Saturday, May 18, 2024

1920 Conversation Starters



To get my players into the 1920 mindset, I did some research and made up this table of 1920 conversation starters.

Enjoy! 1920 Conversation Starters








1 What do you make of these ‘new women’? They got the vote, now they’re out all night dancing, bare ankles and arms. I’m all for it myself.








2 Y’know, I never even saw an automobile till the war. Now everyone has one. I can’t keep up with all the new makes and models.








3 Great time to be alive. You can’t lose on the stock market, new banks are popping up like mushrooms. It’s the start of a golden age!








4 Damn I could do with a drink! Who would have thought the crackpots would outlaw a stiff drink. After the war and wearing masks in the pandemic, we need a little diversion.








5 Have you heard this new music, what’s it called? Jazz! I bought my first radio now that they’re broadcasting








6 My new neighbors are blacks from down south. Nice folks, hard working, glad they got out of that place. We need more like them, not these communists coming from Europe!

Cultivating Curiosity, Social Media, Session Zero, and Prepping Atmosphere in Call of Cthulhu



So my CoC game is coming together, with 4 players signed up. As I noted, they are all D&D players with little to no experience with CoC. One sent me this text:


Q: Can you recommend any prep reading on the game itself or should I just check youtube to see what it is all about? I have heard of it but never played


In keeping with the horror genre, I want them to come with a sense of wonder and mystery, so replied thus:


A: I would say avoid the rules, get out of that game you mindset and get into having an immersive experience. Go watch the thing or season four of true Detective. Read the original short story the call of Cthulhu or watch the movie Dagon. If you just roll with it, lots of amazing crazy stuff happens. So just be open-minded.


With their curiosity peaked, I began my Social Media campaign with the following message:


Telegram from Mr. B. Falstaff. Require assistance with one of my properties. Checkered history, cannot keep tenants. Possible gas leak or criminal activity will provide remuneration. Please meet at my office downtown Boston next week at your leisure.


I also sent this photo from an actual Boston haunted house.






My message was so successful that one player was completely duped and replied,


Q: So you off to Boston then?


To which I returned:


A: Dated May 11, 1920


(To be fair, we are all distracted middle aged working dads, so a little confusion is to be expected)


Another played leaned into the game and replied:

To the honourable Mr. B. Falstaff. It is fortuitous that I should find myself delayed in my return home to England. Were it otherwise I would surely have missed your telegram. I shall forego my intended departure and make arrangements to travel to Boston on the earliest train. Your Humble servant, H.W.


This message was from the chap who had played once before, so he was doing a great job getting into the spirit and setting an example for the others. I answered him.


Dear friend, Thank you for your prompt reply. It encourages me that this matter will soon be concluded in a mutually profitable manner. Please note that you will not have to carry out the investigation alone. I have contacted a small number of professional men, like yourself, and await their replies to form a team of a half dozen redoubtable investigators. My contacts include the follow specialists: Journalist Parapsychologist Professor Historian Antiquarian Author Private Investigator Dilettante Doctor Lawyer Clergyman, etc Their company should help you conclude the investigation in a swift and safe manner. My acquaintances should reply in the next few days, and I await with anticipation to see the final make up of the team on Thursday. B. Falstaff, realtor Boston, MS

I was pleased when another player, who had never done anything except D&D, followed suit:


To B. Falstaff. Have concluded my research on the early colonies and the Salem witch trials and am happy to have received your offer. Will travel to Boston to meet and discuss the property in question, as well as remuneration. Looking forward to another adventure and funds to keep this old soldier going for a few more months. Your servant, Robert Hollingsworth.

The player who had played before also added the following note.


My Dear Mr. Falstaff, while the idea of profit does not intrigue me in the slightest. I have been meaning to come home to Boston for some time now and the idea of “gainful employment” may satisfy my benefactor’s wish that I “make something of myself”. Thus I shall be pleased to meet you at your chambers in a fortnight. Yours in mystery, William Fairweather III

Sadly, two other players were sidelined by real life and missed session 0, but I had a great time catching up and running them through character generation. They later sent me historical photos of their characters.


William Fairweather III, dilettante




Robert Hollingsworth, former soldier



Going to be great fun in two weeks!




