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


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.

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:


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…)

More BRP Advantages

I’ve realized that it would be very easy to churn out some more advantages for BRP by looking over what sorts of things other rules systems offer. I think this will also help me when it comes time to convert monsters and such from those systems (Mainly D&D) into BRP for my dimensional travelling campaign.

Also it should be noted that I say BRP, but we don’t use a lot of the tables and such and generally follow the version in CoC much more closely: Our initiative system is also generally counterclockwise around the table. Therefore if I miss anything please let me know and I will try and fix it.

My previous two posts are here, and here. However, I have collected all of the advantages into one place for convenience, including the ones below.

If a character successfully completes an adventure without managing to raise any skills they may choose an advantage. A player may forgo attempting to raise skills to choose an advantage. The advantage gained must (if possible) be related to something the did in the adventure or in the past.

Note: I’ve changed this to ‘or the player is unhappy with the result’ as there were a time when the player only raised 1 skill (out of 10 or so they rolled for) and another when another player raised 3 skills…by one point each.

I have also given one these out in a case of exceptional roleplaying (The player acted out a fear of zombies without missing an opportunity for 4+ adventures over 2 years. This wasn’t a required phobia or anything, they just decided that after that many close calls and that much sanity loss they had one. So I have them “I know it’s weakness” vs zombies after they rolled a series of exceptionally good shots against several zombies.) Experience for RP is a long tradition in D&D, so I figure this works just as well.


“Practice as if you are the worst, perform as if you are the best.”

You gain +10% to perform feats of athletics; Jumps, running, climbing, vaulting and so on.

Deceptively Small:

But Pete is 6’2″! How did he fit through that little hole?

You ignore 20% of penalties for working or fighting in a confined space. You also gain a 20% bonus when attempting to fit through narrow spaces, and can fit through any space a small, though normal, member of your race could, regardless of your actual size. (For example a 260 lb, 6’2″ human with this feat could fit through any space that the 5’0″, 120 lb scout can).

At home in the dark:


You can ignore 20% of penalties that stem from operating in insufficient light (Twilight, emergency lighting, torchlight). You can ignore 10% of penalties stemming from total darkness.

Island of Tranquility:

Keep it down out there, I am trying to operate!

When performing complex actions you may ignore 20% of any penalties due to distractions (Nearby combats, ongoing artillery barrage, younger siblings)

Hard as Nails:

Do you really think you have a chance against us, Mister Cowboy?”Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker.”

You gain 1 hitpoint.

I am a bush:

Don’t move or they will find you, don’t move or they will find you…

You gain a +10% bonus to Hide checks while completely immobile.

Sensor? What sensor?

“Saw my junk, missed 12″ razor blades”

You may conceal items in such a way as to negate the bonus to locate it granted by 1 form of technology.Under normal circumstances this will take 1 hour, though particularly sophisticated devices could take longer or they may only be partially negated (DM’s discretion.) Multiple methods may be guarded against, though there is a cumulative 5% chance per additional method guarded against that you will negate all your previous work. The DM rolls this in secret.

For example: Adam wants to conceal a sample of Fledge he is using to bribe an informant in his suitcase . Knowing that it will go through a chemical scanner, he places it with several masking agents, negating the bonus the scanner gives the agents searching for it. If his suitcase is x-rayed then this bonus will not help, though he could spend another hour packing it in with similar looking herbs and spices to negate this bonus.

Fast Reader:

I don’t see letters, just shapes. It saves time.

You count your intelligence score as being 1 higher when calculating the time it will take you to read a tome

Seeker of the Forbidden:

Madness takes its toll…

Requirement: Either: 10% in Cthulhu Mythos or Blasphemous Knowledge OR Sanity less than 40.

When reading a tome that drains sanity or that was written by someone insane you count your intelligence score as being 3 points higher when determining the time it will take you to read it. When determining the time it will take you to read a normal work your intelligence is counted as being 4 lower.

Special: If your sanity rises above 40 and you do not have at least 10% in Cthulhu Mythos or Blasphemous Knowledge the bonus from this feat drops to 1 point of intelligence, however the penalty to read normal works is removed. This lasts until your sanity drops below 50.

Special: If you have both a sanity score lower than 50 and 10% or more in Cthulhu Mythos or Blasphemous Knowledge then the bonus rises to 4 points of intelligence. However, the penalty rises to 5 points when reading normal works.

Nothing suits me like a suit

What? You are saying high heels are not practical monster hunting cloths?

You never take penalties for impractical clothing. You however still can take penalties for wearing inappropriate clothing in social situations, or the lack of some article of clothing

Limitation: This advantage will not let you breath in space without a spacesuit, or avoid mosquito bites without appropriate clothing. You could however survive in the arctic in a loincloth, if the time\expense were taken to prepare as normal then *fur lined* loincloth could ‘count as’ cold weather gear. in the same way as high heels can ‘count as’ appropriate footwear.

Authors Note: The purpose of this feat is to allow Swords & Sorcery or B-movie style ridicules outfits. Please use it to that end and not to try and get away with not outfitting your character or somesuch.

Just a short post

Sorry for the lack of posts in so long, I’ve been insanely busy with class, working from when I wake up till 2am type of busy. I will hopefully find a little time during my exam break, but really you should be looking for new posts after Christmas.

So a couple of updates:

I’ve talked to my group and they want to stick with BRP/CoC for now, largely due to liking their characters. However, I’m planning a big finally for the campaign, as one of the 2 remaining original players is graduating, and the others has a plan in mind for retiring her character. That means I am on the lookout for non-horror BRP adventures if anyone has any recommendations. Oh and they want more combat, in CoC as well. This should remove many characters very, very quickly.

Secondly…. I’ve started planning my next online game. I might run some maptools, IRC or skype or such over the Christmas break, failing that I’ll set up a play-by-post in April, after the end of 2nd semester.

Anyway the idea is…. a dungeon crawling game loosely based on XCrawl, with bonus experience for narrating your actions like a sports commentator, and a 2nd thread for non-player commentary. Since part of the game would be to please the crowd at the end of every adventure there would be a vote for the best character by the observers, with an XP bonus for amusing the audience.

To make this more silly your game states would be your stats in world, tracked the same way that they do baseball stats. My Dad likes baseball because of all the stats you can track and the weird things that happen (For example there is one play, don’t as me what it is, that has only happened 3 times. 2 of them were on consecutive days, as some player heard about it and thought ‘Shoot, I could do that’ and managed to do it the next day.)
Now instead of batting average you have BAB or THAC0, and so on (I was going to give more examples, but I don’t know baseball stats). Instead of some odd play with passes and runners you have “The last time a Young Adult Red Dragon was felled in 3 rounds by a 5th level party was back in 1996 by the ‘Sharpe Dressed Elves’….”

I’ve talked about this, and written about it so much that I want to give it a try. I’ll have to write an adventure, or at least convert one as I’m not running 3.5 or 4e online, they are both way too slow. I’m thinking of some retroclone or old edition since combat goes faster, possibly with a BRP style d% skills system tacked on (Very light weight: Like a page long in total).

Well, I have to go, until next time, whenever that is, Stay Geeky.


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.