I’ve realised, as I write these that I’m writing about Call of Cthulhu ALOT. It’s not even my favourite game really, that’s D&D, but it is the game I get the most out of and when you have a good game of Call of Cthulhu, I don’t think it can be bettered.
I think the reason that so many Call of Cthulhu games have had such a profound effect on me is that it was the first game I played that I realised could be played just for the character and story rather than the murdering and looting of monsters and that’s all down to the first Keeper I played for, a man by the name of Chris LeCourt.
Chris was a friend of a friend, met at a gaming club and someone I got to know due to a mutual love of gaming in general. Soon after a few friends and I formed a gaming group with Chris and embarked on our first session of Call of Cthulhu.
That first session was just one of the prewritten adventures in the core book (4th edition I think) and we were a group of investigators, naive to the mythos (although i’d been reading Lovecraft for a number of years by this point) working for an investigative company named The Ark Foundation. Regular players in my games will note that I still use that group in my Cthulhu games to this day.
Anyway, we played in a dark room lit by candlelight, the first time i’d seen the environment manipulated by a Keeper to try to build atmosphere and it totally worked for me. I was drawn into my character, a photographer if I recall correctly, and did my best to react to the situations thrown at us with as much realism as possible.
Near the conclusion of the adventure, as we tried to form a circle of protection to trap an invisible creature, I failed a sanity check and my character was reduced to a jibbering mess in the corner of the room. I took this to heart and started to just rock back and forth in my chair muttering ‘this is not happening’ over and over. It’s a bit cliche but you really could cut the tension in the room with a knife.
I’ve long sought to emulate this in my own games of Cthulhu, from the name of the organisation that my Investigators always work for, to the candle lit rooms, even down to running that same adventure as an introduction for my own players years later. Chris opened my eyes to a different way of playing, a different type of story telling and for that i’ll be eternally grateful.