Call of Cthulhu questions

Charlie D

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Before I wade into the BRP forum I thought I'd ask here. I've slowly been building up to running Call of Cthulhu more often. But there are a few oddities about the RPG that I'd love to hear more about from long term Keepers out there. And yes, I expected CoC to have oddities but this bits are really, truly, mysteriously weird.

First why is movement optional in combat? Don't PCs run away a lot? This is a serious question and I'm really curious. The game has a flamethrower skill and an artillery skill but starting range is missing for combat and movement is optional. Honestly puzzled that after 39 years movement in combat (and starting range) are not core rules. I don't want hit locations or complicated initiative, but movement in combat is not core? Starting range is not included? So my unarmed librarian doesn't know if she is 50 feet from the thug with a gun or 5 feet? And my track star student doesn't want to fight ever but there are not core rules on my running away in combat? This one really puzzles me.

Are there "high level" player characters? I've looked at a lot of adventures and many pregens. Most are unarmed librarians and old professors. But seriously, does Chaosium have any advanced adventures with experienced PCs as pregens? I'd like to look at them. I assume any long living CoC investigator is heavily armed, has booze, has lower Sanity, may know some magic spells, might have alien tech, and likely lives in as close to a fortress as possible. Do CoC PCs keep armed watches at night? Again, serious questions because in all my studying of CoC I can't seem to find pregens of experienced PCs.Why is that? Isn't that an untapped field of possible adventures?

I ask because the game has all this magic and weird tech and yet no pregens have magic or weird tech. That seems really odd to me. I'd think you'd want to allow players to cut loose every once and a while and play experienced investigator without having to claw their way there themselves.

Do you actually use the artillery and flamerthrower skills enough to see the skills advance? Again, I'm serious. A flamethrower? Does that skill actually get used and if not why is it still in the game after 39 years? And what is up with hypnosis? I can see it is useful but what a really truly strange highly narrow skill.

None of these things will stop me from running CoC. But they puzzle me. I'm hoping some of you can share your experiences. Thanks!
 

The Butcher

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Good questions. Placeholder post, will edit in an actual response later.
 

NinjaWeasel

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First why is movement optional in combat? Don't PCs run away a lot? This is a serious question and I'm really curious.
It's not really optional. Now I'm not sure what edition you're reading but I've got 7th Edition at hand so I'm pulling some quotes from that.

On p.102, under "Actions in a Combat Round", it describes one of the possible actions a character can take as "To flee from the combat". Primarily I think this is referring to close combat. To which it adds on p.108, under "Escaping Close Combat", the following:

A character can use their action to flee melee combat on their turn in the order of combat, providing they have an escape route and are not physically restrained.
Then on p.127, in a section on "Optional Rules" under the heading "Movement During Combat", it says this:

Combat is usually described narratively, so the distance between combatants is rarely measured precisely. It is more often expressed in approximate and subjective terms such as "arm’s reach," "close," "across the room," "away down the alley," etc. If it seems that distance should be an issue in a particular fight, the following rules should be used. The maximum distance a character can move in one combat round is equal to their MOV rating multiplied by 5, in yards.
Despite being placed under "Optional Rules", I don't think that it's all that optional. More that it's not necessary in every combat. So "occasional" rather than "optional".

In addition to that, on p.113 under "Fast-Moving Targets (Penalty die)", it discusses that the speed of a moving target (presumably one running for cover or fleeing) has an adverse affect on being hit with firearms, and you would assume other ranged attacks. It says this:

A target that is moving at full speed (MOV 8 or more) is hard to hit; apply one penalty die.
So there are some rules there for your Track Star who wants to flee from trouble. As GM/Keeper you can set the distances and calculate how far they can get from a threat and also how hard they are to hit with a ranged attack whilst fleeing.

