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Cthulhu: BRP vs. Gumshoe


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Trail of Cthulhu divorces "official" Lovecraftian adventure from BRP, using a different role-playing system. Since Call of Cthulhu is the flagship BRP product, I'm wondering how Trail is affecting the fortunes of both Chaosium and BRP.

Also, has anyone played both systems? Does it make a difference in the feel of the game? (If you're being devoured by a multi-tentacled terror, does it matter how many or what shape dice you had to roll to get there?)

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I haven't played 'Trail' but I've read it...

It has lots of interesting stuff... different slants on certain parts of the Mythos.

It also tries to emphasize investigation by 'fixing' what its designers seem to think were weaknesses in the COC rules that caused too many players to miss vital clues.

I doubt I'll ever play it but it makes a nifty supplement of ideas for COC.

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Trail of Cthulhu divorces "official" Lovecraftian adventure from BRP, using a different role-playing system. Since Call of Cthulhu is the flagship BRP product, I'm wondering how Trail is affecting the fortunes of both Chaosium and BRP.

Pelgrane have a license from Chaosium, which technically they didn't have to do (as the copyright situation on Lovecraft's work is complex but much is public domain these days). On the whole I suspect (but have no hard figures) it's probably doing well by Chaosium - there is the license fees, plus ToC doesn't yet have the extensive library of material that CoC does and it's fairly easy to convert

Also, has anyone played both systems? Does it make a difference in the feel of the game? (If you're being devoured by a multi-tentacled terror, does it matter how many or what shape dice you had to roll to get there?)

ToC and CoC are quite different games. Leaving aside the ludicrously over hyped "flaw" in CoC that ToC allegedly "fixes"§, ToC is a modern "rules light" game, optimised around investigating mysteries. It's so tightly focused on that, to this old style gamer anyway, it felt rather restrictive. I also got very irritated reading the core book, as I had to wade through 50 pages of interminable details about character generation before I got a coherent explanation of the basics of the actual system - without which the numbers on the preceding fifty pages were largely meaningless... The rest however is well written by Ken Hite and very nicely presented. I played a couple of games and realised it wasn't giving me anything that BRP CoC didn't, and didn't feel as easily adaptable to other styles and approaches.

Many people on the net are very taken with it however, so see if you can get in to a couple of games at a convention or something and try it out for yourself.

Cheers,

Nick

§ basically perhaps the most obvious single piece of advice from GMing 101 - if there is a specific sequence of events your game requires the PC's to follow, the characters must always obtain the necessary information to progress along that path. i.e. Don't hide key clues behind skill rolls the players might fail, give them the key clues and use skill rolls to enhance the details they have have or promote the mood of the game. I worked this out in, er 1982, from reading the 2nd edition Call of Cthulhu rule book...

Edited by NickMiddleton
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I'm sure there's room in the world for multiple Cthulhu-based rules (though I'm ready to slug the next game-designing "genius" who's out to fix some "fatal flaw" in the rules).

My attitude can best be summed up as follows: a few years ago my brother (a bigger gamer and bigger nerd than I, with whom I played COC for several years back in the 80's) proudly displayed a copy of the d20 to me. My response was: "Well, damn - good thing that came out - we sure never had any fun with those old rules." (he told me to shut up).

Aren't the d20 rules out of print, now? Or am I mistaken.

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§ basically perhaps the most obvious single piece of advice from GMing 101 - if there is a specific sequence of events your game requires the PC's to follow, the characters must always obtain the necessary information to progress along that path. i.e. Don't hide key clues behind skill rolls the players might fail, give them the key clues and use skill rolls to enhance the details they have have or promote the mood of the game. I worked this out in, er 1982, from reading the 2nd edition Call of Cthulhu rule book...

I know some people who played in a Traveller scenario where after 30 minutes the GM put down the scenario notes and said something along the lines of "Well, you missed the important clue and the ship you were meant to intercept has been destroyed by pirates" then he went home ...

That's why I use BFAs in my games (Big Fluorescent Arrows in case you wondered).

