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Call of Cthulhu grows to the second best selling RPG core book on Amazon USA

MGibster

Legend
I know the classic view of CoC is that everyone dies in the end as the world is destroyed, but that's because it's fun to do that at one-shots in conventions! Actual campaigns aren't like that at all. I've run several, and they overwhelming are about the heroes facing barely understandable cosmic horrors and saving the world.

I've railed against the summation of Call of Cthulhu as "that game where you go insane, die, or both" as I believe this harmful and more likely to drive people away from the game. But CoC is a horror game and every game I've participated in, as a Keeper or an Investigator, has been rather bleak. But I've only had one campaign end with a total party kill. Well, one of the characters ended up giving birth to herself so maybe it wasn't technically a TPK. (Cthlhu can be weird as well as bleak.)
 

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CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
I've railed against the summation of Call of Cthulhu as "that game where you go insane, die, or both" as I believe this harmful and more likely to drive people away from the game. But CoC is a horror game and every game I've participated in, as a Keeper or an Investigator, has been rather bleak. But I've only had one campaign end with a total party kill. Well, one of the characters ended up giving birth to herself so maybe it wasn't technically a TPK. (Cthlhu can be weird as well as bleak.)
I don't understand that "everyone always dies" assessment, either. You can run a "Call of Cthulhu campaign," just like any other RPG. You can have the same characters in the same setting, growing more powerful over the course of several adventures, unlocking more abilities as they grow, defeating eldritch horrors and saving the world. We've managed to do it for (checks calendar) about a year and a half now.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Yeah, that everyone either dies or goes insane every session is a wild misunderstanding of the game. Call of Cthulhu is a horror & mystery game, but it's not a grindhouse RPG.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
I don't understand that "everyone always dies" assessment, either. You can run a "Call of Cthulhu campaign," just like any other RPG. You can have the same characters in the same setting, growing more powerful over the course of several adventures, unlocking more abilities as they grow, defeating eldritch horrors and saving the world. We've managed to do it for (checks calendar) about a year and a half now.
Though, to be fair...unless you're running Pulp Cthulhu, the chances of characters going insane only ever increases as time goes on. So long campaigns with all the same characters from the start, none going insane or dying, becomes vanishingly rare as time goes on...unless the PCs are extremely lucky or the Keeper is going particularly soft on them.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
Though, to be fair...unless you're running Pulp Cthulhu, the chances of characters going insane only ever increases as time goes on. So long campaigns with all the same characters from the start, none going insane or dying, becomes vanishingly rare as time goes on...unless the PCs are extremely lucky or the Keeper is going particularly soft on them.
Valid point; the Lore Keeper has a good deal of control over how much Sanity is lost over the course of an adventure, and how quickly it is recovered. Similar to how the Dungeon Master has a lot of control over how many hit points and spell slots are in the party.

I don't think it's a problem with the game system itself.
 

darjr

I crit!
Huh. Now I want to start a CoC campaign where all the PCs have the minimum sanity and the goal is to help each other get better through perilous adventures!
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Valid point; the Lore Keeper has a good deal of control over how much Sanity is lost over the course of an adventure, and how quickly it is recovered. Similar to how the Dungeon Master has a lot of control over how many hit points and spell slots are in the party.

I don't think it's a problem with the game system itself.
Huh. I think characters being fragile, dying fairly easily, and going insane is a feature, not a bug. But I’m not sure this is the place for that conversation.
 

MGibster

Legend
I don't understand that "everyone always dies" assessment, either. You can run a "Call of Cthulhu campaign," just like any other RPG. You can have the same characters in the same setting, growing more powerful over the course of several adventures, unlocking more abilities as they grow, defeating eldritch horrors and saving the world. We've managed to do it for (checks calendar) about a year and a half now.
When looking at some of the older campaigns/scenarios from the past I can see where the reputation came from. Even a classic like Masks of Nyarlathotep has some sections in them that are real meat grinders.

