Keepers: how do you choose a CoC system?

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flashbackjuice
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Keepers: how do you choose a CoC system?

Post by flashbackjuice » Wed May 14, 2014 2:01 pm

With all the different systems for playing Cthulhu RPGs (BRP, Trail, Dark etc.) out on the market I am beginning to wonder how I, as a keeper, can handle it all. I'm not worried about the BRP system being wiped off the market, as the creators of the systems have stated that their goal was not to replace CoC, but it is overwhelming to choose. The problem is that it's not just a case of "X is better than Y", as each system brings something different to the table. Although I haven't had a chance to try out all the systems, I do recognise some of the strengths and weaknesses of each. For example, the philosophy of Cthulhu Dark seems to make for a really story-driven game that emphasises pushing extremes in rolls, while Trail seems to have a more detective bent, which seems more suited to investigation than the BRP system.

As keepers, what factors have influenced you into choosing a particular system for play? Do you choose a system based on a particular goal you have in mind for play, or because that's what your friends want to play?

Have you stuck with the new system and never looked back? And for those who have had the chance to play all the various systems, how do you feel about them now? Would you consider going back to them, or has experiencing new systems changed your perspective on the old?

Please share your thoughts, as I would like to sort out my thoughts on this matter.

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Re: Keepers: how do you choose a CoC system?

Post by trevlix » Wed May 14, 2014 6:52 pm

I've basically stuck with BRP for a number of reasons:

1. Its the first Cthulhu RPG and the first I learned.
2. Its easy.
3. There are tons of supporting material for it.
4. Its fairly easy to find a game.

I own the books for Trail and Cthulhu Dark is free, but I don't ever get a chance to play them bc the system I use does well enough as it is and I see no need at this time to replace them.
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Re: Keepers: how do you choose a CoC system?

Post by fallingtower » Wed May 14, 2014 10:22 pm

I often wonder if I was to just now get into Lovecraftian gaming what my choice would be.

On looks alone Trail is a winner. Weird, evocative, consistent artwork. Chaosium's artwork is all over the place. Some good, some gawd awful.

System-wise, Call of Cthulhu's trimmed down BRP is so elegantly simple it makes everything so much easier on both the players and the Keepers. I am probably going to be BRP/CofC until I die. It's just what I am comfortable with.

I've played Trail and I didn't like the combat and rolling a single 6 sider for some reason, just didn't seem right. I also have issues about 'spending' your skills and then losing access to them once they are spent. Other than that, an inspiring, well written book.

D20 Call of Cthulhu, which I think is an amazing book, was a failed experiment system-wise. The leveling, the feats put a lot of Classic die-hards off. And the lack of pure D20 Call of Cthulhu products, condemned it to a one and done product. I think if there would've been a modern, high majick setting that took advantage of it's strengths it could've gone somewhere. Think something like Dresden Files with Deep Ones, Dreamlands and spell chucking coffee house nerds and tech geared ghost hunters. If I had time, I think I'd like to fiddle around with it. I had an idea for a badass Resident Thulhu type actioner that D20 would've made for a lot of dumb awesome fun.

I have no clue about Realms of Cthulhu, other than flipping through the book and not being blown away by anything in particular. I was going to buy it at the time and decided, eh, I'll never do anything with this, so I bought something else.

Cthulhu Dark- I have it and I really like it's purity and simplicity. I am currently running a game where I have taken great efforts to minimize conflict resolution via gun-play. Cthulhu Dark has this built right in.
If religion were true, its followers would not try to bludgeon their young into an artificial conformity; but would merely insist on their unbending quest for truth, irrespective of artificial backgrounds or practical consequences.

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Re: Keepers: how do you choose a CoC system?

Post by flashbackjuice » Fri May 16, 2014 2:16 am

trevlix wrote:I've basically stuck with BRP for a number of reasons:

1. Its the first Cthulhu RPG and the first I learned.
2. Its easy.
3. There are tons of supporting material for it.
4. Its fairly easy to find a game.

