Archive for the ‘Roleplaying Games’ Category

The Players Who Made Me

Posted: June 14, 2018 by pointyman2000 in Articles, Roleplaying Games

I had a conversation with my wife last night over the topic of GMing and how I’ve learned and improved in it thanks to the experience of running for so many remarkable players over the course of several years.

It felt like a good topic to bring up on the blog, and so I’m making it public. I’m a pretty good GM, and I attribute much of my ability to the following people whose playing style has been instrumental to my current skill.

And so I’d like to thank the following players:

Christine – My wife, whose playing style of long-term planning and strategizing, paired with cunning in-character social skills has taught me to look at everything from both long-term and short-term lenses. She’s disabled an evening’s worth of planning with a clever trick more than once, and I’m a more flexible GM in terms of plans and improvisation because of it.

Ken – Gambler and fast-talker, Ken is the tactical genius who can pull the rug from under you if you so much as blink. He’ll take the path that you discounted because nobody in their sane mind would try it, and he’ll make it look like he planned every step of the way. He’s also a skillful liar who can keep a story straight despite having to tell it to six different parties with different agendas while skewing each one to get the to do exactly what he wants them to do.

Paulo – An idealist with a focus on mechanics, Paulo plays his character to the hilt, and has the chops necessary to lay down the hurt if you actually call him on it. He’s capable of keeping the game on point, and will follow a plot with the kind of trust that only writers can dream of.

Alfonse – Mechanical savant paired with the single-minded obsession of a detective on a case, Alphonse is the last person you want to find the smoking gun. He’ll smash through obstacles and go so deep down the rabbit hole to find the clues he needs, and have the mechanical ability to fight his way back up against anything you can throw at him.

Miguel – More reliable than the Sun. When Miguel says he’ll do something, he’ll do it. And while that leads to some very interesting situations, he can be trusted to hold his own in any situation. He’s a great force multiplier and works great with other team members.

Gino – Gino is a player who can, if left alone, get himself into support position and disable any prep that the villains have with ease. His social skills are smooth as silk, and his unique positioning as a “Support Main” makes him a force multiplier in terms of mechanical advantage that any group would benefit greatly from having him around.

Ricky – Lateral thinking personified. Trying to keep up with his planning is to court madness. But like the saying goes, there’s a method to the madness and before you know it he’ll spring his plan on you and you’re completely left defenseless from this scheme.

On any other day, these players (if properly motivated) could wreak havok on a table. I’ve seen them reduce a carefully plotted adventure into a smouldering wreck and I would heartily recommend any GM I know to try running for these guys one time to see if they can hack it.

Every player I’ve run for brings something unique to the table, but these guys have earned their place in my mind as being instrumental for making me the GM that I am (nervous tick and all) today.

If anyone’s up to it, let me know. I’ll see if I can’t round up the gang and play a game. After all, I’d like to see what kind of player I’d be once I’m on the other side of the screen.



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Green Ronin’s new Modern AGE RPG is coming out at a great time for me. I’ve always had a soft spot for modern day action-adventure RPGs that don’t necessarily revolve around Heist stories.

I’ve had fun with D20 Modern and SpyCraft rulesets before, but since then, there’s been a bit of a lull in paramilitary / modern rules. Until now, of course. So I’m throwing myself at checking out this new release and see if I can’t use it for a new campaign sometime.

For those new to my blog, the Let’s Study series is a multi-part review of a game and it’s mechanics. Along the way we’ll make a character, give the combat system a quick shakedown and maybe even a sample campaign pitch if I’m struck with inspiration.

The book opens with a quick introduction to RPGs and how to get started. This is a pretty much by-the-numbers section, but definitely paints the Modern AGE core book as an introductory product for people who might not have had experience with RPGs before.

