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The Collect Call of Cthulhu

Aaaaand, we’re back.

Hope everyone has had a good holiday season. I know I have.

One of the big treats I had was getting my first taste of the new 7th Edition of Call of Cthulhu. I’ve been playing CoC since 3rd Edition and it has been one of the mainstays of every gaming group I’ve been in since high school, so I jumped at the chance to try out the latest incarnation. Due to the production problems at Chaosium the book still isn’t loose in physical form, but our keeper has a .PDF copy. Unfortunately this means I didn’t get to thumb through the rules, so my impressions are based on my one session as a player, but even so I think I have a good handle on where the game has gone.

The Good:

Call of Cthulhu is a tight, easy, excellent rules set and has had few significant changes over the years. New editions made some tweaks, but more often than not consisted of including additional source material and re-organizing the existing rules. With very little effort you can pick up an adventure written for 1st Edition and run it using 6th Edition rules. When I heard that 7th Edition would be making more changes than all the previous editions combined I was concerned.

However, making more changes than all the previous editions combined isn’t a very high bar to cross, and I am happy to say that I quickly fell right into the new system, even without having read the book myself. For an old hand at CoC, looking over the new character sheet is enough to clarify most of the changes and I’m pretty sure that I would be able to convert older edition material on the fly, with only a bit more effort than I could previously. This is the single most important thing I can say about 7th Edition, that it is still backwards compatible.

Changing the basic attributes to percentiles was a good move. It keeps them in line with the derived attributes and codifies the way many players were already doing attribute checks.This combined with opposed roles for tasks has replaced my beloved Resistance Table, but even I must admit that it does streamline the game. Plus the opposed role mechanic is such a staple in modern RPGs that it’s easy for gamers to pick up.

They also trimmed down the skill list on the character sheet, which was a good move. A lot of the entries on the old character sheet just took up space and were rarely used, and in traditional form the new sheet has plenty of blanks to fill in skills not already listed. I don’t know if the trimmed skills are still in the book or not, but pruning the list definitely cleaned things up nicely.

The Bad:

“Bad” is really stretching it. It’s more, “The Not Really Liked”.

The addition of a penalty die to rolls. Under certain circumstances, or if your character decides to try multiple actions, an additional D10 is rolled. This additional die counts as another “tens” die and the penalty means you take the lower of the two rolls for your result. For example, I roll two “tens” dice and get a 7 and a 3, with a 2 on the “ones” dice. My result is 32, using the lower roll. My guess that this mechanic, like the elimination of the Resistance Table, is meant to streamline the game so that you don’t have to look up penalties, but the impression that I had was that it makes the results a lot more swingy. It also makes it harder to determine what chances to take, which is an important consideration in a game like CoC. If you give me a 15% penalty on a roll, then I have a concrete figure to judge if the risk is worth it. But with a penalty die I have a harder time judging. I would love to see some figures on how using a penalty die changes the probabilities for your results, but that’s well beyond my own math skills to figure out.

I get the feeling that the penalty die was meant to offer more choices for the players, but on my initial experience with it I found it confounding.

The Meh:

Instead of being a set attribute, Luck is now a spendable asset pool. You spend them like Magic Points, but to adjust die rolls instead of fueling spells, and like SAN points you can regain them from surviving adventures. This is nothing new in game design and it does give the players an extra edge for survival, but was that necessary for a game like Call of Cthulhu? The place where I do see its value is for investigative skills, for those times you really want to nail the Library Use or Spot Hidden role so you can move an investigation forward. It’s in combat that it rankles my old school CoC heart. I am happy to say that in practice I don’t think it will remove the sharp fear of mortality that CoC players have known and loved over the years, death is still omnipresent, but it does blunt it a bit. That’s why I list this as a “meh” instead of “bad”.

They’ve also added a graduated success result mechanic. CoC has always had a critical success for combat rolls, via the Impalement result for getting under 1/5th of your skill. Making this an across the board critical success for all skills was a no-brainer and codifies what many of us were already doing in play. However they’ve added a Hard Success result for rolls under half your skill. I’m still learning all the implications of this, but it seems unnecessarily fiddly. I don’t see what it adds to the game. Maybe it’ll become more clear once I’ve played more, or once I read the manual, but for now I’m ambivalent at best.

