Candela Obscura is Critical Role’s Cthulhu. While Daggerheart will be Critical Role’s Dungeons & Dragons.
I came up with this thesis while watching the first episode of Candela Obscura. This one is linked here. And it is an exceptionally well done roleplaying show. The set, the clothes, the timing, the imagery, the logo… I could go on forever. This is where years of experience in presenting role-playing, as well as money and time, come into play. These are real professionals.
“What else did you expect?” you might ask, or at least think. I confess, I was hoping for so much professionalism, but the hope is not always fulfilled. Many professionals in many industries make products, advertisements and shows every day. And not all of them are above reproach. Production-wise I mean, and not whether they meet the taste.
Well oiled machine
But this Candela Obscura show… it’s top-notch. Everything is highly professional. The design, the marketing, the show – everything goes hand in hand like greased gears. The quickstart guide is pointed out and merchandising items are advertised. During the break, one of the developers explains the rules of Candela Obscura. You can get upset about too much perfection and cry “sell out,” but I think it’s just phenomenal to see my weird hobby get so much power, as long as I don’t get my money taken out of my pocket with junk.
Like Call of Cthulhu
And suddenly I’m struck by how close Candela Obscura is to Call of Cthulhu. A little more mystical, a little less deadly perhaps. As far as I can tell after only one episode. But very close. And by that I don’t mean stolen or copied at all.
You can’t reinvent everything, after all. I myself have had a very similar game in the pipeline for several years. It’s even more similar to Candela Obscura than Call of Cthulhu. Not the dice rolling, that’s completely different for me, but the setting and the differences to Call of Cthulhu are based on the same ideas as Candela Obscura. That’s why the similarity immediately caught my eye.
Bookshops of Arkham
Honorable mention: the enormously well-done Bookshops of Arkham also naturally comes to mind. This call-of-Cthulhu show, with its acting and set design, which I’m sure was the inspiration for Candela Obscura. And whose name I still don’t understand today, because it sounds like Batman’s favorite library. Just kidding.
Similarities with Call of Cthulhu
1907 feels like 1920. Yes, we are here before the First World War and still before the Golden Twenties and yet, it is the time after high industrialization. Steam engines, riveted metal constructions and stylish clothes. But also poverty, dirty faces and ragged figures.
Like Call of Cthulhu, Candela Obscura is paranormal, fantastic, magical. Yes, it is our world as we know it and as it is written in the history books. World’s Fair, South Pole Expedition and Titanic. And yet we all haven’t experienced it, this exotic era, because it was too long ago. In addition, there is this “our world, but still different” part, like Call of Cthulhu or Tales from the Loop have.
Simple dice system
A similar level of complexity has also been chosen for the mechanics. Although Candela’s system is based on Forged in the Dark rather than Basic Roleplaying like Call of Cthulhu, which is a dice pool of d6 rather than a percentage system, both resort to a simple system where neither character creation offers a thousand options, nor do the rehearsals make combat particularly crunchy.
The big two
And now we come to the real conclusion. Which two role-playing games would you have to have as a role-playing publisher? Dungeons & Dragons and Call of Cthulhu. You can see that differently as an enthusiast, but not from a sales and marketing point of view if you want to do business with it. CoC is supposedly synonymous with roleplaying in Japan, like D&D is in the US. So huge. And Call of Cthulhu is one of the oldest and biggest TTRPG’s, while D&D is the oldest and biggest ever. Both very successful in the US for many decades and translated into tens of languages.
If I had to choose two settings as a powerful role-playing publisher that I could control one hundred percent, I’d like to have D&D and CoC, if only because of market share and name recognition. Not to mention that they are two really good games.
The two new ones
But now these games already exist and they won’t be sold anytime soon. So for my role-playing empire, which has hundreds of thousands of viewers, its own animation factory, and merchandising for pretty much every campaign, I invent two games of my own and call them Candela Obscura and Daggerheart. Just CO and DH, instead of CoC and DnD.
Does this sound familiar?
I hope we’ll get really good adventure books and background volumes from both games that are well designed and enjoyable. Highly professionally designed, promoted and supported. At least that’s what I wish for. And hope dies last, long after the last player characters have bitten the dust.
(Because) if Critical Role has done something really well so far, it’s to play their role in the scene really well. Pun intended.