The Modes

The book then goes into describing three Modes that make up the options for running a Modern AGE game. These Modes change the rules in a way to address certain popular ways that Modern Adventures are portrayed. These Modes are:

  • Gritty – The most “realistic” of options, this is the Mode where a single bullet can put a character out of a fight, and there’s no such thing as a minor fight.
  • Pulpy – Pulp games are a little more forgiving than the Gritty mode. The heroes start tough, and get tougher as they gain levels. This doesn’t mean they can just kick down the door guns blazing though, as combat will still likely leave the characters hurting.
  • Cinematic – This Mode is the most forgiving for the players, as they get tougher, acquire influence, and pull off the most heroic stunts in the game.

This alone is a great start for me, as it means that there’s more than one kind of modern-day game that the rules can support. From Call of Cthulhu style investigative games with fragile investigators (using the Gritty Mode) to something a bit closer to Spycraft’s Techno-thriller Espionage with the Cinematic Mode.

Next up, we’ll be taking a peek at character creation and see how flexible the Modern AGE ruleset is!

If you want to grab a copy of Modern AGE, they’re selling the pdf over at the Green Ronin Online Store for only $18.95


DISCLAIMER: This review is based off a copy that was generously provided by Chaosium, Inc.

With the recent surge of popularity of Call of Cthulhu among local gamers in the Philippines, Petersen’s Abominations comes in with some really fortuitous timing. The local community of rpg gamers are big on hosting mini conventions, and with this, Keepers have a selection of five modern-day scenarios from Sandy Petersen himself!

Art and Layout

Presented in the gorgeous full-color format of the 7th edition line of Call of Cthulhu, Petersen’s Abominations also boasts of some delightfully troubling illustrations perfect for setting the mood or making an impression new and veteran CoC investigators alike.

Scenario Design

Given that each of the five scenarios are meant for convention play, Petersen’s Abominations delivers punchy scenarios that don’t waste time getting to the freaky stuff. That said, the scenarios don’t scrimp on detail either , and each one has the necessary maps, handouts, NPCs and background information that I’ve come to expect from Chaosium.

In addition, the book also provides the Keeper with ready-made investigators for each scenario, complete with a backstory and roleplaying tips to better integrate them into each game.

Keepers would do well to study each scenario carefully, as convention games require you to be a little bit more on the ball, with less tolerance for dead air as you flip through the book to figure out the next bit of the plot.

My personal favorite of the Scenarios in the book is chapter three: “Panacea” which is a fun Mythos take on a modern day body horror. I can’t spoil much of it, but the premise of the scenario and the discoveries that the investigators are meant to discover are definitely the sort to keep people awake at night.


Petersen’s Abominations joins the rest of the 7th Edition library of high quality releases. While the scenarios can’t quite be strung together to a campaign (not without a bit of elbow grease) they’re perfect for a one-shot. Players new to Call of Cthulhu will be able to bring in their modern sensibilities into play and discover that even with cellphones and the internet, the Mythos still finds a way to bring the crippling sense of helplessness and isolation to the poor investigators.

I recommend this book to Keepers looking to have something ready to run as an introduction to horror gaming and the Mythos. With a ton of work already done, and the ready-made investigators, this book is definitely a solid purchase.

You can get a copy of Petersen’s Abominations over at the Chaosium website for $19.95


Disclosure: The copy of Two-Headed Serpent I used for this review was provided to me by the fine folk at Chaosium.

If there’s one thing that the pulp genre is known for, it would be the globe-trotting adventures that some of its most well known heroes go through. Chaosium knows this quite well, and had a hell of a follow up to the already impressive Pulp Cthulhu with the release of a 272 page hardcover campaign.

Preparing to run

The Two-Headed Serpent continues Chaosium’s legacy of well organized and extremely detailed adventures. It opens with an introductory chapter to help the Keeper get his bearings. This details the key plot points of the campaign, a history background of the villains and major factions, and possibly the most important: guidelines for the creation of Heroes meant to play in this campaign.

There’s a wonderful sidebar about how to run the game in classic pulp fashion, with a most telling statement:

“The Keeper should also look for opportunities to have nonplayer characters (NPCs) pass important information to the heroes, whether through interrogation, gloating, or attempting to play the heroes off against a shared enemy—this is a different approach to most traditional Call of Cthulhu games, where investigators are expected to be thorough in their search for clues; in Pulp Cthulhu, the clues are usually only there to point the way to the next action scene.”

