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Welcome back and Happy Valentine’s Day!!

This is where we get a bit more involved as we tackle Call of Cthulhu’s resolution system for Opposed Rolls and Combat. Hope you guys have some coffee or tea with you, because we’re going to hit the ground running.

Opposed Rolls

Call of Cthulhu uses Opposed Rolls mostly for Player vs Player situation, or in Close Combat.

Opposed Rolls are straightforward: The participants have a mutually agreed goal where one wins and the other loses. They both choose a skill to use (with approval of the Keeper) and roll off and compare results.

Opposed Rolls have six possible outcomes: from a Fumble to a Critical Success.

Both rolls are compared to each other, with higher rolls beating lower ones. (Extreme Successes beats Hard Successes, etc.)

Bonus Dice and Penalty Dice

Opposed Rolls also have a sub-mechanic for accounting for bonuses and penalties to rolls in the form of Bonus and Penalty Dice. Both of these function by adding an additional 10’s die which is rolled alongside the d100 for a Skill Roll.

Bonus Dice allow the player to choose the lower of the 10’s dice to count for the roll, while Penalty Dice force the player to choose the higher of the 10’s dice to count for the roll.

Given the math behind this, it’s important for the Bonus and Penalty dice to represent a significant advantage or disadvantage before they come into play.

Combat

Alright, now that we’ve got Opposed Rolls squared away, we can move onto the Combat Rules.

Declaration of Intent

I find myself really liking this particular “rule” in combat: declare intent first. On each player’s turn, the player is prompted to describe what it is that their character is doing in a narrative fashion rather than a mechanical one.

This sounds pretty obvious, and many groups already do this, but it does help the Keeper come up with the Skill Roll required for the action, and helps keep everyone in the story rather than devolving to just looking at numbers.

For a horror game like Call of Cthulhu, this is key.

Fist Fights

The first(!) combat iteration we’ll be tackling is a standard unarmed hand-to-hand combat situation.

These attacks are resolved as an Opposed Roll, where the character being attacked has a choice to try and fight back, or to dodge the attack. This distinction is important as it changes the skills used in the Opposed Roll: Fighting vs. Fighting, or Fighting vs. Dodge

Fighting Back

When fighting back in Call of Cthulhu is that the winner of the Opposed Roll deals damage to the loser. Ties go to the attacker.

Dodging the Attack

If the target chooses to Dodge instead, then the game resolves more like traditional systems, where if the attack rolls better, they deal damage. If the dodging character rolls better, then they avoid damage. Ties go to the defender.

In both cases, if both combatants fail, then no damage takes place.

Damage and Weaponry

Damage for standard unarmed fighting is 1d3 plus any damage bonus from the character’s attributes. Melee Weapons have their own damage stat and are further modified by the character’s damage bonus.

Extreme Damage and Impales

On a successful hit with an Extreme Success, the attacker deals maximum damage and maximum damage bonus (if applicable). However, if the weapon used in the attack can “Impale” such as a knife or a bullet fired from a gun, then the attack deals maximum damage, and an additional damage roll for the weapon (without a damage bonus.)

Fighting Maneuvers

Any action that involves a goal other than simply dealing hand-to-hand damage is categorized as a Fighting Maneuver. This can be anything from disarming an opponent to throwing them out a window.

That was quite the handful. There are some rules bits here that I liked, such as the option to fight back and deal damage on a successful defense, as opposed to waiting for your turn to come around. If anything it shortens combat and raises the stakes and the tension of combat scenes, even for hand-to-hand combat.

Next up, we’ll be taking a look at Ranged Combat in Call of Cthulhu, which, unlike Hand-to-Hand, is not treated as an Opposed Skill Roll.

If you’d like to read along, you can pick up a PDF copy of the Call of Cthulhu Keeper’s Rulebook from DriveThruRPG for only $27.95

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Now that you’ve had a chance to look at how Character Creation works in Call of Cthulhu, let’s start with the rules in the 7th Edition.

