The Stars Are Right

by | Oct 2, 2021 | GM Notes

COREthulhu has been completed and submitted to Drivethru RPG.  Of course after having done so Danny pointed out 3 or 4 spelling and grammar issues that we hadn’t caught.  Jesse and I have become blind to the whole thing really and they were unsurprisingly in the last section I wrote.  Jesse has those last few edits but in the larger sense it’s done.

It’s been a pretty wild ride.  Tomorrow will be three months since I wrote the official first draft.  I had done some work previous to that, copying and pasting a bunch of stuff from the other CORE products to to get a template set up.  In retrospect I should have kept that original document.  Alas it has been lost or more accurately saved over. 

I submitted the “final” draft to Jesse on September 11th and the last month or so has been spent in layout and art.  I’m really happy with the way it turned out.  We set out to create a Cthulhu setting for CORE and I think it hits on all notes.  CORE works obviously and the additions of Stress and Trauma also seem to work really well not only within the system but to help convey the feel of the game.  Call of Cthulhu and horror gaming in general is all about the feel more so than the mechanics, at least in my opinion, and in the hands of a good GM it’s magic.

One of the things that we haven’t really had a chance to see was Trauma building up over time and it’s effect of the characters.  We have run a series of unconnected one shots to just see how the system operates and how the pieces fit together.  Which is great, we have gotten to see almost all of the character professions in play and really drilled down on the mechanics.  Just the kind of thing you want a playtest to do, work out all the bugs.  I suppose in retrospect we could have used the same characters through all the games but it honestly hadn’t occurred to me.  I think that ultimately campaign play will be fine.  If for no other reason then the fact that the game works as intended.  Hopefully people will play it and provided some feedback about their games but I’m not going to hold my breath.

What else?  The Magic Supplement is in progress.  I have not done much work on it recently as we were working to get COREthulhu out the door.  It’s about 50% done I’d say.  The last bit I worked on was to add a bunch of flavor text and come up with DL’s (difficulty levels) for most of the Spells.  I’m kind of at an impasse now with the rest of it.  In addition to Spells there are also sections on Ritual and Wards.  Now part of me doesn’t want to be bothered with writing up a bunch of different Rituals and Wards, along with components etc, etc.  The other little me on my shoulder is like, “Hey asshole, what if the person who picks this up has never played Call of Cthulhu before?”  So I feel like I probably should stat out a bunch of stuff to help potential new players but man, I really don’t want to.  Mostly because that’s not the fun part, that’s just grinding on a bunch of work.  It might be where I end up though, in the meantime I’m just going to put it off for as long as I can.  Very professional, I know.  

Since it’s a Magic Supplement the bestiary is going to focus more on magical creatures or at least creatures and beings who wield magical powers.  That again is just grinding on a lot of numbers and trying to make every creature feel unique.  I should also mention, on the not thoroughly playtested side of things, are creature abilities.  Making human adversaries is easy, they don’t have any special abilities, powers or traits.  They may be able to wield magic but that’s a skill you can put points into.  Creatures on the other hand, well that’s a whole other ball of wax.

What’s a trait worth?  Not in some existential or ontological sense but in hard mathematical numbers.  If we’re creating a Stat Block for a creature that can fly, like say a Nightgaunt, Should it have skill points in flying or just the Ability to fly?  Generally speaking a bird isn’t going to fail a “flying check” they just have the ability to fly.  So what’s that ability worth and at the end of the day, does it really matter?  I think part of it is a “me thing” where I’m looking for a logical consistency and rules and numbers none of which may really matter when you’re participating in a cooperative story telling experience. 

In some sense it does though.  When a GM looks at the Stat Block and sees the Total Character Value (TCV) of the NightGaunt  (a rough indication of it’s relative strength) it should carry some weight.  Can I use one of these or should I use four?  Now as I follow this line of reasoning (this is a stream of consciousness thing so just bear with me) it still may not matter.  If the GM chooses one Nightgaunt and the party just rips though it, it may not have created the dramatic tension the GM was shooting for but it does inform something about the world and contributes to the narrative.  If they choose four or more Nightgaunts and the party is completely overwhelmed it also contributes to the narrative.  Maybe the party is incapacitated and taken back to the Nightgaunts lair where the characters now have to try to escape.  When you begin to play outside the bounds of the traditional space you’ll see that everything is potentially possible.  Even with all that being said you (and by you I mean me) still have to give some thought to numbers, Stats and Abilities.  Just don’t get lost in it (pointing my finger at future me).

I have also started writing and adventure.  I’m going for the whole trifecta here.  A little while back the idea came to me in a flash and I ruminated on it for a bit.  Since we’re all tangled up in each others various projects I was at a loss for someone to talk to.  I didn’t want to bring it up with anyone in the group as they may wind up playing in the adventure at some point.  In walks Jesse.  He said more than likely he wouldn’t remember any of the details and had helped someone else write and adventure that he wound up playing in.  I figured what the hell.  At the very least if he played thorough the adventure he could always take a backseat to driving the story.

I started jotting down some notes and then eventually reached out to Tod for further inspiration.  He provided me with some good ideas and I went back to it.  Then, well it got more difficult.  I was caught between two ideological camps.  Writing this up as a traditional adventure with clues that lead from A to B to C or go full Plotfields and come up with some locations, some interconnected branches, the BBEG’s motivations and GO.  Now I tried both and just kept getting bogged down so I figured fuck it we’ll just do it live. 

I pulled a couple of players in, including Jesse and explained my predicament.  I was having trouble with coming up with meaningful locations and clues to sprinkle therein and I wanted them to help me flesh it out.  Since I only had the vague idea of the through line of the BBEG it was truly GMing without a net.  I knew what my opening vignette was going to be thanks to Tod and that was pretty much it.  I made it explicit that we would be going in and out of meta and that we would pause the game to discuss what was going on.  Much to my surprise it went really well, exceedingly well in fact.  It felt really natural and both Kurt and Jesse said it had the best feel out of any COREthulhu game we had run up to this point.

Now we only got about halfway through Act 2, where they begin their investigation but I expected that, like I said I only had some vague sense of what was happening.  Our next session is scheduled and we should finish it then.  Jesse and I talked the rest of it out, post game and I feel like we’ve got a pretty good thread.  Once we finish I have to compile my notes and then I want to run it again with a new group and see how it goes.  Do any new locations come up, how does a different group approach the same problem, that sort of stuff.  After that I’m going to get with Tod and have him help me CORE it up.  I may ultimately wind up writing this up both as a CORE adventure, using the plotfield method and also give it a treatment as a Traditional adventure with a more “rigid” structure.  Call it more of a framework if you will.

That’s about it, if if that wasn’t enough.  I’m excited tp have COREthulhu released in the spookiest month of the year.  It would make for an awesome Halloween one shot and I hope there are folks out there who do so.  My pie in the sky timeline would be to release the Magic Supplement in November and the Adventure in December but we’ll see how it goes.  They will eventually come out when they’re supposed to and I hope people dig it.