Friday, November 2, 2012

Long Shadows

Last night I ran Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition.  My group is one of the 80 odd playtest groups around the world who are playing through the latest iteration of this great game.  I can’t, and won’t, post any specific details of the new rules here, but the guys working on the rules have made it fairly clear, they wouldn’t exactly be upset if I posted my general impressions.  Fair enough.  I’m in a fairly unique position to appreciate what it’s like to be really enthused by a game you’ve created, and to want to see others discussing their impressions in public.

Let me say, first off, Call of Cthulhu is a classic game.  One of the greats.  So, no matter what you do with it, even minor changes are going to displease some people.  More than that, in my experience, there are sub-sets of folks who exclusively like Call of Cthulhu to the virtual exclusion of other games.  So changing the core system under the hood is a contentious and difficult thing, unlikely to be universally praised.  That’s not to say Call of Cthulhu is without fault.  Indeed, long before 7th Edition was a twinkle in Chaosium’s eye, I posted my thoughts on the shortcomings of this great game here.

So, what are my general impressions of the changes?  They’ve definitely moved the game in the right direction.  The changes being proposed will enhance the game experience for many, encourage much greater interaction between players and keeper, and work to combat many of the elements which might characterise a ‘bad’ game.  Like a proud New England villa, the system is being thoughtfully and carefully renovated so that it preserves many of the great traditions, and much of the original character, but adding many modern conveniences.  The technology of gaming interactions has changed over the last 30 years, and I believe the 7th edition rules, assuming the final product resemble those we’ve been testing, moves Call of Cthulhu into the modern era as gracefully and gently as possible.

I also appreciate how the writers have been very responsive to the feedback of the playtest groups.

The strange part of this experience was shifting gear last night back to running Call of Cthulhu again.  I’ve been running EPOCH scenarios almost exclusively over the last month, and it felt almost uncomfortable to move back to dice, character sheets and investigative scenarios.  I immediately wanted to savour the development of the characters using EPOCH elements, or see what kind of story was revealed through flashback scenes.  Perhaps this is just a factor of having EPOCH on the brain a lot recently, so it will be interesting to see if the feeling continues next playest session.  I hope not, Call of Cthulhu has been my go-to game for a long time.

By the way, if you haven't already, you should check out Mash's post on GM shared imaginary space, Dread and EPOCH on Gametime.  Very interesting reading.

What has been your experience, if any, of Call of Cthulhu?  What would you like to see in a new edition?

1 comment:

  1. More options around Sanity. The basic mechanic is a classic for a reason, but it has severe limitations. (One of the reasons I much prefer OGL Horror to CoC D20 was the former's version of sanity/horror rules, which showed the benefit of 20 years of intervening game design.)

    Pulp playstyle support as a core option. Heck, Masks is the archetypal Cthulhu campaign, and it's poorly served by the rules!

    Those are just options. I'd also target the whole skills (inc. combat) and injury mechanics for close attention and possibly major overhaul, but I haven't played or run CoC enough to say anything useful about 'em, just that they haven't won me over so far.

    I'd certainly be interested in some bigger changes to the structural nature of CoC-as-is, and what they'd look like, but CoC has been so successful for so long I think a lot of it is just about codifying GM advice. So maybe add in some principles of play (things like "Say Yes Or Roll The Dice" from Dogs in the vineyard) to achieve that.

    Pleased to hear you're playtesting anyway, can't think of anyone better for the job!