A House Rule for The Call of Cthulhu

I was listening to The Miscatonic University Podcast today and a throw away comment gave me some blog material, in the form of a house rule. In The Call of Cthulhu you have almost no control over advancing your character. While this is a great curb to power gaming, it does mean that a professor of linguistics who doesn’t get a chance to use his academic skills during the adventure will not get better at his chosen profession. So I thought of this as a house rule:

After each adventure, a character can choose one of their profession skills to gain a free checkmark in, that they may attempt to raise as if they had successfully used the skill during the adventure.

This represents the fact they have been working at their chosen career when not on camera, and means that the player has some direction over their advancement, if not much. Now, I’d extend this further, and allow the player to pick any skill they’ve consistently worked on outside of the adventure. I was thinking of this as a replacement for things such as the Gun Club rules in H. P. Lovecraft’s Arkham: Unveiling the Legend-Haunted City. It would be easy to replace them with “If you are a member of the gun club, and attend regularly, you may check a skill related to a weapon you have been practising with after any adventure, as if you had succeeded on an attack roll with it during the adventure”. This could either be in addition to the profession skill, or as an alternative. I’m sure you can think of other ways the player could raise their skill through out of game practice.

One thing I do is give the players a few months between adventures to recover and work on their own goals. This would work as a great addition to that: each month they can check one skill or go into therapy, or study tomes, etc.

I hope you have fun with this, and I’ll try to get back into doing weekly posts. Until next time, stay geeky

–Canageek

The Journal Entry of Cthulhu

Last year some awesome people made me a Cthulhu prop making LaTeX document. I then went and made a prop out of it, but my game then died. Today is Halloween, and I found myself writing a journal entry to my TA as part of a class. I decided to upload one copy using this Cthulhu document, in celebration of Halloween.

I uploaded a sanitized version for you to enjoy.

For the record, I don’t really take them very seriously anymore, as is probably obvious, but feel free to point out any errors you see; I gave up on editing them when I found I was putting six times the work into them as anyone else in the class.

Published in: on October 31, 2012 at 7:06 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Tatters of the King: The Game Thread is Up!

Since some people have told me that they are having trouble with WordPress commenting, I decided to make a thread on DnDorks and do all character preparation there. This will let me have everything in once place, and will (hopefully) be more friendly to my phone then WordPress. Not much else to say, except that I can’t wait to hear what characters you are interested in.

Character Creation for My Tatters of the King Play By Post

Alright, here are some more details for my summer game.

I’ll be running it at http://forums.dndorks.com/ since I know the tools there, they have a dice roller, character sheets and DM tools, built in and they don’t mind me using multiple threads, PMs, or whatever for my game.

I’ll be using the Call of Cthulhu rules system, nominally from the gold book edition, but with Cthulhu specific rules taken from the CoC 6th edition book or various supplements. Don’t worry too much; The rules from just about any edition are compatible; I’ve run games with half the players using characters from 6th ed and half gold book without any troubles.

Don’t worry if you’ve not used any of these rules before; I’m willing to teach as I go, which is how I normally run CoC anyway. Character creation rules are available from DriveThroughRPG or The Chaosium webpage (Account required) with changes noted below:

You get 100 points to spread among your stats. I strongly advise not having an intelligence under 13 or Education under 14. Education must be 21 or less, all other skills must be 18 or less. No stat can be under 6, since anyone that crippled is really not fit for adventure.

Note that the Education stat represents both formal and informal education; A carpenter whom never finished high school, but has twenty years of experience would still have quite a good education stat.

We will be using the optional Education (EDU) statistic. As a result skill points are calculated differently:

Pick 6 skills that your character would use in their day to day job (Or previous job, if they have changed professions recently). You get 20 times your EDU stat to put into these skills. You can then put 10 times your intelligence stat into any skill you think your character should possess based on their past.  Also, since characters are normal humans, no skill can be over 99%.