The Summary:

All in all, I had a good experience with the game. There is nothing here that makes me want to run out and get a 7th Edition manual for myself, but I am happy that I’ll be able to sit down at any game of CoC and still know how to play, requiring only a glance at the character sheet to tell me which rules we’re using. I’m happy that I can buy new source books and know that I can use them with my pre-7th Edition rules. I’m happy that if I do switch to 7th Edition I’ll still be able to unleash horrors on my players from my library of older edition books.

Cthulhu1

My 3rd Edition tome, battered like the souls of my players.

 
 

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Delta Green

Delta Green is coming back!

This isn’t exactly a surprise, there’s been word that a new Delta Green was coming out for a while now, but the official press release has some answers to questions I’ve been curious about. Most importantly, what rules set it will be using. The old game used Call of Cthulhu as its engine, but word has been that the new Delta Green would be a stand-alone game.

According to the press release, the main game will still be based on Call of Cthulhu’s Basic Roleplaying Game system. They don’t specify if it will be 6th or 7th Edition, but my money is on 7th edition. However there will be another sourcebook called “The Fall of Delta Green” set in the 1960’s, written by Kenneth Hite, and using the GUMSHOE rules.

Delta Green was originally released in the 1990’s by Pagan Publishing as a massive sourecebook for Call of Cthulhu. The players take on the roles of agents who are members of a conspiracy within the US Intelligence community, one whose members put their lives and sanity on the line to hunt down and destroy elements of the Cthulhu mythos wherever they can and at any price. Delta Green agents know that they can never win against the mythos, their goal is to hold off the coming annihilation and buy humanity a little more time in the sun.

Delta Green had a strong following and was supported by a number of sourcebooks and some wonderfully bleak novels. I’m pleased to see that a new edition will soon be unleashed into the world.

 

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2015 in Gaming, Horror

 

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More Adventures that Write Themselves

Greetings Programs!

(blows dust from the belfry)

This past weekend my amazing wife and I celebrated our anniversary in our usual way; we picked a state park and slipped away for a weekend of hiking and relaxation. We’ve been doing this for a number of years now and this is the first time we’ve gone back to a park we’ve previously visited. The camp is Carter Caves State Park in eastern Kentucky and it offers several lovely trails, plenty of flora and fauna, and a number of cave tours.

There are also plenty of stories to be found, and where you find stories you find adventure seeds.

This early in the season they only have two of their cave tours open. One of these is the Cascade Cave, which is also one of the longest tours and features large chambers and impressive geological features. Cascade Cave is several miles from the park’s lodge and was originally privately owned, with people touring the system since the late 1800’s. This is an active, living cave system with formations still growing and water in abundance.

In the early 20th century the owners of Cascade Cave sought to take full advantage of the system as a tourist destination. First they excavated the entrance, which previously required people to crawl to reach the larger chamber beyond. This larger domed chamber they dubbed “the ballroom”, and making good on the name they would hold dances in it. During prohibition the ballroom took on another role, becoming a subterranean speakeasy.

During this era there was fierce competition to put on the longest and most impressive cave tour. The owners of Cascade realized that the system extended far beyond the Ballroom, so they carried out further excavations. Their efforts succeeded in opening up a much longer system of tunnels that include many beautiful features, including a section where the river flows in and continues to carve out the rock to this day. Occasionally the competition would take a dark turn, with cave owners hiring toughs to break into their rivals’ caves and commit vandalism, carving graffiti into the walls and shattering millennia-old formations, and there is some evidence of this happening in Cascade.

The owners also built a lodge on the surface, directly above the caverns. They sunk a hole down to the cave to use as a ventilation system. By opening up the connection they could draw up the cool air from the cavern, providing natural air conditioning to the lodge. They also sunk a pipe down through the same hole, which they used to pump sewage from the lodge through the cave and straight into the river.

Eww.

They made one further attempt to expand the Cascade Cave tour, having realized that there were even more tunnels reaching deeper into the earth. However this time they used dynamite and the results were not what they’d hoped. Instead of opening the tunnels they caused a massive collapse, burying the deeper caverns for all time. It was a terrible mistake.

Or was it?

“they delved too greedily and too deep, and disturbed that from which they fled, Durin’s Bane.”

-Gandalf, The Fellowship of the Ring

To the gamer’s mind this all makes perfect sense; opportunistic people delving into closed caverns, holding drunken revels in subterranean chambers, building a hall above the underworld realms and making use of it in such a crass fashion. All they need to do is name the lodge “Heorot” and we have the setting for a modern-day Beowulf.