The Skill Roll

Call of Cthulhu is a game that relies mostly on percentile (d100) dice. Damage and some other effects are determined by other dice, but the pass-fail mechanic for most of the game relies on a simple percentile roll vs a difficulty set by the Skill of the Investigator.

While this is called a Skill Roll, this mechanic also applies for Characteristics rolls as well.

Determining the Difficulty of the Roll

Skill Rolls come in three types:

  • Regular: Equal to, or below the Skill or Characteristic. This is the most common setting for majority of the rolls called for in the game.
  • Hard: Equal to, or below half of the Skill or Characteristic. This task would challenge a professional, and should only be encountered occasionally.
  • Extreme: Equal to, or below a fifth of the Skill or Characteristic. This would challenge even an expert, and should be a very rare and reserved for truly desperate situations

The Keeper determines the difficulty of the roll, and it’s important to remember if a task is easy, no roll is required.

Opposed Roll Difficulties

Should an Investigator find himself in opposed by someone else, then the difficulty of the roll is determined by the skill level of the opponent:

  • If the opponent has a skill of below 50 or less, then the roll is made against a Regular Difficulty
  • If the opponent has a skill equal to or above 50, then the roll is made against a Hard Difficulty.
  • If the opponent has a skill equal to or above 90, then the roll is made against an Extreme Difficulty.

Call of Cthulhu prefers to take the stance where the players are the ones that roll. Keepers should frame checks from the point of view of the player. An example would be that the players roll Stealth if they’re sneaking up on an opponent, but roll Spot Hidden if the situation is reversed and someone is sneaking up on them.

Success, Failure and Pushing the Roll

In Call of Cthulhu, Skill Rolls basically has the standard Pass/Fail result, but we go one step further by allowing Investigators to re-try a failed test by Pushing the Roll. When Pushing the Roll, the Investigator invests extra time and effort in an attempt to defy failure and eke out victory from a bad situation.

The stakes get higher when pushing a roll, as the Keeper is actually mandated to foreshadow the consequences of failure, which is essentially a means by which the situation gets even worse than a standard failure.

Group Rolls

In some situations, multiple characters can end up rolling. Either due to cooperation, or in order to all try to pass a test. The game provides a few helpful examples of both, and how the Keeper can rule as to what constitutes failure or success.

In cooperative tests, multiple players can roll, and if one of the Investigators succeeds, then the group is considered to have succeeded. However, in tests that involve all the players succeeding the test, such as individually making stealth rolls to try and go where they’re not supposed to as a group, then all the Investigators are discovered when one fails.

Critical Successes, and Fumbles

Rolling a 01 is a reason for celebration, and means that the Investigator making the roll achieves an improved success. Meanwhile, rolling a 96-100 is a Fumble for skill rolls with a difficulty of below 50, and rolling a 100 is a Fumble for skill rolls with a difficulty of 50 and above.

Luck, Know, Intelligence and Idea Rolls

In addition to the Skill Rolls, Call of Cthulhu is also equipped with a suite of key rolls that Players and Keepers can call on:

  • Luck Rolls are called by the Keeper and are used to simulate the fickle nature of fate. Is there a crowbar nearby the unarmed Investigator that was ambushed by cultists? Call for a Luck Roll.
  • Intelligence Rolls are called by the Keeper to determine if the Investigator can find the solution to a puzzle or or riddle.
  • Idea Rolls are called for by the Players when they’re stymied in their investigation. This will help the players get the investigation back on track, rather than hitting a brick wall. Failing an Idea Roll doesn’t mean that the investigation stalls, but rather the cost of getting back on the trail will be more costly.
  • Know Rolls are used to determine if an Investigator would be aware of a particular piece of trivia or information that they might have run into through their Education.

Overall, Call of Cthulhu isn’t a complicated rules system. Percentile systems have always been neat in the sense that even those who aren’t used to RPGs understand how good an Investigator is at a skill just by eyeballing the rating.

That said, there’s quite a few rules gimmicks (Luck rolls and the like) that exist in Call of Cthulhu’s system, and it helps for both the Keeper and the players to know what options they have available to them so they’re never unarmed.

