Tag Archives: cthulhu

Geek Related – The Site

I got a question in a post comment recently asking if the stuff on this Geek Related site was also me – it is, it’s my old Mindspring site from before I started the blog.  There’s some stuff you may find of interest there:

The Official Death To Jar Jar Binks Website – ah, youth.  Not really RPG related but the day after Phantom Menace came out I slapped the site together. It got featured on Salon and ZDTV among other media outlets. For the last like ten years I still get emails from people demanding “Don’t you have anything better to do with your time?!?” like I’ve even touched the site in a decade.

The Way, The Truth, and the Dice – I was publisher for the e-zine of the Christian Gamers Guild for a couple years. There’s some good stuff in these mags (especially the realistic combat and friction rules); sadly it all fell apart due to infighting (they eventually put out a fourth issue some 5 years later with content we’d gathered, but nothing since then).

Scooby Doo Cthulhu – Almost as popular as the Jar Jar page, this is the Scooby crew statted for traditional (BRP) Call of Cthulhu.  Used in about a billion con games. “Julianus” did them, I just hosted them. I especially liked using them with the various “Blood Brothers” CoC adventures.

The Monk – I redid the monk class for AD&D 2e based on a more supernatural, free-wheeling style as I was watching a lot of HK movies and playing Feng Shui.  They totally stole my approach for Tome of Battle: The Book of Nine Swords and then D&D 4e. I made up custom monastic orders for Greyhawk too, partially based on on some of Erik Mona’s Oerth Journal work (“Baklunish Delights”).

Horror in Roleplaying – probably one of the most lasting of my game essays, I did a lot of horror gaming back in the day and wrote extensively on how to do it. Nothing from the entire storygame movement has caused me to think any of it should be changed.

Classless Skills and Powers – I really enjoyed AD&D Second Edition and when the Skills & Powers supplements came out I wanted to like them – they let you do more of a custom character generation – but they were deeply, profoundly flawed.  I figured I’d fully GURPS them up and turn D&D classless.  This worked great, we ran several campaigns with these rules (sometimes mixing in non-S&P characters for those who didn’t want to go to the trouble). 3e ended up solving a lot of this in a simpler way so I left this behind when I upgraded, but for 2e OSR fans it could be useful!

Children of the Seed – Feng Shui is one of the best RPGs ever.  And it was powered high enough I thought it would make an even better anime game than a HK action game.  I was a fan of the anime series Blue Seed and so I wrote characters and a con-ready adventure to that end!

The Yeomanry page is down forever, sadly, and Bruce’s session summary page died with Onramp and he’s being a slack about getting it going again.

The great thing about all of these is that I had a lot of spare time back in the day and took all this real seriously – so this has all been playtested in campaigns and/or many con games, there’s bunches of sample characters and whatnot… About as complete as you could hope house rules and whatnot to be.

So poke around and let me know what you find interesting!

Call of Cthulhu News

Seems like the hoary old tome is still squirming – news is that a Call of Cthulhu Seventh Edition is coming out, maybe in time for GenCon! As usual it won’t be that different from previous eds. but may have some innovations.

And this is cool coming on the heels of the new The Laundry RPG, which is based on some Charles Stross novels where a British buraeucracy tries to combat Lovecraftian horror and budget cuts. Dark horror/comedy, and BRP-based like CoC is.

What is it about Cthulhu games and shitty Web sites?  Cubicle 7’s main site doesn’t even mention The Laundry and Chaosium’s site hasn’t mentioned jack in ages.

I just bought a couple of the new third party licensed Call of Cthulhu modules myself, Murder of Crows and The Doom From Below by Stan! of Super Genius Games – and their Web site actually lists the products, so that’s a leg up right there. And they’re decent – not awe-inspiring, but serviceable Cthulhu adventures, and linked together to boot. I might just have to dust off my old Scooby Doo Cthulhu characters and take these for a drive.

In non-BRP Cthulhu news, Trail of Cthulhu has a dizzying number of supplements published now and there are more on the way. Shadows of Cthulhu (True20) and Realms of Cthulhu (Savage Worlds) don’t seem to be doing much, though they promise some adventures for Realms soon.

Why I Love And Hate BRP

BRP, aka “Basic Role-Playing,” the percentile based system most commonly encountered in Call of Cthulhu and other Chaosium games, is experiencing a bit of a renaissance.  A number of new games are coming out that are BRP-powered, including the Charles Stross novel-based The Laundry and the future science fantasy Chronicles of Future Earth.  That’s good to see, it’s also good to see Chaosium not being on the way out, as it was feared for a time.

If you haven’t played the BRP system, the great thing about it is that it is super easy to pick up.  You have a skill list and the skills are all percentiles.  If you want to see a BRP character sheet, go check out my site with the Scooby Doo crew statted up for Call of Cthulhu.  I take this to conventions, and have yet to have anyone have trouble picking up the rules. Percentiles are intuitively obvious. “What is my chance of success?  60%?  Okay!”  Much better than “Well I’m rolling 8 dice and I need 4 results of 4 or more to succeed, and I can swap sixes and ones on Tuesday” kind of cutesy crap some games do. And as a nice bonus, skills you use improve – when you successfully use a skill you mark it, and later you roll the skill to see if you got better at it.

The problem is the flat percentiles. It’s fine for something like a one shot Cthulhu scenario where death by bad luck is part of the package. But for any skill where failure could be bad, you either want nothing in it or want it maxed out.

A simple example.  I had a race card driver pregen character given to me with a “Driving: 60%” skill. Seems high, right?  Not really, in practice.  “You’re driving fast down the road at night?  Roll Driving.  You failed?  Whoops, off the road, smash everyone roll damage!” Basically with that 60% skill, there was a 40% chance of death or disability if you failed it. How high of a skill do you then need to even bother to attempt something in a system like that?  Even 70% or 80% is shy, you really need 90% to not feel like you’re throwing your life away. And certainly not with a 20% or 30%, so why put points into it at all?  People end up stuffing all their skill points into a small number of skills to ensure a somewhat small number of humiliating defeats.

Sure, you can say the GM “should” assign bonuses or penalties for every check, but the reality is that flat-roll systems tend to be going against the skill most of the time, as opposed to a difficulty class system.  Or that they should make everything a complex skill check to provide some normalization – but again, that’s not supported by the rules per se.

It’s a shame, because it really is the simplest system to pick up – everyone understands percents at a level even deeper than “I have a skill of 4 and am rolling d6.”  But without any normalization, the outcomes always end up frustrating me.  And if you need some kind of esoteric advice to run the system, it’s not really that simple after all is it?

Of course, you can just take the easy death thing in stride, and the games it’s been used for (Cthulhu and Runequest especially) have in my experience been about high mortality one shots or very short campaigns.

So what’s the solution to this, without losing the beautiful simplicity of “roll vs your 25?”  I guess changing the dice to something more normalized, but not sure what that still has a 0-100 spread.


Cthulhu Resurgent?

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!