Tag Archives: Cthulhu

RPGaDay- 2016 Day 15, Best source of inspiration for RPGs?

It used to be books, I am, or more accurately was, a voracious reader and since I’d read a significant amount of literature set in the games that I wanted to run or play in then I could use that to my own ends. That’s changed though, I have significantly less free time and so when I’m running a game virtually all of my reading time is usually devoted to the rules and adventure, as opposed to wider reading. I still use books as inspiration and I still recommend certain novels to people who want to play certain games, 2XS and House of the Sun for Shadowrun, The Chronicles and Legends for Dragonlance, At the Mountains of Madness and The Dunwich Horror for Cthulhu and many others.

For me, nowadays, it’s TV, far more than even movies (though I saw a whole lot of Numenera in Guardians of the Galaxy). TV has advanced to such a state that it’s held almost in the same regard as film, actors don’t see it as a step down if the show is right (say like True Detective) and networks pump massive amounts of money into shows with Game of Thrones reportedly costing $6 million per episode and Walking Dead around $3 million. Plus, with the rise of traditionally fantasy and sci fi genres in the mainstream, like the aforementioned Game of Thrones and Walking Dead, plus the surge in popularity of Comic Book movies, more subjects that would traditionally be too niche for the mass market are being greenlit.

This means I can find great, hard edged sci fi, like in The Expanse, or fantasy like Shannara or Game of Thrones, it means that I can see settings and themes I love treated seriously and with respect and that helps me form ideas in my head how I want to run games or what kind of character I want to play. If I want to understand how close nit a criminal organisation might be then shows like The Sopranos can help me, if I want to understand gangs then Sons of Anarchy, the Shield and the Wire all give me different perspectives on different types. If I want source material for Deadlands then I need look no further than H*** on Wheels or Deadwood.

I’ve even found inspiration for games like Call of Cthulhu in TV shows recently, with Season 1 of True Detective essentially being about a worshiper of Hastur and with more supernatural shows like Sleepy Hollow essentially being a mash up between Cthulhu NOW and he forthcoming Pulp Cthulhu. H***, Hunter the Vigil is literally embodied in the TV show Supernatural in everything except name and all this is before I start looking into lower budget shows like Dark Matter and Killjoys that make perfect inspiration for Traveller, Firefly (which has its own show anyway) or anything in a space operah setting.

Inspiration for RPGs can come from anywhere but, today, I find it most prevalent in TV as the world embraces geekdom, as ComiCon becomes a mass market spectacle and people tune in every week to find out what an orphaned girl with 3 pet dragons might do next.

RPGaDay 2016- Day 10, Largest in-game surprise you have experienced

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Running games I like to keep things close to my chest, ideally bamboozling the players over the true identity or motivation of their adversary until the last possible moment. Doing this maintains tension, helps keep the players interested and makes villains memorable, especially when the twist is unexpected.

That said, I think my favourite reveal was by a player, to me, during one of my own games. We were playing the Call of Cthulhu campaign, Tatters of the King, which is, to date, the best Call of Cthulhu campaign I’ve read and certainly the best I’ve run.

Tatters of the King, Cover

WARNING– There will be some spoilers ahead.

Throughout the campaign the investigators had been plagued by visions of the King in Yellow, following witnessing the King in Yellow play and investigating events surrounding it and a cult of Hastur. As the game built to its conclusion the party travelled to India tracking the cult activity and the closer they got to the source of Hastur’s power, the more frequent and intense the visions became. For one particular investigator the visions were particularly intense and began to wear on his sanity.

The campaign culminates high in the mountains of Tibet, in sight of Everest, after the party enter a cave and so proceed to an other worldly location close to the Cyclades. After some exploration they reach a room in which they are approached by a vestige of Hastur who asks them all a single question ‘Will you Guide me?’.

The party have to each make their own decision as to what they want to do. All replying ‘no’ simply delays the inevitable, as Hastur will return again when the stars are right. The correct answer is to reply ‘yes’ and then lead Hastur astray as you guide him to Earth, forever dooming your soul but saving the planet from certain doom. I gave each player a piece of paper and asked them to write their answer, Yes or No, with no conferring between them. I then gathered the paper and secretly read the result.