Starting range is not included? So my unarmed librarian doesn't know if she is 50 feet from the thug with a gun or 5 feet?
Apologies if I've misunderstood what you mean here, as I don't recall seeing the term "starting range" used before (and I've been playing since 1986/87!), so I'm guessing your exact meaning. I assume you're referring to the range that each opponent is from a player character at the start of a combat. In this case, as mentioned in the quote above, CoC doesn't usually rely on combat grids (being geared more towards Theatre of the Mind style play) so the range doesn't need to be exact. In your example, if my interpretation is correct, I'm not sure why you would need a rule here instead of just telling the Librarian's player the distance, or a rough approximation at least.

Range is something that can be important when using firearms. On p.112 there are rules for "Range and Firearms Difficulty Levels". Each weapon (listed on pp.401-405) has a Base Range listed. Other ranges, of which there are only two (Long Range and Very Long Range), can be calculated from the Base Range.


Do you actually use the artillery and flamerthrower skills enough to see the skills advance? Again, I'm serious. A flamethrower? Does that skill actually get used and if not why is it still in the game after 39 years? And what is up with hypnosis? I can see it is useful but what a really truly strange highly narrow skill.
A lot of how useful these specific skills are will depend on the era/setting your playing in. If I was running a game set in a Boer War/WWI/WWII/Vietnam War setting then the Artillery skill might come in very handy! The flamethrower is a weapon that I find is pretty useful against assorted hordes of creatures/monsters in any horror setting. I guess it comes down to both the GM and Players having a good handle on the setting and finding ways to bring these things into the action. If I see a player has "Flamethrower 40%" I will try to work it into the game. If they're rooting out monsters then that should be easy. If they're dealing with diplomacy and social intrigue... probably less easy!
 
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Charlie D

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Lots of good answers.
I know I can cobble together the optional move rules, determine my own starting ranges, determine when to use skills. I'm really trying to look at how CoC is actually written to be played, not how it is actually played.

It reads like partial theater of the mind but there are feet ranges for weapons, cone attacks in feet, and other precise measurements. There are strangely extremely specific skills and very broad ones.

I'm not against any of this, I'm just surprised that after seven editions the game still reads just a bit better than AD&D 1E when it comes to combat rules. The ideas are great and I can force the rules to work (I've run straight BRP which is much clearer) I'm just trying to understand if my experience is unique or common. Sounds like it is more common.

For example, with skills it says don't have a PC have to succeed at many skills to succeed unless you want the task to be really difficult. But the default rule for group stealth is to have everyone roll and if anyone fails the group is detected. I'm assuming no group ever actually sneaks in CoC correct? Because the odds of five or six PCs each making a roll to sneak around and having every roll succeed seems highly unlikely. I would think this would be obvious but it is still a rule. It is just weird.

Again, I'm just trying to wrap my head around it. I know I can hammer the rules a bit to make them do what I want. I just want to see what I'm pounding on before I start whaling away.
 

Charlie D

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Also still curious if advanced pregens and adventures are available from anyone, even third parties. Because if not, that will the weirdest thing yet. All these decades of CoC and no advanced scenarios?
 

NinjaWeasel

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Also still curious if advanced pregens and adventures are available from anyone, even third parties. Because if not, that will the weirdest thing yet. All these decades of CoC and no advanced scenarios?
I can't help you with this bit at the moment but perhaps later, if no one beats me to it, I can find time to go through some of my other books. Pulp Cthulhu
almost certainly has something but those characters might be further away from what you want in other respects.

As for the measurements, yeah, I agree that it's a little confused in some places. The switching between specifics and abstracts I can mostly deal with okay but I don't like the switching between feet and yards (I'm not good with converting yards to feet, or vice versa, on the fly). More consistency in approach would've been a good thing for a core book.
 

Charlie D

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Combat range or combat distance from Basic D&D 1981 as an example:

The situation in which the encounter occurs often determines how far away the monster is. If there is uncertainty, the encounter distance may be determined
randomly:
▶▶ Dungeon: 2d6 × 10 feet.
▶▶ Wilderness: 4d6 × 10 yards (or 1d4 × 10 yards if either side is surprised).
▶▶ Waterborne: 4d6 × 10 yards (or 1d4 × 10 yards if either side is surprised).

