10 tips for running Call of Cthulhu for beginners

10 Tips for Call of Cthulhu

Running Call of Cthulhu is not that difficult. It would have been even easier if someone had given me these 10 tips for CoC.

The role-playing game Call of Cthulhu has a vibe all of its own. It stands as a counterpoint to D&D. It is set in the real world, it is oppressive and the players play normal people.

The horror aspect is important, but Call of Cthulhu can and may also be funny. The horror should be felt by the characters, not necessarily the players. CoC has a simple set of rules. The starter set is very well made and contains everything you need to play, run and learn the game.

1. Forget about the Sanity rules

Many Keepers (that is the original name for the Dungeon Master in Call of Cthulhu) will now yell: “But that’s the unique selling point of Cthulhu!” That’s true. But looking at it closely, it’s just a second health bar. Ignoring it at the beginning, especially for one-shots, makes little difference to the game.

2. Use simple adventures

Simple adventures are easy to keep track of. A good example is the volume “Gateways to Terror“.

3. Use prefabricated characters

Prefab chars save you the trouble of building characters. What is half the fun in other role-playing games plays a subordinate role in Call of Cthulhu. Nobody should use magic from the start, the profession plays a minor role, fights can usually be avoided anyway. Or they are short and deadly.

4. Don’t be too hard on the players

Although the Call of Cthulhu role-playing game is more deadly than other role-playing games, characters don’t have to die for the sake of it. Players have just as much fun when their characters survive.

5. Don’t be afraid of railroading

Call of Cthulhu often has predetermined stories that need to be experienced. Try to tell them coherently, use coherent descriptions. Include some background information.

6. Resolve the background story at the end

This often gives the players the necessary “aha” effect. If they remain at the investigators’ level of knowledge, it is often just an inconclusive, confused story, the extent of which they can never assess.

7. Don’t worry so much about stats

The stats of the opponents are of secondary importance in Call of Cthulhu. Although the battles are supposed to be fair, balancing plays a less important role in CoC than in many other role-playing games.

8. Handouts are an important feature of Cthulhu

Handing clues to the players and letting them read the writing found by the characters themselves is an essential part of the game. Use this whenever you can.

9. Memorize the rules well

There aren’t that many rules (free quick starter rules) and they seem a bit vague at first. But there are a manageable number, so make the effort to learn them. What you don’t know, you simply house rule during the game.

10. Watch lots of videos, movies and soak up information about the 1920s

Motivate your players to look at these aids as well. This will help you to know what vehicles there were, whether electricity was already available everywhere, how common gramophones were, etc.

I hope that this makes running Call of Cthulhu a little easier for you. I at least would have been happy at the beginning if I had gotten a few tips that would have taken away my uncertainties. And even now I’m still anything but a game management pro. But it doesn’t matter, we have a lot of fun as it is.

More Call of Cthulhu content: review of “Alone Against the Static

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