All character concepts should be a mostly normal human living in the 1920s. The campaign is nominally set in the UK, however I’m examining how integral that is to the plot, as I don’t know much about 1920s Britain while I’ve read a few books set in the 1920s and 1930s in the US. Also note, that the wealth rules assume you are wealthy enough to afford any reasonable purchase on a short notice without tracking each purchase. If you buy cars or pay out hundred dollar bribes on a regular basis, I will inform you that your wallet is starting to feel a bit light.

Characters that are capable of interacting well with a group and the general public would be appreciated, as I’ve had bad experiences with characters who viewed murder as an acceptable means of informing a clerk that they were upset he wouldn’t give them a judges home address.

Feel free to express interest in joining in the comments below, along with any questions.

Oh, and I need one player with a medicine or psychotherapy skill of at least 50% whom has been published in the field of mental health. If that kind of character interests you then let me know.

Character Concepts in The Call of Cthulhu

I’d like to expand on my Tatters of the King Call of Cthulhu campaign. I’ll be using mostly a cut down version of the BRP Goldbook rules; Basically I’ll be taking all the wound tables out, as the last time I used them the party was maimed and crippled after the first adventure.

The hard part of making a character for the Call of Cthulhu is it doesn’t work if you don’t make a character that obeys genre conventions. Simply put: there is no sane reason why people would ever participate in a CoC adventure. A common complaint is that people make sceptics or other individuals who have no reason to seek out the things which lie beyond the world, then complain when they can’t get their characters involved. So I will put it bluntly; You need to make a character that has a reason to get involved in the adventure. Lovecraft was writing in the 1920s and wasn’t writing modern conflicted heroes. His characters were either thrust into the adventure, too curious for their own good, or obsessively driven to solve a mystery. Don’t rely on the first one; it works sometimes, but often it backfires and leaves a character emotionally uninvolved in the adventure, as they have no real reason for their character not to have simply gone home and had a nice stiff drink and forgotten about the whole mess. Even Lovecraft often had these characters trapped in a situation to force them to resolve the mystery, a situation that only works once.

Some examples of good characters;

  • A Mafia thug who witnessed one of his friends abducted from the docs in his youth; has believed in things beyond his understanding since.
  • An archeologist whom has for years been wondering at the strange trends he has seen across the art of several widely dispersed cultures.
  • An occultist, bent on proving he is right
  • A private detective, who can’t stand by when he sees people in danger.

Basically; Don’t create a shy college student that has no reason to get involved with the adventure. Also don’t create someone only motivated by money; it gets really repetitive having to pay you each time, as CoC assumes characters are already members of the wealthy upper class.

In specific for this adventure I need at least one of the characters to have at least 60% in Psychotherapy or Medicine, preferably both. Additionally, all members must begin the game in London, going to a rather avant-garde play; They can be members of the upper crust of society, going to the allure of the supposedly quite risqué play, or an art critic, or anyone else who would happen to be attending a performance. Once I have some players I’ll write up the rules for character creation.

My Next Summer Game

Salutations all.

I am fully aware of how long it has been since my blog, but some personal things have kept my attention from fixating fully on roleplaying games. In fact, I’ve only DMed two games since September, and have done rather little playing. That said, I am trying to get back into the swing of things with some online playing. I’ve signed up for a GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Play-By-Post game on RPG.net, and am looking to DM a game of my own. I know my plans last summer never really came to fruition, so I’m trying to get something started a bit earlier this year. I’ve also totally changed ideas, based on my current interests.

The most likely idea I will run is the Tatters of the King Call of Cthulhu adventure series from Chaosonium. I picked it up from another gamer recently, and have been starting to read through it. I’m not done reading even the first adventure, but I’ve had very good luck with Call of Cthulhu over the past five years, and I can always switch to a number of adventures that I know are good and have run before if it turns out to not be as good as I expect.
I’m thinking of running this game as a Play-By-Post game on dndorks, due to the built in forum features (Map tool, dice roller, character sheets, character management and DM tools). I don’t really know my schedule yet, so PBP seems easier, doubly so with the issues I had running an IRC game last summer created by time zones.

