Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Stars Are Right(ish)

It's here!

It is three years late but it's here, and it's a pretty book, perhaps the fanciest English-language rulebook Call of Cthulhu has had in its lifetime. The new Chaosium has done a wonderful job of getting the new edition released after the long and painful delays caused -- or at least mismanaged -- by the old Chaosium. It's a great achievement, it will bring much good karma Chaosium's way, and I am certain that this edition will be popular with the fans.

But I won't be playing it.

Call of Cthulhu is my favourite role-playing game -- I may have mentioned that before -- and one of the things I love about it is its simplicity. It's a light ruleset and the Chaosium percentile system is quite intuitive so there's little in the way of calculation involved at the table.

My preferred edition -- fifth, from 1993 -- has 42 pages of rules. There are lots of pages of mind-warping spells, eldritch abominations, and blasphemous tomes, but all the actual game mechanics fit into those 42 pages.

The new edition covers the same ground in 130 pages, 16 of which are for resolving that most Lovecraftian of events: the car chase. There are two flowcharts used for combat resolution.

Call of Cthulhu is an old game and it hasn't changed much over the years, so it was getting a bit creaky and needed cleaning up; I don't think anyone would deny that, but the way it's been done in this new edition has turned it into a game that is not for me.

This isn't a review or even a recommendation; it's more of an explanation why, when I talk about Call of Cthulhu in the future, it won't be the seventh edition. I wish everyone involved all sorts of success, but I will be sticking to my clunky yet reliable 1993 copy.

I suppose that makes me a grognard!


  1. On the other hand, this edition was tailor-made for my Dukes of Hazzard in Arkham campaign.

  2. Seriously, am I the only person who welcomes the Chase chapter? FWIW, the rules cover *any* kind of chase (not just car chases) including foot chases straight out of "The Shadow Over Innsmouth", and provide a nice suite of tools for Keepers to ratchet up tension and players to try and think cleverly. I think they're great and can't wait to use them more in my games. (I already used them once with a wheelchair-bound PC being chased by a ghoul. He *almost* made it...)

    If one were splitting hairs, I think chase rules in a horror game are way more appropriate than combat rules.

    1. I'm not against chase rules in Call of Cthulhu; rather I question why we need 16 pages of them.

    2. Well, by contrast the combat rules (not counting stuff on wounds and recovery, poison, etc.), are just about the same length, which I think is quite intentional: they're both potentially life-threatening situations that require breaking down into step-by-step segments that allow a variety of tactical options to ensure both drama and a sense of fair play should a character end up dying, so they should receive about the same amount of coverage and depth.

      Having said that, I went back and checked 5th edition and found the combat rules to be about half the length of 7th. I recall some rudimentary chase mechanics appearing in older supplements that ran to *maybe* a page, and I can't imagine them being 16 pages back in those days even if they'd been expanded for inclusion in the main book. There's definitely been an increase in page count

      I'm certainly not arguing your preference for the earlier edition's brevity (although that doesn't bother me and I'm pretty much a 7e fan at this point); it's just that I see a lot of snark about the length of the 7e chase rules, and I don't think it's justified.

      Uh, I mean: edition war! ;)

    3. There's no edition war here. CoC7 is not for me, because I've never been a more-rules-is-best person, but that doesn't mean it's a bad game.

    4. Definitely a fair point on the importance of chases in the horror tradition.