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I've read it but nor played. I like the different (and multiple) takes on the Mythos, some very interesting ideas there. The system itself, seems fine, but doesn't strike me as my flavor.

Yes, I too (surreptitiously) read it, and some of the mythos information was interesting and cool, though I felt it "codified" and organized the mythos more than it should have (although I suppose Chaosium could be open to such accusations as well).

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I know some people who played in a Traveller scenario where after 30 minutes the GM put down the scenario notes and said something along the lines of "Well, you missed the important clue and the ship you were meant to intercept has been destroyed by pirates" then he went home ...

.

Too bad nobody had the Mythic GM Emulator on hand http://www.mythic.wordpr.com/wm002demo.pdf , Mythic Game Master Emulator Then it would not have matter much if the adventure got derailed :thumb:

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Yes, I too (surreptitiously) read it, and some of the mythos information was interesting and cool, though I felt it "codified" and organized the mythos more than it should have (although I suppose Chaosium could be open to such accusations as well).

Yes, I suppose that comes with the territory when you attempt to adapt fiction to a game.

I think, Trail of Cthulhu does a nice job in providing multiple interpretations for the various mythos beings, some of which are better conceptualization of the fictional versions. Others which might get you think of a being in a new way that somehow makes perfect sense. For that reason alone I think it may be worth perusing over, even if, like with me, the system itself isn't ones cup of tea.

Edited by GrayPumpkin
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It surprised me how many people on the Risus discussion boards are using it for Lovecraftian campaigns. For those of you unfamiliar with it, Risus is an extremely rules light (and free) RPG system originally intended for silly, humorous scenarios. It'd be like someone using Toon or Teenagers From Outer Space to run a grim and gritty noir campaign, although Risus makes those two rules sets look like HERO System. But a lot of folks are doing it.

"I baffle the monster with my Freelance Hairstylist trait!"

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That's why I use BFAs in my games (Big Fluorescent Arrows in case you wondered).

I just make it so that it really was the butler. Or I let them take me or I take them down a different adventure entirely and let them hear how, for example, the Yelmalio cult turned up in the village (after the PCs had effed it up and left) and executed all the children by impalement.

That was a tricky scenario from Shadows on the Borderlanmds and I remember there that important clues required *critical* rolls against human lore to get. Some of my players were surprised they had such a thing on their character sheets. 5% of 5% is what?. Quality writing though.

I've always felt if one or two prods don't work then the scenario should carry on to its sorry sad conclusion.

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"Long out of print, though someone's licensed it for True20 implementation, unless I remember incorrectly."

That's Shadows of Cthulhu, coming from Mongoose Publishing under their Flaming Cobra imprint.

It has no ties to the d20 Cthulhu put out by WOTC a few years ago.

It's published by Reality Deviant, and here's a review on Flamesrising.com

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I've played a couple of games of Gumshoe and its alright. Nothing mindblowing (no pun intended just limited vocabulary of cliches, sorry) but a perfectly serviceable set of rules. I haven't played Trail of Cthulhu but I've not heard of any great mechanical differences between that and the other settings what I played. Now, several people in my club have real Cthulhu heads on and would use the CoC rules for any game and setting with or without mythos so I feel that I can compare like with like.

Prior to playing I felt very much 'you complete Arse you're fixing something which doesn't need fixing; no GM in their right mind lets a game die because of a failed Spot Hidden roll' but by coincidence I played a couple of CoC games after playing gumshoe ones where the GM did that very thing. (And 1 where GM went down the 'make a Spot Hidden; everyone failed? Okay make an Idea roll; everyone failed; okay make a Luck roll' path grrrrrr)

I'm not sure that it really has a massively different feel to CoC by dint of rules (the games I played were a bit more reflective than usual but that may have been the plot and/or player mix).

The thing which does annoy me about Gumshoe is the tacked on nature of combat. For all of BRP's flaws at least combat and 'normal stuff' have a single resolution system. Gumshoe has a quite clever resource management style of investigative resolution mechanic and then a clunky as can be combat system. I hated it.

Al

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