The other idea I had is to take a selection of the old, free and assorted RPGs I have acquired over the years and play them on skype. We could run through the included scenarios for either a session or an adventure, depending on the enjoyment we get out of it, then podcast the results. This was just an idea I had, based on the fact I am never going to get around to playing these and now have a decent microphone and webcam. However, I suspect setting up a podcast to record from Skype is harder than it sounds, and it would be a lot of work learning a new game each week, making new characters via skype and then running an adventure in a new genre. I see this working best with either lighter games, or something like World of Synnibar which we could mock the whole way along.

Anyway, I’m going to start recruiting for the PBP, and if anyone has experience recording or podcasting games like that, drop me a line and let me know how hard it is.

Now, I’m hoping not to turn this blog into just a platform for me talking about my games, which it seems to have been for the last two summers, but I need to get back into gaming to really get my ideas flowing again.

Until next time, stay geeky.
–Canageek

Published in: on May 6, 2012 at 12:57 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Summon Invisible Servant

A while back my Call of Cthulhu players found a tome (Or rather, stole it from Miskatonic Library in a daring armed raid). It contains a number of poorly labelled spells, so I thought I’d make handouts for my players describing what each ones does. However, this being Lovecraftian horror and all, I’m using the description from the book with all the rules information cut out.

For example: Summon Invisible Servant
What do you think? Would you want to cast it?

That file was produced using code written in LaTeX by a group of awesome people on the TeX Stackexchange. You’ll also need the background image from http://www.alfredom.com/art/free-6.htm

I modified the code they listed to work with the default packages included in TeXLive as follows:

(more…)

Published in: on September 28, 2011 at 11:47 pm  Comments (8)  
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[Let me tell you about my character] Dick Chandler

Back near the start of my blog I posted up a character I was using for Ada’s Serenity game. I meant to post more characters, but I’ve been DMing pretty exclusively. However, to keep myself sane I joined a Call of Cthulhu group playing via Google Wave. Anyway, here is my character: I started with a concept, then rolled stats. Since I rolled so badly the DM let me boost them up to the point buy value, so I tweaked them to fit my vision. I added notes on him as I wrote it, which is why they are scattered throughout the statblock. I’m a bit worried that I’ve spread my skills a bit thin, but if we do more than one adventure it should work itself out as I’ll increase them more quickly.

Richard (Dick) Chandler

Summary: Dick Chandler is a cop who fell from grace after refusing to let a murderer walk. He now works in Arkham as a private dick, spying on cheating spouses, running background checks and whatnot. Lately he has been growing bored due to a lack of challenge, and melancholy as he feels he misses the feeling of making the world a little safer, one killer at a time. (more…)

RPG Blog Carnival– New Year, New Game!

The RPG Blog Carnival LogoSo I have decided to join the RPG Blog Carnival this month, which is being hosted by The Action Point, with the topic of New Year, New Game.

This hits at an excellent time, as my old game is wrapping up. I started running it two and a half years ago with 3 players. Since then two have graduated and moved away, and we have had several players join, two of which still play with us. The last of the original players has requested a special conclusion for her character, so I’m taking the time to work that into the final adventure(s). I’ve never written an end to a campaign before, and I’ve never worked a players desires into an adventure before. Therefore this year I will end a campaign with a bang, and it will be awsome. For me anyway. This is Call of Cthuhlhu.

However as Alex, one of the graduated players, cannot make it down much, and he is central to the game. Therefore I’ve been starting to look at an alternate game for when he is not here.

I crafted two plans originally and presented them to my players. The first was that I would run Dungeonslayers in a traditional fantasy game. This did not meet with great enthusiasm as two of my players thought the 10 pages of rules was too complex (I pointed out that Call of Cthulhu has 300 or so, but they already know those ones, or at least are familiar with the ones they need and I tell them the rest. We ignore most of them anyway.)

My second proposal was for a dimensional hopping game, similar to (though I didn’t realize it until later) Dr. Who, Reboot, Sliders, Alternity’s Tagents setting and GURPS Infinite Worlds. I have already blogged a bit about this setting, but in my original post I said I would never run it. This game was the more popular of the two, and I have decided to run it, spurred on by my discovery of the BRP Adventures book, which has enough alternate earth adventures to keep my game going for a long time. My idea for the game has advanced somewhat beyond where it is in the posts I’ve put up, with less of an emphasis on being chased, so I don’t have to worry about my players reading this. This setting works very well with the episodic adventures my players enjoy, and allows me to drag and drop any adventure that I can find & convert. Therefore I am going to start a new game this year, with a campaign that I’ve written from scratch, though it will connect publish adventures.

