Supply Dice
Mechanics / December 26, 2017

Supply Dice exist for the tension of the moment. The Cthulhu Hack is not about shopping lists and equipment runs. You can, by all means, go shopping, but the finer detail probably doesn’t matter. If you need a change of clothes or a hire car, go for it. The player can track small change if desired and keeping an eye on their checking account, or the GM might hand wave the situation. Wealth In the middle of an adventure, the GM might ask for a roll of the Wealth Die (see core book p16, Wealth as a Resource) because at that a miscalculation of available funds might matter. If the investigators have gone out to get equipped and find they’re losing steps on their Wealth Die, perhaps they won’t have a chance to get everything on their shopping list. Wealth Die Note: By the way, if you do use the resource approach for wealth, allow only the best funded investigator on the trip to make the rolls. If you allow everyone to roll, it just because an exercise in throwing dice. Make a single player take the lead and have their Investigator responsible for all the purchases. As and When…

The House of Hell
Conversion , Solo Gameplay / November 18, 2017

It was an experiment in the possibilities of solo gaming that occurred to me at work. I genuinely have no recollection of why this struck me when it did, but I had the thought that one or two of the classic Fighting Fantasy books might provide an interesting challenge as solo sessions for The Cthulhu Hack. Recently re-released, could I fend off the threat of the House of Hell? And how? What adjustments did I need to make? Hapless Wanderers Create a character as normal for The Cthulhu Hack. That means rolling all your Saves and setting the dice to your investigative resources. You don’t really needs to consider Special Abilities – if you want to give yourself a break, assume that you have the option of Topped-Up Hip Flask that can restore D6 hit points once per session and On The Hop that allows you to burn a Flashlights or Smokes to score an automatic success with an attack. When the book asks you to Test Your Skill or Test Your Luck, make a judgement on what Save to roll, with a touch of honesty. If you’re in a situation with people trying to overcome your sense of self or with hypnosis, it’ll be Charisma. Genuine luck, roll…

Twixt Stats and Saves
Q & A / October 3, 2017

Following the brief review of Tainted Meat (which I ran at Concrete Cow) posted on Department V, I have been giving occasional thought to character stats in The Cthulhu Hack. I was less keen on the disconnect between the usual OSR six stats, and the Flashlights and Smokes. It’s easy to assume that a high INT character is going to be a top investigator, only to find that really it’s the number of dice you put into Flashlights that matters and INT is kind of irrelevant. Should ‘stats’ and investigation overlap more thoroughly? It’s a valid question and it’s worth giving a considered answer. I’m comfortable with what exists – but then I’m also the closest to the topic! I’m not above admitting that it might warrant tweaking. It might even warrant a little constraining, mayhaps dropping a stat or two at some point through the power of conflation. Version 2 might pick that up as a thought. Saves I had given the stats more thought when I wrote v1.5 of the core rules. Version 1.5 spends more time than the original making it clear that they’re Saves rather than stats or characteristics – they protect you from harm or…

Hit Dice as Resource
House Rules / July 24, 2017

I put a very short section on Hit Dice as a Resource into the new v1.5 core book. It’s very short. And just today – I realised, too short. The Hit Die What’s in the core book is a fairly abstract and underdeveloped idea – so, use it at your own risk. When you’re hit by something, instead of deducting hit points you roll your Hit Die like a Resource. If you roll a 1 or 2, the Hit Die drops a step. If you’re a Ruffian, you start with D6. Someone shoots you. Roll 3-6, you get a graze or something. Roll 1-2, you drop to a D4. Healing restores a Die step. It works OK between fairly similar opponents, but when you start using big guns or monsters it makes less sense. If you battle a Shoggoth, something has to give because that Crush attack is not small beans. Big Damage, Big Disadvantage Therefore, I offer this suggestion as a general system – more damage has a greater chance of forcing a drop. When hit with damage, compare the amount against the Hit Die of the character. The player then rolls the Hit Die with appropriate adjustment. A…

Opposed Investigation
Q & A / May 12, 2017

When you roll Flashlights or Smokes in The Cthulhu Hack, you’re checking to see if the investigator taxes their resources in discovering something key about the situation. When they throw a 1 or 2, they have pushed themselves too far, but they haven’t failed. Whatever they roll, they discover something new and vital in the progress toward their goal. However, what if getting the clue isn’t that easy? What would happen then? Well, there lies the Threat. Handling Threats soon they found the passage came to an abrupt stop. He pulled the obstacle away & to his dismay water rushed in in torrents. John was an expert swimmer & long breathede. He had just taken a breath, so he tried to rise but with the box & his sister he found it quite impossible… A Threat lies between the Investigator and their success – and it means getting the clues might be harder or it could even mean that someone else gets there first. In the Indiana Jones movies, it means the evil archaeologist managed to wrest the artefact from Indy’s hands – surrounding him with natives in the jungle, or capturing a key contact in the city and spiriting them away…