Were the vandals really sent into the caverns by a bitter rival? Were they cultists out to shatter ancient seals that kept something imprisoned? Or were they incautious adventurers who came to stop the terrors from being unleashed; adventurers who tried and failed, then disappeared leaving no trace except for a disturbingly suggestive set of flow stone formations that an old guide swears weren’t there before. Was the misadventure with the dynamite really an attempt to open the deeper caverns? Or to seal in some subterranean horror, woken from the depths by people venturing too far beyond the sun-lit world.

That’s for your players to find out.

CavernGate

 
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Posted by on May 18, 2015 in Cool Stuff, Fantasy, Gaming, Horror, Spooky Stuff

 

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The Hills Rise Wild!

Happy International Tabletop Day!

Tim over at The Savage Afterworld has sponsored a Blog Hop as a chance for us to celebrate some of our favorite boardgames. For my entry I’ve picked an old favorite, a game of mayhem and madness, The Hills Rise Wild! Released in the year 2000 by Pagan Publishing, this is a light miniatures wargame pitting up to four Lovecraftian clans against each other in a violent battle for the sake of their favorite Elder God.

“It’s an inbreed, corpse-fed, blood-red bonanza! Old Wizard Whateley kicked the bucket! And his precious copy of the Necronomicon, a book of powerful magic, is up for grabs.”

“Pit your team of drooling horrors against your friends in an all-out battle of bullets, brawn and brains.”

-The Hills Rise Wild! Back cover

Full disclosure; I was a playtester for this game.

No, that’s not even close to full disclosure. Pull up a seat while I digress.

It was a golden age for our gaming group; a time when we were still gaming regularly. Not only did we have role playing games on the weekend but a group of us also played in a weekly board game night. For over a year this was a sacrosanct ritual, a break in the week’s doldrums not to be missed. One evening a friend said he’d signed us up to be playtesters for this crazy new game Pagan Publishing was working on. Being old hands at Call of Cthulhu and well acquainted with the company it wasn’t hard to get us to agree to test it out.

And test it we did. For several months this game took over our weekly gaming night, not simply due to a sense of obligation but because we were having so much fun with it. Writing up our after action reports was part of the fun and seeing anything we’d pointed out show up in the next set of rules filled us with more joy than a ghoul in a graveyard. There are in-jokes coined at our first gaming session that still live on with our group* and for years after the game was released it hit our tables with frequency. Somewhere my friend still has the original playtest packet.

In The Hills Rise Wild each player takes control of a familial clan devoted to one of the Elder Gods; The Whateley Clan, the Marsh Clan, the DeGhoule Clan, or the Cult of Ezekiel. The game board represents an old backwoods New England village with the locked Whateley Mansion in the center. The goal of each clan is to search the village for the magical Whateley Seal, use it to unlock the mansion, find the Necronomicon inside, and escape with it back to their summoning circle. With it they will try to summon their Elder God of choice into this world, ushering in an age of madness and death.

Meanwhile the other cults are trying to do the same thing and everyone is armed to the teeth with guns. And bombs. And spells. And… other things. The blood flows quickly and in great quantities.

I love this game.

The map is made up by several thick cardboard squares, lain out by the players at the beginning of the game and adding a level of variety to each session. The artwork was excellent for the time, winning the 2000 Origins Award for Best Graphic Presentation, and it still holds up well today. The characters are represented by cardstock standies with nice representations of the characters. There are also a lot of little chits to represent items or statuses like Stunned or Slammed. Let me say again, lots of little chits.

Do not sneeze on the chit pile. You’ll be finding them for days. Yes, I am speaking from experience.

The Hills Rise Wild is not a board game in the way we look at them today. It’s a fusion of board games and light miniatures combat, taking some of the best elements of both to give the players a fun game that moves fast and rewards tactical thinking. Some of these elements might give a modern gamer pause; Movement uses a tape measure? Clan sheets meant to be printed and written on? The game uses damage tables!

Specifically both a regular damage table and the iconic Brutal Damage Table with such popular results as “Say Goodnight!”, “Have a Heapin’ Helpin’ o’ Hurt!”, and the ever popular “Daddy’s Home!”

It’s also possible for nobody to win the game. On more than one occasion we’ve ended with everyone dead, or the only ones left alive being characters who cannot cast the summoning spell.

The game has been out of print for a long time, but copies still pop up on a regular basis so it shouldn’t be too hard to track one down. You can usually find them for close to the original price of around $40. That’s cheap by today’s standards though at the time it was one of the more expensive games available. An expansion was planned for the game called the Reanimated Clan, which would have added Herbert West and zombies to the game, but it never made it to publication. That’s a shame because we playtested it too and we really enjoyed it.