Simple and easy and one paragraph.

In the new Alien RPG Detection rules determine when combat starts and how far opponents are.
 

NinjaWeasel

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Never been a big fan of D&D so if I'd read that paragraph (I probably have) I'd forgotten it. I can't recall ever reading anything similar in other games, but then it's not the kind of rule I think I'd make much use of so it would be easy for me to forget about if I had. I've only partially read the Alien rulebook, which was a few months back now, and I don't think I'd got to that part.
 

finarvyn

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Been a while since I ran CoC but I think that "advanced" characters mostly have more skills. Hit points trace back to a stat (body?) and isn't one of those things that increases a lot as you advance, unless you are looking at the d20 version.

My frustration with CoC is that characters really aren't supposed to "win" but mostly survive until they run out of sanity. I've been looking recently at the Free League game Vaesen which feels a lot like CoC but the monsters aren't invincible. It may have a power scale that matches what I'd like in a horror game.
 

NinjaWeasel

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But the default rule for group stealth is to have everyone roll and if anyone fails the group is detected. I'm assuming no group ever actually sneaks in CoC correct? Because the odds of five or six PCs each making a roll to sneak around and having every roll succeed seems highly unlikely.
I can't remember the rules on group Stealth but to me the best way to adjudicate it has always been to ask the Player with the lowest Stealth skill to roll. If they succeed then I view it as easier for the others so no need for them to roll. Except maybe in some exceptional circumstance. I pretty much run every game that way though. I don't know what Chaosium's reasoning was for having every Player roll for it but maybe they thought it would help to ramp up the tension a few notches?
 
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Nobby-W

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I can't remember the rules on group Stealth but to me the best way to adjudicate it has always been to ask the Player with the lowest Stealth skill to roll. If they succeed then I view it as easier for the others so no need for them to roll. Except maybe in some exceptional circumstance. I pretty much run every game that way though. I don't know what Chaosium's reasoning was for having every Player role for it but maybe they thought it would help to ramp up the tension a few notches?
Maybe not so well thought out. If you make folks roll enough they're bound to fail at some point, and CoC characters tend not to have all that many skill points to scatter about.
 

Charlie D

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The vibe I'm getting is make something else. Which I can do. Just seems like a little polish and CoC would really shine.
 

Arcane_Avatar

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I'm going to suggest you watch a few Actual play sessions on Twitch or youTube to work out how it's supposed to be played. almost every question you've asked has been coloured by your understanding of D&D. CoC plays very differently. Don't worry about flamethrowers or artillery skills, chances are you are never going to need it I've been playing since 1e and never needed artillery although I did have a player make a flamethrower from a bucket of petrol and a stirrup pump in a World War Cthulhu game set during the Blitz to fight some ghouls.

As for ranges the Keeper will already have an idea where everyone is (Theatre of the Mind) and usually Player characters never have to worry about being too close as it will usually be a chase scene to run away.

There's no such thing as advanced characters. PC's generally advance by a few percentage points in a skill at the end of an adventure or during a break if the adventure is lengthy. When using a skill you check the box on a success and those skills can be advanced. Most creatures in a scenario are not set to any sort of 'level' and certainly the PC's never face a balanced scenario - running is often your best or only choice.

As for Stealth usually the Keeper asks who is doing the stealthy action and then asks who has the lowest Stealth skill before asking that player to roll. The whole group never tests each character individually.

Rereading some of your posts and others I notice a fixation by you on Combat - that's the last thing you should be considering especially as many of the creatures are partially or completely immune to bullets no matter how many you use and probably to the other CoC favourite, dynamite.
 

Charlie D

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Yeah, I know how to play BRP. I've run BRP and CoC and Mythras and RuneQuest and M-Space before. But the rules don't match up with the play experience with CoC. Which long-term Keepers seem fine with. I can deal with it, but I don't like it.