Sunday, May 12, 2024

CoC Rules Secrets & Surprises

As I noted with Stormbringer, a lot of the rules were fuzzy in my head from years away working, or else there were little tidbits of rules sequestered in different parts of the rulebook I had missed. I am finding much the same phenomenon with Call of Cthulhu, so here are the things that are standing out to me as I do my prep.



PARRY

You only get ONE chance a round at this, as opposed to multiple parries at cumulative 20% penalties in Stormbringer. Makes sense for Lovecraft as opposed to fantasy. Also, having parrying objects take damage also fits the genre, as opposed to weapons that only break on fumbles or criticals. Finally, not being able to parry Grapple is an interesting choice that I agree with as a martial artist.

DODGE

Surprising that this has two uses, as a kind of reflex save AND in combat. For the former, it is a good choice, but muddled in The Haunting by the DEX x 5% rolls to avoid falling. Just use the skill fellows! Allowing characters to try and dodge only the first bullet in a round is hilarious and very a propos.

In combat, having to choose between Attack & Parry OR Dodge & Parry has always been what I like about Chaosium games. I'll have to explain this well to my D&Ders.

IMPALES

I find it weird that with Impales, ie rolling 1/5 of skill with blades and bullets, you get this HUGE effect of doing double damage dice, but there is no equivalent advantage with blunt weapons. That is unless you apply the K.O. rule, which allows a roll of damage vs POW to knock out foes hit on a similar 1/5 of skill success. Since there is no mention of the need to call a K.O., I'll just assume that ANY critical with a blunt weapon has a chance to K.O. if the POW vs damage roll is failed. The low damage of blunt weapons vs high POW of characters should prevent this from being overpowered.

LARGE OPPONENTS

The rule with opponents over SIZ 30 giving human sized attackers +5% for every +10 SIZ is interesting considering the monsters they'll eventually face. Would also be worth porting to Stormbringer when facing dragons (20D8 SIZ, average 42) or similar creatures.

MARTIAL ARTS

I find this skill lackluster - you just get double damage if your roll is both a successful personal attack and under the Martial Art skill. Ho hum.

As a blackbelt in karate who has tried other styles, I would propose the following alternative rule:

Hard Striking Style (ie karate, sanda) - On a successful fist or foot attack AND Martial Arts roll, allows double damage die as above, also does normal damage on a successful parry.

Soft Striking Style (ie taichi, aikido) - On a successful defense (parry or dodge) AND Martial Arts roll, can also roll an attack, even if they have already attacked or are being defensive that round (ie parry and dodge only). Remember, characters can parry and dodge OR attack and parry in a round. This is a bit like the Stormbringer Riposte rule. Damage is NOT doubled, however.

Throwing (ie judo, jijitsu) - On a successful Grapple AND Martial Arts roll, can immediately apply the 2nd round effects (ie KO, immobilize, strangle etc) as per rulebook instead of waiting for the 2nd turn. If the Grapple succeeds but Martial Art fails, resolve effects as normal, ie over 2 rounds.

Of course, you could go through different styles of martial arts and make different combinations of the above effects, but it would be clunky and hardly worth the effort.


Call of Cthulhu Edition Changes

 So I've just found THIS thread that resumes how CoC has changed over the years.

TLDR, starting skill points has crept steadily upward:


1st Edition: 180 Skill Points (130 for Professional Skills and 50 for Personal Skills).

3rd Edition: 260 Skill Points (195 for Professional Skills and 65 for Personal Skills).

6th Edition: 390 Skill Points (260 for Professional Skills and 130 for Personal Skills).

7th Edition: Same as 6th Edition on average, although determined differently.


I think the last edition I played was 3E, and we were utterly useless and bumbling, so I don't think this will be a deal breaker.

Saturday, May 11, 2024

Beaten to the Punch!

Looks like artist Jason Thompson has beaten me to the punch and already made a gorgeous poster for The Haunting!

If you want this work of art on your study wall, you can purchase it HERE.

I am not connected nor do I profit in any way.

Prepping The Haunting

So I am preparing to run that perennial Call of Cthulhu starter adventure, The Haunting, to a bunch of newbies. Having never played it myself, it was a bit of a shock to find how vague and almost unfinished it is. It reminds me of B1 In Search of the Unknown for D&D in that the DM (or Keeper in this case) has to fill in the blanks with lots of the adventure details.



