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Running a Call of Cthulhu game

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Sometime in the next few months, I'm planning on running a one-off Call of Cthulhu game to give my D&D group a taste of the game before we decide whether we're going to do that or continue with out upcoming D&D campaign.

 

However, much as I'd like to run Call of Cthulhu, unlike D&D I have no experience at running it at all. I understand that atmosphere in a Call of Cthulhu game is far more important than it is in D&D, and so I've been trying to come up with ways to make playing the game much darker and more involving.

 

It would help my planning and execution of this a great deal if any CoC players of GMs could give me any tips or advice on how to create the right atmosphere for the game.


Hawk! Eggplant! AWAKEN!

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If you havent played it before, then you should try prewritten adventure first, its so easy to go over-the-top otherwise. I think there's atleast one in the Main source book. The difference between D&D and CoC is about as big as it gets- one is about heroes&adventure, the other about mystery and horror.

 

 

Atmosphere though, is difficult because it only exists in the minds of the players. You can dim the lights, fill the room with the appropriate victorian-age antiquities, play eerie music, light candles and all the usual stuff if you believe that will help.


DISCLAIMER: Do not take what I write seriously unless it is clearly and in no uncertain terms, declared by me to be meant in a serious and non-humoristic manner. If there is no clear indication, asume the post is written in jest. This notification is meant very seriously and its purpouse is to avoid misunderstandings and the consequences thereof. Furthermore; I can not be held accountable for anything I write on these forums since the idea of taking serious responsability for my unserious actions, is an oxymoron in itself.

 

Important: as the following sentence contains many naughty words I warn you not to read it under any circumstances; botty, knickers, wee, erogenous zone, psychiatrist, clitoris, stockings, bosom, poetry reading, dentist, fellatio and the department of agriculture.

 

"I suppose outright stupidity and complete lack of taste could also be considered points of view. "

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Well, if your players have only played D&D before, then I find it best to throw some simple monster at them and have them all die trying to kill it...

 

Sounds nasty, yes, but D&D-only players have a tendency to think mostly in hack n slash terms (kill the monsters and only think of what to do if everything else fails).

 

A friend of mine once did this very thing (run a trial Cthulhu game for all D&D players). Now, this was 5th edition Cthulhu well before the d20/D&D Cthulhu, so the rules were much tougher and merciless than they are now. It was one of the classic adventures, where the investigators had to find and destroy just a single zombie. The players spent a lot of time roaming the house in search of their cannon fodder. When they failed, they eventually bought petroleum to burn it out, which led to them burning down about half of 1920 Boston.... :rolleyes:"

 

Now, that's not to diss on D&D players. I play D&D myself, but people who only play and only enjoy dungeon crawls and hack n slash really shouldn't play Cthulhu, because it's just not about making maps and killing monsters.

 

In Cthulhu it's all about finding out what's going on and sacrificing your life (and your sanity!) to serve the greater good by stopping the ancient evils. And basically the characters are screwed either way, because there is no hope of matching the powers of the villains. This is the game where people happily cast the spell that summons Cthulhu (if they have it) full well knowing that they will themselves be killed by doing so, and yet they do it because it's the only way to stop the cultists from destroying the world...

 

Players who don't get that or don't like that (which is fair enough - to each his own) should stay clear.

 

That's not saying D&D players couldn't grow to like Cthulhu, though. After all, I played only D&D myself for many years before trying Cthulhu, and I like Cthulhu much better than D&D today. I'd suggest you let the players read a bit of Lovecraft's works. The game is named "Call of Cthulhu" for a reason, and reading the short story of same name should give people insight on whether it will appeal to them or not (even though that does reveal the existence of the Necronomicon...)

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Well, hopefully that won't be too much of a problem, since I'll be setting the game here in Glasgow, with them playing simple University Students. That should mean they will never have a weapon more dangerous than a kitchen knife or a half-brick in a sock, and for all or most of the adventure, they should be completely unarmed. With any luck, they'd stand a poor chance against a small group of Glasgow's real world problem inhabitants.

I think that by setting it close to home, I'll be able to encourage them to think like themselves, as opposed to like D&D characters.

 

Luckily, the adventure which I'm now planning on running ("The End of Paradise", taken, as Kaftan suggested, from the rulebook) is very low on combat, and heavy on things like research and interviewing people.

 

As to getting them to read Lovecraft to find out whether it will appeal to them or not, well, this one off adventure is what I'm doing instead. Perhaps I didn't make my meaning clear in my first post. My players are currently playing through a D&D campaign that will come to a close three adventures from now. At the conclusion of that campaign, I'm going to give them a choice between continuing with their charactrers into a new campaign, or abandoning D&D for a while to play CoC. At some point during this campaign I'm running, I'm going to take a week out to run one (long) session of Call of Cthulhu, with a single adventure. If they enjoy it and want to keep it up, that's what we'll do at the end of the campaign. If not, then we just keep going with D&D. And if they like it, I'll give them my Lovecraft stuff to read before we properly start at the end of D&D.

