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klecser

Are you a new Keeper? Here's what you need.

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If you are a new Keeper to Call of Cthulhu, whether a veteran role-player or new to the hobby, you may be wondering what the "tiers" of engagement are for the game. Here is my view of what I recommend at different levels. There is a lot of experience on this board, so CoC vets, please feel free to chime in.

Also remember that if you purchase any of these products directly from Chaosium.com, you get the PDF for free with your purchase. Chaosium is really good at packing boxes so it will stay safe.

What should I get first?

Whether a veteran role-player or new to the hobby, you should pick up the Call of Cthulhu Starter Set. It contains everything you need to get started, plus more. You'll get dice, the basic rules of the game, a solo adventure to help you to start prepping character creation, three scenarios, handouts, character sheets, pre-generated characters and more.

If you want to see what's inside, here is my Unboxing of the Starter Set:

Veteran role-players may say: "Why should I get a Starter Set? Starter Sets are dumb and not useful." Chaosium is reinventing the Starter Set for the role-playing hobby, in my opinion. This isn't like Starter Sets you've seen for other large RPGs that shall remain unnamed, with a lot of flash and little substance. This Starter Set has depth. The scenarios are all classic scenarios, but with two key changes: 1) the production values and art have been upgraded tremendously and 2) the writing has been massaged to progressively teach Keepers and players how Call of Cthulhu "works" as they play through these scenarios.

Two key differences between Call of Cthulhu and other role-playing games are that CoC is investigation-focused, not combat-focused. That means that even experienced role-players are going to find something new with this game. Rather than "gearing up" for an encounter you "knowledge up" in CoC. This also means that CoC is a handout/clue-focused game in which players are handed papers and objects that add to the immersion. The Starter Set includes models of what this is like so you, as Keeper, whether veteran or new, can see what the "prep" looks like for this game. There is more prep than most role-playing games, but that prep is VERY rewarding when you see players reacting to the immersion.

Ok, we played and really enjoyed it! What next?

The Keeper Rulebook, for sure. This is the Core ruleset, and will also give you a very rich introduction into the Mythos, how it works, and what your players could encounter (or try to avoid!).

The Keeper Screen Pack is another great resource that is also a good value. A solid Keeper screen, two scenarios, a gorgeous map of Arkham, plus more.

I'd also recommend that you check out Seth Skorkowsky's YouTube Channel. Seth is, I think it is fair to say, the preeminent Call of Cthulhu YouTuber. He has an 11 Part series walking you through the rules of the game, with tips on how to make them "pop" for your players.

Also CJ Leung's videos on How To Play are excellent!

If you are immediately seeking new scenarios to play, currently in PDF and soon to be out in print, I recommend these two scenario collections as being excellent for new Keepers: Deadlight and Other Dark Turns and Gateways to Terror

Doors to Darkness is also designed for new players and Keepers. These scenarios work well as is for new Keepers, and experienced Gamemasters will see opportunities to flesh them out even more.

The beauty of Call of Cthulhu is that there is nearly 40 years worth of material to draw from. Everything produced in the past for CoC is compatible with 7th edition with very little conversion time. This game isn't about stats so much as characters and situations. Out of this huge past catalogue, I think a solid intermediate scenario collection is Mansions of Madness.  It also just got the first two 7th edition releases! Mansion of Madness Volume 1: Behind Closed Doors.

After that?

Well, that's up to you! By that time I think you'll be developing your own tastes of what you like. Explore Chaosium.com and see what's available. Check out licensees like Stygian Fox and Golden Goblin Press. Check out Seth's Channel or Bud's RPG Review or my Channel (RPG Imaginings) for more product unboxings and scenario reviews.

Most of all, feel free to ask questions here. We would love to help you get started!

Edited by klecser
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That is all fantastic and solid advice. I would also add a couple of other resources, the Miskatonic University Podcast, and the Good Friends of Jackson Elias Podcast.  

Each of these excellent podcasts discus ways to run your Call of Cthulhu games. If I don't mind saying so myself, each podcast is hosted by a roundtable of guys with years of experience running Call of Cthulhu. They're witty, sarcastic, and imaginative. I think fans of the Call of Cthulhu RPG greatly enjoy both podcasts. 

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Or maybe you can go on Ebay and just pick up an old 5th Edition copy of the rules (or even older) for about £20 and maybe some of the older scenarios or campaigns for about the same price and away you go. There is no need to buy all of the new recently released stuff from Chaosium. You will soon get the hang of the rules. There is tons of stuff out there. Some about 40 years old but it is great stuff.

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On 5/8/2019 at 11:38 AM, JonHook said:

That is all fantastic and solid advice. I would also add a couple of other resources, the Miskatonic University Podcast, and the Good Friends of Jackson Elias Podcast.  

Each of these excellent podcasts discus ways to run your Call of Cthulhu games. If I don't mind saying so myself, each podcast is hosted by a roundtable of guys with years of experience running Call of Cthulhu. They're witty, sarcastic, and imaginative. I think fans of the Call of Cthulhu RPG greatly enjoy both podcasts. 

If they posted transcripts it might be of use.  Podcasts have pretty much ended a lot of games up where i play.  getting spare time to game is rough, spending valuable time listening to people talk on the off chance they drop a nugget of useful info is a no go these days. 

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1 hour ago, Spence said:

If they posted transcripts it might be of use.  Podcasts have pretty much ended a lot of games up where i play.  getting spare time to game is rough, spending valuable time listening to people talk on the off chance they drop a nugget of useful info is a no go these days. 

Sorry to hear that, Spence. 