I like that there’s a slant towards being able to keep an investigative trail alive despite failing a test. It keeps players from being too frustrated and doesn’t end a game purely on the basis of bad die rolling.

Next up, we’ll continue the rules as we look into Opposed Rolls and Combat!

If you’d like to read along, you can pick up a PDF copy of the Call of Cthulhu Keeper’s Rulebook from DriveThruRPG for only $27.95


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Welcome to the first part of our Let’s Study series for CoC 7th, and we begin with the creation of an Investigator.

In Call of Cthulhu, player characters come from a huge selection of possible backgrounds, from Detectives to Hobos, and while the Keeper’s Guide has a selection of about 27 different occupations to choose from, the Investigator’s Handbook has a whopping 92 different ones.

Don’t spend too much time reading each of them though. In CoC, it’s better to just go with something that fits your concept and go from there. Minmaxing is not really a thing in CoC given how easy it is to get hurt and die.

Generate Characteristics

Investigators in CoC have the following Characteristics that are used to define them: Strength, Constitution, Size, Dexterity, Appearance, Intelligence, Power and Education.

To determine your scores, you roll (3d6) x 5 to get STR, CON, DEX, APP and POW. While you roll (2d6+6) x 5 for SIZ, INT and EDU.

After a bit of rolling, this is what I’ve come up with, along with their Half and Fifth Characteristic Values (Which I’ll explain later on):

STR 30 (15/6)
CON 80 (40/16)
SIZ 50 (25/5)
DEX 40 (20/8)
APP 55 (27/11)
INT 55 (27/11)
POW 25 (12/5)
EDU 55 (27/11)

These values may still be altered by the choice of age for the Investigator.  But since I’m keeping my investigator in their 20’s or 30’s, I only have to make an improvement check for EDU to see if it goes up.

Improvement Checks are a special percentile roll to determine if an attribute increases. If the result of a d100 is greater than the character’s present EDU, then add 1d10 percentage points to the EDU characteristic.

I roll a 1(!?) which basically means I don’t get any increase to my rather lukewarm EDU Score.

The Investigator’s Sanity score begins at the same level as their POW. I’m starting to worry as it seems that my character looks a little prone when it comes to that department.

Determine Luck

To obtain the Luck score for the character, one rolls (3d6) x 5. Luck is useful for all sorts of things, but again, we’ll go into further detail when we hit the mechanics chapter.

The dice gods smile upon me and bestow my investigator a luck of 75.

Determine Other Attributes

Here’s when we determine the Damage Bonus and Build characteristics, as well as the Hit Points and Movement Rate of the Investigator.

Looking up the chart, I see that my character’s STR+SIZ is a less than impressive 80, meaning that I have a Damage Bonus of -1 and a Build of -1.

Hit Points are determined by adding CON+SIZ and dividing the total by 10 for an end result of 13 Hit Points. My Investigator might not be particularly strong, or fast, but they can take a bit of punishment!

Movement Rate is the number of yards (or meters) up to 5x their Movement Rate value in one round. Since my Investigator’s STR and DEX values are each less than his SIZ score, then his Movement Rate is 7.

Determine Occupation

An occupation shows how an investigator makes a living, and determines what kinds of skills they have access to. Given my Investigator’s rather bland spread of Characteristics, I decide to go for a Drifter. This gives me:

Skills: Climb, Jump, Listen, Navigate, one interpersonal skill (Charm, Fast Talk, Intimidate or Persuade), Stealth, any two other skills.
Credit Rating: 0–5
Occupation Skill Points: EDU x 2 + either APP x 2, DEX x 2 or STR x 2

I decide to go with EDU x 2 + App x 2 to determine my skills, giving me 220 Skill Points to work with.

