An Experience System For The Call of Cthulhu

I’ve been tempted as of late to write an experience point/level system for Call of Cthuhlhu.

For those of you not familiar with Call of Cthuhlhu or the BRP system it runs on character advancement works as thus: At the end of each adventure you have a chance to increase each skill you successfully used during that adventures. The chance your skill will go up is inversely proportional to the amount you already have in the skill. I like this as I find this rewards player creativity by encouraging them to use as many skills as possible, including ones they don’t use that often. If they solve every problem by playing to their strengths then they will soon find they are having a hard time raising their skills, if they have not maximized them already. This is somewhat opposite from most class/level systems which rewards specialization at the expense of everything else. While I do like specialization I find that one-trick-pony characters drive me batty. I also very much like the fact that characters are organic: The more you use something the more likely it is to go up. You want to be a better marksman? Shoot stuff. You want to drive better? Drive more. Skills can also be raised through training, though this takes a lot of time.

However the fact that this only occurs at the end of an adventure is somewhat problematic. During the last adventure I ran my players got bored partway through as they had been starting out going down each clue chain without finishing it and felt stalled due to a lack of accomplishments. I feel that some sort of reward system tied to each clue uncovered would help this.

I was thinking of a very simple system of 100XP per level. The amount of XP you need over time does not rise, in keeping with the very flat power curve the BRP system has- You can easily get the maximum possible value in a skill at creation, so effectiveness at any one area is less due to experience then choice, more experienced character tend to be more well rounded then new ones.

I was also thinking of combining this with an idea I heard about in Trail of Cthulhu/Gumshoe. In it you always pass checks to find a clue if you have the right ability. This prevents the plot from stalling on a failed roll when they miss something really obvious. Even if you give them a huge bonus to the roll they might still botch it. I am thinking of making this true, however you only get experience if you succeed on the roll. Also if you fail the roll you might sometimes get a less informative version of the clue: both will point you in the right direction, but one will take longer. There is the downside that players can use XP as a guide to whether they have found a clue or not, but they can already do that a little based on the fact they have found a clue.

The real question is how should I decided on how much XP to give out? 100 points is a pretty shallow scale, but they normally level at the end of an adventure. Should I let them advance twice as fast by giving out a level at the end of every adventure in addition to this? I think that they would be upset if they somehow did not level at the end of the adventure. Should I give out XP for killing things? That does make sense, but you also often gain sanity from slaying them.

Alright: Here is the outline
Players can at any time spend 100 XP to level. There are no limits on how many XP they may have at any one time. This allows them to store XP in case they gain a level when they only have a chance to raise one or two skills, say if they finished an adventure with 90XP then gained 100XP from finishing the adventure.

Everything that gives XP has a flat XP value. All XP gained is divided equally among the people present. Fractions are rounded up.

Finishing an adventure is worth 100XP. Major plot points are worth ~50XP, clues are worth ~15XP. Monsters give XP based on the difficulty of slaying them. Killing a God is worth 100XP to the survivors, if any, to enjoy in the asylum. Killing a major villain or horror is worth less. Killing a major plot monster is worth ~25-50XP. Killing a Dimensional Shambler is worth 15XP. Killing a weak zombie may only be worth 5XP.

Well? What does everyone think? Any glaring problems?

Until Next Time, Stay Geeky.

–Cangaeek

Edit: I should add that the group I’m referring to this is quite fun to play with, though with a very quirky playstyle. I’m trying to adapt my DMing style to match, and this is part of that. Most of the people in it are not gamers, or were not when they started, so some of this is learning via doing. It is nice seeing a totally fresh approach to things from people who don’t know the cliches and tropes of gaming. I thought I would add this since I reread my post and noticed this could be taken as a slight against my group when it shouldn’t be taken as such. –Canageek

Published in: on September 27, 2010 at 11:59 am  Comments (14)  
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The Haunter of the Ring

I’ve been working on an adventure but it is taking longer then I thought. I’m mostly done the statblocks & body of the adventure but still need to write up the finale and locations for when the players inevitable break into places. However it has been a month since my last update and well, that one was pretty light to say the least. So here is a preview: The Haunter of the Ring is the main threat in the finale, so I’d like some feedback on him. He is stated out from the Call of Cthulhu, which is about 90% compatible with BRP. If you are familiar with either of those systems let me know. The description is intentionally vague since I figure players imaginations are stronger then my writing, though if you have any suggestions I’d love to hear them.