That definitely caught my attention. I loved what I read in Pulp Cthulhu, but to see them double down and repeat this in Two-Headed Serpent was something I really appreciated.

This isn’t to say that the campaign is easy though.

Globe-trotting Adventure!

The campaign itself takes place across nine different adventures from exotic locales such as war-torn Bolivia to the streets of New York. Each location is an fully-fleshed out adventure, with NPCs, complications and plot details fleshed out as the Heroes take on the malign forces that are conspiring to bring about the end of the world as we know it!

I’m unable to give too much information here, but as a Keeper, reading through the entire adventure fills me with giddy excitement as there are some genuinely good plot hooks and twists and turns that will make for excellent conversations post-play.

Playtest commentary

I would be remiss if I didn’t compliment the authors for including Playtest notes and commentary to the adventures. We all know that no plan survives contact with the players, so being able to see how Keepers dealt with or handled certain cases in the playtests were enlightening.


The book caps off with a few Appendices including details of recurring NPCs, spells and technology, pre-generated characters and details of a particularly grisly procedure that would spoil a great deal so I can’t talk about it here.


Two-Headed Serpent is to Pulp Cthulhu what Masks of Nyarlathotep is for standard Call of Cthulhu: A must have campaign that brings out the best of the setting, presented in a fashion that is helpful for the Keeper and brimming with brilliant and thrilling ideas.

If you liked Hellboy’s take on occult horror meets pulp, then you’ll instantly love The Two-Headed Serpent. With fantastic art, and full-color maps and handouts, the players are in for a wild ride.

To summarize? Go get it. There’s really not much else to say. Two-Headed Serpent is a perfect companion to the Pulp Cthulhu supplement and will be the source of many hours of excellent gaming.

You can get a copy of The Two-Headed Serpent on PDF for $22.50 from Chaosium or from DriveThruRPG

Review: Pulp Cthulhu

Posted: April 19, 2018 by pointyman2000 in Call of Cthulhu, Reviews, Roleplaying Games
Tags: , ,

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Disclosure: The PDF copy of Pulp Cthulhu that I’m reviewing today is a review copy that I was able to receive from the fine people of Chaosium Inc.

Now here’s a game that a lot of people have wanted for quite some time now. Pulp Cthulhu is a more heroic take on the classic Call of Cthulhu game, with Heroes possessed of more advantages and abilities that make them better than the normal Investigator, and yet still vulnerable when facing the horrors of the Cthulhu Mythos.

Along with it are a host of Pulp tropes common to the genre: Weird Science, Mesmerism and Daring Deeds… all of which add that delightfully weird pulp twist to the classic horror angle. Of course, the game is not without it’s terrifying antagonists, against the Heroes are villainous cults, alien horrors and outlandish monsters.

Pulp Cthulhu also pushes the setting towards the 1930’s and all the changes that go with it. As with any Call of Cthulhu Product, the research on this and the details they’re able to provide the Keeper with are remarkable and I can run a game with full confidence in the 30’s knowing that I have access to all that information. It’s a splendid reference for the era that can serve as a sturdy reference for any game set in the age.

The Pulps

The book opens up with a thorough discussion of the Pulps as literature. Its roots in the 1930’s and the various genres that were prominent in the era were highlighted. Of course, the chapter then zooms in to focus on the horror genre, which definitely left quite the impression as evidenced by the enduring love for the Lovecraftian horror to this day.

Creating Pulp Heroes

Pulp Cthulhu adds several new mechanics atop the standard Investigator character creation system to produce Heroes. Among them is choosing a Pulp Archetype, which bestows a Core Attribute that the character specializes in, additional Skill Points to distribute to skills that belong to the Archetype, and access to special Talents.

