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Things That Go Bump (cont'd)

We finished The Haunting last night; I haven't finished writing up a synopsis of the first session yet, so I'll save my synopsis of last night's session until I get that done.

I do have some observations about Call of Cthulhu however. The first thing that really stands out to me is how much more dense of a game it feels like. Compared to the pizza-and-root-beer of Dungeons and Dragons, CoC is a rich meal at a good restaurant. The players were constantly probing for details, trying to make connections, and carefully following up on leads. As the GM, I had to do a lot of thinking on my feet, coming up with relevant details that would provide clues without becoming spoilers, and creating NPCs. Some of the NPC names were not exactly brilliant ... an Italian priest named "Father Sarducci," a pair of cops named "Bert and Ernie," etc., but in some ways that made it all the more shocking when Father Sarducci was ripped to shreds by an unknown horror [1], or when Ernie was mind-controlled by the baddie and shot Bert dead on the spot.

It was also fun watching the players get into the horror; jamesbarrett's author now has quite the smoking problem ("I'll be fine in a minute, really ... I just need a cigarette..."), sirfox's bright young lawyer now has a tendency to whimper, and hantamouse's police detective just scrunches his eyes shut in aggrieved befuddlement. Thanks to friendly dice, the characters didn't actually lose that much SAN [2], but what SAN they lost definitely left its mark.

All in all, it was a fun game. :) I still don't really care for the BRP ruleset, so I'm definitely going to stick with SAGA Edition for Uncanny Midnight Tales; I can see why its devotees like it, however. It's simple, fast, and for the most part stays out of the way, all of which is good. On the other hand, it's very "swingy" — percentile rolls tend to be either spectacular successes or utter failures, and one or two "impales" in combat can quickly bring down either an investigator or a foe. That's largely intentional, I realize; in the context of CoC combat is something you generally want the players to avoid. But sooner or later they're going to be put into a situation where they have little or no choice, and you can hardly blame players for being annoyed if they feel like they've been railroaded into instant death.

The BRP system could probably be tweaked to fix those problems, with higher base skill levels, more hit points, impales only happening on 01-03 or so, that kind of thing, but if I was going to overhaul the system anyway, there's no point in not sticking with a base I like better. (Actually, simply dividing everything by 5 and making it a d20 check instead of d% would be a good start. It would certainly make the math a lot less intrusive.)

-The Gneech

[1] Well, I know what the horror was, but the players don't. ;)
[2] In fact, jamesbarrett ended up +1 at the end thanks to the post-adventure SAN award.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 9th, 2008 03:36 pm (UTC)
The divide by 5 and roll a d20 to smooth things out is one of the reasons why CoC d20 remains so popular. I'm preferable to BRP for Cthulhu, but the d20 version is a mighty fine book and well worth playing as well.
Nov. 9th, 2008 05:00 pm (UTC)
Yeah, d20 CoC is a nice piece of work. If you can lay hands on a copy, it might simplify the SAGA conversion.

I need to dig up mine, I think, for my Mutants & Masterminds game set in a Lovecraft Country version of Gotham.

On the other hand, it's very "swingy" — percentile rolls tend to be either spectacular successes or utter failures...

You know, when I went back to D&D's flat d20 rolls after years of dice-pool games like Ironclaw and Storyteller, and 3d6 bell-curve games like GURPS and Champions, it seemed very "swingy" to me, too.

It still does, really, but the only "d20" game I play now is M&M. "Swingy" isn't in appropriate for a superhero setting, and M&M's "Hero Point" mechanics can moderate the wilder swings.

Edited at 2008-11-09 05:07 pm (UTC)
Nov. 9th, 2008 05:37 pm (UTC)
Two words for a reference when you need names: phone book. :)
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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