The Haunter of the Ring:
Str 25, Con 25, Siz 15, Int 36, Pow 36, Dex 35
Move: 7 flying

HP: 21
Damage Bonus: +1d6
Weapons: Claw: 55%, damage 2d4+1d6
Armour: 3 points of supernaturally tough hide
Spells: The Haunter knows a number of spells, all frightful in nature but will not use them in combat for Roelocke does not know about them and thus has not ordered it to use them. If the investigators summon the creature from the ring encourage it to trade them the most horrific spells the keeper has access to in exchange for horrific payments, preferably the character’s souls.
Skills: Bargain 60%, Mislead 75%, Spot Hidden 60%, Listen 50%, Entice Mortal 80%, Parry 60%
Sanity Loss: 1d4/1d8

Possession: The most dangerous power of the Haunter of the Ring is it’s ability to control others. For the cost of 5 Magic Points it can attempt takes them over with a Power vs Power test. Double this cost for truly innocent characters who also gain +10 to their power for the purposes of resisting. The length of time the character is possessed is also determined by their innocences. A truly innocent character may only be possessed for one action at a time. A normal man or women can be possessed for 10 minutes at a time, and someone risking a stay in hell already can be possessed for up to an hour. Truly depraved people can be possessed for an day at a time. The Haunter can spend an amount of Magic Points equal to 5+(The number of periods it has possessed the character for already) to continue to posses it. When possessing a character they must be in physical contact with the haunter or the ring. While possessing a character it cannot be physically harmed, though it does not heal or regain magic points. It can however still be targeted by magic attacks and is subject to bindings and exorcisms, even those not actually magical in nature.

Description: A demon as old as the world, the Haunter of the Ring is said to have been bound by Solomon himself. Those with more occult knowledge realize that Solomon’s reign is far to recent for that. When it takes physical form the Haunter appears as a shadow with eyes the colour of molten steel and dagger-length claws that glow as if they had just been pulled from the forge.

An Update to my BRP Advantages

Just a short post today, updating one of my old posts. Sorry my adventure isn’t done, I’ve been being social and moving way up north. I’m on the final encounter and then the statblocks.

The original advantage as written:

Drop the fracking hammer. (Pedal to the goddamn metal?)
“Great, more speedholes”
Benefit: add 10kph to your vehicles top speed provided it is under attack.
Limitation: this does not make it any easier to drive at such speeds.

And a player suggested the following change:

Drop the fracking hammer. (Pedal to the goddamn metal?)
“Great, more speedholes”
Benefit: add 10kph to your vehicles top speed provided it is under attack. This lasts until there is no risk of the attackers catching up with the car.
Limitation: this does not make it any easier to drive at such speeds.

I thought this was implied but a player said it wasn’t worth taking without this addition.

Speaking of my move way up north I now get my mail from general delivery, which means I can give out my mailing address without giving out my address. Which means I’m interested in getting a penpal. Yes I am one of those crazy people who handwrites letters. Now I’m not a great correspondent, I tend to ramble about any old thing that catches my interest, and my penmanship is frankly terrible, however if you’d like to write some letters drop me a line.

Until next time, Stay Geeky

–Canageek

To Combat or Not to Combat

Alright, I will confess it: I have a strange and returning urge to run a dungeon crawl. I’m tired of running Call of Cthuhlhu’s free for adventures and trying to remember a large cast of NPCs motivations and personalities, scare my players. More and more I just want to draw a big map, place a bunch of loot and monsters on it and tell them ‘go’.

I find this really odd: I’m only about as old as 2nd edition, and started gaming heavily in 2002 with Living Greyhawk, so I’ve not got any rose-coloured memories of early D&D.

Additionally I was often frustrated in my Living Greyhawk days with pure-combat adventures. Adventures where one went to point A, killed monster B and got treasure C. Isn’t that the definition of a dungeon crawl? 4e combat is more fun, but I still find that it gets boring if more then 1 hour out of 4 is spent on it. Older edition combats went much faster, but I found them more crufty and arbitrary, and rather boring in the options available.

So this leaves me wondering why on earth I want to run or play in a dungeon crawl? Is it some buried desire in all gamers? Or something I picked up from reading old editions & Dragon magazines and hearing my father’s stories growing up?

Or is me desire to organize things just manifesting in an excuse to make meticulous notes? To play in such a game so I have an excuse to make a map and keep track of every copper and such? To play in a really freeform game where I can make money by looting a dungeon down to it’s bare stone walls, using some of my treasure to set up a furniture warehouse where I can sell doors and tables and whatnot? (All of which I could keep track of in meticulous detail)?

I don’t know: If  you look through my blog several of my settings basically attempt to ‘explain’ dungeons, possibly because this itch stays in my head and gets more and more romanticized. Possibly because since I have so few readers I never get comments on the settings and keep moving on without fleshing them out since I don’t get any feedback to urge me to write more. I do think I might like this more as a PBF/PBP game, since it wouldn’t be as concentrated, letting me sit down and dungeon crawl a bit each day instead of for days on end.

So…Am I crazy? Does anyone have any advice or suggestions?