After a bit of points juggling, I decide to spend it on:

Skill (Base Chance) Value [TOTAL]

Climb (20%) 26 [46%]
Dodge (Half DEX) 33 [53%]
Fast Talk (05%) 26 [31%]
Firearms (Handgun) (20%) 26 [46%]
Jump (20%) 16 [36%]
Listen (20%) 26 [56%]
Navigate (10%) 16 [26%]
Stealth (20%) 26 [56%]
Credit Rating: 5%

It’s not the greatest set of scores, but it’ll have to do. It looks like my Investigator was a bit of a survivor.

Personal Interests

Investigators also have other experiences and skills gained outside of their occupation. This is represented by a number of Skill Points equal to their INT x 2 and alloted to any skills, except the Cthulhu Mythos.

This gives me a further 110 points, which I decide to spend on Dodge +37%, Stealth +34%, Firearms +19% and the remaining 20% on Fast Talk.

That brings my totals to:

Climb 46%
Dodge (Half DEX) 90%
Fast Talk 51%
Firearms (Handgun) 65%
Jump 36%
Listen 56%
Navigate 26%
Stealth 90%
Credit Rating: 5

Create a Backstory

Interestingly enough, Call of Cthulhu actually does care for a backstory for the investigators. But if you’re doing things randomly, the game also provides for several tables to roll on to see your character’s Backstory unfold.

To that end I decide to roll for everything and this is what I get:

  • Personal Description – Stocky
  • Ideology / Beliefs – Science has all the answers
  • Significant People – A famous person. Because they caused you financial ruin.
  • Meaningful Locations – A local bar
  • Treasured Possessions – A memento of a deceased person
  • Traits – Suave

Equipping the Investigator

Given my Investigator’s abysmal credit rating of 5 (and assuming a default setting of the 1920’s,) my Investigator only has cash of about $5, Assets of about $50 and a Spending Level of $2.

At least this means that I can afford a $25 .22 Short Automatic Handgun for “Emergencies” and my usual daily expenses suited to my Credit Rating are paid for, which honestly, isn’t saying much.

For the curious, the .22 Short Automatic Handgun deals 1d6 damage with a Base range of 10 yards, and has 6 bullets in the gun. It’s pretty reliable and yes, if you’ve been paying attention, that means it’s entirely possible for my beefy Investigator to die by being shot 3 or 4 times.

There are guns that deal worse damage, of course. The famous .45 Automatic Pistols deal 1d10+2 damage.

Character creation is straightforward and pretty easy if you don’t mind allotting a whole bunch of skill points. Given the nature of the game I don’t think it’s a bad thing either.

Next up, we’ll have a look at the Basic Mechanics behind Call of Cthulhu.

If you’d like to read along, you can pick up a PDF copy of the Call of Cthulhu Keeper’s Rulebook from DriveThruRPG for only $27.95

 


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In some ways, this is the Let’s Study series that I have long promised myself, and yet feared doing the most. My first experience with Call of Cthulhu was when I played the amazing Masks of Nyarlathotep campaign for the 6th Edition, and while it has been years since that run (which I never finished,) the experience has left quite an impression.

And so when I had a chance to take on Call of Cthulhu again with the 7th Edition, I decided to just go ahead and do it.

A New Edition For A New Generation

Call of Cthulhu is a horror RPG firmly set in the worlds of the writings of H.P. Lovecraft, whose work has inspired countless different kinds of work from movies, videogames, novels and even anime.

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Who knew the Crawling Chaos also had this sort of form?

In any case, the rules of the RPG haven’t had a significant change in terms of mechanics. It uses the Chaosium Basic Roleplaying system as its backbone. For those unfamiliar with it, don’t worry, I’ll be going over the, erm, basics when we hit that installment of the Let’s Study Series.

Investigation & Insanity

The primary conceit of the game is that you’re playing Investigators who find themselves stumbling into the sanity-blasting horror of the world. This can take a myriad of forms from horrific acts of violence (or seeing the aftermath of such,) to actually having the misfortune of seeing (and comprehending) the horrors of the Lovecraft Mythos.

But is it too old school?

Few games have been long enough to boast having seven entire editions without major rules overhauls. But that does raise the question of whether or not the mechanics are good enough for today’s gaming sensibilities? In the era and industry boasting of more “Narrative” games, does Call of Cthulhu still have what it takes to run with the best of them?

