Recently we’ve put an extra sleeping cot in the study. A pleasant consequence is that my 12-year-old son likes to lie on it and peruse my book shelves. He passes by the American, Balkan, and Byzantine, English, and Irish history books with celerity, honing in on my collection of role-playing games. Securely tucked away was a 1981 copy of the Call of Cthulhu boxed set, a famous RPG in which characters investigating the horrific environs and creatures of H.P. Lovecraft’s stories go insane and die. Talk about treasures. We cracked it open and gazed at the components: a thin, stapled rule book, a thinner Basic Role-Playing rule book, a world map of Cthulhu sites (with tentacles), character sheets and cutouts, and a guide to playing in 1920, a Chaosium Games catalog. Personally, that was the coolest bit. I’ll show you; I’ll scan some of the pages and we’ll all have a laugh. Coincidentally, his chum and he have decided they want to play Call of Cthulhu. I’ve never played it, truth be told. But serendipity prevailed, and after finding the boxed set we called his buddy and arranged a Friday night sleep over.
I didn’t feel like bringing the boxed set to work, so I dragged along my copy of the Sixth Edition Rules, knowing that there were several adventures in the book. I don’t want to learn the gaming system, sorry. Scanning it, it seems similar to D&D, which of course I know, but with slight differences. It also uses an assload of multi-sided dice, and I’m not into the weirdo gaming dice anymore. I’m even tiring of the ubiquitous ten-sided die, used in many, many role-playing games. I like a six-sided die. It’s a cube, it’s common, and a pair or more feel right when I’m rattling them in my hand before rolling. But, I don’t need to learn the system. Over our camping weekend – detailed in all it’s glory here – I brought Vs. Monsters, an Indie RPG that is simple and straightforward. My son and I played a test Vs. Monsters game. It is easy. Really easy. So, I don’t need to learn the Basic-Role-Playing-System, or whatever the rules of Call of Chtulhu are called. I can slap the adventure on top of the Vs. Monsters rules and away we go. Sure, that will work.
Reading the Wikipedia entry on the Call of Cthulhu game, is see that the boxed set produced in 1981 is in fact the first edition of the game. Shit. I didn’t know that. I wonder what that goes for. I’ll have to ask some of my book-selling friends.
The first adventure I find is “The Haunting”, which is a renamed version of “The Haunted House”, apparently a famous scenario that is many players’ first Call of Cthulhu experience. Well, I hope I’m not screwing the pooch running this with Vs. Monsters rules, but what the hell. While I do have some free time at work to read non-work books, I don’t have a lot of it. Reading the scenario, it’s kind of grim. Mass murder. Insane asylums. Why do the boys want to play this? Hype, probably. I know a lot of games who talk about how grand CoC is, how fantastic, how much better a gaming experience than wandering around a dungeon killing monsters and taking their loot. I see. It is so cooler to wander around a haunted house and BE killed. How Bohemian. Maybe the boys and I will start smoking and wearing black during the game. I doubt that.
The first part of the adventure asks the players to wander Boston looking for clues. Anybody need a Scooby snack? It isn’t obvious to me that the character should go to the library, clerks office, police station, and city newspaper for clues, and it won’t be for the boys. I guess that is a staple of the game, heading to the library before confronting the mind-bending monsters. Working in a library, I have bad news for you folks; you don’t go to the library before meeting the mind-bending monsters, you meet the monsters at the library. They are called librarians, and it will definitely warp your thinking trying to figure out what exactly they do. By all means, for your own sanity, don’t talk to them. I digress.
So, that’s my day. I’ve got a few minutes here so I’ll pound the book. If I’m not back later today, with a full report on gaming prep, I’ll log in Monday and recount our tale of gripping horror, greasy pizza, and gnashing, metal-clad teeth (both boys have braces).