I would love to see a new edition of The Hills Rise Wild and I think the time is perfect for it. Board gaming is going through its greatest golden age right now and urban fantasy, zombies, and H.P. Lovecraft are all hugely popular. The price points and modern production values could allow for including some impressive miniatures and there are some places where modern design ideas could be incorporated into the game. Add to that the ability to leverage the Pagan Publishing name with Kickstarter and a new generation of Hills fans would be spawned.

But until that day comes I suggest you track down a copy, get a few friends, and start coating the field in blood. You won’t regret it.

HillsRiseWild

*Beware the curse of Slippy Finn!

———————————-

Special thanks to Tim from The Savage Afterworld for putting on this Board Game Blog Hop! Make sure to check out the other entries at the links below.

And by all means, have a great day of gaming!

The Savage AfterWorld — http://savageafterworld.blogspot.com/ — Escape: Zombie City by Queen Games

Channel Zero — http://www.channel-zero.net — Thunderstone by Alderac Entertainment

Fractalbat — https://fractalbat.wordpress.com/ — The Hills Rise Wild by Pagan Publishing

The Gibbering Gamer — http://www.gibberinggamer.com – Dragon Dice by SFR (formerly TSR)

Random Encounters (From Ohio) — http://randomencountersohio.blogspot.com – Nano Bot Battle Arena by Derpy Games

Troll in the Corner — http://trollitc.com/author/neilrobinson/ — Star Realms by White Wizard Games

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2015 in Game Design and Mechanics, Gaming, Horror

 

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Reskinning Saltmarsh

Riffing on my review of The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh I got into a discussion on how this adventure would be easy to reskin for other genres. Without further ado, here are some of my ideas.

1. Call of Cthulhu – This one is simple, as the setup for Saltmarsh is practically a 20’s pulp adventure already. The smugglers are gangsters running alcohol who have hired a down-and-out stage magician to rig up the hauntings that keep people away. The alchemist’s hidden lab remains practically unchanged, with the addition of a mythos tome. Otherwise the mansion remains mostly the same.

But since this is Call of Cthulhu we need to add some hooks. Something is wrong with the hooch being brought in by the smugglers. Some people who drink in the speakeasies supplied by the gang seem to go mad and even experience physical mutations. The gangsters captured a few of the worst cases, fitted them with cement overshoes, and sent them to sleep with the fishes. Unfortunately those individuals came back to shore. The gangsters now have them locked in the zombie room.

The rum is being stored in a cave underneath the alchemist’s lab. Magics from his experiments have seeped down into the cavern and infected the alcohol, which has begun mutating certain sensitive individuals into Deep Ones.

The sea elf prisoner on the ship is replaced with a deep one hybrid who has a psychic connection with sea life. The ringleader of the smugglers forces the hybrid to use his powers to allow them to avoid coast guard patrols.

2. Sci-Fi – This one is for Stars Without Number or Traveler fans. The mansion is a derelict research station in deep orbit that was once the property of a private research firm. Rumors say that the crew was killed when something they were working on got loose; a biological weapon, a killer robot, or out of control nano-technology. A former employee for the company claims to have discovered a shutdown code in the now defunct company’s files and is looking for a crew to salvage the stations data core. There are megacorporations who will pay good money for any files remaining in the station’s data core.

Unknown to the players, the threat was neutralized long ago and the station is now being used as a base for space pirates. The alchemist’s lab can be the station’s dormant AI, or a locked down cryo-statsis unit storing inert genetically engineered monsters. This could lead to an unstable alliance between the party and the pirates should the insane AI or the inert creatures be unleashed.

If you are playing Star Frontiers the sea elf prisoner should become a Sathar, alive but in stasis. A live Sathar would be worth more than the entire station and all its contents, if the players can get it to the right person.

3. Cyberpunk – The mansion is turned into a data vault that once belonged to a criminal syndicate. The mob was broken up decades ago but their intranet is still running, protected by an AI armed with high powered black ICE. Rumors on the dark web say that more than one decker has had their mind fried trying to run the node. However the party’s fixer has information of interest to the party. The old gang had blackmail material about one of the team’s powerful enemies. If that information still exists it would be in their old data vault and if the team could recover it, they’d have a powerful weapon against their enemies.

The vault was protected by a dangerous AI, but what they don’t know is that the AI was taken offline a few years ago by enterprising hackers. The vault now serves as a virtual information bazaar where world class deckers come to store and sell their illegally obtained files. Anyone who gets deep enough into the VR environment to discover this will find a very upset collection of capable deckers who will be quick to protect their secret.

