A Call from the Trail

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In completing playtesting for The Cthulhu Hack, I made a point of using adventures from other varieties of Cthulhu. Both Chaosium and Pelgrane do Cthulhu rather well. The Cthulhu Hack looks to run Cthulhu, too; it just looks to do them simpler.

Both Call and Trail of Cthulhu look to recreate a sense of Lovecraftian horror. Investigators from fairly common occupations get mixed up in a world of the esoteric and occult. They have different backgrounds, motivations, and skills, but they work together to battle against the unknown.

They have different game systems, but both have a wide range of skills that support an investigation. Trail of Cthulhu has abilities split between Investigative (Academic, Interpersonal, and Technical) and General. Call of Cthulhu investigators has a range of occupational skills. In the original Basic Roleplaying system, categories exist as a way to break out and align the skills – like Perception, Communication, and Physical.

The Cthulhu Hack looks to the purpose of these skills and condenses right down. Trail abilities and Call skills fulfill two basic needs: survival and discovery. Both systems have their own way of handling these and what a player does to trigger success. The Hack offers something different.

While threat and harm continue to demand a roll for success – because players always seem to like to hold fate in their hands – the discovery of information works on the basis of ‘Yes’ or ‘Yes, but…’. You always discover a new piece of information, but the dwindling pool offered by The Cthulhu Hack‘s use of The Black Hack‘s Usage Die mechanic means that you can’t keep pushing forever. Rumours peter out and clues dry up.

The mapping of basics – abilities and skills to Saves or Usage rolls – means that you can take an adventure for either system and quickly swap out checks, even on the fly. I have posted my version of the Call classic The Haunting. Over the last two weeks, I have run a Trail of Cthulhu One-page adventure called The Keepers of the Wood.

Adventures might include other mechanics – like handling damaging traps or sanity-blasting major entities – but these exceptions, when they come, can be handled with the application of common sense. For example, damage from either system could work straight off the page, with a degree of caution.

The more chances I get to run the game the better grasp I hope to get for quick off-the-page conversion.

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