These Pulp Talents provide small mechanical advantages to a Hero beyond that of just simple increases to Attributes and Skills. These aren’t “super-powers” by any stretch of the imagination as much as edges that the Hero possesses. An example would be Night Vision, which reduces the difficulty of Spot Hidden rolls in the dark, and deducts a Penalty Die when firing a weapon in the dark.

Heroes also differ from Investigators in that they’re much hardier, with their Hit Points being double the number of Hit Points of a standard Investigator!

The character creation section also features a hearty selection of Pulp-themed Occupations that you can use including Gangster and Big Game Hunter.

Pulp Organizations

This caught me quite by surprise. While it was a Pulp staple, the idea of having organizations in a Cthulhu game was a surprise to me. This is because of how I’ve associated Call of Cthulhu as a game of isolation and lack of resources. Helplessness was the order of the day.

Adding organizations that give a structure and backup for the Heroes do fit very well, and I believe I felt a little tingle in my World of Darkness heart at the thought of being part of a *cough* conspiracy that knows the truth.

Sample Heroic and villainous organizations are introduced in Pulp Cthulhu, and they’re very well written. Each one has a ton of plot hooks and can very well support a campaign on their own (something, I believe that is done with The Two-Headed Serpent campaign for Pulp Cthulhu.)

Game Systems

This is the meat and potatoes of Pulp Cthulhu. Included here are new ways to spend Luck in order to buy Pulp-style harm avoidance, or resisting Sanity Loss. In line with this, they also introduce rules that allow for Heroes to survive near impossible odds. Rules such as the Major Wound from Call of Cthulhu are ignored, resulting in characters capable of much more in combat.

Mook rules are also introduced, and are average statted thugs that go down when they take damage equal to half their hit points. Rounding this chapter off is a selection of Optional Rules such as dual wielding weapons (like twin pistols, just like the Pulps!) and other combat-related tweaks.

Pulp Sanity is also covered in it’s own chapter, and it looks like the Heroes are still vulnerable to being driven insane. The most interesting aspect introduced would be the optional Insane Talents, which become available once a character suffers sanity loss. These are high-risk, high-reward talents that are added to the hero after it is first revealed. It’s a neat mechanic, and I’m eager to see it in play.

Pulp Magic, Psychic Powers and Weird Science!

Among the chapters of the game this was perhaps the one I wanted to check out the most. In many ways, this was perhaps the part that would pretty much push Call of Cthulhu towards strange new vectors given what Heroes could do that Investigators could not.

I won’t go into too much detail here as to not spoil anything but the team did a great job in presenting tweaks to the magic system, and introducing psychic powers and gadgets that played up the mood of the Pulps without turning it into something like Deadlands.

While some of the Psychic Powers can certainly cut investigations short, the fact that you’re exposing your mind to potentially terrifying trauma is a very expensive trade-off.

Running Pulp Games, The 1930’s and Villains

Never one to let the Keepers run unprepared, Chaosium continues their excellent support for new Keepers with three chapters aimed solely to address their needs. As a non-US citizen and having never been to the US, this is a godsend, as it helps flesh out details that I wouldn’t have gleaned through watching period movies.


Finally the book wraps up with four solid scenarios that cleave to the Pulps that inspired them while still having that familiar weird horror sting of the Cthulhu Mythos. Each one is splendidly detailed (perhaps intimidatingly so) but with careful study, Keepers should be able to pull off some very memorable pulp games.

Review and Conclusion

Pulp Cthulhu is one of those products that could very easily have been done wrong. It’s a genre full of easy cop-outs and shortcuts, but Chaosium stuck to their guns and delivered on all fronts.

Players get to play Heroes rather than “ordinary” investigators, and there’s a boatload of optional rules to make the game interesting. But it never loses sight of the fact that you’re still up against the Cthulhu Mythos.

You might be able to confront the creatures of the mythos to some extent, but Pulp Cthulhu only promises that you can go down swinging rather than screaming and that’s not a bad thing.

You can order a hardcover copy of Pulp Cthulhu over at Chaosium for $44.95 (plus shipping)

DrivethruRPG also sells the PDF for $22.50