I am cool with that, and adding the following:

The realtor, Mr Falstaff, who calls the group together

Some red herring toughs hanging outside the house (but who are secretly connected to the disappeared reverend)

A tighter story for the events of the night when the family left the house, inspired by The Shining

A two page graphic guide to the adventure, as I can't keep all the details in my head. It is like those illustrated D&D scenarios that were big a few years back. If there is interest I may share it here.

I am using 6E as it is what I have and I can't be arsed to learn 7E at this point. Maybe in future. But as you know, I have a soft spot for older Chaosium products.

Session 0 is Tuesday, wish me luck!

Here is the message I sent them via SNS:



Telegram from Mr. B. Falstaff. Require assistance with one of my properties. Checkered history, cannot keep tenants. Possible gas leak or criminal activity will provide remuneration. Please meet at my office downtown Boston next week at your leisure.

Dated May 11, 1920

Friday, May 3, 2024

Prepping D&D People for Call of Cthulhu

So, I have a roleplaying group forming of old friends. They have only ever played D&D, and so we are doing Call of Cthulhu as a bridge towards newer games such as Spirit of '77 or other Powered by the Apocalypse games.

I have told them to not read anything and to 'go in fresh'. But I think it only fair that I prepare a little screed that will help them get their heads geared towards a Lovecraftean horror roleplaying session after fantasy roleplaying.

There are LOTS of great articles out there on transitioning from D&D to CoC (THIS one particularly), but I thought I'd put down the salient points I see.





1) HEROIC FANTASY vs COSMIC HORROR

First, they should know the difference in how genre affects play. First, there is player character mortality:

HF: Never say die! We have enough HP and healing to tank any battle.
CH: Everyone dies eventually, unless they hide, run away, or go insane. The fun is in seeing how far you get.

Next, gear:

HF: Get a rune weapon! This well let you take on any Big Bad!
CH: Don't touch anything. Sure it might let you wield cosmic power, but that will only hasten your physical or mental demise.

Finally, victory.

HF: We cut though mooks until we storm Hell and take out the Demon Lord!
CH: We lost two guys to ghouls getting to the crypt of the unspeakable horror. We dynamited the entrance so that it can never come to the surface again.


2) NPCs

In fantasy, NPCs are to be saved or used for loot. In horror, they are denizens of the world all mired in their own little lives. If you run around brandishing weapons or threatening them, the authorities will be called. If you play your role and cooperate with authorities, you may be able to rely on them once in a while for information, limited material aid, or a cavalry charge.


3) POWER LEVELS & EQUIPMENT

This is not in the rules, as players used to horror gaming do this naturally. To help players coming from more heroic games, I have created this framework:

1 Babes in the Woods 
Starting Gear: Only improvised weapons or Luck roll to get occupational everyday weapon. 
Opponent Type: Opponents are usually human or low level supernatural.
Mortality: PC death unlikely but not impossible. 
Progress: Progress to next level after first encounter with evil (ie SAN loss, creature kill, or scenario finished.

2 Fighting Back
Starting Gear: Concealed legal weapons or occupational weapons.
Opponent Type: Opponents are basic supernatural
Mortality: Death possible, avoided only through careful roleplaying.
Progress: Progress to next level after first encounter with evil. (ie major SAN loss, 3 scenarios, or 3 creature types killed)

3 Hunted Become Hunters
Starting Gear: Any weapon they can obtain, legal or otherwise. 
Opponent Type: Opponents are alien or otherworldly.
Mortality: Death of one or all is a distinct possibility.
Progress: After a major milestone is achieved (ie one PC goes insane, campaign finished, or servitor or major entity killed)

4 Nuclear Option
Starting Gear: Whatever they can secure, but it probably won't do much good.
Opponent Type: Unimaginable horrors, 
Mortality: Probably unavoidable.
Progress: Death, insanity, or retirement to NPC mentor status.

If you have players coming from D&D or other power fantasy games, make sure they see this before you begin. Moreover, make sure they can see the fun in this style of play, otherwise the horror may be the gap in expectations and problems this cause during the session.