As one of the co-hosts of The Miskatonic University Podcast, I can attest that publishing transcripts is not possible, since ours is not a scripted show. 

Should you discover time in your day to listen to entertaining audio media while you're relaxing or doing some other task that doesn't require your full attention, then I hope you rediscover the fun of RPG podcasts. 

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On 5/13/2019 at 1:25 PM, JonHook said:

Sorry to hear that, Spence. 

As one of the co-hosts of The Miskatonic University Podcast, I can attest that publishing transcripts is not possible, since ours is not a scripted show. 

Should you discover time in your day to listen to entertaining audio media while you're relaxing or doing some other task that doesn't require your full attention, then I hope you rediscover the fun of RPG podcasts. 

It's possible.  Maybe once I retire and suddenly have spare time measured in hours 😜

For me I want to usable information that I can read in 5 minutes or so.  What products are in the pipe and when do they expect to hit the shelf.

With the love affair with pod-casts no one appears to be able to succinctly impart information anymore.  

Now I am not in anyway saying that people should not watch or like pod-casts. They are entertainment.  Do you like the show?  The only difference between a pod-cast, a TV show or a movie is what the watcher finds interesting and what they are willing to spend 30 to 90 minutes of their free time to see it.   But if you like the show, then watch/listen to it. More power to the people that are pod-people. 

 

 

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I find myself that podcasts are easier to fit into my schedule than YouTube channels -- I only have a short commute to work, and a bit of workout/running to let me eat chocolate like I used to, so I listen to podcasts during that time. In comparison, YouTube channels require your full attention. But there are also written-word feeds you can follow if that's more your jam -- I follow some filtered version of RPG.net and ENworld news, and receive the newsletters/follow the official blog feeds from Chaosium and other usual suspects (Pelgrane Press, Arc Dream, etc.).

Back to the OP, I think another good book people might buy pretty soon after the Starter Kit and Core Rules book is the Pulp Cthulhu book. I've seen people get into Cthulhu with the wrong idea: they thought you could create characters with magic powers from the get go, or they didn't think it would be as hopeless and bleak (expecting action/horror instead of cosmic horror for instance). I think the Pulp Cthulhu sourcebook lets non-HPL/cosmic-horror fans still have tentacle-rich fun, and that's probably an option they need to know about early on.

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On 5/11/2019 at 6:38 PM, Eddy said:

Or maybe you can go on Ebay and just pick up an old 5th Edition copy of the rules (or even older) for about £20

Normally I'd agree with this. I have a fifth edition rules set and have played a lot of CoC over the years. I've never seen the need to upgrade as basically in my mind versions 1-6 are the same. However this changed when I watched Mike Mason, one of the 7ed authors run a game on Penny Arcade: 

It was great, as the game unfolded the 7ed rules looked better and better! So I got the CoC Starter set and ran the first adventure last night with two players. The rule book is very small, but has all the needed stuff. The new rules really changed the way the game was played, % characteristics, regular, half and fifth rolls, when you fail a roll you can push if you want - do a re-roll with a consequence, and there are now bonus and penalty dice if needed. The only thing that annoyed me was that the new luck rules aren't in the Starter set (I don't have the full 7ed rulebook) the new luck rules were the first thing that caught my attention in the video.

Disclaimer - I work for Chaosium and know Mike. That aside as a gamer I was really impressed with the show, the Starter set and the 7ed rules.

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Yeah I have only GM'ed one short adventure with the 7ed rules so far, but it's the first time ever that I feel CoC has a "proper" system. Before, I would usually use a different system, with house-rules for making sanity rules feel "CoC-y". But now, with 7ed's better combat system, better fleshed out magic system, and all kinds of other tweaks, I actually want to use the rules as written.

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On 5/22/2019 at 8:43 AM, lordabdul said:

Yeah I have only GM'ed one short adventure with the 7ed rules so far, but it's the first time ever that I feel CoC has a "proper" system. Before, I would usually use a different system, with house-rules for making sanity rules feel "CoC-y". But now, with 7ed's better combat system, better fleshed out magic system, and all kinds of other tweaks, I actually want to use the rules as written.

While I won't say 7th is the first time I thought CoC worked since I have played it on and off for years since 1st Ed.  I will say I was very very pleased with the changes that 7th added.  I won't say it "fixed" anything, but I will say it definitely "smoothed over the last rough spots".

 

I also like Pulp being broken out into its own book.  Though I do think people still misunderstand what CoC Pulp is when compared to "Action Pulp".  I have read a lot of pulp era horror/mystery/thriller pulp stories, and they are not Indiana Jones.....

 

And Down Darker Trails is just Awesomeness incarnate 😁

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Truly wonderful advice! 

 But I have one thing to add. No matter if your a Keeper or a Investigator, the one thing all role-players need is imagination. At the end of the day, statistics aside, all RPGs are collaborative narrative exercises and you need to understand how a story or character works. One should discover all the richness of storytelling first, then purchase all the rulebooks and supplements. Learn about character arc and the three act story, solid backstory and world building, and anything else you can! Life is short, don't waste it on a sub-par role-playing experience. Actually read ALL of Lovecraft's available fiction. Learn about the three stages of horror.

 After you have learned the basics of story development, you should move on with the starter set and the Keeper Rulebook. This is the best RPG system I've ever played, and there's no way you can go wrong with these products. Also, unlike wizards of the coast and hasbro, Chaosium actually cares about their customers and is a company I am proud to support. "We are all us."

 

 

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Edit: Updated to switch PDF Links of above to physical product. Added PDF of 7th Edition Mansions of Madness Volume 1, since I explicitly mentioned the prior iteration as a solid intermediate scenario collection. :)

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