As expected one wrote ‘yes’ and so I turned to him to describe the scene as it evolved and, much to my surprise, the player didn’t lead Hastur astray, didn’t even try, he guided him straight to Earth and so doomed the planet. Shocked, I asked why, since leading him astray is made clear as an option, and my players answer was that most surprising reveal “After everything that has happened, everything I’ve seen, heard and done, I felt that I was the avatar of Hastur, I was the one destined to bring him to Earth to rule”.

I have to say, I’ve never felt like I have done a more effective job running a game than in that moment, when I realised that I’d managed to coerce a player to end the world through the subtle manipulation of what he experienced throughout the campaign.

RPGaDay 2016- Day 8, Hardcover, softcover or digital? What’s your preference?

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I have quite a lot of roleplay spanning numerous systems, settings and companies. I think I worked out that if I tried to put them on a single shelf the shelf would need to be around 30 feet long and that alone is very telling when asking whether I prefer a physical copy to a digital one. When comparing those two formats physical will always win for me, as it does with books, because there is an intangible something about holding a physical book in your hands, experiencing the smell as you open it (few things are better than that ‘new book smell’) and unlocking the knowledge within.

That’s not to say that digital doesn’t have its place. I personally think that, in the modern world, all physical books should come with a complementary digital copy, for ease of transport and to save wear and tear on the copy. In the age of the tablet digital books are a very useful tool and save the back of many a DM who can carry all the books they need in one small device rather than breaking their backs with bags full of books. I own many a digital RPG book, some I pick up just to see whether it’s worth getting the physical book, others to complement my collection. Some companies, such as Catalyst even do digital only releases of short sourcebooks to help supplement the physical releases and I think this is a great way of exploring parts of a setting that otherwise may not see the light of day.

Still, it’s physical books for me and, when choosing between Hardcover and Softcover I’ll go with the hardcover 9 times out of 10. The reason for this is that they are just much more hardwearing than their softcover counterparts and the state of my books matter to me, I like them to look pristine. That’s not to say that they shouldn’t be used, they should, there is no point having an RPG book and letting it sit unused and unloved, not fulfilling it’s purpose, but I’d prefer that they not fall apart.

The other reason that I prefer hardcovers books I because that’s the format that almost all of the limited edition version of books come out on.

My Shadowrun 5th ed limited edition core book is hardcover-

Shadowrun 5th Edition, Dragon Edition, Front Cover

My Call of Cthulhu 7th ed Kickstarted books are hardcover-

Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition, Kickstarter Limited Edition, Keepers and Investigators Guides, Covers

I don’t own a single softcover limited edition. Now softcover has its place, it’s perfect for boxed sets (and I wish more games had boxed sets nowadays #bringbacktheboxedset) and it’s obviously cheaper to produce and buy. I do also find that really thin books that are hardback, say things under 100 pages long, just feel strange and don’t look right at all.

Given the choice I’ll always go for a hardcover but digital has a place for those with limited space or who prize the ability to transport move their collection easily and softcover is good for those who don’t care about condition and who want to get books a little cheaper.

Kickstarter Pickups.

Kickstarter Logo

Despite having very little time to game or write over the last couple of weeks it’s still been a pretty good time for building the collection with 3 Kickstarters delivering something in the last 10 days or so. I’ll be coving all of these in a little more detail soon but I thought it’d be fun to take a quick look at what I’ve received.

Tiny Epic Galaxies, Kickstarter Deluxe, front of box

So first up to deliver was Tiny Epic Galaxies, Kickstarter Deluxe. This is the one I was most excited about, since I played the Print and Play back while the campaign was still live. Tiny Epic Galaxies is a great game and the production value of the contents is very high.