Huh. I think characters being fragile, dying fairly easily, and going insane is a feature, not a bug. But I’m not sure this is the place for that conversation.
Sure it is! Maybe that's one of the reasons Chaosium is still printing books after nearly 40 years.
 

Iä! Iä! Cthulhu fhtagn! This is good news and I hope Lovecraft Country has encouraged more people to give good old Call of Cthulhu a try.
It's made me more resistant than ever to the idea of it... But I'm not the typical gamer.
It's probably a lot of little things. The Critical Role one-shot you mentioned probably helped, and so did the Lovecraft Country series that @MGibster mentioned. For me, it was discovering The Magnus Archives podcast a couple of years ago.
THere's also that D&D doesn't do existential horror all that well, and that there are a lot of very compatible adventures available new and used.... because BRP is BRP. Plus, RAW, one can use CoC as a late 19th to mid 20th C game without any mechanical mods, just by ignoring the milieu elements.
I'm a little surprised that a somewhat depressing game like Call of Cthulhu is doing well right now. Members of my group said they didn't want to play Alien because it was too bleak in light of the current pandemic.
For some, a dark setting is a catharsis because they are reminded that life could be worse...
Not me, but I have a couple friends of that ilk.
Valid point; the Lore Keeper has a good deal of control over how much Sanity is lost over the course of an adventure, and how quickly it is recovered. Similar to how the Dungeon Master has a lot of control over how many hit points and spell slots are in the party.

I don't think it's a problem with the game system itself.
CoC is, if you ignore the bestiary, a solid 18th-19th C setting supported by the equipment lists.

Some people running the CoC rules aren't doing anything nearly as dark, just using the rules and mechanical setting elements. How many of those there are is anyone's guess.
 

wicked cool

Explorer
I have never played however I may get the starter set and be a keeper. My questions are sort of related to Grahams post

4-6 players 1 shot? Can the starter sets handle that many players. Ive watched some lets plays and I'm not sure
after that best 4-6 campaigns

in many ways this game seems to work for non gamers as seems to be less complicated than 5e D&D
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
I have never played however I may get the starter set and be a keeper. My questions are sort of related to Grahams post
Go for it. It's a lot of fun. If you like the idea of horror gaming.
4-6 players 1 shot? Can the starter sets handle that many players. Ive watched some lets plays and I'm not sure
after that best 4-6 campaigns
Yeah, it's a typical RPG in that it can handle groups that big, though it feels more in-genre if you have fewer players. Around 3-4 seems to work best. For me at least.

The Starter Set has four scenarios. One solo, a one-on-one, and two designed for 2-5 players. With the Starter Set, the Keeper Rulebook (two more scenarios for 2-5 players), and the Keeper Screen (two more scenarios for 2-5 players) you have a lot to work with as a new Keeper. There's also the free Quick-Start Rules which includes a classic scenario, The Haunting (again designed for 2-5 players).

Call of Cthulhu has also changed less over the years as editions pile up, so everything ever published for CoC is compatible with the current edition. There's a conversion guide in the back of the Keeper Rulebook. It comes down to taking pre-7th Edition stuff and multiplying the stats by 5 and consolidating a few skills. That's it. Everything else is basically the same, so you have about 40 years of modules to pull from. Seth Skorkowsky does a lot of great module reviews for CoC.
in many ways this game seems to work for non gamers as seems to be less complicated than 5e D&D
It's an odd one. It does seem to click for non-gamers a bit easier than hardcore gamers, but that's mostly down to the hardcore gamers needing to unlearn a lot of stuff to grok Call of Cthulhu. Parts seem more intuitive, here's your skill as a percentage, roll that or lower on these dice...vs roll this die, add that, meet or beat that number. But pure mechanics, CoC is heavier than D&D.

