For a game with such horrific source material and potentiality, Call of Cthulhu does a fantastic job of baby stepping new players into a role-playing game. From a simple explanation of how role-playing games are played, a quick rundown of what you need, and then a simple narrative of how the game works, Chaosium does a very good job of preparing a brand new gamer for the task of getting into the game.
Then of course it hits you with the fully reprinted The Dunwich Horror. Yeah, it’s going to be one of those books. In all its lavish glory, H.P. Lovecraft’s tale The Dunwich Horror is presented as a touchstone for a new player to experience what role-playing in this horrific environment should feel like. Even if you’re a veteran of the Mythos, take the time and re-read this classic tale of horror.
After you’ve experienced the horror of the setting, it’s time to build your first character. This book does an amazing job of explaining the numeracy behind the statistical concepts and explains to you exactly what you need to do to build yourself a character. The rest of the book is devoted to getting into the mindset of an investigator and walks you through the steps you need to take in order to build your first character and how they are probably going to interact with the world around them.
Also included is an entire biographic chapter on the 1920’s. Most of Lovecraft’s work is set in this time period, so players wanting to explore that period of time without being 90 years old will appreciate a snapshot of the decade with technological innovations, famous people and places and a host of other relevant social information. (Don’t worry, you’ve also got the option to play in the modern era)
For a player getting into the Call of Cthulhu, this is an indispensable resource for getting acquainted with the mythos and taking their first steps into a very different role-playing game style than most of us are used to. There are no brave warriors or mighty wizards that take up the mantle of an investigator. It is the academic, the priest, the mechanic, or the dilettante that gets drawn into the deeper mysteries, and has to survive by their wits, and by their human frailties. This is the core draw to Call of Cthulhu, humans versus ineffable evil. We know who’s probably going to win, but it’s going to be a hell of a story.
Call of Cthulhu is very much a storytelling game of supernatural horror and continues to maintain that excellence 7 editions and over 35 years later. If you want to experience something different, Call of Cthulhu is something you should try. Read it with the lights on, or don’t, if you dare.
Game on, Game Fans,
Call of Cthulhu’s Investigator’s Handbook is available in electronic format from Chaosium, inc. at www.Chaosium.com for $22.95. You can also get the hardback version for $44.95 (with a .pdf copy included).
Next week, we’ll go over the character creation process and take our first steps at building a brave (we hope) soul to investigate the Mythos.