Should the AI be brought back online it will determine that anyone it finds inside the data vault is an intruder and will unleash its countermeasures to eliminate them.

4. Pulp Adventure – Another relatively straight forward conversion, this time set during WWII. The mansion is a front for a Nazi spy ring. Or move it to the 60’s and use the KGB.

The hook for the players would be a series of sabotage incidents at factories in the region. Throw in the disappearance of an allied agent and the kidnapping of a senator’s son or daughter (to replace the sea elf) and you’ll have ample reason for agents to investigate the mansion.

It’s likely this will end up being a straight forward raid by the agents on the spy’s lair. For an added twist, as the battle plays out, have something get loose from the alchemist’s lab. Perfect for swerving the adventure from conventional secret agents into Delta Green territory.

5. Role Reversal – The characters are the ones charged with keeping the Sinister Secret, be it a speakeasy or an OSS base in occupied Europe. Let the players come up with ways to perpetuate the scary rumors that keep curious people away. Make them try to spot enemy agents or federal officers and find ways to throw them off the track.

Or the group of meddling kids and their dog.

They may also have to deal with anything they find still hidden in the basement chambers. Or which comes crawling up out of the sea, answering the call of something inside the mansion.

—–

Do you have any classic modules you’ve reskinned for other games? Any more ideas for Saltmarsh? I’d love to hear about them.

SinisterSaltmarsh

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2015 in Cyberpunk, Fantasy, Gaming, Horror, Science Fiction

 

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19th Level Reviews Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition

The blog 19th Level has done a nice review of Call of Cthulhu, 7th Edition.

I’ve been playing Call of Cthulhu since 3rd Edition was the new, shiny hotness. The game has been a staple of our group for decades and we are deeply invested in the system. One of the things I and my group have appreciated is that all six editions have been compatible. Rules changes have been minor and the differences between some editions has been little more than organization and clarifications. I could pick up a book written for 1st Edition and use it in a 6th Edition game with ease.

When we heard that 7th Edition would be making significant rules changes my group and I were concerned. Thoughts of the D&D edition wars came to mind and the specter of that game’s 4th edition were hard to shake.

However 19th Level’s review has helped ease my sanity-deprived mind. While the changes described are significant, it sounds like the core of the game remains intact and that while conversion will take effort, it will still be possible. Unlike new editions of D&D, where compatibility after 2nd edition is virtually non-existent, it appears that Call of Cthulhu will still allow you to mix-and-match your old horrors with new offerings.

Make sure to give his review a look!

 
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Posted by on December 4, 2014 in Gaming, Horror, Reviews

 

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Happy Halloween!

To celebrate, here is my favorite adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Other Gods”.

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2014 in Cool Stuff, Horror

 

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Let’s Not Read It Out Loud

The Houghton Library is Harvard’s repository for rare books, and they have an important announcement to make.

“Good news for fans of anthropodermic bibliopegy, bibliomaniacs and cannibals alike: tests have revealed that Houghton Library’s copy of Arsène Houssaye’s Des destinées de l’ame (FC8.H8177.879dc) is without a doubt bound in human skin.”

-Houghton Library Blog, June 4th 2014

Yay!

Wait, are we sure this isn’t the Miskatonic University blog?

Also, I challenge anyone to read that quote and not hear Professor Farnsworth’s voice.

The high-weirdness of this story is only beginning. Published in the 1880’s, the skin used for the book was taken from a woman who died of apoplexy in a French mental hospital. The book’s title, Des Destinees de L’ame, translates to, The Destiny of the Soul, and contains meditations on the soul and life after death. It was given as a gift by the author to a friend.

“No, really, you shouldn’t have.”

-Imagined Response of Friend

The author was quite the connoisseur of books, particularly of the fleshy kind, as he had at least one other in his collection to compare it with.

“This book is bound in human skin parchment on which no ornament has been stamped to preserve its elegance. By looking carefully you easily distinguish the pores of the skin. A book about the human soul deserved to have a human covering: I had kept this piece of human skin taken from the back of a woman. It is interesting to see the different aspects that change this skin according to the method of preparation to which it is subjected. Compare for example with the small volume I have in my library, Sever. Pinaeus de Virginitatis notis which is also bound in human skin but tanned with sumac.”

-Houghton Library Blog, May 24th 2013

Tanned with sumac, that is so 1870’s.