CoC is a horror game. It's about isolation and disempowerment. Paranoia, insanity, and strange vistas. Whereas D&D is a game of zero-to-hero (killing things, taking their stuff, gaining power, killing bigger stuff, repeat), Call of Cthulhu is a game of attrition. Self-described in the Keeper Rulebook. You lose Sanity. You lose Luck. You lose POW. You gain a few skill points, you regain a bit of Luck, and you regain a bit of Sanity...but the trajectory is downward. You can gain a few magic spells (but they cost you Sanity to learn and cast). Characters deteriorate over time. While D&D is very much a power fantasy, Call of Cthulhu is cosmic horror. It's a nihilistic and pessimistic horror & mystery game.
 

GrahamWills

Adventurer
I have never played however I may get the starter set and be a keeper. My questions are sort of related to Grahams post

4-6 players 1 shot? Can the starter sets handle that many players. Ive watched some lets plays and I'm not sure
after that best 4-6 campaigns

Yes, absolutely. I agree with @overgeeked that 3-5 works best, but if you have 6 and need to play with that many, I'd just go with it and expect things to be a littler easier. Also agree with the ease of converting older scenarios. I don't even keep mine sorted by edition -- there's too little difference to worry over.

in many ways this game seems to work for non gamers as seems to be less complicated than 5e D&D

At its core, it is a relatively simple system. The latest version (v7) adds some complexity to the combat rules which I quite like, but honestly, feel free to ignore it until you want to add those rules in. For comparable activities, rules are lighter than 5E. However, there are a fair number of extra rules -- sanity, luck, learning spells etc. that are more complex. The good news is that the system is pretty resilient to getting them wrong -- it's mostly a matter of "oh, you should have been penalized for that" or "it should have taken you 4 weeks, not 4 hours to read that tome". Nothing game-breaking. I have been there often ...

The trickiest thing for players and GM is to agree on a tone. It is a horror game, and that is hard. Fantasy is all about feeling powerful -- easy to GM as players level and get stuff that makes them more godlike. CoC is not. @overgeeked characterizes it as a downward trajectory game, and that is definitely one way to play the game -- probably the most common. For one shots it is the most fun, definitely and works well for short campaigns. For longer campaigns though you need as GM to decide how you are going to run it. I ran Masks of Nyarlathotep in that style -- people lost characters to insanity and death, and even the survivors were badly broken. It had that "how long can you survive" feel to it. In contrast I ran Beyond the Mountains of Madness for 20+ sessions, and it had the same characters until the epilogue. Sanity went down, but I gave plenty of opportunity to increase it, and mechanical horror checks were rarely more than once a session (with notable exceptions). If you play in a style where, at the end of an adventure, you can say "defeating the horror gives you a feeling of relief as you make the Bay Area safe again for mankind -- restore 6 sanity points" or if you allow the regaining of sanity by mental health intervention, you can keep going infinitely long.

Having said that -- as soon a player gets access to magic they are doomed. It's too much fun not to use and it absolutely will drive you insane faster than anything else in the game (expect great old ones). And the joy is -- the players will do it to themselves. There's a well established rule in CoC GMing -- if you want to kill the player, give them guns. Because then they'll fight instead of running, and when they go insane, they don't just punch their friends, they unload a shotgun into the backs of their heads. I'd also add that if you want to drive them insane, give them a spell book.

CoC is an odd bird -- I don't generally like old systems as RPG systems have so much improved over time. But the mix of simplicity at heart with special cases and few byzantine rules definitely appeals to me. It's still my go-to for horror gaming.
 

wicked cool

Explorer
Is dunwich an actual adventure? Best adventures near the New England area (Boston providence New York etc) as simple city town adventures sound best for this group.thank you for feedback
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Is dunwich an actual adventure? Best adventures near the New England area (Boston providence New York etc) as simple city town adventures sound best for this group.thank you for feedback
It’s more like a small sandbox from what I remember.

