I admit, this partially arose as Jonny had made one himself, but also because last time I ran a game of Bookhounds I had created a simple library bookplate-style character sheet (matching the Gumshoe character format).
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 more points spent. This is probably way too complicated
STR (physical power and performance): Athletics, Scuffling, Weapons
DEX (accuracy, coordination and bodily control): Driving, Firearms, Stealth, Riding
CON (resilience and fortitude): Fleeing (it isn’t necessarily how fast, but how long you can run), Health (this is really rough, as a guide only – as characters will dump points here and in…), Stability
INT (knowing technical stuff): Electrical Repair, First Aid, Mechanical Repair, Psychoanalysis
WIS (instinct about the right or the wrong moment): Conceal, Filch, Preparedness, Sense Trouble
CHA (exerting your presence or hiding it): Disguise, Hypnosis, Shadowing
For an NPC, see what Abilities the character has and note those with higher points assigned. If a character attempts to leverage the NPC for assistance, they would provide Advantage on those topics. If a character seeks to ‘beat’ an NPC with notable point allocations in any Ability, a Disadvantage would be in order.
Call of Cthulhu
Call of Cthulhu has a history in the Basic Role Playing system where you used to categorise skills into things like Communication and Academic. I did the same with 7th Edition – see the linked character sheet.
Again… VERY roughly, you can look to see how many points have been spent and convert to Flashlights and Smokes. Many skills I’ve categorised as Instinct fall into Smokes; a few of those and Learning are Flashlights. The rest – Training – cover physical stuff.
Saves you can extrapolate from characteristics by dividing them by 5.
I would suggest for a quick NPC, divide Hit Points by 6 to see how many HIT DICE they have (rounding up).
If a character significant enough to have skills, PCs will suffer Disadvantage against them if the skill is used as a threat. I’d suggest only do this if the NPC has a skill of 50% or higher.
For example, if the character has Persuade 60%, the investigator will make WIS Saves at Disadvantage if the NPC tries to deceive them.
For spells and unusual abilities, check the Spell list and existing Creatures for close equivalents.
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 different.
While threat and harm continue to demand a roll for success – because players always seem to like to hold fate in their hands – the discovery of information works on the basis of ‘Yes’ or ‘Yes, but…’. You always discover a new piece of information, but the dwindling pool offered by The Cthulhu Hack‘s use of The Black Hack‘s Usage Die mechanic means that you can’t keep pushing forever. Rumours peter out and clues dry up.
The mapping of basics – abilities and skills to Saves or Usage rolls – means that you can take an adventure for either system and quickly swap out checks, even on the fly. I have posted my version of the Call classic The Haunting. Over the last two weeks, I have run a Trail of Cthulhu One-page adventure called The Keepers of the Wood.
Adventures might include other mechanics – like handling damaging traps or sanity-blasting major entities – but these exceptions, when they come, can be handled with the application of common sense. For example, damage from either system could work straight off the page, with a degree of caution.
The more chances I get to run the game the better grasp I hope to get for quick off-the-page conversion.
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.
Spent Saturday at the town hall in Kensington, London, attending Dragonmeet 2012. Under the Arion Games banner, ran a demo game of Maelstrom Classic Fantasy Tool-Kit with three players – which was unfortunately three short of what I’d hoped. With a full squad of adventurers, the game would have been shorter and less traumatic. I didn’t want to mess with the creature-character balance of the encounters at such short notice, but I can assure you that three characters can only just get through the adventure as written, with a little GM fiat in their favour.
After that, I attended a seminar on the upcoming 7th Edition of Call of Cthulhu. As I own 2nd, 3rd and 5th Edition already, I really wanted to get a view on whether 7th Edition warranted my consideration and cash. Paul Fricker and Mike Mason’s seminar failed to answer that question for me. Partially it came down to the presentation feeling a little light and unorganised. We got about 15 minutes of broken overview, touching on the key changes, followed by 3/4 hour of questions from the gathered audience. I came away feeling like I could get a better Cthulhu game from either (a) gold book Basic Role Playing options pasted into existing Cthulhu, or (b) using an alternative like Trail or Dark.
For the rest of the afternoon, I hung around the Arion stand or circled the floor working out what to spend some pennies on. I ended up opting for The Laundry and the associated Agent’s Handbook. While on the stand, I met Graham Walmsley on his round of the floor – the first time we’d met in person – and also someone, whose name I didn’t catch, who knew me from my days running and reviewing play-by-mail games (some 20 years ago now). He purchased a hard copy of ‘Stench of the Sea‘ – and I also managed to sell several bookmarks – or Weighted Reading Companions – my wife makes in her spare time (see www.mok.me.uk for more stuff my wife makes).
The day was bookended by uneventful train journeys where I finished reading ‘Catching Fire‘ (down to London) and started reading the Agent’s Handbook (up from London), while chatting with my wife. A good day, less busy than last year and equally satisfying overall.