However, I was reading the host’s post in the carnival and very much liked point number 3: Run a related one-shot with Disposable Characters. I decided not to run a related one shot, but just a couple of the adventures that I was going to put into my new campaign, with the pregenerated characters they come with, and just tell the players the rules. I’m hoping that this will get them over there fear of new game systems as well. I may also find a way to let them bring characters they like into the genre hopping game, as one player doesn’t like rolling up new characters, and I think it would be a cool way to introduce new characters. I am not sure how many one-shots I am going to run before starting my game. Everyone had a great time at the last game, and I have a number of these introductory one-shot adventures, so we will see how things go.

Another thing I want to do this year is finish the adventure I am writing. I am almost done: I was about 80% done at the start of the summer, but have done almost no work since then, except for stating up each NPC. I am not going to attempt to get back into writing it until this summer, but if everyone could remind me of it I would be very grateful. I mean, all I have to do is write the final scene and it is ready to go…

And my final resolution: Play more games this year. I stressed myself out a lot less last semester, spent far less hours on work, and far more relaxing than ever before…and got my highest average since entering university, despite one of my classes having the highest workload of any class I’ve taken, and another being the single hardest class I have ever taken. Therefore, I am going to try to play more games and be more social this year, so that I don’t get buried by stress. Here is to gaming increasing my marks!

Finally, I have one very evil resolution: This year I am going to kill a character. I’ve been far to much of a carebear DM, prompted by early experiences where players got mad and fought tooth and nail if I killed  even a first level character. Therefore this year I shall kill at least one established character, not a new character, or a character during a one shot, but an established character. Bwahahaha.

Well, there are my resolutions. Until next time, Stay Geeky!

–Canageek

Published in: on January 24, 2011 at 12:37 pm  Comments (1)  
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Players Scared of Death….in Call of Cthulhu

Sorry for the lapse in posts, university work has kept me insanely busy, and I probably should not be taking the time to write now, but I’m hoping that getting it out of my system will help me study.

I’ve encountered a new problem in my Call of Cthulhu game. I’ve written about ideas I’ve had for this game before, and I’m starting to implement some of them:I’ve not added in the XP system, though I have added a lot more liberal use of Idea rolls to give hints, and that seems to be helping– They breezed through the first section of the adventure, despite a fairly non-linear plot and quickly figured out what was going on, despite gaining a new player and some intraparty conflict. However they stalled for a bit at the bridge between the ‘figure out what is going on’ and ‘doing something about it’ stage. I managed to prod them into action, and they kidnapped a gangster, got him to confess and turned him over to the police. The adventure assumes that you are not going to do this, as do NONE of the CoC adventures I’ve encountered, despite it being the logical choice of action in many of them. Anyway, I have figured out a way to get them back into the plot (also a backup if I need, though it isn’t as good).

Anyway, the main problem I’m having with my game is players being scared of dying. I mean, no one wants there characters to die, but well, it seems a bit extreme. Now one player is retiring her character at the end of this adventure, so that she will not die and she can play one she is less attached too. Now, I like it when people get into my game, but I’m running CALL OF CTHULHU. The horror RPG known for killing characters. Confession time: I’m a bit of a carebear DM. I’ve only killed one character in all of my CoC games, that is ~3 gaming groups over 4 years of play. Which given the horror nature of the game is kinda low. On the other hand, they usually seem scared of dying, so I guess that doesn’t matter much.

Anyway, I would be interested in trying a different game with my group. Something outside of the horror genre, to let them have characters they can grow attached to without the constant fear of death. However they don’t like rules: CoC is about the heaviest thing I can interest them in I think, even the core BRP book has too many rules for them. They make there character based on the 1 page ‘how to make a character’ description, and ask what the skills do if the name is unclear. That is pretty much the extent that 3 out of 4 players want to know about the rules.

