I’m a long time fan of the Call of Cthulhu RPG, owning 62 various products in the line by my count, and have several Cthulhu Master’s tournaments under my belt to prove it. But pretty much the line has been lagging for a long time. The last “big thing” that shook it up was the release of Delta Green, back in 1997. (The 2001 release of d20 Cthulhu sank beneath the waters without a trace.) Other than that, it’s been a bit of a litany of republishing all the same damn stuff, lightly reworked, as “Dreamlands v7.8” and the like. Chaosium just about went down for good for a while there and is only barely starting to get back in the saddle.
However, there has been a burst of activity lately, and I find it odd I haven’t heard much about it. First, there’s the “variant” Cthulhu games, like the True20 Shadows of Cthulhu, the GUMSHOE-based Trail of Cthulhu, and the ENnie-winning CthulhuTech.
But besides that, I was surprised to see actual new third-party classic CoC modules in my FLGS. Looks like more people are getting into the licensed supplement biz. Goodman Games has put out Death in Luxor and Madness in London Town. John Wick has written Curse of the Yellow Sign, Act 1: Digging for a Dead God. Pagan Publishing, long time licensee, has released The Mysteries of Mesoamerica and plans to release an adventure anthology, Bumps In The Night, this year. Super Genius Games has Midnight Harvest, The Doom From Below, and Murder of Crows out already and has The Horror At Red Hook, A Peculiar Pentad, and October Surprise in the pipeline. Even Chaosium got out Terrors from Beyond and appears to be set to release new products, including Cthulhu Invictus (Romans!) and Secrets of New Orleans (THAT’S NOT GUMBO!!!).
This is kinda exciting. The BRP system used for Cthulhu, being straight percentile, has its flaws but it’s super fast for anyone to pick up; it makes a great con game. For gamers and genre folks, Cthulhu has become like ninjas, pirates, or sexual repression, a ubiquitous trope shoved into everything. But the original game was really quite good, and it’s nice to see activity and new products so a new generation of gamers can discover the thrill of being held helpless by cannibals, or shooting an invincible cackling wizard, or going nuts and cutting up your friends…
So yay! If you haven’t ever tried Call of Cthulhu, pick it up – version 6 is the newest but to be honest every version is mostly the same. Get whatever your FLGS has and try one of these new adventures! If you need some investigators generated real quick – well, you can always use my favorite batch of CoC characters, the Scooby Doo crew!
Is anyone out there playing some real CoC these days? Report in here!
While I agree that Cthulhu d20 sank without a trace, it certainly did shake up the scene when it was released. It’s a gorgeous and functional book – shame that it wasn’t supported during the glory days of d20.
That said, I agree that it is AWESOME that there is a resurgence both in new Cthulhu games and modules for the Chaosium classic.
It really is a shame that if no new material is produced for a game, most people seem to stop playing it. I’m that odd-ball type of gamer who prefers to play games that there is no active support for, so I can make stuff up as I go along without fear of being contradicted.
I played in a Savage Cthulhu three-game “mega one shot” just a few weeks ago and really enjoyed it. Haven’t pulled out the BRP version in about three years however.
I agree, I liked Cthulhu d20 too, but there was zero support post the mainbook. I don’t know why they would do that, it seems so counterproductive.
That’s Chaosium for you. I try not to believe that they just didn’t want the d20 version to succeed. So even though they licensed it, all I can imagine is that either they purposefully failed to support it, or they just couldn’t get the lead out in time. And with their release schedule for a few years there, the second may be the more likely reason.
My local group is quite D&D-centric, but it’s never been my game of choice, so I started up a short Call of Cthulhu campaign for a change of pace, which ran earlier this year. It went quite well, and was absurdly oversubscribed at one point, but it’s been on hiatus over the summer. I hope to be running it again come October.
I think the reason behind the third-party explosion is because Chaosium themselves have been a bit quiet over the past few years, and while CoC fandom is quite eager and organised, it’s not hugely productive (although the guys at yog-sothoth.com have produced a companion to Masks of Nyarlathotep, which is something of a first, I think, and should be out soonish… despite the campaign itself being, yes, out of print… sigh). So the third-parties have seen a gap, I think. Not everything is particularly good, but at least there’s stuff being produced and printed, which is better than nothing.
Also on the horizon is a Savage Worlds version of CoC, to which I’m rather looking forward. I’m a bit of an irrational purist, preferring the d100 version of the game
to any other, but I’ll definitely give the SW version a go.
Yeah, I love the percentile version too. It needs to be changed a little somehow – the flat distribution means that you can’t “count on” your skills. You’re a professional driver? OK, even with a 75% Driving, first time you try to go around a corner fast the keeper says “Roll your Driving!” and you have a 25% chance of dying. At least that’s how it seems to go when I play.
But it’s soooooo simple. I love going to a con and handing someone a character sheet and not even having to tell them the rules. They look at the sheet, see “Driving 20%” and “HP:16” and they know what to do. And with a game like CoC, you want the rules to be totally in the background all the time; it’s all about the RP and thinking and none about the tactical. So on the other hand I’m reluctant to mess with it. But a somewhat more normalized roll mechanic would be nice.
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I long ago abandoned the straight line between success and failure in the percentile rolls. I usually go with something along the lines of a roll of over 76 being a failure, but only dangerous on a really bad roll, like a flat 00, perhaps 96 or more if it’s raining, or the car’s damaged. Most likely the driver would stay on the road, but have to slow down or stop.
Conversely, a driver who succeeds with a roll of 74 would remain on the road, but it would be a close thing, and there may be damage to the car.
It’s not an exact science, but I’ve run the game long enough to be able to eyeball the “probabilities” involved, which is all you really need in-game. As you say, the rules need to disappear into the background in most cases.
Yeah. I find that’s a common problem with skills in games. Some skills end up being “critical” in that one failure can really ruin your day; as the GM you have to take an approach like this – always make things a “complex skill check” is another way.
Fighting is always a complex skill check so it automatically does this. A lot of times people let a jump check or driving check turn into a “one chance or catastrophe” thing. I think a general rule of “it takes three failed rolls to totally bork you” is a good one.
Yes, after all, in CoC everything in the game is out to bork you, indeed the universe itself is out to bork you, so the rules shouldn’t!
I have just finished a CoC campaign. It was the mega campaign Beyond the Mountains of Madness, using good old BRP.
It rekindled my interest in CoC again. It’s a very odd game, since it’s so very much the anti-D&D. Everyone knows it’s the game where you die or go insane.
Charlie and Lynn have had a few very hard years, so I’m glad that they have finally gotten the licensing going for real so there can be support for the game even when they don’t print it.
BRP is a strange beast. I love the simplicity, and the fact that everyone knows what 20% chance is. But, it has a few wrinkles like the Idea/Know and Luck rolls. Also, the Special and Crit rules forces you to calculate what 20% of your skill is every time you roll. Somehow it seem to match the theme of Cthulhu very well, without it being very clear how. Still, I love it.