Investing In: Call of Cthulhu

The Old Ones ruled the earth aeons before the rise of man. Traces of their cyclopean cities can still be found on remote islands, buried amid the shifting desert sands, and in the frozen wastes of the polar extremes. Originally they came to this world from the stars. They sleep now, some deep within the earth or beneath the sea. When the stars are right they shall again walk the earth.1

Thankfully for me, the stars aligned back before the holidays! I got a chance to finally play some Call of Cthulhu from Chaosium! My friend Rich again gathered a group of us to try another game and I was quick to leap at the opportunity. I think I’d last played in college, a few sessions of a game that saw my psychoanalyst and academic so enamored with parapsychology, and far too sane for her own good, that she mastered the dark powers of the stars, trying to warn people of their coming. That of course only led them to go insane, the townspeople to claim she was possessed or worse, and eventually she had to escape into the place between the stars. She’s probably out there tormenting disbelievers right now.

If you’re not familiar with Call of Cthulhu, it is a game of cosmic horror, mystery, and madness! I ran Strange Aeons for my pathfinder group because of the mature, terrifying, and dangerous aspects pulled from the cosmic dangers between the stars! Call of Cthulhu is now on its 7th edition, and helps you play an investigator (or common person who becomes an investigator) of the strange, magical, and dangerous Cthulhu mythos!

The Rules

The system is based on a d100 and was easy to understand. The higher the number, the better you are in that characteristic (ability score) or skill. Roll underneath and you are good. Roll under the half-mark or quarter-mark you could be doing exceptionally well, unless of course the Keeper (that’s your GM or DM) has determined a hard or extreme difficulty of success! Rolling low is always best! Characteristics included things like Strength, Intelligence, Dexterity, but also Appearance, Education, and Power. Education was how well learned you were outside of simple intellect while Power was a measure of iron will and focus. 

Skills were even more diverse from accounting to charm, to computers and first aid, history and medicine, the occult and swimming. Spot Hidden was particularly important as of course is Cthulhu Mythos! I love how you are given space to create some as well as having minimums in many things like drive cards at 20% or stealth also at 20%. I think it’s good there’s some fundamental chance to pass things you might have a base understanding or chance at. Of course there’s Science with a base of 1% and Appraise at 5%, so it’s sometimes a very small margin. There’s also hit points as you might expect as well as Sanity, Luck, and Magic Points. We didn’t get ot have any magic, and we avoided luck for now but it provides a way to alter your rolls and with a little luck, you’ll succeed! Sanity, however, that tracks how well you’re handling disturbing situations both mundane and supernatural. Fail or fail spectacularly and that sanity may never come back…

Our Game

That was perhaps my greatest worry when our collection of characters were called to investigate a break in. I played the charming Nevada Jones, professor of Archaeology while the students in my travel and investigations club joined me. Interns are great you know! We often traveled to inspect local historic treasures, but this time it was helping a friend of a friend. Unfortunately Thomas Kimble’s home had been broken into and he wasn’t sure what book had been stolen from his library!

Off we raced only to find the library was quite large and there was a concern it was related to his poor Uncle’s disappearance. Some months ago, Douglas Kimble had gone missing. We were free to stay the night (which terrified all of us out of character) but we agreed and set about searching the extensive, poorly organized library. Few things seemed suspicious save for a couple journals that mentioned all his trips out to the cemetery. Oh and the window was old, easy to open. We jammed that and eagerly went out to the cemetery. Well we found the old caretaker who was knew Douglas. A shame he went missing. He was always a quiet, but friendly sort, sitting in the cemetery and reading…

Well we found where he sat on an old grave. There was some faded engraving we couldn’t make out, but it was the scratches on the sides and the steps to an old mausoleum. Well we looked it over. It seemed safe enough, so we threw it open… Only to pass out from the smell. And then when we awoke, Douglas had moved us to the grave he liked to sit in. It was late. And he was a ghoul, but not a total monster. We parlayed safely, swore we wouldn’t tell his nephew, and even planned a way to fake him dying in the river. The ghouls were moving on but good thing they didn’t find us. So we hurriedly grabbed our things from the house, left a nice note with a wet shirt of Douglas’, decided not to wait for payment, and off we went! We definitely weren’t spending the night!

We didn’t run into any other monstrous ghouls, and Rich told us that investigating the mausoleum could’ve been dangerous if we opened it ourselves… But instead we learned a little something and got away! In fact, at the end of a story is the Investigator Development Phase! You roll against your skills you used and have a chance to increase them. We all learned a little Cthulhu Mythos while my Charm, Persuade, and Spot Hidden all got better because my experience rolls were higher than the rating or 95. You always have a chance to grow!

Of course, how you grow may be in a deranged, terrified fashion! Perhaps you’ll get lucky, master magic, and like my parapsychologist become the one terrifying the people! Pick up Call of Cthulhu from Chaosium and you will!

Investing In:

I wasn’t quite sure what to name my article series when I first started but the idea of showcasing or discussing things that make me excited, that I find new and interesting, or maybe I’m otherwise passionate about seemed to fit with the idea of Investing In something like the Pathfinder 2E mechanic. To use some magic items you have to give that little bit of yourself, which helps make these things even better. I like the metaphor of the community growing and being strengthened in the same way!

I also want to hear what you’re Investing In! Leave me a comment below about what games, modules, systems, products, people, live streams, etc you enjoy! You can also hit me up on social media as silentinfinity. I want to hear what excites you and what you’re passionate about. There’s so much wonderful content, people, groups (I could go on) in this community of ours that the more we invest in and share, the better it becomes!

Sources

Banner – Call of Cthulhu Keeper Rulebook, cover, Chaosium

  1. Call of Cthulhu Keeper Rulebook, backmatter, Chaosium
  2. Cthulhu Rises, Creative Commons Attribution, Silberius
  3. Mansions of Madness, front art, Chaosium
  4. The Chiller, Creative Commons Attribution, Sanskarans

Rob Pontious

Rob Pontious works in web commerce by day and is a writer for KnowDirectionPodcast.com's #InvestingIn, a player for Roll for Combat's #ThreeRingAdventure podcast, and also a player for GehennaGaming's #GehennaValley MonsterHearts2 twitch stream. He's a lover of TTRPGs for over three decades, a gamer, and a GAYMER. You can find him on social media as @silentinfinity.