Each To Their Own
Last night, at my local gaming group, I ran The Keepers of the Woods – the winner of the RPG Geek One Sheet GUMSHOE adventure contest last year, written for Trail of Cthulhu. The investigators head down to Devon to following up a postcard from Professor Margaret Blackwood and a report of her demise in the road accident.
It provided me with the opportunity to run an adventure on the fly using The Cthulhu Hack, the rules for which have got to the almost-done stage. I have been looking to some close gaming friends for feedback and a bit of light proof-reading, so I hope to have the hack out today or tomorrow.
The group generated characters at the start of the session and we plunged into the adventure after 10 minutes of dice-rolling and traditional Old School bemoaning-poor-rolls. We had an Archaeologist (Norris), a Bodyguard (Jack) and a Professor of Folklore (Gwen). Most of them had weak-to-average stats and the Bodyguard managed to roll just 6 hit points, so they had all they needed for combat-lite investigation.
The session went well. Flashlights and Smokes slid easily into place whenever the adventure offered the chance to glean information. Jack managed a single Flashlight roll before rolling a 2, which left him unable to offer much assistance with finding anything for the rest of the adventure. Those better suited to the task stepped down a die or two, but they can probably expect to reach the end of the adventure without ending up completely in the dark. Unless they have a TPK, which might be the more likely end game given their weak physical potential.
After the session, we had a discussion about whether the game needed five Classes. Oddly enough, the Bruiser had target written all over it for this question. Does a Lovecraftian game need a warrior class?
The Bruiser works like a standard The Black Hack Warrior with all the same Special Features and the minimum Usage Die for investigative skills. In other words, they have a 50-50 chance of failing either Flashlights or Smokes tests from the start. Once those go, the Bruiser player has to hope for a fight or some straightforward intimidation. Once burned out on these tests, they don’t come back until the next adventure under normal circumstances.
Firstly, if you compare with classic Call of Cthulhu, having a 50% chance of doing something off-career – like Library Use for a Soldier – sounds like good odds. How many combat-focussed characters in CoC put more than a smattering of points in the scholarly pursuits?
Secondly, if you want to investigate, be an investigator. While you roll for your stats randomly, as per The Black Hack core, you choose your Class. Even if you roll STR and DEX as your best stats, you have the option to swap two scores – so, exchange STR for WIS and be a rogue-type instead.
Thirdly, you need to have some table banter going and the GM needs to be upfront about the adventure. Will the investigation have an opportunity for brawling? If not, don’t make the Bruiser an option; recommend the alternatives and walk the player through the options. If the adventure has pulp elements, fine – a Bruiser will work. In a classic Lovecraftian exploration of esoteric literature and non-Euclidean property management, choose something else.
Beyond 1st level (I like to think most games of The Cthulhu Hack won’t need to refer to the sections of Experience and Advancement much), the Bruiser has an extra attack per level and can add dice to the pools for Flashlights and Smokes. Survivors learn to get better and that includes the fighting-types who realise that all avenues can’t end with a fist fight.