I think there is a way CoC is played at the table and assumed to be the rules. And the way it is actually written. I'm trying to understand the intent of the rules not each individual Keeper's playstyle.

But really, the answers I've been given are the answer. The game has to be house ruled to be played. Not by much, just some tweaking. Which isn't the answer I wanted but was the answer I was expecting.

Basically, if the game doesn't need flamethrower or artillery then by 7E it should have been removed or moved to an advanced/war supplement. That is really my point. The rulebook is going to be a patchwork of thrown out rules and optional rules cobbled together. Some of my players are going to really struggle to grok the game.

Thanks for all the feedback.
 
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Charlie D

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Rereading some of your posts and others I notice a fixation by you on Combat - that's the last thing you should be considering especially as many of the creatures are partially or completely immune to bullets no matter how many you use and probably to the other CoC favourite, dynamite.
See that is an example of your past experience. But the first adventure in the 7E Keeper Rulebook reads:
This scenario emphasizes action over investigation.
However, there are opportunities for investigations to take
place at the beginning of the adventure. The Keeper may
wish to make the players aware of this beforehand if creating
characters solely for this scenario, to prevent selecting skill sets
that will see little use. The most useful skills will be Tracking,
Spot Hidden, Listen, Stealth, Fighting, and Firearms.

I get it. Some adventures are pure investigation and running. Others are more pulpy and fighting. But the game mixes the two in an inelegant way. The Keeper has to pick and sort through. Which works for me. But the rules would be well served to have optional Pulp Rules to go with the core Pure Rules. Or something like that. Same for adventures.

Which, with your previous experience, isn't a problem. But it is still a mixed message and it fascinates me. I can sort it out, I just want to know what others think.

CoC is surprisely opaque when it comes to new Keepers getting started. I tried the Starter Set and actually sold it as it just didn't seem like CoC to me (the friendly ghoul was beyond how much I can suspend my disbelief). I found out the second hardbook rulebook is basically useless to many Keepers. The system is just weird and I don't know why. Like I say, I want to run it again. But I also want to understand it.

I'm also surprised that experienced investigators don't have guns, booze, fortresses, spells, and alien tech whenever possible. That blows my mind. My players are going to buck the norm for sure.
 
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Charlie D

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Then on p.127, in a section on "Optional Rules" under the heading "Movement During Combat", it says this:

Despite being placed under "Optional Rules", I don't think that it's all that optional. More that it's not necessary in every combat. So "occasional" rather than "optional".

In addition to that, on p.113 under "Fast-Moving Targets (Penalty die)", it discusses that the speed of a moving target (presumably one running for cover or fleeing) has an adverse affect on being hit with firearms, and you would assume other ranged attacks. It says this:
I like the idea of optional rules being more occasional rules. That makes sense. If you don't need range/movement don't use it. I am going to look at the rules again with this idea in mind.
 

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Over the years there have been a lot of weapon stats worked up for the game, whole books gun minutiae that the average person of that era is not going to easily get their hands on or care about... which might have a Player thinking it's meant to be a combat heavy game, but it ain't. Or rather it wasn't originally. 7e has moved it a bit more towards being a pulp action game... TNT & Tentacles.
I prefer the earlier versions and a more 'noir' sort of game play.

That there aren't 'advanced characters' to look at... well, that depends on what you mean by advanced. An advanced CoC character is more like an advanced Traveller character. Experience is measured in contacts and resources (and skills in CoC) rather than levels and HP.

Maybe look into Delta Green if you are interested in working more military equipment and such into the game, because that's DG's focus... kinda. DG characters start out as much more capable agents... not so much librarians and other 'level 0' types.
 
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Brock Savage

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I'm also surprised that experienced investigators don't have guns, booze, fortresses, spells, and alien tech whenever possible. That blows my mind. My players are going to buck the norm for sure.
Traditionally speaking, on a long enough timeline Investigators either retire, go insane, or meet some terrible fate. Honestly the CoC rules are far too whiffy to do pulp right IMHO. You are better off using Savage Worlds with the excellent Realms of Cthulhu supplement. Realms of Cthulhu is specifically designed to support the full spectrum between Pulp and Traditional.