 

I could not even find the CoC 7th Ed book on Amazon, so I can't compare. I did find the Starter Set, which is currently #15,383 in Books. Also currently, Tasha's is ranked higher in Books than the PHB, being #82, while the PHB is #118. On top of that, some current core books for other games I looked at were not even in the general Books category, their sales through Amazon were so low. So just the fact the CoC Starter Set is selling enough to be on the Books list is a good thing. Oh, and I did this while not being logged in to my Amazon account, in case these lists are somehow manipulated for the viewer, as someone else here asked/suggested.

Edit: and now I see why I did not see it. Because it is not titled the way I was thinking it was. I did not realize Chaosium had split the rules into the Keeper Rulebook and the Investigators Handbook. Keeper is currently #15,353 and Investigators is #22,476. But both are in the general Books list, at least.
 
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The keepers book has all the rules

Which, as the description on Amazon says, should be for the person running the game:

This book, the Keeper Rulebook, contains the core rules, background, guidance, spells, and monsters of the game. It is intended for use by the Keeper of Arcane Lore (the Keeper) that player who will present the adventure to the other players. You must have at least one copy of this book to play Call of Cthulhu. The other players, the Investigators, will find it useful to have one or more copies of the Investigator Handbook, containing expanded rules for character creation, skills, occupations, equipment, and more.

So it has all the rules, but it is titled like the way the DMG is titled, and that is confusing for someone who will only be a player, and not a Keeper, and is not familiar with the game.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Which, as the description on Amazon says, should be for the person running the game:

So it has all the rules, but it is titled like the way the DMG is titled, and that is confusing for someone who will only be a player, and not a Keeper, and is not familiar with the game.
Yes and no.

It operates under a different set of assumptions than D&D. The Keeper needs to know all the rules...the players don't. It's an old-school game that never dropped the old-school feel. The player describes what their character does and the Keeper parses that into the rules and renders a result and a description. The players don't need complete knowledge of how the game mechanics work to play the game.

The Investigator Handbook includes an introduction, the Dunwich Horror (HPL short story), full character creation, an expanded list of occupations, a complete list of skills and the skill mechanics, investigator organizations, life as an investigator, a guide to the 1920s, advice for players, and a reference section (mostly a timeline).

The only thing missing that you'd need as a player is...maybe the combat rules. Maybe the Sanity rules. Maybe the chase rules. But most everything else in the Keeper Rulebook is rules for the Keeper that the players generally don't need to know. Monster stats. Magic. Tomes. Alien artifacts. Scenarios to run. How to run the game...bizarrely titled playing the game. Everything a player needs to know in order to actually play the game is in the Investigator Handbook.
 

Yeah, that everyone either dies or goes insane every session is a wild misunderstanding of the game. Call of Cthulhu is a horror & mystery game, but it's not a grindhouse RPG.
It isn't is the party plays it with the mythos in mind.

However, if you go with the D&D mentality of 'attack, loot, attack', then it will quickly become a grind house.

A well-run CoC campaign requires players who understand the setting. D&D is upbeat, the good guys win, and live happily ever after.

In CoC. the 'good' guys break even at best, and go on to live in fear of the next potential break with reality and the hidden machinations of cultists.

War Hammer FRPG or 40k players transition better to CoC, IME.
 

It isn't is the party plays it with the mythos in mind.

However, if you go with the D&D mentality of 'attack, loot, attack', then it will quickly become a grind house.

A well-run CoC campaign requires players who understand the setting. D&D is upbeat, the good guys win, and live happily ever after.

In CoC. the 'good' guys break even at best, and go on to live in fear of the next potential break with reality and the hidden machinations of cultists.

War Hammer FRPG or 40k players transition better to CoC, IME.

My gaming group from the late 80's to the mid 90's played AD&D, Traveller and CoC. D&D was not the light and fluffy game that it is today, and in Traveller you can die during character creation, so transitioning between those three was pretty easy.
 

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