Random Tables

I believe random tables have their place in the creative process. Like my collection of Rory’s Story Cubes or my three volumes in the classic Central Casting books by Jennell Jacquays, the table often provides an essential spark to my creative process. I don’t always include a random table in my books, but when I do there’s a damned good reason for it – it’s about introducing a spark or adding some spice. The Haunter of the Dark has 9-pages of random tables sandwiched between the guidance on creating and structuring adventures and the annotated story of the fate of Robert Blake. Connections Each of these tables ties neatly – and intentionally – into the story. Entered a site with a century long tie to a strange sect? Rummaging through the drawers of a forlorn artist? Tracking down a disgruntled ex-cultist? Broken into the cellar of an abandoned building? Picking up a copy of a local paper? Stumbled through the door to find a crumpled note lying in the dust? It’s all here and more. Whether you’re creating your own adventure or filling out the grey areas in a pre-written investigation, there are 20 short tables here (almost all of…

Cthulhu Hack at UK Games Expo ’17

UK Games Expo sprawled across the last weekend. I have spent much of that time standing up, behind the Just Crunch Games stall, regaling people with the virtues of The Cthulhu Hack. As if getting up at 6.30am to hit NEC Hall 1’s floor for 8.30am wasn’t enough, I also signed up to GM games in the 8pm slot (a scant two hours after the trading hall closedown at 6pm). Evening Games I ran two sessions of “Operation Header” from Cubicle 7’s ‘Covert Actions‘, a scenario supplement for the Kickstarter funded ‘World War Cthulhu: Cold War‘. As it was only released to backers as a PDF last week, I figured (A) no one was likely to have read it and (B) I could show how easy it was to convert any Cthulhu game’s scenarios to TCH on the fly. While I considered running a different adventure on the Saturday, I enjoyed the Friday game and it seemed silly to not give it another run out. To be clear from the outset, the version of the adventure I ran stripped out a lot of the finer details from the adventure purely out of necessity. I had 4-hours (at most) to introduce…

Advantage and Disadvantage
Running Tabletop Games / March 6, 2017

Nobody said it was easy / No one ever said it would be this hard… The Cthulhu Hack includes a section on Advantage and Disadvantage that I think warrants a little consideration. To be clear, Coldplay got this one spot on. Top marks to them. When you see a character Class offering Advantage on something, it isn’t because the character finds it easy. A character with a Special Feature that offers Advantage does so because they’re prepared. A character’s occupation or background offers them a perspective or a professional appreciation of something that means when they come to try and exercise their skills under pressure, they do so with benefit. If you, as a GM, believe that a threat is easy to avoid, don’t ask for a roll. To return to the example from the last article about a hole to climb down, if that hole is rough, sloped or has corroded rungs hammered into the side, don’t ask for a roll. It’s easy – so, throwing dice won’t add anything to the experience. Indeed, you may well find that throwing dice breaks the narrative flow. Have the players describe what they do when they reach the hole – and…

Handling Threat
Running Tabletop Games / March 3, 2017

Characters in The Cthulhu Hack handle Threats in different ways. Sometimes, the situation doesn’t allow any kind of decision making; or at least, it doesn’t allow any careful finessing. A teacher battering seven shades of hell out of a bully in a car park might Save versus the Threat with Strength or Dexterity, dependent on if the teacher choosing to wrestle or evade. The same teacher faced with a ragged hole in the ground and no rope or climbing gear to speak of might also look for options. Strength and Dexterity, again, might prove the most obvious approaches, but maybe Intelligence would allow a teacher to eke out some assistance from the environment – roots, for example, or the careful knotting of torn fabric from an overcoat. If the teacher gives lessons in Physical Education and opts for Strength, the GM could offer an Advantage. If the character was a stevedore or sailor, the GM might offer Advantage to make the Intelligence Save. A player might also offer strong argument about time. Time offers a way to relieve a degree of pressure without necessarily reducing the threat – or possibly haggling for an increase in potential harm. The GM doesn’t…

The Listening Game
Running Tabletop Games / December 29, 2016

Save Innsmouth benefits heavily from listening to and acting on the players’ responses. A Gamemaster should always be listening and taking notes, but noting the mood, tone, individual response and banter can prove valuable tools in setting the dials and measuring the pace for the adventure. A tired group of players need more push and adrenalin, while an inquisitive party might still want push, but also deserve the attention to detail they desire. When I ran Save Innsmouth at Dragonmeet, I asked about the relationships of the characters at the start as we generated their stats in session. I had them give me a narrative synopsis of the character before the game and chose Abilities and Advantages using the Classless Cthulhu guidelines. As they settled in and had a look at the Abilities, they started to bounce off each other a bit. I let them choose their gear, so they opted for things like an iPad, digital camera and so forth, as well as camping gear. When the adventure started proper, I asked them what they were doing — and over the next few minutes added a player, got feedback on their mindset and first action, then moved on. This allowed…