Rough Conversions
Conversion / November 1, 2016

When I do play testing for The Cthulhu Hack, I often turn to other publishers for their adventures. As I noted in A Call from the Trail, Chaosium and Pelgrane do some good stuff – and it’s pretty easy to convert on the fly. Someone asked whether any conversion rules existed for Call or Trail of Cthulhu. I see fuller consideration of conversion as a much bigger project, but for the time being I have a rough-and-ready approach. Conversion should be rough, unless you’re looking to convert pre-gen characters or major NPCs. If the investigators interact with a non-player character for just a moment, you don’t need to spend time coming up with anything more than appearance and a tic or two. Trail of Cthulhu Because Trail of Cthulhu doesn’t have characteristics or attributes, you need to extrapolate strength and expertise from Abilities. VERY roughly, look to see whether the character has more points assigned to Academic or Interpersonal Abilities. If the former, give them more Flashlight dice; latter, give them Smokes. For Hit Points, divide Health by 5 to see how many HIT DICE they have (rounding up). You should look to General Abilities and work out where the character has…

Flashbacks of Cthulhu Hack
Mechanics / October 15, 2016

Not all information comes to your characters in the here and now. While, a character will roll a Flashlight or Smokes to discover something current, they can do the same to unearth an element of their past. Therein lies the flashback. Flashbacks allow you to glean information from events that haven’t happened in the game yet, but have already happened during the character’s life. For example, you want to find out who’s behind the development work on the Innsmouth site. The GM frames a meeting in the lobby of the University refractory. You play out the characters having a coffee and muffin when they see a guy hanging around with a clipboard under a banner at the end of the hall. They go and check and find that it’s a marketing rep for the construction firm with a 3D model of a new leisure resort with facilities that will be open to the university. The characters get into a bit of a heated discussion when they find the resort will be built on the site of a place of historical significance. The GM calls for the test and the player rolls a 3. They have the information – and they…

Perception Check
Q & A / September 26, 2016

Got a good question from a user on the Google+ community for The Cthulhu Hack. I thought it warranted a wider post, as I imagine anyone coming from other game systems might have similar questions: How do folks handle perception checks? If there is no clue to be found in the story and a character just wants to make sure no one in a diner is a threat. Do you use Flashlights or would that be a candidate for a Wisdom Save? If the characters have gone to the diner on a whim and there’s genuinely nothing in there, don’t make them roll; tell them whether it appears safe or not. Perhaps tell the character with the most fitting occupation. The only reason I’d suggest this is that investigation pools are shallow, so a Flashlight roll that reveals absolutely nothing is not a fair use. A roll requires the presence of a substantial clue. If the characters have gone to the diner seeking a clue, a Flashlight roll would be in order if someone is watching them, and offer up more information on their appearance. If they roll a 1 or 2, you might tell them all they need, “but…” then something else…

Classless Save
Mechanics , Playtest / September 14, 2016

Character generation for The Cthulhu Hack opens up to a classless approach to shift from the Old School roots of warriors and thieves. It makes sense – and I have had some comments on why I adhered to the Class-based approach. The truth? At the time it seemed to make sense to stick with The Black Hack‘s simplicity and work from there. And in tinkering with the character generation system and enlightened by my adventure in gaslit alleys earlier in the week, I thought it worth reminding you that a Save is a matter of life and death. If you want to play cards to win possession of an ancient relic, make a Smokes roll; but, if you need to wrestle the artefact from the hands of a cultist, that’s a Strength Save with repercussions. Going Classless After a couple of dozen adventures, both as player and GM, and some feedback in reviews, it makes much more sense to break it down and take an approach with more flexibility. I have done this in other systems, like Vortex and Gumshoe, so it seemed right here. The system still involves dice throws to determine Saves and Occupation-related randomness, but Special Features…

Double Features
House Rules / August 2, 2016

I freely admit that I have been ruminating on expanding Special Features for a while, but I haven’t had the chances to playtest that I’d hoped for. Therefore, it seems a better idea to start posting those thoughts here and let someone else give them a go! In the current version of The Cthulhu Hack rules, at 3rd level and every odd level thereafter, you can increase one of your investigation resources by a single step. In this alternate version, you can still choose to do that OR you can select a Special Feature to add to your arsenal instead. On top of that, you may choose to spend a later advance to get an Improved version. Admittedly, you could do both – offer an extra die and a Special Feature. That will make the game way pulpier and characters will buff up faster as both investigators and worthy protagonists. Really, The Cthulhu Hack isn’t about that sort of thing. Alternatively, you could let a character swap out an existing Special Feature for one of the new ones. Maybe you want a Ruffian safecracker who can turn his hand to any lock and do away with the ‘assassin’-esque backstab ability?…