They also think CoC combats are about the maximum length they would enjoy, and let me tell you, combat in CoC is pretty damn fast as long as you don’t get a wiff-fest (Trying to do long ranged combat without anything but default rifle, for example).

So I’m looking for a new game where they will not be quite so paranoid about dying. I was thinking Savage Worlds, but that seems expensive to me, and when I browsed through it the rules seemed a bit too complex: I’m looking for something like ‘Pick a skill, roll under it’ like BRP does, not a big stack of advantages and disadvantages.

Now there are lots of retroclones and indie RPGs I could run, however I like a concrete rules system: None of this abstract ‘You have a combat state, a mental stat and a magic stat’ type of stuff. I like a nice concrete list of gear and stats and whatnot. D&D retroclones would probably be about the right rules density if I went and cut out THAC0 and all that legacy cruft that my players would be confused by, however they are not interested in D&D from what I understand.

Anyway, even if I do find a game I don’t have time to write adventures: I’ve had to take time off from studying just to write this blog post. So a large published base of adventures would be good, preferably short, episodic type ones. CoC is pretty good for this, since it is so old, there are a lot of ones from the 80s and such online. Ditto for pretty much any edition of D&D. I’ve contemplated the Serenity RPG as there are some published adventures for it, however 2 of my players are not really fans of the show, so that would be a hard sell.

So in summary: Are there any games that have:

1) Players do not need to own any books or look up anything during play

2) Non-abstract rules. Ie D&D, GURPS or BRP like, rather then The Pool, Wushu or such. (However both any edition of D&D newer then 3e, possibly even 2e, have too many rules for them, likewise with GURPs).

3) A large published base of adventures. They can be pay, though free is preferable. These should be episodic, not epic. In terms of plot more like an episode of CSI, Firefly or another serial show, monster/crime/problem of the week, as opposed to a epic Adventure Path or Lord of the Rings or something like that. Alternatively: If there adventures that I can convert to it given a couple hours of work that would be acceptable. For example, if they were interested in fantasy I could use Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game since I could convert any old D&D adventure without too much trouble since the monster states are almost identical. I couldn’t convert it to microlite20 however, as I’d have to write custom monsters, which takes too much time.

4) The ability to make a character in under 30 min. Under 1 hour is allowed the first time, after that it should be faster. It can also be longer if you take into account passing around 1 copy of the book to a bunch of people.

5) Works with 2-6 players + DM

6) Not horror, that is what I want a break from. Also low character mortality, something that will make them feel confident.

7) An interesting setting, not typical fantasy. I think I could sell them on Eberron, I could not sell them on Greyhawk, Dark Sun or the Forgotten Realms. 1890-modern would be cool, but other things could also work. Something I can explain simply is a big plus: CoC is pretty simple, I tell them it is the 1920s USA, and possibly a bit about the horror. Basically it needs a simple ‘hook’ that is all the players really need to know to get started, the rest they can learn as they go. Ex: Twilight 2000: “Instead of peace as in our world, in the 1980s nuclear war broke out between the USSR and USA. You are members of a military unit stationed in Europe. Both sides militaries  have collapsed, leaving you with one final mission: Get home.” or Fallout “Nuclear war broke out in the mid-21st century. You, along with many others, fled to underground shelters to survive. Now you need to go retrieve the water purification chip from Vault 60 to keep your vault safe.”. Stuff like that.

8) BONUS: If it is in either of the charity bundles that RPGNow has put up, I own both of those .

I’ve looked at Savage Worlds a couple of times, but it seemed complicated in all the wrong ways, i.e. adding in cards and such when it did not need too. I’d be willing to give it another look if someone pointed me me to a supply of adventures that will not eat my wallet.
I also own some other games that I have not had time to read through: I’ve downloaded all the OpenD6 books, and bought Atomic Highway. If someone could let me know if these might fit my requirements that would be cool.

Does anyone have any suggestions? I might try running the sample adventures from the BRP book and see how that goes once I finish the current adventure, and one of my players wants to run some Don’t Rest Your Head, so that gives me some time.