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Running Call of Cthulhu for the public


Sir Drum

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I want to run Call of Cthulhu at my FLGS and will probably sign up to the Cult of Chaos OP program.

My dilemma is, with CoC having some pretty hairy concepts, how limiting are recommended age limits and content warnings to introducing people into this amazing game?

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Well, first off, welcome to the board!

CoC does have some pretty non-happy assumptions from the get-go. 'Mankind is doomed and there is no saving it' is kind of a downer.

I'd start off with being up-front with everyone... Call of Cthulhu is a horror game, emphasis on 'horror'. The most important conflict or struggle in the game is holding on to your humanity and sanity while at the same time becoming an effective fighter against the 'devils in the dark'.

How that is received will depend on the campaign you want to run. An 'Innsmouth' cycle might have a very negative effect on a table with a lot of women in it, for example [the forced breeding of monsters aspect]. I'd suggest starting small, maybe a 'rescue a child from cultists' type adventure to give everyone a sense of the game but not getting into the real 'tentacles' yucky part. That will come later 😉

Another suggestion is to find a year to begin the campaign in and do some research on what's happening that year. Who is the popular singer? What theater show is bringing down the house? What movie is all the rage? What are the fashions? What is the latest whizz-bang invention? Another aspect that you will probably want to look into is the firearms laws of the nation you'll be starting in. Ironmongery laws are going to be a lot different the UK than they are in the US.

Many male characters will have had some military experience during the Great War if they're old enough. Most European males have a near certain chance of seeing the Western Front. Characters with extensive combat experience might have SAN damage to start with, perhaps in exchange for skill points in the Soldier profession.

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I think be very cautious. A lot of people can’t handle thinking of Cthulhu scenarios as a game, they would see it as unspeakably horrible, like walking into a party of serial killers revelling in their hideous crimes. And probably try to have you shut down.

if you plan to open your church of starry wisdom, vet the initiates 🙂

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I tend to run a lot of One Shots at area FLGS and for the last year or so I've also gone back to running them at Cons.

While I run other horror games in addition to CoC I use the same yard stick for all of them. 

1) I only run horror games for Adults, no minors at the table. 

2) I run horror, not a social interaction romance/relationship game.  The object is the horror situation, not acting out a 3 hour tea party.

3) I populate the NPC cast based on the time historical period.  The NPC cast is not there to allow arguments about morality through the modern lens.  The NPC cast is to support the horror by helping players immerse themselves in the period.

4) Horror is horror.  Sanitizing horror turns it into a scary story on Goosebumps.

Make up your own guidelines and be right up front with everyone at the table, if they don't feel it is for them they don't have to play. 

And that is not just to be mean, it is needed for the modern gaming environment.

At a Con I make sure the "adult" and "horror" is emphasized on the sign up sheets.  This is all because of an incident from a few years ago that almost made be give up on cons all together.

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On 9/19/2022 at 10:16 PM, svensson said:

... How that is received will depend on the campaign you want to run. An 'Innsmouth' cycle might have a very negative effect on a table with a lot of women in it, for example [the forced breeding of monsters aspect] ...

n.b. there's plenty of guys who also find this sort of content to be actively anti-fun, stand-up-and-walk-away, etc.

For my wife, Innsmouth would likely be acceptable content; but for her, anything involving trauma to children is a hard-nope (except rescue/redemption arcs, and then only  v-e-r-y  carefully); that includes the horror trope of having children as  part of the problem, to be fought/killed (q.v. Col. Chivington's "nits make lice" -- quoted by Gygax himself to justify LG killing of orc&c babies as both Lawful  & Good).


For a public-facing "open sign-up" game where I was leaning-in on the horrific (which, it's worth noting, CoC doesn't have to do):

  • I would put up a content-warning "This game is a horror game, likely to feature most/all of these:  X, Y, Z:20-form-beast::20-power-movement:.   It would probably be rated "R" for violence & disturbing content, as a movie." on the sign-up/recruitment sheet
  • I would start with a 10-15 minute "mini session 0," (a) reiterating the content-warnings, & (b) covering some safety-tools (such as from Monte Cook Games).

And I would disallow minors.

Edited by g33k
typo
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