Call of Cthulhu is one of those games that just consistently give me solid results in horror games. Players are nervous, jumpy and always walk away talking about the game for many, many months after. Few other games I’ve run have had a consistent batting average for sheer fear factor.

Next up: The Making of an Investigator.

If you’d like to read along, you can pick up a PDF copy of the Call of Cthulhu Keeper’s Rulebook from DriveThruRPG for only $27.95


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Running Infinity

As expected, this section opens with a Game Mastering 101 section to help new GMs ease into the role. It’s a good entry, but a part of me worries that after having to go through all the other dense rules in the game, I hope that new GMs learn to flip to this chapter first and get their expectations set properly before they get a chance to be scared off by how thick the book is.

It covers a quick summary of the usual good to know bits of GMing, before finally giving a structure to the game. The tips on agenda, filling out the frame with details and cutting a scene are genuinely helpful, and are worth reading even if this isn’t your first rodeo as a GM. I know I have problems with ending up with empty scenes that don’t push an agenda, so seeing this addressed is great.

The book then goes into how to use the rules properly, from setting difficulties to managing Momentum and of course, running Action Scenes. Finally, it finishes with a few new rules on how to create scenarios incorporating the Wilderness of Mirrors.

Adversaries

The adversaries chapter contains all the rules that are necessary to manage the opponents that the players will be mowing down. Adversaries are categorized as Troopers, Elites and Nemeses, with each category representing a degree of capability and danger to the player characters.

Troopers are your regular mob that only roll 1d20 on tests and have their stress values halved. Also they go down after suffering one Wound or Metanoia before being eliminated, or one Breach before their systems fail.

Elites are much tougher, and suffer two Wounds or Metanoia before being eliminated and two Breaches before their network is shut down.

A Nemesis is a very dangerous opponent who has the full range of skills and abilities that calculate stress and harm as players do.

There’s also some rules on generating Fireteams, as most of the enemies you’ll run into will be operating in an organized fashion as opposed to being just a single guy with a gun (though in those moments, it might be best to pray it’s not a Nemesis)

The chapter finishes with a large selection of adversaries ranging from criminals to aliens, so you’ll not run out of things to throw at your players anytime soon. Kickstarter backers also get in here as special NPCs with full writeups. I especially fond the combat medic in a purple dinosaur lhost body to be incredibly inspired and will likely feature that character in my own Infinity campaigns.


Review

Reading the corebook for Infinity is a bit of a challenge, but like most challenges the payoff is worth it. I dove into the RPG with the slimmest of ideas of what it was. That it was based off a tabletop miniatures skirmish game, and that it featured anime-ish aesthetics. The Philippines was mentioned as being part of the dominant Hyperpower in the setting.  That was it.

But like in my experience in reading through the Star Trek Adventures RPG  by Modiphius, Infinity is one of those worlds that really pay off to sit down and read. The Setting is a lot to chew through, but the scope of the game expands the game from being merely one where you have paramilitary forces shooting guns at each other to other conflicts and battlegrounds beyond that of Warfare. The Psyops and Inforwar sections in particular were a favorite of mine.

The layout and artwork is great, with probably the only design piece that made me questioning it a bit being that one girl in a miniskirt rappelling down a rope while firing a pistol in the cover. Aside from that, everything is pretty much awesome.

The writing can be a bit dense, but the design sensibilities behind it are rock solid. I wish there was a better way to get ideas across without the use of terms like “intransigience” but I suppose that was deliberate to convey the high-tech nature of the setting.

Overall, Infinity is a win.It hits all the major buttons for a sci-fi universe, and the system is robust enough to run pretty much anything you’d want. GMs can zoom in or out, having players participate in grandiose schemes that decide the fate of entire worlds, or focus on the everyday struggles of a pack of criminals trying to make do. It’s all possible, and no matter what you’d like to try, there’s likely a solid backbone of hypertech material to make it work.

If you liked Infinity, you can grab the PDF from DriveThruRPG for only $24.99!