Tiny Epic Galaxies, Kickstarter Deluxe, Contents

Next up came an add on to a Kickstarter (though it was funded via Kickstarter in its own campaign that I wasn’t part of)- Horror on the Orient Express of Call of Cthulhu 6th/7th edition.

Horror on the Orient Express, front of box

Horror on the Orient Express is that last of the great Cthulhu adventures that I needed for my collection. I’d looked at trying to get a copy of the original 1991 version a number of times but I’d never managed to pull the trigger on it, either through price or condition. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s been a long wait for this, I paid over 2 years ago and I still don’t have a single hard copy from the actual campaign I backed, but damn this is a stunning set.

Now, as I said above, I’ll do a whole unboxing article on this one, but I’ll run through a little bit of what you get inside-

Horror on the Orient Express, books

You get a whole load of books in the set, 6 (7 including the Orient Express Guide Book for the players) to be exact running to over pages in total. One of the books is 200 pages long and is just player hand outs. On top of that you get the Simulacrum pieces, a cardboard knife, a poster sized Scroll of the Head handout (plus instructions on how to cut it up to make the scroll), a bunch of posters detailing each of the train carriages as well as a map of Europe and several prop handouts.

Horror on the Orient Express, props

This is such an exceptional set, probably the very best boxed set, of any game I own. The production values are amazing, and the value for money, especially at the price I paid, is very, very good. I’m so pleased that this set was reprinted and given a complete makeover from start to finish. This goes to prove that when Kickstarter works, it can produce something outstanding.

The last thing I received was Epic Card Game with it’s Year One promos.

Epic Card Game, box and promos

I bought into this one purely on the basis that it’s made by White Wizard Games, who made the outstanding Star Realms. For all intents and purposes the game is Magic The Gathering, but in a Living Card Game format, making it significantly cheaper to play. From just the starter box for Epic you can play up to 4 player draft tournaments, something basically impossible with standard Magic boxes. I also got the Year One Promos, extra tokens and God and Demi-God Deck cards, which add just a little bit extra to the game.

I haven’t had a chance to play it yet but it look like good fun and the artwork on the cards is exceptional, it’s clear that a lot of hard work went into commissioning and selecting the art for the game.

So that’s my week in Kickstarter. It was a pretty awesome week to get everything delivered at the same time, even more so because I hadn’t just paid for and ordered it, so it felt a little bit like I was getting presents and I do love getting presents.

#RPGaDAY 2015 Day 20, Favourite Horror RPG

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As opposed to yesterdays Supers question, today is all about a genre I have played a fair amount or, Horror. Despite it not being my favourite genre overall, I’d say horror is the game I run best, probably because I think it’s the easiest to run well, but thats another story, and it’s one i’ve played off an on since my earliest days at the table.

Like most folk my age, my first introduction to horror RPG’s was through Vampire, The Masquerade. I started gaming during the 90’s at the height of the Anne Rice craze and everyone was obsessed with Vampires, not dumb twinkly Twilight vampires, but ancient, tear your throat out vampires and I was just the same. That first game of Vampire did not go well, the Storyteller didn’t really know what he was doing and we struggled to escape from the warehouse we started in, something about needing multiple 9’s on D10’s to open a door.

That didn’t stop me though, I bought Werewolf and tried to run that, without much more success than the Vampire ST, but it was a start and it wasn’t long after that I was introduced to what I consider to be the best Horror RPG, Call of Cthulhu.

My first Call of Cthulhu session, which was as a player, not a Keeper, pretty much set the bar for any session of Cthulhu I run. It was a simple investigation, just playing through The Haunting from the rule book, but the low lighting, the focus from the group and the Keeper and just the overall atmosphere just worked and by the end I was rocking back and forth in my chair muttering “This is not happening” over and over. In short, it was AWESOME.

I’ve played other horror games since, Vampire Dark Ages, Hunter the Vigil, Vampire the Requiem, Ravenloft and more but nothing has come close to Call of Cthulhu. I’ve also run several Cthulhu campaigns myself, including Masks of Nyarlathotep, Beyond the Mountains of Madness and Tatters of the King, with the latter being one of the finest campaigns, of any game, I’ve ever run.