I own the books for Trail and Cthulhu Dark is free, but I don't ever get a chance to play them bc the system I use does well enough as it is and I see no need at this time to replace them.
Yeah. The system itself was really easy to learn for me too, and players seem to pick up the rules every quickly too. It's a very compelling reason to stay on the BRP ship, in some ways.
fallingtower wrote:I've played Trail and I didn't like the combat and rolling a single 6 sider for some reason, just didn't seem right. I also have issues about 'spending' your skills and then losing access to them once they are spent. Other than that, an inspiring, well written book.
Inspiring? How so? Can you elaborate?
fallingtower wrote:D20 Call of Cthulhu, which I think is an amazing book, was a failed experiment system-wise. The leveling, the feats put a lot of Classic die-hards off. And the lack of pure D20 Call of Cthulhu products, condemned it to a one and done product. I think if there would've been a modern, high majick setting that took advantage of it's strengths it could've gone somewhere. Think something like Dresden Files with Deep Ones, Dreamlands and spell chucking coffee house nerds and tech geared ghost hunters. If I had time, I think I'd like to fiddle around with it. I had an idea for a badass Resident Thulhu type actioner that D20 would've made for a lot of dumb awesome fun.
I.... still don't understand why this was even made. Was this to make CoC more pulpy? Or to get the DnD crowd into the game? I'd imagine that it would get in the way of the narrative quite a bit.
fallingtower wrote:Cthulhu Dark- I have it and I really like it's purity and simplicity. I am currently running a game where I have taken great efforts to minimize conflict resolution via gun-play. Cthulhu Dark has this built right in.
I've loved to see more of Cthulhu Dark in action. Thus far I have only heard the Cluethulhu LP, but I do want to hear or read more of the kinds of scenarios that would work with this system.

Thanks for you comments everyone!

I think the other thing I realised regarding this topic is that I tend to see each system fitting into a particular function or niche. To me, BRP is for Lovecraftian protagonists: ordinary people who stumble into the mythos. Trail (from what I understand) feels more geared towards people hunting down the mythos as detectives, figuring out what is going on. I need to read the actual sourcebook to be sure, but at over $40 it seems a little too much to see whether I would like to work with it or not. And Cthulhu Dark: it's a great idea, but how would I implement it? What scenarios could I run with it? I guess I need to figure out a good starting point.

Thanks again guys!

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Re: Keepers: how do you choose a CoC system?

Post by fallingtower » Fri May 16, 2014 6:13 am

flashbackjuice wrote:
trevlix wrote:I've basically stuck with BRP for a number of reasons:

1. Its the first Cthulhu RPG and the first I learned.
2. Its easy.
3. There are tons of supporting material for it.
4. Its fairly easy to find a game.

I own the books for Trail and Cthulhu Dark is free, but I don't ever get a chance to play them bc the system I use does well enough as it is and I see no need at this time to replace them.
Yeah. The system itself was really easy to learn for me too, and players seem to pick up the rules every quickly too. It's a very compelling reason to stay on the BRP ship, in some ways.
fallingtower wrote:I've played Trail and I didn't like the combat and rolling a single 6 sider for some reason, just didn't seem right. I also have issues about 'spending' your skills and then losing access to them once they are spent. Other than that, an inspiring, well written book.
Inspiring? How so? Can you elaborate?
fallingtower wrote:D20 Call of Cthulhu, which I think is an amazing book, was a failed experiment system-wise. The leveling, the feats put a lot of Classic die-hards off. And the lack of pure D20 Call of Cthulhu products, condemned it to a one and done product. I think if there would've been a modern, high majick setting that took advantage of it's strengths it could've gone somewhere. Think something like Dresden Files with Deep Ones, Dreamlands and spell chucking coffee house nerds and tech geared ghost hunters. If I had time, I think I'd like to fiddle around with it. I had an idea for a badass Resident Thulhu type actioner that D20 would've made for a lot of dumb awesome fun.
I.... still don't understand why this was even made. Was this to make CoC more pulpy? Or to get the DnD crowd into the game? I'd imagine that it would get in the way of the narrative quite a bit.
fallingtower wrote:Cthulhu Dark- I have it and I really like it's purity and simplicity. I am currently running a game where I have taken great efforts to minimize conflict resolution via gun-play. Cthulhu Dark has this built right in.
I've loved to see more of Cthulhu Dark in action. Thus far I have only heard the Cluethulhu LP, but I do want to hear or read more of the kinds of scenarios that would work with this system.
Trail and inspiration....well the thing I find most useful that Trail entails..ahem...is the Drives and how they handle gathering clues. The Drives are internal motivations that give your investigator a valid reason why they would proceed into situations that most 'sane' people would flee from. Anything that helps a player get into character is always something I really enjoy. And, clues, Trail doesn't require that the investigator's make such and such rolls to find the clue that will lead them to the next clue. They take a cinematic approach to this...for instance, Sam Spade doesn't ever miss the note taped under the desk or the matchbook with the phone number in the dead man's hand. Instead, what Trail does is what additional information does Sam or your character find when they find said clue. A deeper layer of clue. For instance if Sam spends a point of Streetwise, he knows that the matchbook is for a Chinese Laundry that is a front for an opium den. If Sam doesn't spend Streetwise, he'll have to figure that out though investigation after the fact.