 

EDIT: Wow. CoC d20 was published just three years ago, but according to its price list in the equipment section, T1 lines are $1000 a month. Three years later, they're not far off a fiftyth of that price. Weird.


Hawk! Eggplant! AWAKEN!

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Well, if your players have only played D&D before, then I find it best to throw some simple monster at them and have them all die trying to kill it...

 

Disagree -its much better to simply tell them that CoC is a whole other ballpark. To start like that might kick them off in the completely wrong direction with them carrying Maxim guns and dynamite at all time.

 

 

 

In Cthulhu it's all about finding out what's going on and sacrificing your

life (and your sanity!) to serve the greater good by stopping the ancient evils.

 

Disagree. Its about horror & mystery and the focus is on investigation and discovery, not necessarily about fighting whatever it is the players discover(attempting it usually gets players killed)

 

 

 

I'd suggest you let the players read a bit of Lovecraft's works.

 

 

Agree. It should be mandatory in any CoC playing group.


DISCLAIMER: Do not take what I write seriously unless it is clearly and in no uncertain terms, declared by me to be meant in a serious and non-humoristic manner. If there is no clear indication, asume the post is written in jest. This notification is meant very seriously and its purpouse is to avoid misunderstandings and the consequences thereof. Furthermore; I can not be held accountable for anything I write on these forums since the idea of taking serious responsability for my unserious actions, is an oxymoron in itself.

 

Important: as the following sentence contains many naughty words I warn you not to read it under any circumstances; botty, knickers, wee, erogenous zone, psychiatrist, clitoris, stockings, bosom, poetry reading, dentist, fellatio and the department of agriculture.

 

"I suppose outright stupidity and complete lack of taste could also be considered points of view. "

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Agree. It should be mandatory in any CoC playing group.

 

One thing I'm a little bit worried about is that my players still haven't quite mastered the art of not using out-of-character knowledge. If they read too much of Lovecraft's work, they'd use that knowledge in-game. I'd have to find a balance between telling them enough and telling them too much.


Hawk! Eggplant! AWAKEN!

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Well, if your players have only played D&D before, then I find it best to throw some simple monster at them and have them all die trying to kill it...

 

Disagree -its much better to simply tell them that CoC is a whole other ballpark. To start like that might kick them off in the completely wrong direction with them carrying Maxim guns and dynamite at all time.

 

Except that's what your run-of-the-mill D&D player does already. My point was to scare them enough to realize that all their hardware and testosterone won't matter, since they'll die if they try to meet violence with violence... every time!

 

 

In Cthulhu it's all about finding out what's going on and sacrificing your

life (and your sanity!) to serve the greater good by stopping the ancient evils.

 

Disagree. Its about horror & mystery and the focus is on investigation and discovery, not necessarily about fighting whatever it is the players discover(attempting it usually gets players killed)

 

You obviously haven't played classics like "Walker in the Wastes" or "The Masks of Nyarlathotep"... I swear there were times when we were lucky if we lost only one character per gaming session while playing the former :thumbsup:"

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I wanna play. Can we play by email?

 

That depends on whether you were talking to Kaftan, Jediphile or me. I've never DMed a Play By Posting or Play By E-Mail game, so I doubt I'd be much good at it. Plus, my players decided to keep going with D&D instead of CoC, so I've never really DMed a CoC game either. But if someone else is DMing, I'd be happy to be a player, whether we do it on the board here or through email.


Hawk! Eggplant! AWAKEN!

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... Plus, my players decided to keep going with D&D instead of CoC ...

What a bunch of wimps. :-"

 

Meh. What's a DM to do? They prefer swords and sorcery, it just turns out. To tell the truth, I'm kinda happy about it, since it's given me the opportunity to use the super-evil Tainted Sorceress I'd planned as the central villain of the new campaign. A proper evil-to-the-core bitch. Can't wait. ;)


Hawk! Eggplant! AWAKEN!

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... Plus, my players decided to keep going with D&D instead of CoC ...

What a bunch of wimps. :-"

 

Meh. What's a DM to do? They prefer swords and sorcery, it just turns out. To tell the truth, I'm kinda happy about it, since it's given me the opportunity to use the super-evil Tainted Sorceress I'd planned as the central villain of the new campaign. A proper evil-to-the-core bitch. Can't wait. :)

I hope she appears butter-wouldn't-melt-in-her-mouth sweetness and light, and even offers to "help" them ... and she is soooooooooooo comely and charismatic that I'm sure they will have no qualms about her assisting them in any way ... ;)


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... Plus, my players decided to keep going with D&D instead of CoC ...

What a bunch of wimps. :-"

 

Meh. What's a DM to do? They prefer swords and sorcery, it just turns out. To tell the truth, I'm kinda happy about it, since it's given me the opportunity to use the super-evil Tainted Sorceress I'd planned as the central villain of the new campaign. A proper evil-to-the-core bitch. Can't wait. :lol:

I hope she appears butter-wouldn't-melt-in-her-mouth sweetness and light, and even offers to "help" them ... and she is soooooooooooo comely and charismatic that I'm sure they will have no qualms about her assisting them in any way ... :x

 

Actually...I've done that a few too many times in the past, to the point that if I did it again, my players would just get pissed off and start adopting the "stab first, roleplay later" tactic. Instead, I'm going with the ol' party lets loose an unspeakable evil accidentally method. Much easier to do.