Let’s recap, shall we? A prominent New England university has a book in their special collections library that is bound in the flesh of an asylum patient and contains writings about souls and the other world.

And some people think Library Science is boring.

Unfortunately the text of the book is not available for online reading. Actually, that’s probably for the best, all things considered. However you can view a high resolution image of the cover. You can even zoom in! Nice and close. You can scroll across the surface of the book’s smooth, elegant flesh. Looking at every pore…

All you have to do is Click Here.

Don’t forget your SAN check.

Image from http://www.pdclipart.org/

 

 

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Good Weekend for Gaming

It was a nice weekend for gaming.

Saturday my son was in the mood to play some games, so I convinced him to try Sentinels of the Multiverse. He can be picky about trying new games and in the past he’s been reluctant to try this one, but this time he was intrigued. So we whipped out the cards and went to work. He played The Wraith and the might Ra while I ran Legacy and Omnitron X, and we engaged the nefarious Baron Blade in combat. The Baron put up a good fight, but in the end our heroes triumphed over evil. My son loved the game!

I’m a big fan of Sentinels of the Multiverse and I’m delighted that my son has taken to it. Plus the next time we visit Dad in a Cape, we can play with him and his girls, who are all big fans of the game. Five player Sentinels for the win!

After our superhero antics my son wanted to play Nuclear War and my daughter decided to join us. Another first! She is also rather picky about games and had been uninterested in this one, but this time she gave it a try. It was the first time she’d played and she did quite well, dropping bombs with glee from her Orbital Space Platform. In the end there was a wonderful chain reaction of final strikes, leading to everyone being vaporized in atomic fire.

On Sunday we squeezed in our weekly G+ Hangout game, though it was abbreviated due to Mother’s Day activities. Still, it was a welcome does of gaming, as my face-to-face group hasn’t met in over a month. The current game is Call of Cthulhu, based initially in 1985’s Miami, Florida. Our characters are now lost in the Dreamlands. Having escaped the doomed city of Sarnath we’ve learned that we may actually be natives of the Dreamlands who were sent to Earth for protection. We may be the only remaining members of three royal houses.

Initially our goal was to get back to Earth, though my character is now considering staying in the Dreamlands and being royalty. However at the end of last night’s session we followed an Ultharian cat through a portal into the realm of Bast. Are we still in the Dreamlands? Are we about to be made into squeaky toys for a cat goddess?

That remains to be seen.

The Wraith(1)

 

 
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Posted by on May 12, 2014 in Gaming

 

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Call of Trekthulhu

Space, the final frontier.

These are the voyages of the starship Exeter, whose five year mission is to seek out new worlds and new civilizations.

And probably blow them up.

Last year I decided to run a few Star Trek games and I recently came across my notes. They were meant to be episodic one-off games, allowing us to drop them in whenever we wanted a break in our usual routine and it worked out quite nicely.

In designing the game I took a lot of inspiration from Where No Man Has Gone Before, an excellent little rules light home grown game you can download from the author’s blog. There are a lot of good source ideas packed into the tight rules set. I also made good use of the free paper Star Trek minis you can download from the page. The figures were designed by David Okum of the Okum Arts Tumblr and it was my first exposure to his work, but not the last.

While I raided the document for source, I decided to go a different direction for mechanics and kit bash Call of Cthulhu for my rules set. I chose CoC because my players are old hands at the game, because the percentile based skill system is flexible and easy to bolt on to, because the magic point system is adaptable for special abilities, and because I wanted the sanity mechanic it offered. Sanity was important not because I would be putting the crew up against the Elder Gods, though I didn’t rule it out, but because in the old series we often saw characters pushed past the breaking point. My game was set in the Original Series era and I wanted to make sure that this was part of the game’s feel.

Because we are all Star Trek geeks I wanted to base the game in Trek lore. So the back story is that Starfleet recovered and refit the U.S.S. Exeter, a Constitution class starship that was left adrift after the episode The Omega GloryYes, that horrible episode where the writers must have failed their Sanity roll more than the Exeter’s captain did.

“Ay plegli ianectu flaggen, tupep like for stahn.”

-The Omega Glory

When we began character creation I had the players draw a card at random, each card had one of the department heads listed on it. This made short work of deciding who would be captain, science officer, etc… I also allowed players to choose any established Federation races from the Original or Animated series.

Soon we had our crew; an Andorian weapons officer, a Vulcan chief engineer, the requisite human Dr. McCoy analog, and an Iotian science officer (the gangster culture from A Piece of the Action. His uniform had pin stripes). The crew was under the leadership of Captain Ivan Kirkov.