Cthulhu Dice Review

Name: Cthulhu Dice
Type: Dice Game
Publisher: Steve Jackson Games
No of Dice Included: 1
Players: 2-6
Price:  £5.49
Play time: 5-10 minutes
Rating: 1.0 Stars (1.0 / 5)

Cthulhu Dice text

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a Cthulhu junkie and so it should come as no surprise that I own a game named Cthulhu Dice. Cthulhu dice was an impulse purchase for me, picked up from the counter at Forbidden Planet at the very last minute for the low, low price of £1.99. I’m pretty pleased that I only paid £2 for the game as I honestly don’t think it’s worth more.

Cthulhu dice should really just be called Cthulhu Die, as there is only a single die in the pack, but I guess that the folk at Steve Jackson Games figured that the title Cthulhu Die might suggest that the goal of the game is something very different from what it is. The game comes packed in a self seal plastic baggie and contains a single 12 sided die, 18 glass ‘sanity’ beads and the rules on an full colour, double sided A5 sheet. There are also now several different colours of dice that you can get as part of the set as well as a deluxe metal die version.

Cthulhu Dice Contents, PackedCtulhu Dice Contents, Unpacked

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The game is pretty simple, as you’d expect from such limited contents. In the game you play a Cthulhu Cultist and the goal overall is to make the other players go insane by cursing them which is accomplished by rolling the dice and reducing their sanity points to zero. To start the game each player takes 3 of the glass beads that represent their sanity and then the owner of the game decides who will be the first Caster (basically the player who’d turn it is). The Caster picks a Victim (another player) and rolls the dice, which can result in one of five outcomes-

  • Yellow Sign- The Victim loses a point of sanity to Cthulhu
  • Tentacle- The Caster steals a point of sanity from the Victim
  • Elder Sign- The Caster receives a point of sanity from Cthulhu
  • Cthulhu- All players loses a point of sanity to Cthulhu
  • Eye of Horus- The Caster chooses a result.

The winner is the last player to have any sanity left and if two or more players simultaneously lose their last point then Cthulhu wins. Cthulhu is considered to be in the middle of the table and, as you can see, he can gather sanity from the players throughout the game. If at any point a player should receive sanity from Cthulhu and there are no sanity points in the middle of the table, then the player gets nothing.

One of the things I like about the game is that even if a player is reduced to zero sanity then they can still keep playing, which means that no-one is left sitting at the table with nothing to do. A player who is reduced to zero sanity is considered to be mad which means that, on their turn, they can keep attacking other players  but they can never regain any sanity so can’t win the game. This means that mad players can, and should, do their best to try and make sure Cthulhu wins.

Now, obviously, this game is 90% reliant on luck. Aside from deciding who you attack and, very occasionally, picking the result if you roll the Eye of Horus (a 1 in 12 chance), then there is nothing you can do to influence the outcome of the game. This really limits the mileage you can get out of the game as there is only so much enjoyment you can get out of rolling a D12. The game falls into a weird and difficult niche, it’s a bit too geeky to make it as a mainstream game but it’s a bit to basic to be of interest to hardcore gamers. The best use I can find for it is as a drinking game, with each point of sanity lost representing a shot and going mad meaning you have to finish your drink. In this way it would be a good warmup game for Cards Against Humanity on a casual evening with people that aren’t really gamers.

The best thing about the game, and the selling point for me is the Cthulhu die. It’s an interesting and unique D12 with some cool symbols on, such as Cthulhu and the Yellow Sign-

Cthulhu Dice, Cthulhu Face Cthulhu Dice, Yellow Sign Face

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overall, this isn’t a great game, there isn’t much there and it’s too luck based to be of much fun but, it’s also very very cheap. The score I’ve given it is based more or less entirely on the fact that it’s cheap and I really like the die. I can’t really recommend it to anyone but if you think the die is cool or if your group wants a new drinking game then it might be worth checking out.

At the time of writing there are no supplements for Cthulhu Dice.