Edit: I used these rules to emulate the "Indiana Jones meets Lovecraft" vibe of Eldritch Horror where seasoned Investigators equipped with tommy guns, dynamite, and spell books meet the Mythos.
 
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opaopajr

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The artillery & flamethrower skills are there to reflect veterans of the two world wars as two of the main ages to play in: 1920s & 1950s (could also say 1890s too as oodles of artillery veterans from all the wars & naval actions). Skills deliberately are open to inclusion (or substitution), and the strange ones present are examples to emulate era and evoke inspiring texts (hypnosis & mesmerism a huge theme of 1890s & 1920s horror stories that have been absorbed into the modern idea of the "Mythos" corpus).

As for veteran mythos explorer characters, they do exist but depends on the module or regionbook you look at. You will have some who dabble in spells, others who have rockin' gear (and % reflecting how to use 'em), and others with sweet connections. You just have to compare their high values to baseline % and tabulate the differences -- which on average takes too long to worry about. There are 'fortresses' and those are generally universities like Arkham, gentlemen clubs, or secret gov't agencies. But again, that's "higher level play" where PCs are keyed up to mad paranoia levels of survivalism -- which sounds like where your group finds as the buy-in threshold to even start. :hehe:

As for movement, chase rules, etc. I'd have to dig out my 5.5e from my dragon hoard to really deep dive...

On the whole I do agree with others suggesting you may be better off trying another system. CoC d20, Delta Green, Realms of Cthulhu, and so on will likely scratch your group's itch as you slowly boil them, like frogs, to fork tenderness. :wink:
 

Simlasa

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For surviving PCs there, Terror From the Stars presented The Theron Marks Society... veterans of fighting the Mythos. I think Pagan's CoC zine 'The Unspeakable Oath' also poked at the idea of giving PC investigators an organization they could turn to... which maybe was the seed for what became Delta Green.
I had a somewhat similar network in my own CoC games, but it was even looser and more underfunded than Delta Green.
 

NinjaWeasel

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I'm also surprised that experienced investigators don't have guns, booze, fortresses, spells, and alien tech whenever possible. That blows my mind. My players are going to buck the norm for sure.
You are better off using Savage Worlds with the excellent Realms of Cthulhu supplement. Realms of Cthulhu is specifically designed to support the full spectrum between Pulp and Traditional.

Edit: I used these rules to emulate the "Indiana Jones meets Lovecraft" vibe of Eldritch Horror where seasoned Investigators equipped with tommy guns, dynamite, and spell books meet the Mythos.
On the whole I do agree with others suggesting you may be better off trying another system. CoC d20, Delta Green, Realms of Cthulhu, and so on will likely scratch your group's itch as you slowly boil them, like frogs, to fork tenderness. :wink:
If I remember correctly Pulp Cthulhu characters have quite a few extra Skill Points to distribute (they get points from an Archetype in addition to their Profession), they also have Talents (Basically Feats or Advantages), have more Hit Points, and there are rules for faster Recovery. So there is a RAW way to make more experienced, competent, and hardy starting PCs.

There's also a greater emphasis on weird science and tech in Pulp games and I think it leaves it down to the GM to decide how readily available such things are. So if you want PCs to have access to them from the start then you can. Likewise, Magic is easier to learn and use, although still with inherent dangers, as are Psychic abilities.

I'm not sure Pulp Cthulhu makes relevant changes in terms of Combat but overall I think it's a decent fit. It certainly allows for a higher action CoC experience. Personally I prefer Delta Green's core rules and I'd highly recommend using some of the rules from Pulp Cthulhu with that. However... that does mean a bunch more expense!
 

Charlie D

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This info is all really helpful! Thanks. I will be running CoC again and all this input is useful except saying I should play another RPG. I do play other RPGs and have run Delta Green but I want to get CoC a shot.
 
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