Acts like Kirk, sounds like Chekhov. You’ve got to love it.

I wrote up several new rules for the game. One area I didn’t get into was starship combat. Before Wrath of Khan, starship combat was not a major factor in Star Trek and I figured I could wing it if needed.

 

Fractalbat’s House Rules for Star Trekthulhu

RolesThese function as Occupations from Call of Cthulhu. New skills are listed in italics.

Science Officer

Astronomy, Biology, Chemestry, Computer Programing, Library Use, Other Language, Persuade, Physics, Psychology, Sensors any two of the following skills; Antrhopology, Archaeology, Geology, History, Medicine, Natural History, Subspace Communications, one other skill as a personal specialty.

Medical Officer

Biology, Chemistry, Computer Programing, First Aid, Latin, Medicine, Natural History, Pharmacy, Psychoanalysis, Psychology.

Engineer

Chemistry, Computer Programing, Electrical Repair, Geology, Library Use, Mechanical Repair, Physics, Sensors, Starship Engineering, Subspace Communications, Starship Shields, Starship Weapons, one other as a personal specialty.

Security/Weapons Officer

Climb, Conceal, Dodge, First Aid, Grapple, Handgun, Hide, Listen, Martial Arts, Punch, Sneak, Spot Hidden, Starship Shields, Starship Weapons, two others as personal specialties

Starship Captain  

Bargain, Fast Talk, Handgun, Persuade, Psychology, Spot Hidden, Any four New Skills and any two additional skills as personal specialties.

 

New Skills:

Computer Programing – Base 00%  This is the ability to program or reprogram computers. It is not needed for operation of computers. This skill may be unnecessary if a friendly artificial intelligence is involved.

Starship Engineering – Base 00%  This is the skill of repairing and modifying the large and complex systems that run starships, starbases, and other large scale systems. It may also be used to boost power to other systems such as shields, sensors, and weapons.

Subspace Communications – Base 15%  This is the skill of operating and monitoring subspace radio messages. It may be used to jam transmissions, to break through jamming, to send encoded transmissions, and to conceal or detect subspace radio activity.

Sensors – Base 15% This is the skill of using and interpreting the results of sensor scans. It may also be used to operate a scientific tricorder or a medical tricorder with a -15% penalty.

Medicine – Base 05%  Same as normal. If the user has access to a medical tri-corder or other medical supplies the medic can heal 1d10 health. This skill also allows use of a medical tri-corder which acts as a portable med-bay for all but the most serious conditions. A scientific tri-corder may be used for diagnosis at -30%, but gives no additional treatment abilities.

Starship Weapons – Base 10%  This skill allows the use of a starship’s weapons systems, including phasers and photon torpedoes. It may be used for various special maneuvers, such as using phasers for targeting specific systems or to stun entire city blocks.

Starship Shields – Base 10%  This skill is used to adjust and reinforce shields. On a successful roll a player may restore a shield’s score by 1d10, if the player rolls under half their skill the boost is 2d10.

Starship Manuvering – Base 05%  This is the skill of moving a starship at sub-warp speeds. It may be used to gain an advantage in combat, avoid hazards in space, stabilize a ship, or any other tasks that require steering the ship.

Starship Astrogation – Base 05%  This is the skill of plotting a course through warp. It is also used to boost warp speed and maintain the warp field at emergency speeds, and any other tasks involving the warp drive.

 

Aiding Other Stations:

A starship operates based on the quality of a crew’s teamwork, not on the individual prowess of its members. An officer in one department may use their skill to boost the skill rolls of another department. To do this the player gives an explanation of how they wish to help out and make a roll on the appropriate skill. A successful roll gives a +5% bonus. Succeeding by half or more gives a +10%. An impaling roll gives +15%.

For example, a Federation starship is in combat with an Orion pirate. The chief engineer increases power to the ship’s shields, giving the navigator a +5% to boost shields. The captain uses his own targeting skills to boost the weapons officer’s targeting skill by +5%.

 

Special Abilities:

Special abilities are used by characters to pull off amazing feats within their specialty. They rely on a character’s force of will to achieve success and cost magic points to use. Failing any special ability roll shakes a character’s confidence and costs 1d4 SAN. Use of a special ability has a base 10% chance of working with an additional +10% for every magic point spent on the roll. The player must describe what they are doing. Each crew role has one special ability associated with it.

