Got Any Cthulhu Tips?

Posted by Labyrinthian in , ,



My group is beginning our long awaited Call of Cthulhu campaign this Thursday. To that end I have decided to elicit any advice those more knowledgeable (just about everyone) might have on the subject.  

I've done some prep to get geared up for said campaign.  I've read a bit of Lovecraft (not my favorite writer to be honest), some Mythos fiction by other writers, got and plan to play Arkham Horror tonight (woot!), and looked over the rulebook (6th edition is what we are playing) for Chaosium's CoC system as well as the Miskatonic University book (we are playing student investigators).

Even with all that though I still don't feel like I know everything I need to know.  That's where you come in!  Here are some questions/issues I have. 


These guys looked screwed.  I'm hoping to avoid this.
1. How to I maximize PC survivability?
I enjoy games where the same cast of characters sticks around for most if not all of the campaign.  The long running bonds between characters and the trails they make it through together is one thing that keeps me coming back week after week in most games.  That having been said, I keep reading that CoC isn't a game with a great survivability rate... so how do I maximize PC survivability? 


2. What type of skills will prove the most useful?
As I stated above, we are playing matriculating freshmen at Miskatonic University so we don't really get a whole lot skill point to work with.  I want to make sure I use mine on skills that I'll actually use, so what are some good useful skills?  




3. What are some common pitfalls for new/inexperienced players?
Obviously I'm not going to take a swim looking for the city of R'lyeh, but what are some common missteps people have encountered?  

Watch out for this guy... check!
4.  What are some good ways of preserving sanity?
I've heard that becoming insane is just as big a danger as dying, so what steps can be taken to help prevent that?  Should ancient tomes be avoided at all cost?  I've heard those can be dangerous.

5.  How much combat can I expect?
There see to be a number of combat related skills in the game, but the game doesn't seem like it focuses on combat.  Are these skills worth investing in, and how much fighting can I really expect in CoC?



6. I rolled some pretty pedestrian stats
Which stats would everyone say is the most important?  My best stat by far is intelligence (14) my worst is Con (8).

7.  Got any other tips I should know?
I'm not sure what else to ask, but I'm sure there is more good advice to be had! 


This will be a first for everyone in the my group. Though I have limited knowledge of the Mythos and the game itself, I would certainly categorize myself as both excited and enthusiastic.  There are high expectation from every member of the group this game is going to be one to remember.  Any help you can offer to ensure that we are right would be much appreciated! 


If you can't beat em, join em?

This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at Tuesday, January 11, 2011 and is filed under , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

3 comments

First commenter, and not that experienced in CoC but I give my best shot on your concerns:

1. Run, don't fight. Basically CoC is not hack'n'slash so characters aren't fighting machines. To keep your character alive you must think more like what would you do, not your "fighter-dwarf" would do. Use common sense. Taking hits does hurt.

2. This depends on campaign. Do you rely on investigation or need information about strange tomes or dwell in libraries? All-around-mediocre isn't necessarily as good as being good at few specially picked skills. Think, what you want your character to be good at, focus on those and pick some that-might-be-handy-maybe skills last.

3. Being action-movie-hero is allways a mistake. Attacking deep one with a fork or soldiers with .22 is not a good idea. Be cautious, don't rush in heroic acts. As in real life, it propably is not a good idea.

4. Well, reading tomes you might get insight, but you might go nuts. If there is lots of san-lossing information, let your character rest before reading next tome. Loosing too much SAN in little time is downward spiral to inanity. Encountering monsters or visions is different, as you might not be able to avoid it.

5. Depends on campaign naturally, but the idea of CoC is not combats but something else. If this is more traditional game you are attending, there might be not that much combat.
Hard to tell.

6. Depending on campaign. High sanity is allways good as is education if campaign is like that. But there might be good spot for physically more powerful character if situation needs it, but traditional CoC campaign doesn't need a group of commandos.

(6.) 7. Have fun. Take CoC as a game where you investigate and most likely go nuts doing it. It's the name of the game. Fantasy warrior might kill 10 skeletons with no problem, but CoC character will more likely wet himself and run.

January 11, 2011 at 8:52 AM

1. Don't. First, it's not that bad. The PCs SHOULD be scared of venturing out into the world and would not normally find themselves in too much combat. Insanity I think is the main source of PC loss, and that's gradual. My tip: If you lose a character, roll up someone close to that character (a spouse, a school friend, a brother). That way, the social network of the group can still be utilized and in an interesting way.

2. Anything to do with investigation, though each character should have something the other doesn't have. You might have a smart guy and a more brawny guy, for example.

3. Mostly just not understanding how these games should work. In other games, you fight the monster. In other games, you have special powers and abilities. In CoC, it's not so clear what you're supposed to be doing or how you can "win". Or even if you should.

4. That would be like playing superheroes but avoiding supervillains because they can cause you trouble. Losing SAN is part of the game, and players should embrace the game's trope of PCs boardering on insanity. Like I said earlier, SAN loss is gradual anyway. Tomes should be enticing because they give you access to spells, or they might be necessary to resolve a scenario and keep the Old Gods at bay. But knowledge comes at a price. Are you willing to pay that price? It's all about risk.

5. Not much. But of course that depends on the GM. You might fight some cultists, or even some lesser races, but most "alien" threats will be more than a group can possibly handle. Though combat opportunities might crop up, it's better to find another way to deal with it.

6. Depends on what type of character you want to play. A tough (CON) character might be better geared to physical challenges and fighting, but it also means he'll put himself in harm's way. The smart (INT) character will probably be more likely to lose SAN because he'll be understanding the secret world more, but he'll be very useful in investigations which are the crux of the game.

7. My experience is more geared towards GMing and though I've run a few CoC games, none of them have been part of a continuing campaign. Survivability was not an issue, nor do I think it should be. It's an issue in other games, and I can see why it worried you, but CoC isn't a TPK every other game kind of thing. It's a slow burn, horror game filled with investigation, atmosphere and suspense. The GM in a longer story should peel back layers so that the secret world is revealed in levels of greater and greater horror. From cultists to weird happenings to lesser races etc. Sanity (and group members) are only lost progressively, which is part of the terror of it, not on a regular basis.

Hope this helps. I'm not an expert or anything. I'll be glad to read other advice.

January 11, 2011 at 8:55 AM

Quick tips for your first CoC game.
a) Forget every other RPG you have played. Other RPG are about heroes fighting evil, CoC is about common guys sucked into something horrible and alien.
b) Remember that the survivability ratio is the same of an horror movie, so don't expect to make all the party survive, if anyone survives at all
c) CoC is all about the mood and the atmosphere. Behave accordingly
d) When you normally thik "Run!" In CoC is already too late.
e) Call the police is often the better choice, if you have collected enough proof.
f) You are human, your enemies probably not. Behave accordingly.
g) sanity is an issue only if you survive and if you are about to play a campaign. Don't be afraid to open books, but don't dothings unreasonably gross, just for fun. h)Expect, in the end, to lose your sanity. That's the good ending, Cthulhu style.
i) Investigation is 90% of the work. Try to choose skill that goes along with that.
l) Don't bring firearms everywere. The police can and will arrest you.
m)Don't be the hero. Be alive instead

January 12, 2011 at 11:51 AM

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