Hawk! Eggplant! AWAKEN!

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What you need is a sexy prop for the story; have some very charismatic female (I'm making the outrageous assumption that all your players are male), visit the group as the physical embodiment of the new character, tell them all to keep in character ... take note of their behaviours, and ... use it to maim them painfully later. ( :rolleyes: )

 

Guys are so easy to distract. :D

 

I like the Pandora's Box scenario as well, especially if in hindsight it was an obviously dumb thing to do, but at the time it seems perfectly reasonable. Like walking into a room that appears to be a cosy eat-in kitchen in front of a warm fire, with the pretty cook standing by the cauldron ... it's only mindly strange when she doesn't greet them at the door, as is customary, but when she asks them to take a seat in the corner of the room, just pass some very intricate, escoteric and interesting carvings on the wall ...


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Sadly, the only successful CoC game I've ever run was one where the players didn't know they were playing in the CoC setting. I used a simple homebrew system and didn't inform them of what the game was. Of course, it was a one-session game where everyone ended up dead or insane, but...

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Not letting the players know what they're playing is a great idea. We only got halfway by not letting the players know what rule system we were using, thereby forcing them to roleplay more instead of just stating that they used this or that skill etc.

 

 

The players had to write a short essay that the GM would then "translate" onto a character sheet and then he would handle all rolls etc. from behind a screen so they players never knew what was going on.


DISCLAIMER: Do not take what I write seriously unless it is clearly and in no uncertain terms, declared by me to be meant in a serious and non-humoristic manner. If there is no clear indication, asume the post is written in jest. This notification is meant very seriously and its purpouse is to avoid misunderstandings and the consequences thereof. Furthermore; I can not be held accountable for anything I write on these forums since the idea of taking serious responsability for my unserious actions, is an oxymoron in itself.

 

Important: as the following sentence contains many naughty words I warn you not to read it under any circumstances; botty, knickers, wee, erogenous zone, psychiatrist, clitoris, stockings, bosom, poetry reading, dentist, fellatio and the department of agriculture.

 

"I suppose outright stupidity and complete lack of taste could also be considered points of view. "

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Sounds like a good candidate for internet relay (and email).

 

I don't like it when the DM sits there rolling countless dice throws and totalling them up in some abstruce way ... always means something bad is gunna happen. And the DM should have asked us a crucial question at some juncture that was glossed over, so we can all argue about how the fatal ending never happened on a technicality. (LA friend lost a ranger to a doppleganger that way, donchaknow.)

 

I've never played CoC, I know a little about it (although I ain't read the book, neither), because a friend at uni was always bragging about how we'd play a game and my character would die of insanity pains to the head in seconds. I could never work out if he was serious or not -- certainly couldn't understand what the point was to play a game only to die quickly ... :(


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I don't like it when the DM sits there rolling countless dice throws and totalling them up in some abstruce way ... always means something bad is gunna happen.

 

:lol: :D

 

I just roll dice at random times to worry my players. It really is quite fun when they're just walking through an empty corridor and they fly into a blind panic just because I rolled a ton of dice. :devil:


Hawk! Eggplant! AWAKEN!

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I agree that the best way is for them do everything 'right' to kill the bad guys and then get whacked. In my case the GM let me be part of a UK spec forces group in 1944, trying to kill hitler. We glider in near his holiday villa, go in straight down the line, best equipment, best men, he let me plan everything in detail. My men started turning inside out, and these streaks of barely visible darkness came crawling out of the remains. Men were screaming and babbling like children. SS men were pulling chunks of the sky and stitching them into people's faces. I had enough sanity tro make it into the Fuhrer's bedroom, but he just sat there while I tried every way I could think of to kill the s.o.b. His eyes were empty. I mean COMPLETELY empty. It creeped the hell out of me, so finally, I gave up, and ran howling out of the grounds, threw myself into a river and escaped.

 

 

campaign began post-war. Never EVER tried the fighty option again except as a last resort.


"It wasn't lies. It was just... bull****"."

             -Elwood Blues

 

tarna's dead; processing... complete. Disappointed by Universe. RIP Hades/Sand/etc. Here's hoping your next alt has a harp.

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... And then drwon them in orc blood.

I have found that levels of gore are often inversely proportional to the level of horror in a game.

 

People forget that terror is what we are afraid of seeing. Once we have seen gore, the shock passes and we lose tension.

 

It's far more frightening to see a small trail of blood, or hear a blood-curdling scream that to find an eviscerated body.

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I've always thought it would be fascinating to try a Cthulu game. Unfortunately, the local crowd only goes in for Dungeons and Dragons. ...And by local, I mean both the crowd here in Sunny So Cal and my DnD group in Las Vegas NV. It's a hell of a drive just to play a game. (Las Vegas is my home-town, so I guess DnD isn't the [/b]only[/b] reason.)

 

I think Lovecraft created a setting beyond his ability to write. His books are good enough, but the setting is great for games.


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