“This is the Captain Speaking.” Starship captains are a rare breed, with a wide breadth of experience both technical and social. A starship captain’s words can snap a person out of shock, direct the actions of an entire crew, persuade a mass of people to a different course of action, and seduce a high priestess. At its core it is a super communication skill. The ability must be based on a reasonable line of thought. For example, it could be used to persuade a torch bearing mob to pause and listen to new evidence that a monster is innocent of the crimes it is accused of. It could not be used to convince the mob to jump off a cliff. It could be used to trick a Klingon captain into being overconfident and making a bad move, but not for him to break off hostilities and depart peacefully.

“Invert the Polarities in the Tacyon Wave” Science officers have a gift for coming up with amazing solutions in a short amount of time. They find ways to punch holes in unbreachable barriers, scan unscannable objects, and disrupt powerful streams of energy. This ability is how they do that. The player must come up with the technobabble to make this ability work.

“I’m Giving Her all She’s Got!” Engineers are miracle workers. This is the ability to accomplish the impossible in a short amount of time. Examples include reinforcing the hull when the ship is about to break up, restarting the warp drives when they’re offline, or getting one more blast out of the phasers even though the banks have been destroyed.

“I’m a Doctor, not a Floor Wax!” Chief medical officers have astonishing powers of healing. This ability is a hyper-version of the Medicine skill. It could be used to revive someone recently killed (but not disintegrated), find a cure for an incurable disease, or discover the vector used by a plague.

“Respect the Red Shirt” You don’t get to be a chief of security in Starfleet without some amazing resilience. Using this ability allows the player to soak one damage point per magic point spent. This ability may be used after the damage roll has been made.

 

Other Abilities:

Vulcan Nerve Pinch: On a successful grapple a Vulcan can force a target to make a resistance roll between the Vulcan’s POW and the target’s current HP. If the Vulcan wins the target falls unconscious. The target must have a physiology reasonably similar to Vulcans and each use costs four magic points.

Vulcan Mind Meld: The ability for a Vulcan to read minds. The target must be restrained or otherwise not physically resisting. A target may mentally resist, in which case a POW vs POW roll is required for the Vulcan to force its way into the target’s mind.  The Vulcan may read the target’s mind and may plant information there. Using a Vulcan Mind Meld costs the Vulcan six magic points and both the Vulcan and the target lose 1d10 SAN if the target resists and 1d4 SAN if the target is willing.

 

Equipment:

Phasers:  Phasers are beam weapons that use the pistol skill to fire. They do 1d6 damage per level of power and if they reduce a target to more than -5 HP the target is disintigrated.

A phaser may also be set to stun. A target can resist being stunned by making a resistance roll using CON against the phaser’s damage roll.  A phaser set to stun may also be set to wide dispersal in order to stun multiple targets. Divide the total damage done by the number of targets hit and have each target make a resistance roll.

Phasers set to a tight beam may be used as a cutting tool or with wide dispersal it may be used to warm rocks for heat. A phaser set to overload will explode in 1d6 rounds doing Xd6 damage where X is the weapon’s maximum power setting.

There are two types of phasers. A phaser I is easier to conceal and is often carried when subtlety is needed. The maximum power of a phaser I is five. A phaser II is larger than a phaser I and has a maximum power setting of 10. Disruptors are effectively the same as phasers, only without the stun setting.

Tri-Corder: A tri-corder is a portable scanning and tool device. There are two variations, the science tri-corder and the medical tri-corder. Using a tri-corder is almost like having a full ship’s station at your disposal.

Communicator: A communicator is capable of reaching ships in orbit and other crew members anywhere on a planet. They may be used as a homing beacon.

Transporters: Matter transporters allow the teleportation of individuals and equipment over long distances. If there are transporter pads on both sides of the transport it improves the chances of cutting through any interference. Transporters cannot go through shields.

Starship Phasers: These are powerful and versatile beam weapons. They may be used for general ship-to-ship attacks, to target specific systems, and may be used for orbital bombardment. Phasers cannot be used at warp speed.

Photon Torpedoes: Starships carry a limited supply of photon torpedoes. They are not as versatile as phasers and are unable to target specific sections of a ship. They do large amounts of damage in a single hit and may be configured for use at warp speed.


These rules haven’t been extensively play tested, but they got the job done. If you use them, in whole or as inspiration, I would love to hear about it. If you’ve ever kit bashed your own rules for Star Trek I’d love to hear about that too!

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Posted by on May 7, 2014 in Gaming, Science Fiction

 

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