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.

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Keep on the Shadowfell Maps

Ok, just a fast post: I have the original Keep on the Shadowfell with poster maps. However its a touch too big to scan them. I found a copy of the forest map, however the others are corrupted & distorted. I need a decently clean copy to use in my online game and can’t find one anywhere.

I’ve found about a zillion copies of the inside of the keep: (My players keep out!) but none of the outdoor maps, probably because the outdoor maps came with the original, but NOT the indoor ones. So I rather need a map of the dig site and don’t have one. I’m going to bribe you all with the collected maps I’ve found in exchange for helping me find a copy ok?

Oh yeah, my players? Stay out of the links please and thank you.

EDIT: I was never able to find the map so I made a cleaned up copy myself. It is not great but it worked for the duration of the encounter. This post is now bringing in more hits to my blog then everything else combined, so evidently a lot of people are looking for these maps. I’m somewhat embarrassed that my laziest post is getting me the most hits, but glad others are benefiting from my work. If you find a map I have not linked please leave a comment: I’d like to make this as useful a resource for people as I can. I’m thinking I should like together all the resources for KotS I’ve found at some point given how popular this has been.

Edit 2: I have since found what I think is the best version of the map of the keep. It is listed as one of the best maps on the Cartographers’ Guild forums. Enjoy!

To make it more clear: This is the map I need, but hopefully not quite so messed up with its colours.
Heck if someone could help me clean that up a bit I’ll use it!

Oh found it…without a grid. If someone can help me add a grid I will be very very grateful. Also seems a bit low-res for my needs.
If someone could help me add a grid I’d be very very grateful!

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Maps from here on are what I found looking for the map in the above two links, thought I’d share.

New versions of the outdoor maps.

Edit: There was a link with all of them, but it appears to be dead and not in The Wayback Machine. It pointed to http://forums.gleemax.com/showthread.php?p=16725492 if anyone can find a copy. I believe the individual posts below contain all the same content however.

The Keep Maps 1–5
Level 1 Maps 6–8
Level 1 Maps 9–11
Level 2 Maps 12–17
Caverns 9–11

Don’t like this version as much but its got the dunjinni files…and no outdoors.

I even found a photo of MY copy of the map.

I had some more maps the the keep here, but even after I found the new ENWorld link they appear to be gone. The current link on Enworld is http://www.enworld.org/forum/entry.php?330-Keep-on-the-Shadowfell-full-scale-1-quot-map if anyone has a copy of the maps that were once their.

I found copies of the posters, but they are REALLLLYYYY bad scans (Note: I’ve paid money for these maps AND its now a free adventure, so I feel ok linking to this)

Some nice maps of Winterhaven and surroundings

This guy tells you how to BUILD each encounter in 3D

A different style of map for the keep itself

Finally: Not the best looking, but usable

Edit 2 (Goes with edit 2 above): I’m embarrassed that this post gets so much attention as I have spent the least time on it of any blog post and it contains pretty much no original content. On the other hand if people find it useful I’ve done something good. Anyway, I updated a link to point at the thread more directly. I also found an amazing link that is the best version I have seen by far and will be adding it. Finally I fixed some spelling & grammar I noticed. Anyway, Until next time: Stay Geeky!

Edit N, 2015-7-28: I’ve updated the links as a lot of them had broken when people updated forum software. Some I couldn’t save, but most should be useful. Not that I imagine many people are wanting to run the introductory adventure for 4th edition anymore, now that Pathfinder and 5th edition have displaced it.

–Canageek

Help Me Find A New Game

So I’m having a bit of a problem. My friend Drew does not like 4e. I no longer like 3.X. We both like Call of Cthulhu and I’m still running that game, but Evan, the other core player isn’t able to attend much for personal reasons. Therefore I’d like to have a second game on the go, so I’d like to find one we can both enjoy.

General requirements: Neither of us like overly complicated rules like GURPS or Aces and Eights. Conversely Feng Shui & Wuxia are too rules light. This would be a casual game & we’ll probably have people dropping in and out each session so the rules should be easy to pick up & characters easy (and fast) to generate. Having a sample adventure is a must, so I can see how its supposed to work.

Games I can remember playing:
-Played a game of Dark*Matter using the Alternity rules & premade characters: Liked the system, but characters seem a bit hard to roll up

-I really like the tactical nature of 4e, whereas Drew hates it. As I’ll be DMing this is a more minor point for me: I have enough to do I don’t get bored like I do when I’m playing.

-Drew really likes the abstract nature of White Wolf games, whereas I hate that. Also Drew likes the freedom & flexibility of those games whereas I want more definition in what my limits are. Now I am biased against WW games due to a VERY poorly run Vampire the Masqrade game where the storyteller had the only copy of the books and ran a number of the rules wrong. Also it turns out I was only invited as I had dice, so I couldn’t do anything, even what other characters with the same skills as I could. This has given me a preference for games with clearly defined rules where I can ‘stand up for my rights’ so to speak.

-I really like systems with premade adventures. I’ve only just started customizing a module in my online 4e game. If its a standard fantasy rpg I’m more cool with this, especially  if its got clear guides on encounter design (see why I like 4e) as I can adapt existing adventures.

-I like the ‘modern’ design 3e started: No silly restrictions (Dwarves can be wizards, no class/level limits), AC goes up, however I’ll certainly look at older games.

I looked at some Retro-clones even though I’m not a fan of oldschool D&D. What bothered me most was the ham-handed attempts to balance the races. I did like the simplicity however, so if anyone knows of a game in that style that does not have stupid racial restrictions on who can be what class, or what class can advance to what level let me know.

Now to throw another twist in it, we have another regular player, Switch, who gets distracted/bored easily. When that happens he gets silly and does a half decent impression of the looney from those old 4 types of role-players lists. However I’ve noticed he gets bored a LOT less in modern games, so that might be preferable. The downside to modern games is they usually don’t have many adventures and are harder to write adventures for. So if anyone has suggestions on this pass them along as well.

So if anyone has suggestions or questions of my needs/requirements leave a comment! One of the reasons I got this blog is so I could have longer & more detailed discussions with people. Well, I’m off. Until next time Stay Geeky!

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Update: I was rushing to get this post done as my battery died so I missed 2 important points:

-One of my other players is sick of horror, and a few others would like a change.

-The game pretty much must be free or have a fast play version of the rules available: I’m not dropping $50 on a game without trying it.

In response to the comments I’ve gotten: SF is certainly Ok, though if you could give me some sort of idea of what type of SF that would be great. Star Trek is very different then say, Keith Laumer’s Bolo or the Warhammer 40K universe.

Published in: on July 26, 2009 at 11:34 am  Comments (17)  
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