I've not played Cthulhu Dark, so I can't really give an educated opinion. But it has inspired me to change the tone of my game to rid it of Tommygun and shotgun toting investigators. Supernatural horrors aren't afraid or affected by physical damage.
If religion were true, its followers would not try to bludgeon their young into an artificial conformity; but would merely insist on their unbending quest for truth, irrespective of artificial backgrounds or practical consequences.

H. P. Lovecraft

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Re: Keepers: how do you choose a CoC system?

Post by trevlix » Fri May 16, 2014 12:48 pm

flashbackjuice wrote:I.... still don't understand why this was even made. Was this to make CoC more pulpy? Or to get the DnD crowd into the game? I'd imagine that it would get in the way of the narrative quite a bit.
In short, yes. The d20 version was made to plug into the d20 craze going on at the time. Ken and Robin talk about it in a recent episode. If you can get the book for a decent price, its worth picking up for ideas IMO.
flashbackjuice wrote:And Cthulhu Dark: it's a great idea, but how would I implement it? What scenarios could I run with it? I guess I need to figure out a good starting point.
There are a number of Actual Plays for Cthulhu Dark out there that may be useful. RPPR has a few, and I believe there is at least one in the Skype of Cthulhu repository. Also check out the Everest Expedition CD game here!
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Re: Keepers: how do you choose a CoC system?

Post by Shannon Mac » Fri May 16, 2014 12:50 pm

I prefer standard Cthulhu a la 6E. I feel it has a simple elegance to it and the SAN mechanic is wonderful for instilling horror mechanically into the players.

I would choose Cthulhu Dark over Trail as the latter is too resource management based and most of the games I have played just didn't tap into a situation in which the players had to make tough choices on when to spend and not to spend. Seems like one shots don't do well with TOC.

I have not played ROC but Savage Worlds is quite pulpy so that doesn't feel right to me.

I'd rather do the mortal section of World of Darkness even though that game has some crunch in it. I've found Keeper presentations to be good for a dangerous setting though madness is sparse.
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Re: Keepers: how do you choose a CoC system?

Post by fallingtower » Fri May 16, 2014 1:31 pm

Yeah I agree with trevlix, D20 Cthulhu is a worthwhile purchase. It's got slick art, the background material is top notch and very inspiring and it's D20!!! Rejoice!!

Oh do you know a sad fact....Elminster (Forgotten Realm's Gandalf wannabe) has a higher Challenge Rating than Cthulhu!! So watch out all you Great Old Ones!!
If religion were true, its followers would not try to bludgeon their young into an artificial conformity; but would merely insist on their unbending quest for truth, irrespective of artificial backgrounds or practical consequences.

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Re: Keepers: how do you choose a CoC system?

Post by Howard » Fri May 16, 2014 8:33 pm

My books are all 5th edition or earlier. I'm also not a fan of the d6 Dark or GUMSHOE.

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Re: Keepers: how do you choose a CoC system?

Post by flashbackjuice » Sat May 17, 2014 2:59 am

Howard wrote:My books are all 5th edition or earlier. I'm also not a fan of the d6 Dark or GUMSHOE.
Just out of curiosity: what were the differences in 6th that put you off?

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