The Occult Skill in Call of Cthulhu – Useless or Utility?

The Lovecraftian world contains many dark secrets and mysteries, and the Occult skill tempts many Call of Cthulhu players hoping to unlock knowledge through this skill. According to the 7th edition rulebook: A knowledgeable Investigator can recognize occult paraphernalia, words, and concepts, as well as folk traditions, which may encompass supernatural beings, such as werewolves, vampires, ghosts, and demons. In addition, a skilled occultist will be familiar with secret knowledge originating from ancient civilizations, including Egypt, Sumer, as well as those centered in Asia and Africa. They will also be able to identify occult traditions and texts from the Medieval and Renaissance periods.  Such an Investigator expects to bring a wealth of insight to mysteries

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The Three Mysteries in Masks of Nyarlathotep

  At its dark heart, the Masks of Nyarlathotep campaign runs upon investigative fuel to carry your players from one continent to the next. The New York Chapter quickly fills the tank to the sloshing brim for your Investigators starting with an enticing telegram from Jackson Elias followed by his bloody death. A series of rapid-fire revelations following this shocking murder hint at a dark conspiracy. In short order, the campaign serves up the following three discrete mysteries, which should intrigue and motivate the Investigators: the murder of Jackson Elias, the fate of the lost Carlyle Expedition, and the dire global conspiracy. Once in motion, the campaign will continue to propel your group forward, and

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Planning Parties for Erica Carlyle

The New York chapter allows the investigators to revel in the excitement of America’s Roaring Twenties, and the millionaire magnate Erica Carlyle offers some of the best opportunities to experience the decadence and splendor of this setting. You can use a party hosted by Erica Carlyle as a vivid set piece for your campaign. The Old Ways podcast crafted a glorious chapter climax set at Erica Carlyle’s eclipse party. We chose to present our social event as a mid-point diversion from the brewing danger in the New York chapter. You can use Erica Carlyle’s soirees as a venue for violence, a source of sordid Carlyle expedition rumors, a setting for a daring book heist, or

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Kidnapped Investigators in Call of Cthulhu

Investigators will face a wide variety of threats throughout the adventures, and, per the campaign book, cultists will frequently attempt kidnappings to allow their superiors to question meddlers before sacrifice or summary execution. While kidnappings can serve to forestall death and increase the drama, they can disrupt player agency and engagement. Removing an Investigator from the game almost guarantees player dissatisfaction, and trying to concurrently run events for the kidnapped and the rescuers during a session can be a real nuisance for everyone. We offer three potential methods to smooth these challenges and create interesting scenarios for your players.  To the Rescue: The first option removes the kidnapped player from active gameplay and operates under

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The Pause

Roleplaying requires constant improvisation by both players and Keepers. The MoN campaign materials provide us with a wealth of material to draw from with many detailed characters and location descriptions, but sometimes we find ourselves portraying bit players or describing unexpected locales.  We frequently discover our groups getting interested in something that may not be plot-relevant or fleshed out. Rather than wave off their interest or block them, we can instead use a whammy (or bang) to institute a pause by interrupting the player’s pursuit of that lead allowing the Keeper inter-session time to engineer campaign links and flesh out a rewarding encounter. Of course, you can skip all that and just improvise, but let

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Mythos Corruption – Random Cosmic Horror Effect Tables

We return to our Mythos Corruption framework, which provides an alternative to the classic Call of Cthulhu Sanity mechanic allowing the Keeper and players to move away from Insanity and mental health associations used in the traditional ruleset. We have previously discussed Vulnerability to address Mundane Horror and optional rules to help tailor Corruption to your game. Here we offer alternative tables for Cosmic Horror (Bouts of Madness) and Unsettled Reality (Indefinite Reality) for completeness sake. While the effects of Mythos Corruption may appear outwardly as Insanity, they represent profound alterations of the Investigator’s reality.  Rather than purely punitive events, some Psychic Detonations may have both negative and positive features, which may be exploited by both

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Mythos Corruption – Optional Rules

Call of Cthulhu encourages many different styles of play and formats, such as one-shot survival horror, short and deadly investigative modules, and long-form heroic campaigns to name just a few. The alternative Mythos Corruption framework we have presented may not mesh well with every game, but we would like to present some optional rules that could facilitate its incorporation at your table.  Modified Mythos Resistance (Sanity) Costs You may wish to compensate for the fact that your Investigators no longer suffer losses related to Mundane Horror by making a simple cost adjustment. Every check will result in the loss of at least one point of Mythos Resistance (Sanity). That means your Investigators will always experience

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Zahra Shafik & Player Dilemmas

At the heart of every good roleplaying game are players making meaningful choices, which lead to exciting consequences, astounding victories, or shocking revelations. Sometimes, those meaningful choices can prove challenging for players to make and may present a dilemma, which is defined as a difficult choice between two or more equally undesirable alternatives. An effectively implemented dilemma can provoke a strong emotional response that your players will return to long after the campaign has concluded. They may view these decisions as campaign crossroads for their Investigators. We think that the England Chapter presents an excellent opportunity to present dilemmas to your players in the form of the crafty, upstart Brotherhood cult leader, Zahra Shafik. Before

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Vulnerability & Mundane Horror

In our current Masks of Nyarlathotep campaign, we have introduced Mythos Corruption as an alternative framework to the classic Call of Cthulhu Sanity mechanic. This modification to the existing 7th edition rules provides a slightly different means for tracking the effects of Mythos and mundane horror. By shifting the emphasis from deteriorating sanity to progressive cognitive corruption by incomprehensible forces, we have altered the effects of mundane horrors on our Investigators. Instead of the banal disturbances and terrors of our mortal world working in tandem with the Mythos to chip away at an Investigator’s mental health, these events lead to vulnerability and weaken a character’s resistance to the effects of Mythos exposure. In developing this simple

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Mythos Corruption, an alternative to Insanity

  The Sanity mechanic dates back to the original version of Call of Cthulhu from 1981 and has remained a fundamental aspect of the setting providing Keepers and players a means to convey and roleplay the effects of horror in the game. Many other game systems have incorporated, adapted, or been inspired by this concept. Throughout our MoN campaign, we have been challenged to reframe the “Sanity” mechanic to more convincingly reflect its role in both the campaign and the broader Mythos world.  Part of the impetus arose from recurrent concerns about the depiction of mental illness and insanity portrayed by both the players and the NPCs.  Our playgroup consists of health care providers with

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