" The pinnacle of horror gaming, I now understand why people who started playing Call of Cthulhu in the early 80s are still playing it today (how many games can you say that about?). "
Title: Call of Cthulhu by Chaosium
Format: Horror RPG
Reviewing Monkey: Dungapult
The Hype: First published in 1981 and now in its 5th edition, Call of Cthulhu (CoC) is the game that defined the horror RPG genre. Based on the novels of HP Lovecraft, CoC sits players as any number of real world character types who are faced with supernatural horrors.
What This Monkey Thought...
Story and Drama: Call of Cthulhu, when you get right down to it, is a game all about story telling. It's deep, it's broad, and it has enough resources that this main book should probably be called a tomb rather than a role-playing game. Included with this are dozens of creepy crawlies, references for more than 30 character types, and enough equipment and worldview to keep you busy for quite some time. And while little of that actually qualifies as "story", what Chaosium has chosen to do, rather than bombard you with hundreds of pages of background (there is only about 40 in the whole book) is to instead give you an unprecedented four full scenarios to run. At first, I found this trade extremely annoying. After all, what good is a "role playing" game if it doesn't give you enough story to create a believable reality. Then, however, we actually ran the adventures in the book and it all made sense. Call of Cthulhu isn't about making a vast alternate reality to dive into (like, say, Werewolf: The Apocalypse or Rifts) but rather wants you to adapt the world you know into a supernatural horror experience. Characters are not "special" in any particular way, and neither is the world of CoC very different from our own. It's just real people, doing real things, who experience the very surreal by encountering demons, ghosts, and scaries. Once you adapt to that frame of thinking, the Drama part of this category pays off in spades! It's dark, it's frightening, and most importantly, it's very, very real. 4 out of 5
Layout and Presentation: There are two things I always expect in a RPG in order to make it truly playable. The first is a good table of contents at the front of the book and the second is quick reference to all of the essentials in play. Why? Because not having either or both of those cripples your ability to play a fast, fluid, and stress free game. Nothing is more aggravating than having to stop the game in the middle of a dramatically heated moment so that you can go through chapters 4 through 7 looking for the rules on how to cast a spell. So, in that spirit, allow me to say that CoC is one of the best laid out books I have ever played with. The table of contents is easy to read and sub categorized, the back is loaded with playing aids and quick reference sheets (they've even added an index: a wonderful resource that far too few RPGs include), and the rest of the book is laid out in a nice and logical manner. My only gripe, and it's a minor one at that, is the only so-so art that appears are the majority of the pages. However, that's a pretty small flaw to ignore. 4.5 out of 5
Playability: Cthulhu is one of the oldest franchises in the RPG industry and for good reason. It's intense, fascinating, and is backed by a pretty good system (more on that in a second). However, it is also one of the lesser-played properties and I'd never understood why until now. The reason, put simply, is that Cthulhu almost (note the use of "almost") borders on too real for its own good. Characters are not enhanced in any way, monsters are monstrous, and any level of the typical combative gaming practiced by most players will lead to a quick and gruesome death. Now, personally, I don't find that to be a problem at all…But for a lot of people that's contrary to why they role play. Aiding the story in this theme is CoC's very simple and fairly standard percentile based test system-, which neither enhances to, nor detracts from, your ability to game. The only notable exception to this is the presence of "Sanity", which defines your character's ability to cope with the supernatural crap that is bombarding him or her. Dark, distressing, and pleasantly realistic…Sanity will be both the bane and source of your best role-playing-dramatis moments. 4 out of 5
Desired Content: Rules, system, some background, and lots of adventures to get you started…this book has everything we wanted it to and a little more. It's absolutely everything you need to play, which is exactly what a main book should be. 5 out of 5
|The pinnacle of horror gaming, I now understand why people who started playing Call of Cthulhu in the early 80s are still playing it today (how many games can you say that about?). It's dark, intelligent, and magical. A fantastic game over all.|
The Good: Intelligent, real, and scary.
The Bad: Possibly too real for some gamers, only mediocre art.
The Overall Ugly: A truly great RPG that should be in every gamer's library.
What it's Worth: Market