to fly.
    • In Black Crusade, the roleplaying spin-off for Chaos-worshipping characters, a sample Slaaneshi daemon princess is an Empowered Badass Normal who did just this. Known as the Thrice-Possessed, she summoned three Keepers of Secrets into her own body sequentially, and each time she did so, she reversed the possession, enslaving them and drawing off their power until she completely drained them. For a bit of perspective, a Keeper of Secrets is an Eldritch Abomination that is so mind-rendingly beautiful that most people will, upon seeing one, fall to their knees and beg for rapturous death at their hands, and normal daemonic possession is a Fate Worse than Death for the person possessed.
    • In the backstory, the mortally wounded Emperor finally realized that Horus was beyond saving after witnessing Horus casually murdering a man (by psychically flaying him alive) who was absolutely no threat to him. The Emperor then unleashed a psychic bolt at Horus that was so powerful that it sent the four Chaos gods who were possessing Horus fleeing back to the Warp. While the Chaos gods survived, they notably haven't taken as active a role since.
  • With the examples above, it should be noted that this is more often than not Averted in the various Games Workshop roleplaying games, like Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. If your characters encounter a Greater Daemon or an Ancient Dragon then a Total Party Kill is almost a certainty, at least unless the adventurers happen to be powerful veterans with an entire campaign or two behind them and the Cthulhu in question has been weakened or injured somehow beforehand, but still expect them to chew through Fate points like popcorn. However, doing just this is a prerequisite for the Daemon Slayer career...
  • In Witchcraft, humans can grow powerful enough to eventually take on Gods, Archdevils, Archangels, powerful monsters, and other horrible things from beyond. However, special mention goes to the non-magical dreamer guy that crushed a god. Turns out taking on a lucid dreamer in the dreamscape is a good way to get yourself killed, no matter what you are.


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