Shock
House Rules / August 1, 2016

The current version of the Sanity rules in The Cthulhu Hack aims to turn the slow slide into insanity into a source of stress. All Usage Dice use challenges the ability of the player and the group to manage their personal and joint resources. If they push too hard, too early — they may find they lack the faculties and facility to get the job done. In a Lovecraftian sense, that works. Characters start strong and then they begin to struggle as the revelations grind away, wearing them down. However, the danger of insanity might be too extreme and you may prefer something more like a short sharp Shock. Most of the results below last for a Moment (rather like when you Miss a Turn in a boardgame). Take a counter and drop it on your character sheet to remind you. Or take two, or whatever the result indicates. When your turn comes around, discard a counter (or use a six-sided dice and spin it down a number). If you forget, keep the counters (or don’t move the die) until next time you have a fight or face a Test that challenges the attribute listed – and face the listed modifier….

Always More to Learn
Mechanics / June 29, 2016

Michael Julius posed a great question over on The Cthulhu Hack Google+ community: Say there’s an interaction with an NPC who has a negative disposition towards the PCs. For example, Peter Bulgrew in The Keepers of the Woods. Perhaps he has just beat up on a PC. Is it possible for the players to gain information from him with ‘smokes’? My response was that if the characters need a clue that the antagonist holds, they should get it whatever his mood if they’ve used an investigative ability to extract it. In this case, if the player rolls Smokes, he should get what he needs. Of course, this also comes down to the information the antagonist has and the inclination of the GM. If Peter knows something that the characters absolutely must know to proceed, yes – hand it over. Think of all those TV series and movies where the hero and minions share taunts and retorts that, while barbed, also give away snippets of information. It’s a fatal flaw of all villainous types that through ego or aspiration to greater minionhood they let slip information through monologues or cruel sniping. As you rough the drunk up in the shadows behind…

Everything But The Circus!
Character Creation / May 24, 2016

In a nod to Into The Odd, The Cthulhu Hack includes an Occupation table that allows you to generate a scattering of  Starting Gear for the game, as well as a few humble dollars to ease your way. The gear is not always serious, but adds a little colour to your character’s pockets, satchel or glove compartment. You’re not tied to any of the entries on the table – though I’m looking to expand the options available in Der Unaussprechlichen Hack – but they’re intended on adding a little creative spin to your character realization process. One notable entry might catch the eye in the Circus Performer (it certainly caught the eye and ire of one member of my local gaming group). I don’t know what it was about centuries past, but there seems to have been an adventurous spirit and a thorough lack of attention to basic health and safety! Giovanni Battista Belzoni seems to serve as an ideal archetype for the average adventurers. Born to a barber, one of fourteen children. But he became a circus performer in the early 1800s with a keen interest in illusion and stuck with it for a decade. When unemployment struck he found work in…

A Call from the Trail
Mechanics / May 17, 2016

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…

The Save
Mechanics / May 16, 2016

You might not appreciate the real difference between a Save and any other non-equipment roll you make in a game of The Cthulhu Hack. They’re quite different. (Actually, the current version of the rules references Tests rather a lot and these will be switched to Saves in the next revision for absolute clarity!) Saves handle risk and danger. If your character faces the prospect of damage, the presence of an impending threat – outward or inward – then you make a Save. Otherwise, you roll Flashlights or Smokes. If not a Save, you’re searching for information. You walk into a darkened room. You can hardly see the hand in front of your face. The room has a trap door in the middle of the floor. If the trap door serves as a trap in this room, the GM will ask the player to make a DEX Save for their character. If the trap door serves as a hidden route into the basement hideout of a cultist, the GM will ask the player to make a Flashlight roll. You see the difference? You walk into the cells beneath the castle of Baron Von Tritz, an occult expert on the wrong side of…

The Hacked Haunting
Mechanics / May 12, 2016

In running one of my playtest sessions for The Cthulhu Hack, I decided to use an old Call of Cthulhu classic – The Haunting – to see if I could handle a conversion. You can get hold of the original for free as part of the Quick Start for 7th Edition or earlier editions. I remember playing The Haunted House (as it was called) back in the mid-80s, when we used 2nd edition Cthulhu, clustered around a desk in a classroom at lunchtime. My investigator managed to escape with his sanity but lost either an eye or an arm… I can’t remember which. I wanted to make the conversion such that I could easily pick out the Flashlight and Smokes rolls that power the investigative side of The Cthulhu Hack. I also fancied making the notes a single sheet and giving the whole thing a bit of locational structure – so you start in the top left and work down to the bottom right. Location investigation across more than one cell of the sheet shares a colour and a bold title. The middle and bottom have the top, middle and basement of the house. You can access the online version of the…